This is a CD of social dance tunes from the Tohono O’Odham people of southern Arizon. We learned them from Elliott Johnson of the Gu Achi Fiddlers. He lived in Cababi, Arizona.
More Memories Tune notes
1. It’s in There – Elliott Johnson himself – OCT 19, 1991
2. Cuadrilla/Biscuit Cheeks
3. Santa Rosa Processional
4. Uncle Charlies/Marla’s
5. 2nd Time in San Javier/Lonnie’s
6. Sonora Church 2-step
7. Big Shoes
8. Elliott’s Special
9. Peanut Shoes/Purple Lilies
10. Great Big White Tortillas – with the Rhythm Rangellers
11. Memories in Ajo
12. Libby Bird Song Mazurka
13. Mary Johnson’s/Blackie’s
14. First Choice
15. Pinto Beans
16. Caballito Blanco/ Paul’s White Sox
17. Cababi Polka/ Hohokum Polka
19. It’s in There
1. Elliott playing It’s in There – During one visit, we struggled to start up a tune that had no name and Elliott played it once for us and tapped his bow on the tape recorder and said, “It’s in there”. We later learned that he had taken his recordings of our “learning” sessions and played them on the reservation radio station.
2. Cuadrilla/Biscuit Cheeks
The Cuadrilla is a type of dance similar to a Square dance and in New Mexico and Arizona a few of the typical 6/8 tunes are alive, though the dance is gone. Elliott told us that biscuit cheeks referred to those folks who have cheeks that look like biscuits.
3. Santa Rosa Processional This exquisite tune is played as the Saint is paraded around the church on the town Saints Day in Santa Rosa, a small town south of Casa Grande, AZ. This tune might have arrived on the reservation 200 years ago when the missionaries taught the Tohono O’odham people to play fiddles for the mass. The 3rd part had been forgotten, and Elliott made sure we learned it.
4. Uncle Charlie’s/Marla’s Elliott named this first tune for his Uncle Charlie Johnson who was one of his teachers. As with many tunes, their names were lost. Marla’s was named for Marla Streator, from Port Townsend, WA who was a frequent visitor to Cababi and who has continued to share the music Elliott taught us.
5. 2nd Time in San Xavier/Lonnie’s South of Tucson there is the fascinating Mission – San Xavier del Bac. It is striking in how it rises out of the desert. We are not sure what happened the 2nd time there. Lonnie’s is a just great polka, and we like pairing these tunes.
6. Sonora Church 2 Step This is the first tune Ken and Jeanie learned from the cassette, Gu-achi Fiddlers #8082 Vol. 1. in the key of C, at the time never suspecting that Elliott and Lester, like so many traditional fiddlers, kept their fiddles tuned down almost a whole step. So it is actually in D fingering on that tape.
7. Big Shoes Just another great chotis.
8. Elliott’s Special This is one the rare tunes in A, like a Cajun 2 time (valse a deux temps) waltz that Elliott had never recorded.
9. Peanut Shoes/Purple Lilies Peanut Shoes refers to those big toed boots. Purple Lilies is one of our favorites, and so it makes us smile every time we play it. We have taught it to many others, so that we can play it at jam sessions where ever we go. In France they like to sing la la la la la along with the B part, while polka-ing around the room at a fast pace. It is also very popular in Ireland at pub sessions.
10. Great Big White Tortillas One day we received lessons in tortilla making, the Cababi way. We were fascinated by how one golf ball size of dough would yield a tortilla 15” or more in diameter, and not fall apart! Our efforts produced tortillas in interesting shapes, not round as expected, and Elliott named each one as looking like a one of our 50 states. Paul and Emily, Raf and Ben recorded this in their Santa Cruz, California kitchen with Ken and Jeanie in Dec. 2003.
11. Memories in Ajo Ajo, which means garlic, is the name of a town, and the highway, Ajo Way, that passes through
the reservation from Tucson, AZ to points west. Memories in Ajo is aptly named, as we were filled with our memories of Cababi as we traveled along this road.
12. Libby Bird Song Mazurka Libby Bird is a niece of Elliott’s, and this is a tune he wrote for her. We imagine a bright, bubbly and fun loving person when we play this tune.
13. Mary Johnson’s/Blackie’s Mary Johnson is Elliott’s cousin who lived next door. This chotis in two keys was named for her. Blackie’s, is a fun to play polka and was Elliott’s favorite.
14. First Choice Chotis’s rule. What else can we say.
15. Pinto Beans This tune reminds us of the time we came to appreciate the incredible work in making those highly sought after baskets, a major source of income on the reservation.
16. Caballito Blanco/Paul’s White Sox We first learned a two part version of Caballito Blanco (Little White Horse) from Northern New Mexico fiddler, Cleofes Ortiz and were surprised the evening that Elliott played it for us with four parts. Upon learning Paul’s White Sox and asking the for the name of the tune, Elliott, with a twinkle in his eye, pointed his bow to the white sox of Paul Rangell and said, “Call it Paul’s White Sox”.
17. Cababi Polka/Hohokum Polka Cababi is the Village where Elliott and his family lived We often sing “Here we
are together” as a memory of this tune and our times together on the reservation. Hohokum is the name of the
original natives that lived in this area, they were contemporaries of the Anasazi people in New Mexico. Together these tunes make a great medley.
18. Squashfields This is an area near Quijotoa.
19. It’s In There We learned this tune on the last day of the year of 2003, when Scott and Linda came to visit in Silver City, and we recorded it the next day. Elliott coached Jeanie from the other world on the harmonies.
20. Rosalia As the last tune we learned from Elliott at a last visit in December of 1992, this fabulous haunting minor tune is the perfect ending.
It’s nearly impossible to play the tunes we learned from Elliott Johnson without conjuring up the images of the Sonora Desert and Elliott’s home in the village of Cababi, AZ. We were drawn in by the sight of those large and looming saguaro cacti of all kinds of shapes and the smells of the mesquite and cooking stoves. Though the need to be still during those hot dry days was overwhelming, the desire to learn those uplifting Tohono O’odham (the desert people) tunes at night kept us there until, under the cool Milky Way that shone so clearly in that remote desert, we took in the feelings, music, sounds and ancient spirits, learning as much as we possibly could from Elliott. Those astonishing tune sessions took place sitting outside in the “ramada” formed by the ocotillo cactus fence, each spiny stalk standing tall and wired together, enclosing us in a small space in the vastness. The ocotillo had rooted and gave us glimpses of their beautiful red flowers, reflected
in the light of the cooking fires. We were captivated by the odd lengths and measures of the tunes, and the loveliness of the harmonies that so seemed to match the environment. Though harkening back to music from earlier centuries and from across the ocean, the twists and turns of conquest, and a red chile stew of cultural dreams and nightmares, had made the music seem less familiar to us. In this small ancient village in the middle of the modern
rush and business that is the modern Southwest, we met
the most wonderful and patient people. There were thosewho stood in the shadows of night, tapping their toes as they listened to the tunes of their youth, almost lost forever, as played in the old style as Elliott had learned them, from his Uncle Charlie Johnson, the Ajo Orchestra and others. Then there were the younger ones, taking in the scene and watching us, who had come from far away, learning to play the music of the elders. Would these young people watching us, in some future time play these tunes themselves under the clear desert sky? Our days were filled with so many lessons, mostly unexpected, as
we grew in our understanding of desert life on the reservation, and how it is intertwined with the music.
Our education and adventure began in the summer
of 1989 when Ken, Jeanie, Paul, Emily and 2-year-old Rafael went to Arizona in search of Elliott and found the Pascola dancers near San Simon, just missing Elliott. It was not until the next summer, at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA, that everyone met Elliott and his band, the Gu-achi Fiddlers (Elliott Johnson – vln, Lester Vavages – vln, Wilfred Mendoza – gtr, Gerald Leos – snare drum & Mike Francisco – bass drum) and where a group of eager musicians, began to learn the tunes, and the duo fiddle style of Elliott and Lester. Over the next three years, there were eight visits to the reservation to learn the tunes and the unique harmonies and hear the stories that Elliott and his family shared. We’d return to Cababi and, at each visit, play what we had learned previously, and Elliott would correct our mistakes, sometimes showing us another harmony. He used to say there were five harmonies for each tune. Each visit filled us with memories and enriched our souls. We had become students of so much more than the music.
It is with great pleasure that we are re-releasing the tunes first recorded on Memories in Cababi (UBIK 27), and have recorded and included an additional eleven tunes for this new CD. We are forever grateful to Elliott (d.1993) and Nancy (d.2002) Johnson for their hospitality and inspiration, Lester Vavages for his harmony playing (d. 1995), Geraldine and Gerald Leos, Roberta Johnson, and cousin Mary Johnson for supporting our efforts, Gaylord Johnson for doing what ever it took to make us comfortable, and to the rest of the Johnson family, and the people of Cababi.
We are indebted to Drumbeat Indian Arts (Canyon Records) and are forever grateful to Jim Griffith for recording two cassettes of the The Gu-achi Fiddlers, (CR 8082 & CR 8092), as these were our introduction to the music and the band. Thank you Elliott for your love of the music, your teaching us, and your eagerness to play all kinds of music.
Here we are together, again.
Bayou Seco: Ken, Jeanie, Scott, Linda – April, 2004.
Ken Keppeler – Keppeler fiddle
Jeanie McLerie – 5-string Keppeler/White fiddle
Scott Mathis – Gibson F-4 and Collins mandolins,
Tarahumara Drum (#4,8,9,12,19)
Linda Askew – Gibson J-45 guitar
Jefferson Voorhees – Drums (tunes #2,7,11,13,14,17,18)
Elizabeth Neely – Tarahumara Drum (tunes #3,15,16 )
The Rhythm Rangellers (Emily Abbink, Paul, Rafael, and
Benny Rangell) (tune # 10)
All tunes are traditional or used by permission.
All Rights Reserved © Bayou Seco 2004
Produced by Bayou Seco
Original cassette digitally recorded and engineered in
Albuquerque by Manny Rettinger,
UBIK sound (#2,7,11,13,14,17,18), and by
Ken Keppeler in Scott and Linda’s house on a
Denon DAT. (#3,6,15,16)
Original cassette mastered by Quincy in Albuquerque, NM.
1995 UBIK SOUND
#1 It’s In There recorded by Jeanie Mclerie on a Sony Pro
Walkman D6C on Oct 19, 1991 in Cababi, AZ
#10 recorded in Santa Cruz, Ca., DEC 20, 2003 by Ken
Keppeler on Denon DAT
Additional tracks recorded by Ken Keppeler, January 1 and
3, 2004 at Fiddle Hill Studio in Silver City, N.M. on a
Denon DAT (#4,5,8,9,12,19,20).
CD Mixed and mastered by Fergus Stone, Audios Amigos Studios, Boulder, CO
Other Recordings of the Tunes
Memories in Cababi (UBIK 27) – Bayou Eclectico (Seco) – 1995 Cassette to memorialize Elliott’s tunes.
Old time Music on the Radio, Vol 2 – (Rounder Records-0391) 1996 Bayou Seco with one of Elliott’s tunes.
American Fogies Vol.1 – (Rounder Records-0379) 1996 – CD. Bayou Seco with one of Elliott’s tunes.
Following in theTuneprints (Ubik 25) – Bayou Seco – 1995 with seven of Elliott’s tunes.
Use It Again (Bayou/Buvette Music 01) Bayou Seco 1999
with one of Elliott’s tunes.
Little Pleasures of Life (Zerx 27) – Bayou Seco – 2000 with five of Elliott’s tunes.
Home on the Great Divide (Zerx 36) – Bayou Seco – 2001 with four of Elliott’s tunes.
20 Years Happy in the Bewilderness (Zerx 51)– Bayou Seco – 2002 with two of Elliott’s tunes.
Music in the Air (Zerx 58) – Bayou Seco – 2003 with one of Elliott’s tunes.
Red or Green Sandia Hots – 2003 with two Elliott tunes.
Unbuttoned Katie Howson & Jeannie Harris – (Old Hat Music OH4CD) – 1998 – nice English Ceiledh dance versions of five of Elliott’s tunes