Play the Classic Fiddle Tune "Arkansas Traveler"

Posted by Scott Nygaard

Originally composed in the 19th century by Colonel Sanford C. “Sandy” Faulkner, “Arkansas Traveler” has led numerous lives. Adopted by Arkansas as the official state historic song in 1987, it was given boosterish lyrics by the Arkansas State Song Committee in 1947 (“For the wonder state we’ll shout hurrah! / And praise the opportunities we find in Arkansas”) perhaps to counter the impression given by the vaude­ville routine it usually accompanied (Traveling city slicker to Arkansas fiddler sitting on porch: “Hey stranger, lived here all your life?” Fiddler: “Not yet.”). The memorable melody was first recorded in 1922 by fiddler Eck Robertson and has been waxed numerous times since, most notably for guitarists on the homemade tape recorded by flatpicking pioneer Clarence White in 1962 (released on 33 Acoustic Guitar Instrumentals), on Norman Blake’s influential 1976 album Whiskey Before Breakfast, as the title track of Michelle Shocked’s 1991 album, and by David Grisman and Jerry Garcia on Not for Kids Only.

Arkansas Traveler Excerpt
Click to enlarge.

Usually played in the key of D, “Arkansas Traveler” works well on the guitar out of C position capoed up to the second fret or in D with no capo. In this eight-bar excerpt, I’ve arranged the tune in C, adding arpeggios to the A part’s basic melody.

Excerpted from Fiddle Tune Essentials

See more Take the Lead articles.

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox

Join the Play the Classic Fiddle Tune "Arkansas Traveler" discussion

Get all things acoustic guitar in your inbox with our free newsletters. Your E-mail: