Red Wing is another popular Traditional fiddle tune that beginning fiddlers (and banjo, guitar and mandolin players) learn and often the first tune they “jam” to, as it’s well-known at musical gatherings and most everyone who attends jam sessions has learned a version, or two, or more.

The tune was written in 1907 by Kerrie Mills with lyrics by Thurland Chattaway and became a hit in an America that was crazy about all things “Indian.” It tells the story of Red Wing, an Indian maiden whose love is killed on a far-off battlefield. Red Wing has since been performed by many musicians and was even sung by John Wayne and Lee Marvin in the 1961 film The Comancheros. Here’s one version –

Just to add some confusion, like most fiddle tunes, the melody of Red Wing was used by Woody Guthrie in 1940 to create a new tune called Union Maid, a pro-union song written from the female perspective. The lyrics were later changed to reflect the times and the increased number of women in unions. Here’s one of my favorite versions of the song, performed by Old Crow Medicine Show

Over at there’s a project underway that will combine video footage (or audio only if you wish to remain anonymous) from people all over the world playing their version of Red Wing, Jam Style, which Fiddlerman will combine in the same manner as the Christmas project –

The only constraint is that everyone will be playing at the same tempo using a click track provided by Fiddlerman. Fiddlers of all ages and abilities will be involved and it will be a blast! Sheet music is posted at the Red Wing link above if you would like to join in.

Who can tell me who wrote the original tune that inspired Red Wing, Union Maid and others? The answer next week…