Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Dragging The Bow" - Harry Choates

One of Harry Choates' best demonstrations of his talent was ability to show off his solo fiddle rides on certain tunes.   Here, in early 1948, he takes the opportunity with his band to record for Bill Quinn's Houston-based Gold Star label one of his more well known instrumentals called "Dragging The Bow" (#1343).

His band had shifted some players and by 1948, the group consisted of Pee Wee Maples on guitar, Red Fabacher on steel guitar, Junior Keelan on bass, Amos Comeaux on drums, and Johnnie Ruth Manuel on piano.  Throughout the song, you could hear him shift the attention to his friend Francis "Red" Fabacher by calling out his name.   Red had earlier worked with his brother Joseph in the group called Jolly Boys of Lafayette. He met Harry around the time both were helping Happy Fats during the early 1940s.

Red Fabacher, Ronald Ray "Pee Wee" Lyons,
Johnnie Ruth Smyrl, Harry Choates,
Amos Comeaux, Curly Maples
Originally recorded by Henry Hartley and the Travelers as "Raggin' The Fiddle", it's a cover of the famous western swing player Curt "Dott" Massey's 1935 Vocalion recording called "Draggin’ the Bow".  Most likely, Harry picked up the tune while playing with Shelley Lee Alley & his Alley Cats, given they recorded the tune in 1938 as "Alley Cat Stomp".  Harry had previously recorded it with Happy Fat's Rayne-Bo Ramblers in 1940 for Bluebird and their subsidiary Montgomery Ward label, calling it "Lake Charles Shuffle". The song title refers to the action of a smooth fiddle player.  While the phrase has mysterious origins, it most likely refers to a player's ability to keep the bow constantly on the strings, while moving from string to string, in one sweeping fashion. 

Goldstar would end up selling the masters to Pappy Daily's "D" records which re-released the song (#1024), sometimes changing the name slightly, such as "Draggin The Fiddle" (Starday #273, D 1023)  and "Drag That Fiddle" (Starday #258).

Harry's lifestyle was erratic.  According to Red:

I drank when I was on the bandstand, but [Harry] drank all day long.

  1. Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost By Tony Russell
  2. http://www.vithefiddler.com/draggin-the-bow-fiddle-tune-a-day-day-110/
Fiddlin' country style (Melodisc, 1961)
Harry Choates ‎– The Fiddle King Of Cajun Swing (Arhoolie, 1982, 1993)
Harry Choates - Jole blon: The Original Cajun Fiddle of Harry Choates CD (D, 1999)
Cajun Fiddle King (AIM, 1999)
Devil In The Bayou - The Gold Star Recordings (Bear Family, 2002)

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