A lot of buzz has been happening around the Grammy awards this week, but the inspiration for all those all those award-winning melodies has to come from somewhere.
Eddie Van Halen once said “Music is for people. The word “pop” is simply short for popular. It means that people like it.”
In the 30s, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and the like were the “pop” stars of the day
In the Fall of 1937, according to a Feb. 10 NPR Music news report, Kentucky fiddler, Bill Stepp, recorded a version of “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” a march, changing the tempo of it to that of a hoedown. The song didn’t make the pop charts.
But according to the report, “Stepp's recording made an impression on Aaron Copland, who incorporated it, almost note for note, when he was writing the music for the theme of the ballet ‘Rodeo’.”
William Hamilton Stepp, better known as Fiddler Bill, was born at Proctor, Lee County, Kentucky in 1875. Shortly after 1900, Stepp moved to Magoffin County, where several outstanding fiddlers of the old style lived. Stepp died in 1947, in Knox County, Indiana.
Musician and author Stephen Wade said, "I went to a couple family reunions, and at one of them, everybody knew Fiddler Bill — that's what they called him — Fiddler Bill or Grandpa. And they'd all heard the Copland thing in some form or another. It made its way all over the world, really, through that beef commercial: 'Beef, it's what's for dinner.' But no one had connected the two. And so when I was in this hall playing just a little cassette, crossfading Fiddler Bill's recording into the symphonic version — I mean pride, pride just filled the hall, and it was just wonderful."
This year the Recording Academy honors that long forgotten but great Kentucky fiddler Bill Stepp and his performance of "Bonaparte's Retreat" by inducting it into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
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