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17. Nancy Dawson

As with John Durang, other renowned dancers of the 18th century have been attached to fiddle tunes. This is due to the rise in popularity of the musical stage. Several events – development of the press, ballad and news sheets more common, the spread of literacy – encouraged a “star” system to emerge. The talents of these new stars required proficiency in “dramatic and comic acting, singing and dancing, as well as mime and acrobatic skills.” Nancy Dawson (1730-1767) was one of the first dancers to become a star. One story says she replaced another dancer who was ill in a performance of The Beggars Opera in London in 1759. A contemporary ballad sheet sang her praises:
Of all the girls in our town, The black,
the fair, the red, the brown, That dance and prance up and down, There's none like Nancy Dawson.
Her easy mien, her shape so neat, She foots, she tripe, she looks so sweet,
Her every motion's so complete, I die for Nancy Dawson.
The tune to which she danced in the opera, originally called “Piss on the Grass” was re-named Nancy Dawson Hornpipe and known to us today as “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” (Kuntz, The Dancers, p.1) OK so it's not our tune, but could be a floating title applied to a local tune needing a name. Our tune is in the repertory of Monroe County Kentucky fiddler Jim Bowles under the name of Nancy Dalton, as well as Glasgow, Kentucky fiddlers Milo Biggers and Pat Kingery, who claimed the name referred to a girl in eastern Kentucky. (Greene) Despite the name difference, Bowles learned it from our source, Isham Monday, who was recorded in 1959 by John Newport. Monday uses heavy bow pressure, he tunes his fiddle two steps low for all his tunes and uses a flatter bridge with which he can play three strings at once.

Chris' Stead GCGD (ADAE)
Mark's minstrel banjo cGCEG