Breedloves's Folk Songs


“Mississippi Sawyer,” is widely known in both the United States and Canada. The likely
origin in the early use of the term “Mississippi sawyer” to describe an uprooted tree,
which, pushed underwater by the current of the Mississippi river, was a hazard to
shipping. Several versions printed in older tune collections suggest the coarse part of the
tune was played first, though the fine part is almost universally heard played first among
Southern fiddlers in the 20th century. The tune has been known to American fiddlers
since the early 19th century, and older fiddlers frequently give the tune’s title as “The
Downfall of Paris.” The melody was known particularly in Texas around 1935 as
“Downfall of Paris” and was recorded in 1939 (for the Library of Congress) in
Tishomingo County, Mississippi, under that title from the playing of John Hatcher.


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