Tune of the Month: Old Parnell
I first learned this little rag-time gem from Oregon old time fiddler Wayne Walter who most likely got it from his uncle, Bob Walter(s), the well known Nebraska fiddler (see The Evergreen Fiddler: Vol. III). For many years I had called it ‘Old Farm Meadow’ because that’s what it sounded like on the cassette tape I made of him at a contest. Isn’t the human brain a funny thing? Back in the seventies I started hearing this kind of mis-hearing referred to as a “mondegreen.” Singer and scholar Sylvia Wright lays claim to having coined the term back in 1954 after she interpreted a line from an old ballad “….and laid him on the green” as “…and Lady Mondegreen.” Wikipedia gives some further interesting examples from popular culture. This seems to happen a lot with fiddlers, as well as regular folks, as we replace the unfamiliar word with something more familiar, whether or not it makes any sense. I’ve seen the Ook Pik Waltz written as “Yupik” and “Tooth Pick.” I’m sure you have your own favorite examples. Ashoken Farewell has generated a few mondegreens of its own.
Old Parnell bears more than a passing resemblance to the popular and exciting ‘Hot Foot Rag’ which has been recorded by Benny Thomasson, Gary Lee Moore, Byron Berline and many others, except that the latter has a few more notes.
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Stuart Williams, Music Editor
Updated October 13, 2011