[Dixielandjazz] Muscat or Muscrat Ramble?

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Jan 13 13:14:08 PST 2004

> From: "Jon Seiger" <jseiger at rochester.rr.com>
> hi there
> I was told by Bob Haggart that the original was "Muscat Ramble,"  and a few
> other people have said the same. :)

I'm with you Jon, I was told the same thing. I've also seen it as Muskrat Ramble, but to further muddy the water consider the following take on "Muskrat (aka Muscat) Ramble".

"In a 1971 interview done by Helen Arlt and Myran Menville of the New Orleans jazz club, Ory was asked whether the correct title was "Muskrat" or "Muskat". He replied, "Muskrat, and Lil Armstrong named it. We were playing a date [the 1926 Armstrong Hot 5 Okeh recording session, Ory said elsewhere] and Louie said, 'What's it gonna be?' I said, 'I have a new tune in my case, do you want to try it?' And so we ran over it and in a few minutes Lil had it down as did Louie and we did the tune. Lil named it, as I had just written it and hadn't decided on a name. Considerably later, a fellow named Vigne wrote the lyrics."

This would seem to settle the matter... or does it?

"Pianist and peck-horn player Walter "Fats" Pichon said that he had played the tune with Ory's band back around Basin Street in New Orleans about 1919, and it was then called "Muscat Ramble", named after the wine favored around there."

"The tune is mentioned by some older New Orleans musicians as being in the repertory before the mid 1920s Armstrong recording. This might be an example of a tune that was played for years before it was ever written down. The commercial possibilities of writing down, copywriting, and publishing tunes were not apparent to some New Orleans musicians until the music spread up north."

"Sidney Bechet identified "Muskrat" with a tune all the old bands played called "The Old Cow Died". Was this a folk tune which provided the inspiration for "Muskrat Ramble"?

"Presumably the tune Bechet remembered is the same as "The Old Cow Died And Brock Cried" which is mentioned as a staple of the Buddy Bolden Band repertory. As Ory kept many Bolden Band tunes in his repertory years later (eg, "Get Out Of Here And Go Home"), this sounds reasonable to me."

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