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Man seeks to record old Idaho songs

Nampa resident plans to compile CD

An attempt is being made to collect old songs about the Idaho Panhandle region for a state-funded history project.

Using a $3,000 grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, Gary Eller, of Nampa, is gathering songs that reflect any aspect of the history of the region, especially songs from before the 1920s.

“I’d like to find a song about the paddleboats. I don’t have any,” he told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “I would like to find a song about the 1910 fire, any logging songs. Those are really rare. I know hundreds of logger songs, but only one or two about Idaho.”

He’s also hoping to come across mining and farming songs, “anything that has to do with the social fabric of living in Idaho,” Eller said. “That’s what it is. They don’t have to be great songs. I want people to come and sing them for me, and I’ll record them, if they want.”

He plans to remain in North Idaho until Sept. 28 on the project sponsored by the Museum of North Idaho.

“We are pleased to be part of this project because it will document an aspect of our history that has not been explored,” museum director Dorothy Dahlgren said.

“Songs of this type are a unique window into the human environment of Idaho for the times portrayed in the songs.”

Eller is a retired nuclear chemist and amateur musician who became intrigued with old Idaho songs after moving to the state four years ago. He’s collected about 1,000 songs, including about 150 historically based songs and more than 200 before 1923, in a similar project in the Snake and Salmon River regions.

“The great majority of these songs have never been compiled, much less recorded,” Dahlgren said.

Eller plans to compile a CD of songs from around the state by November, including one from 1906 entitled “Whoa Ida-Ho.”

“It’s just a ton of fun to go out and find these great old songs,” he said.