There is a legend about the tune "Lost Indian" that goes back to the early days of the riverboats on the Mississippi River.
Legend has it that there was a fiddler who used to play for dances on a particular riverboat. For a time during the spring, the river flooded and the water became filled with debris. One day as the fiddler was playing a tune, unnamed at the time, he saw an Indian struggling to survive by clinging to a log in the raging torrent. The Indian knew he was losing his fight against the river and gave his death wail - a high-pitched scream punctuated with a series of whoops that could be heard by the people on the riverboat and especially the fiddler. The fiddler watched the Indian drown and die.
The fiddler was so affected by what he had witnessed that he went mad. They say that after that the only tune he would play was the one he been playing as he witnessed the untimely death, but when he played the tune he added the Indian's death wail.
Today the tune is known as Lost Indian. A prominent part of the tune is the addition of the high-pitched wail and whoops which is accomplished by sliding up high on the E string at certain points in the tune.
The tune has traveled far and wide across the United States and Canada, and has made its way across the oceans. As varied and many as there are tribes of Indians and fiddlers of tunes, there are variations on this melody, but all include the death wail of the lost Indian.
Listen to our rendition of this song at C/Net!
(This story was found in Ira W. Ford's Traditional Music of America, E.P.Dutton & Co., 1940)