John Specker- Leather Britches

Local fiddling sensation John Specker performs in the Okemo Valley TV studio. According to the Library of Congress: "Leather Britches," a well-known reel in British and American tradition, is probably Scottish in origin. An eighteenth-century Scottish version in Gow's Collection of Slow Airs, Strathspeys and Reels (ca. 1795) is called "Lord Macdonald's Reel," the name under which it usually appears (with or without "lord") in nineteenth-century tune collections. One Thousand Fiddle Tunes, p. 22, is a typical set. The title "Leather Britches" (or "Breeches") is primarily an American title; it appears in sets from Pennsylvania (Bayard, Hill Country Tunes, #1) and West Virginia (Artley, "The West Virginia Country Fiddler," p. 38) to points west and is now widely distributed on the contest fiddle circuit. But there may be an Irish connection to the title; see Roche, Collection of Irish Airs, Marches, and Dance Tunes vol. 2, 20 (#240) "O the Breeches Full of Stitches" and Petrie, The Complete Collection of Irish Music #473 "The Breeches on."In the Appalachian South the term "Leather Britches" is also used to describe string beans strung on strings and hung up on porches to dry. Fiddlers are attracted to the rolling arpeggios of the tune, which involve bowing as well as fingering challenges, and think of "Leather Britches" as a lively showpiece. Most printed versions have two strains, but Henry Reed's version is not alone in adding a third strain that essentially repeats the low strain an octave higher; see also Ford, Traditional Music of America, p. 48; Thomas, Devil's Ditties, pp. 134-5; Adam, Old Time Fiddlers' Favorite Barn Dance Tunes, #33.
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