top of page
mountain background only.png

Tune History

Knoxville Old Time logo

The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Bob Taylor's March

From The Playing Of Charlie Acuff

The Taylor Brothers

Robert (1850-1912) and Alfred (1848-1931) Taylor were brothers from Happy Valley (near Elizabethton), Carter County, Tennessee. Their family members were some of the earliest settlers in the area (mid 1700’s), and were very active politically. 

Alfred “Alf” Taylor, a Republican, continued the family political tradition by running for Congress in 1878, but lost in the primary election despite being favored to win. The resulting unrest inside the Republican Party enabled his brother Robert Love “Bob” Taylor, a Democrat, to surface as the Democratic candidate for Congress. Many of Alf’s Republican supporters crossed party lines to back his brother Bob for Congress, who won in a narrow victory. It was a one term stay though, and after losing re-election to Congress twice, Bob Taylor obtained an appointment as Federal Pension Agent in Knoxville. 

Taylor vs. Taylor

In 1886, the Tennessee Republican party nominated Alf Taylor for Governor. The Democrats responded by nominating Bob Taylor for the same office. The resulting campaign between the two brothers came to be known as the “War Of The Roses”, with Alf’s supporters wearing a white rose on their lapels, and Bob’s camp wearing red. The incredibly popular brothers, both of them talented speakers and fiddlers, campaigned together across the state. Enormous crowds were entertained with their friendly rivalry, folksy wit, and rousing fiddle tunes. Bob won the election and became Governor, serving two terms 1887-1891, and a third term from 1897-1899. Alf went on to serve three terms in Congress from 1889-1895. He was also elected to the US Senate, serving from 1907-1912, and he himself was elected Governor of Tennessee in 1920. For more on Bob Taylor, please see this excellent article from political historian Ray Hill. For more on Alf Taylor, visit Tennessee Encyclopedia.

The Tune

While on the campaign trail in 1886, one of Bob Taylor’s (aka “Fiddlin’ Bob Taylor”) fiddle tunes became extremely popular. East Tennessee fiddler Charlie Acuff, the source of this tune, said he learned it from his grandfather. In a Tennessee Folklore Society’s video interview (below), Charlie said that the tune’s original name was “The Screakin’ Old Fiddle,” but came to be called simply “Bob Taylor’s March.” This became one of Charlie’s most recognized and requested tunes. Surprisingly, very few other artists have recorded it. Charlie plays it in the key of D, and interestingly, this “march” is played in 3/4 (or 6/8) time with a clear waltz feel. Diane O’Brien, who played with Charlie for several years at the Museum of Appalachia, has a transcription for us in her 1996 book, “Fiddle Tunes Of Charlie Acuff”. (in the photo slider section below). The center video is from Dave Cannon, who met Charlie at one of John Hartford’s Christmas parties (“that lasted for about 6 weeks”), where he sat down next to Charlie and began to play banjo. “You’re an old-time banjo player,” Charlie said. “You stay right here.” Dave eventually persuaded John Hatton to produce a CD for Charlie called “Better Times A Comin'” on which Dave played banjo. The mp3 file is a nice clawhammer banjo version from Josh Turknett. For lots more on Charlie Acuff, visit our MUSIC page.

Charlie Acuff introducing and playing

"Bob Taylor's March"

Tennessee Folklore Society DVD (1997)

Starts at 26:44

"Bob Taylor's March"

From the album "Ahh You Done Good"

Dave Cannon Playing the Music of Charlie Acuff and a Little More (2013)

Charlie Acuff playing "Bob Taylor's March"

after receiving the 2005 Tennessee Governor's Folklife Heritage Award

Bob Taylor's MarchJosh Turknett
00:00 / 02:22
bottom of page