Texian Stomping Grounds Page: 81
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HONOR THE FIDDLERB!
This Ole Bull story brings up another, told by Eck Robertson
of Clarendon, about Lon and Dan Williams, two great old-time
fiddlers of Texas and Louisiana, who were said to have been
relatives of Reid Williams, far-famed as a fiddler in West Texas
when he drove cattle in the 1870's. Lon and Dan went down to
New Orleans to hear Ole Bull and while there challenged him
to a contest; they would play the concert music which the Nor-
wegian knew so well if he would play their old-time fiddle music,
and they would leave to the audience the decision as to who were
the better performers. More in a spirit of mischief than other-
wise, Ole Bull accepted the challenge. He played and the
Williams brothers, who had heard only the concert of the night
before, staged Ole Bull's music, with the result that the probably
biased audience acclaimed Lon and Dan the victors. Though
this may be a true story, it sounds like an adaptation of the song
about "Ole Bull and Old Dan Tucker," one of the "Celebrated
Congo Minstrels' songs," published in 1844, which tells how:
Ole Bull and Ole Dan Tucker
Played a match for an oyster supper.
The persistent distinction between violinist and fiddler, to-
gether with the one between violin and fiddle, is important,
though prosaic Webster would make the contrasting words
synonymous. Dave Dillingham, of Austin, thus phrases the tra-
ditional distinction: "If you see a long-haired gentleman walking
along with a genteel case in his hand, he is a violinist. If you
see some feller that looks like he's had cockleburs in his mane
carrying a tow sack or a pillow case with an instrument in it,
he's a fiddler." Actually, of course, it is the musician who makes
the difference. A fiddler might be called a "folk violinist."
Typical is Major L. Burns, who began practicing on the fiddle
when he was five and who continued to play even after he was
ninety. Born near Lexington, Tennessee, just a year before Texas
independence was declared and won, he lived in Montgomery
County, Texas, about fifty years, and was for forty years county
surveyor; his title came as commander of a regiment in the
Civil War. "How long have you had your present violin?" he
once was asked. "Haven't got any violin-never had one," he
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Texian Stomping Grounds, book, 1941; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67663/m1/89/: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.