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THE MUSIC & MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS OF EARLY DAY TEXAS

This webpage contains the history of songs and music in Texas during the 1830's. The tune in the background is Turkey in the Straw, the most popular tune during that era.


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Texas Declaration of Independence (1836).


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Will Goyens, early-day Texian


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By Len Kubiak, Texas Historian and Author

THE MUSIC AND SONGS OF EARLY-DAY TEXAS




The songs and music enjoyed by early day Texians including the defenders of the Alamo such as William Barret Travis, Jim Bowie and other gallant men are described in this webpage.




Musical Instruments and Songs of Early Day Texas



With horseback being the common mode of transportation, the musical instruments that appeared on the early frontier were lightweight and easily carried on the back of the musician. These popular musical instruments included the violin (most popular), mandolin (second most popular), Spanish guitar (became the preferred musical instrument by the 1850's), and the harmonica.

Violin (Fiddle)


The four string violin, developed in the 1500's, was the most popular musical instrument along the western frontier.

The Guitar

The classical or Spanish guitar, popular musical instrument along the Texas frontier, was developed in Spain during the 15th century from the vihuela which was a small four- or five-string guitar. By adding a sixth string, the guitar gained a range of tones .

The Mandolin


The mandolin, a small, short-necked lute with eight strings was also popular along the Texas frontier.

Harmonica

The harmonica, developed in the 1820's, quickly became a favorite in the west because of it's small size and reliability (not easily damaged in knife fights and skirmishes).

Tejano Influence on Early-Day Texas Music

Mexican Texans dating from Spanish, French and Mexican Texas to the Republic of Texas days introduced a blend of early Spanish and Mexican music to the area that became Texas.

From the 1700s until the Republic of texas days, the Tejanos were a Mexican provincial people, living in an isolated frontier area. They maintained a regional Texas-Mexican culture reflected in their musical styles. Little is known about the beginnings of música tejana. As settlement expeditions moved out from central Mexico in the 1700s and 1800s, Spanish, Creole, and mestizo soldiers and settlers brought their music and dances to the Texas frontier.



The “Tejanos,”built a musical culture of love songs, corridos (ballads), bailes, and fandangos. There are many paintings and diary accounts of fandangos or dances held in San Antonio and South Texas through the 1800s, but they give little description of the sound of the music besides calling it "Spanish" or "Mexican." Small bands were composed of available local musicians who used whatever instruments were at hand. Violins and pitos (wind instruments of various types) usually provided the melody, and a guitar the accompaniment.

Popular Songs Along the Texas Frontier

TURKEY IN THE STRAW

This was by far the most popular tune on the Texas frontier (playing in the background). The lyrics go something like this:

As I was a-gwine down the road,
With a tired team and a heavy load,
I crack'd my whip and the leader sprung,
I says day-day to the wagon tongue.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Went out to milk, and I didn't know how,
I milked the goat instead of the cow.
A monkey sittin' on a pile of straw,
A-winkin' at his mother-in-law.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Met Mr. Catfish comin' down stream.
Says Mr. Catfish, "What does you mean?"
Caught Mr. Catfish by the snout,
And turned Mr. Catfish wrong side out.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Came to a river and I couldn't get across,
Paid five dollars for a blind old hoss;
Wouldn't go ahead, nor he wouldn't stand still,
So he went up and down like an old saw mill.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

As I came down the new cut road,
Met Mr. Bullfrog, met Miss Toad
And every time Miss Toad would sing,
Old Bullfrog cut a pigeon wing.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

Oh I jumped in the seat and I gave a little yell
The horses ran away, broke the wagon all to hell
Sugar in the gourd and honey in the horn
I never been so happy since the day I was born.
Turkey in the straw, turkey in the hay,
Roll 'em up and twist 'em up a high tuckahaw
And twist 'em up a tune called Turkey in the Straw.

THE HUNTERS OF KENTUCKY

This was a popular tune at the Alamo with so many Kentuckians present:

Ye gentlemen and ladies fair,
Who grace this famous city,
Just listen if you've time to spare
While I rehearse a ditty,
And for the opportunity
Conceive yourself quite lucky,
For 'tis not often here you see
A hunter from Kentucky.

Chorus
Oh, Kentucky, The hunters of Kentucky
Oh, Kentucky, The hunters of Kentucky

You've heard, I s'pose, how New Orleans
Is famed for wealth and beauty,
There's girls of ev'ry hue it seems,
From snowy white to sooty;
So Pakenham he made his brags,
If he in fight was lucky,
He'd have their girls and cotton bags,
In spite of old Kentucky.

Chorus

But Jackson, he was wide awake,
And was not scared of trifles;
For well he knew what aim we take
With our Kentucky rifles;
He led us down to Cypress Swamp,
The ground was low and mucky;
There stood John Bull in pomp,
And here was old Kentucky.

Chorus

A bank was rais'd to hide our breast,
Not that we thought of dying,
But the we always like to rest,
Unless the game is flying;
Behind it stood our little force
None wished it to be greater,
For ev'ry man was half a horse,
And half an alligator.

Chorus

They found, at last, 'twas vain to fight,
Where lead was all the booty,
And so they wisely took to flight,
And left us all our beauty.
And now, if danger e'er annoys,
Remember what our trade is,
Just send for us Kentucky boys,
And we'll protect ye, ladies.

THE OLD OAKEN BUCKET

How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
When fond recollection presents them to view
The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood,
And ev'ry loved spot which my infancy knew
The wide spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dairy house nigh it,
And e'en the rude bucket that hung in the well.
The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,
The moss covered bucket that hung in the well.

The moss covered bucket I hailed as a treasure,
For often at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white pebbled bottom it fell
Then soon, with the emblem of turth overflowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well.
The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,
The moss covered bucket that hung in the well.

THE BUFFALO

Come all you young fellows
That have a mind to range,
Into some foreign country
Your station for to change,
Into some foreign country
Away from home to go,
We lay down on the banks
Of the pleasant Ohio,
We'll wander through the wild woods
And we'll chase the buffalo.
We'll chase the buffalo
We'll wander through the wild woods
And chase the buffalo.

There are fishes in the river
That is fitting for our use,
And high and lofty sugar-canes
That yield us pleasant juice,
And all sorts of game, my boys,
Besides the buck and doe,
We lay down on the banks
Of the pleasant Ohio,
We'll wander through the wild woods
And we'll chase the buffalo.
We'll chase the buffalo
We'll wander through the wild woods
And chase the buffalo.

Come all you young maidens,
Come spin us up some yarn,
To make us some new clothing
To keep ourselves full warm,
For you can card and spin, my girls,
And we can reap and mow,
We lay down on the banks
Of the pleasant Ohio,
We'll wander through the wild woods
And we'll chase the buffalo.
We'll chase the buffalo
We'll wander through the wild woods
And chase the buffalo.

Supposing these wild Indians
By chance should come us near,
We will unite together
Our hearts all free from care,
We will march down into the town, my boys,
And give the fatal blow,
We lay down on the banks
Of the pleasant Ohio,
We'll wander through the wild woods
And we'll chase the buffalo.
We'll chase the buffalo
We'll wander through the wild woods
And chase the buffalo.







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