Davy Crockett: Texas Fiddle King?




"Fiddling is very much a part of the old-time Texas culture," remarks the legendary fiddler Texas Shorty (aka Jim Chancellor), of Austin, Texas. Shorty has been a champion Texas-style fiddler since the age of ten. "We Texans are proud of history," he says, "and we're proud of our fiddling." But even Texas Shorty wasn't prepared for the impact of the moment in The Alamo—the recent revisionist epic by filmmaker John Lee Hancock in which a fiddle-toting Davy Crockett (played by Billy Bob Thornton) ascends an Alamo battlement to face the surrounding Mexican army, whose drum-and-trumpet band have been nightly taunting the Texans with a haunting little tune called "DeGuello." Fiddle in hand, Crockett stands tall as the Texas sunset paints the sky, and plays an aching fiddle tune along with the very-surprised Mexican band.

Veteran musician Craig Eastman of the outlaw country band Kane proved instrumental in providing the 150-year-old American-made fiddle and the fiddling for that emotional moment in the film. "You would have to play a violin for ten years before you'd be able to play something like ‘DeGuello'," Eastman notes. "It's technically difficult to play. Because Billy is a musician, a good drummer, he really wanted to learn how to play the actual note-for-note fingering of it to have it look right."

Says Texas Shorty, "I'm feeling a little bit warmer about old Davy Crockett myself, just thinking about it."

*This article appeared in Strings August/September 2004
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