The Music of the Little House

The Music of the Little House #LauraIngallsWilder | a little (or a lot) about Laura | Laura Ingalls Wilder | The 1000th Voice blog

The Ingalls and Wilder families sure loved their music. How fortunate they were for Pa’s skill with a fiddle. Between his stories and his music, the nights when they weren’t too tired from work were filled with good ol’ fashion family fun.

Where and when Pa picked up his skills is presumed unknown, but the catalogue of music in the Little House books has provided a great insight into the music and its dissemination through post Civil War America.

Below, please enjoy a brief listen to the music Pa played to entertain his family.

Buffalo Gals

The late Pete Seeger’s version of “Buffalo Gals” is accompanied by a banjo, but is still emblematic of the quick, fun melody of the song. A lot of kids who grew up watching the Looney Tunes should recognize this song. It frequented many of the cartoon sketches on the show. Can’t you just see the Ingalls family dancing a jig to this song? This song appears in Little House in the Big Woods. 

Life Let Us Cherish

This lovely duo, Vivian & Paul Williams, play Civil War music, including “Life Let Us Cherish,” a lovely melody that was one of the many songs Pa played immediately after the grasshopper invasion in On the Banks of Plum Creek. It’s easy to understand how such a sweet tune could help the family deal with the dramatic economic loss they’d just suffered.

Polly Put the Kettle On


Banjos and an accordion join a fiddle during this performance. Pa played “Polly Put the Kettle On” during the fateful Christmas Eve in On the Banks of Plum Creek. The fiddle can be a somber instrument, but this definitely isn’t one of its somber songs. Again, I can picture the family, thankful to be together dancing around their small house.

Bonnie Doon

Pa played Scottish poet Robert Burns’ Bonnie Doon as a tribute to his own Scottish lass. A beautifully sang and altogether haunting version can be found here. And, really, how prescient is this song about the heralded life of yore in fair and fertile Scotland for those of us who relish learning about the Ingalls’ pioneering life?

And last, but not least, I had to share this promo video for the PBS Special, Pa’s Fiddle: America’s Music.

Are you a fan of Pa’s music? I love the down-home feeling of a fiddle, which is so in vogue in today’s music. 

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2 thoughts on “The Music of the Little House

  1. Often as a child I really wanted to know the tunes to the songs in the books – we didn’t have Internet and you tube in those days as I am really old haha (33) it’s amazing now that I can play these songs to my daughter at the drop of a hat!

    I just got back from a snow holiday in Victoria Australia and one of the towns we travelled through was Bonnie Doon! The area had a very Scottish influence.

    There is a book written all about the music of the Little House books – it’s on my to read list I’m sure it will be fascinating its called The Ingalls Wilder Family Song Book

    Like

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