Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Notes - Songs of the Wilderness Road in D Modal Tunings


CUMBERLAND GAP [1]. AKA ‑ "Tumberland Gap." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA; Arkansas, southwest Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, western North Carolina, Alabama. G Major: A Major: D Major (Tommy Jarrell). Standard, DGdg (Harvey Sampson) or ADad (Tommy Jarrell/Bruce Molsky) tunings. ABCC'DD (Phillips): AABB (Thede): AABBCC (Brody). The Cumberland Gap is a pass in the Appalachians between upper Tennessee and Kentucky. It is through this passage in the mountains that Daniel Boone in 1773 led a group of pioneers into Kentucky along his famous Wilderness Road, an event famous in American history that association with may have helped to popularize the melody (or, rather, populaize the title for a fiddle tune, as there are several different tunes that are called “Cumberland Gap”). The tune is very wide-spread throughout the upland South and many variants exist, along with some unrelated tunes that bear the same title. Alan Jabbour has written that it dates “well back” in the 19th century, and, while it bears melodic resemblance to some Irish reels in part, its derivation is yet to be determined. Mike Yates (2002) says that Bascom Lamar Lunsford maintained that “Cumberland Gap” was a speeded-up version of the ballad “Bonny James Campbell” (also rendered as a southern fiddle tune) while Yates finds the Niel Gow’s “Skye Air” carries a “faint suggestion” of the Appalachian standard. Still, Yates admits there seems to be no early printings of the tune.


Various verses have been set to the tune. Banjo player Dent Wimmer of Floyd, Floyd County, Virginia, sang:


My and my wife and seventeen chaps,

Walked all the way to Cumberland gap.


Cumberland Gap’s an awful dry place,

You can’t get water to wash your face.


Jabbour found 32 recordings of tunes with the title “Cumberland Gap” in the Library of Congress sound archives, while Bruce Greene and John Harrod’s field recordings of Kentucky fiddlers alone yielded fifty-two performances of the title. One of the earliest versions was recorded on an Edison Bell cylinder by Allen Sisson. The tune was played by Rock Ridge, Alabama, fiddlers c. 1920 (Devil’s Box, Vol. 17, #2, pg. 20). It was in the repertoires of Fiddlin' Cowan Powers 1877‑1952? (Russell County, southwest Va.) who recorded it in 1924 for Victor {though it was unissued}, and African-American fiddler Cuje Bertram of Kentucky’s Cumberland Plateau region (Bertram recorded it on a 1970 home recording made for his family, see “Cumberland Gap [4]"). Also in repertoire of J. Dedrick Harris, from eastern Tennessee, who fiddled regularly with Bob Taylor in his run for Governor of the state in the late 1800's. Harris moved to western North Carolina in the 1920's and influenced a generation of fiddlers including the Helton brothers, Manco Sneed, Bill Hensley, and Marcus Martin. In the Round Peak region of western North Carolina the melody was known by the title "Tumberland Gap" for many years until the isloation of the area broke down. Near Round Peak, Mt. Airy, North Carolina, fiddler Tommy Jarrell (d. 1986) remembered the tune "came around" the region when he was a young man, around 1915, and was not known before then. The tune was mentioned by William Byrne who described a chance encounter with West Virginia fiddler ‘Old Sol’ Nelson during a fishing trip on the Elk River. The year was around 1880, and Sol, whom Byrne said was famous for his playing “throughout the Elk Valley from Clay Courthouse to Sutton as…the Fiddler of the Wilderness,” had brought out his fiddle after supper to entertain (Milnes, 1999). The title appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Sources for notated versions: Luther Strong [Phillips]: Walter Fenell (Latimer County, Oklahoma) [Thede]. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 62. Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; pg. 114. Augusta Heritage Recordings AHR-004C, Harvey Sampson and the Big Possum String Band – “Flat Foot in the Ashes” (1986/1994. Learned by Calhoun County, W.Va. fidder Harvey Sampson from his father). Broadway 5118‑A (78 RPM) {1924} and Library of Congress AFS 4804‑B‑3 {1941}, Osey and Ernest Helton (Asheville N.C.). Cartunes 105, Bruce Molsky and Bob Carlin – “Take Me as I Am” (2004. Sourced to Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham). Conqueror 8239 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts. County 723, Cockerham, Jarrell, and Jenkins‑ "Back Home in the Blue Ridge." County 2702CD, “Tommy and Fred.” Document 8040, “The Hill Billies/Al Hopkins and His Buckle Busters: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vol. 2” (reissue). Document DOCD-8040, The Hillbillies (reissue, originally recorded 1926). Document DOCD-8057, The Skillet Lickers (reissue). Marimac 9008, The Lazy Aces String Band ‑ "Still Lazy after All These Years" (1986. Learned from the playing of Arthur Smith). Musical Traditions MTCD 321-2, Dent Wimmer (et al) – “Far in the Mountains, Vols. 1 & 2” (2002). Rounder 1005, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers‑ "Hear These New Southern Fiddle and Guitar Records." Rounder 0058, Corbit Stamper and Thornton Spencer ‑ "Old Originals, vol. 2" (1978). Rounder 0089, Oscar and Eugene Wright (W.Va.) ‑ "Old‑Time Fiddle." Vocalion 14839 (78 RPM, 1924) Uncle Am Stuart (b. 1856, Morristown, Tenn). Voyager 340, Jim Herd - "Old Time Ozark Fiddling." Yodel-Ay-Hee 05, The Wildcats - "On Our Knees" (1992).

Mike Seeger plays "Cumberland Gap" At Wintergreen, Va., in August 2007.

Mary O'Hara singing "I Gave My Love a Cherry"
Mary O'Hara (born ca. 1935) is an Irish soprano and harpist from County Sligo. ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_O


SHEEP SHELL CORN BY THE RATTLING OF HIS HORN. AKA and see "Fuller's Reel." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA; Virginia, Arkansas. A Major ('A' part) & D Major/A Major ('B' part). Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AABB (Kuntz, Phillips). The title (as "Sheepie Shell Corn") appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Brad Leftwich calls the melody "Fuller's Reel" after his source, who had no name for it.


Never seen the like since I was born,

Sheep shell corn by the rattlin' of his horn.


Corn's in the cupboard and the butter's in the churn,

Never seen the like since I was born.


Sheep shell corn by the rattle of his horn,

Never seen the like since I was born.


Sheep shell corn by the rattle of his horn,

Swing that gal with the red dress on. (Highwoods)


African-American collector Thomas Talley (born c. 1870) printed a song called “Sheep Shell Corn” in his 1922 book Negro Folk Rhymes (set to a completely different tune), that contains the first line of the Highwood’s song, but introduces a supernatural element to the lyric:

De Ram blow de ho’n an’ de sheep shell co’n;

An’ he sen’ it to de mill by de buck-eyed Whoppoorwill.

Ole Joe’s dead an’ gone but his Hant blows de ho’n;

An’ his hound howls still from de top o’ dat hill.


De Fish-hawk said unto Mistah Crane;

I wishes to de Lawd dat you’d sen’ a liddle rain;

Fer de water’s all muddy, an de creek’s gone dry;

If it ‘twasn’t fer de tadpoles we’d all die.


When de sheep shell co’n wid de rattle of his ho’n,

I wishes to de Lawd I’d never been bo’n;

Caze when he Hant blows de ho’n, de sperits all dance,

An’ de hosses an’ de cattle, dey whirls ‘round an’ prance.


Yonder comes Skilled an’ dere goes Pot;

An here comes Jawbone ‘cross de lot.

Walk Jawbone! Beat de Skilled an’ de Pat!

You cut dat Pigeon’s Wing, Black Man!


Take keer, gemmuns, an’ let me through,

Caze I’se gwinter dance wid liddle Mollie Lou.

But I’se never seed de lak since I’se been born,

When de sheep shell co’on wid de rattle of his ho’n!

Sources for notated versions: Emmet Lundy (Grayson County, Virginia) and the Highwoods String Band (N.C.) [Kuntz]; Walt Koken & Bob Potts with the Highwoods String Band [Phillips]. Kuntz (Ragged but Right), 1987; pg. 357‑358 (two versions). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 217. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 142. Heritage 056, Highwoods String Band‑ "The Young Fogies" (various artists). In the repertoire of Luther Davis, Galax, Va. Marimac 9000, Dan Gellert & Shoofly ‑ "Forked Deer" (1986).

Bruce Hornsby/Ricky Skaggs - Sheep Shell Corn (clogging) Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, and Kentucky Thunder live @ the Ferst Center in Atlanta, GA on Mar. 29th, 2008.

Ben Seymour playing an inlaid Cherry Galax Dulcimer
Ben Seymour playing "Sheep Shell Corn" on a fancy inlaid Cherry Galax Dulcimer built by him at Kudzu Patch Productions. He uses a popsicle stick on this tune :)



SHAD(E)Y GROVE [1]. Old‑Time; Breakdown and Song Tune. USA, North Carolina. A Minor. Standard tuning. AA. There are towns called Shady Grove in Virginia or Kentucky, though the title may refer to a place.


Shady Grove, my little love, Shady Grove I know
Shady Grove, my little love, bound for the Shady Grove.


Cheeks as red as the blooming rose, eyes the deepest brown,

You are the darling of my heart, stay til the sun goes down.


Shady Grove, my little love, Shady Grove my darlin/

Shady Grove, my little love, I'm going away to Harlan.


Went to see my Shady Grove, she was standing in the door,

Shoes and stockings in her hand, little bare feet on the floor.


From Jean Ritchie's Singing Family of the Cumberlands (1955) (condensed):


Dad remembered for us the first day he ever heard the fiddle played. He was about nine years old and going to school to old man Nick Gerhart... when Maggard Ritchie came in.

"He'd been off somewheres, courtin in Virginny, and he'd brought a feller home... and they had come to the schoolhouse to visit with Nick. Nick told us not to look up while they talked... But you know that stranger had a fiddle in his hand, and pretty soon he propped it in the cradle of his arm and begun to play that thing. Lordie! It was the prettiest sweepingest music. ... I just couldn't stand to sit still on that log bench and that tune snaking around so.

No sir, that was one tune that didn't stay in one place no time at all. ... I thought I was going plum crazy. You could hear feet a‑stomping all over the house, benches a‑creaking, young uns a‑giggling...

"Finally I let out a yell and lept off'n that bench and commenced to dance and clog around.... some of the other boys jumped up too.... .... after a while they left, and the teacher tried to settle us, back to our books, but I couldn't even see the print. I kept seeing that old fiddle bow race around on "Shady Grove." We around there had always sung that tune middling fast, hopped around to it a little bit, but that fiddle had tuck out with that'n like the Devil was after her. ... I kept laughing and wiggling in my seat, and saying the words to "Shady Grove” instead of my lesson.

Cheeks as red as a bloomin rose,

Eyes of the deepest brown,

You are the darlin of my heart,

Stay till the Sun goes down.

Shady Grove, my little love,

Shady Grove I know,

Shady Grove, my little love,

Bound for the Shady Grove.

(more verses).


These verses have also been heard at various times:


Shady Grove, my little love, Shady Grove my darling

Shady Grove, my little love, I'm going back to Harlan


Shady Grove, my little love, Shady Grove I know

Shady Grove, my little love, I'm bound for Shady Grove


When I was a little boy, I wanted a Barlow knife
Now I want little Shady Grove to say she'll be my wife


Cut a banjo from a gourd, string it up with twine

The only song that I can play is "Wish that gal was mine"


Apples in the summer time, peaches in the fall

If I can't have the girl I love, I don't want none at all


I've got a big fine horse, and corn to feed him on

All I need's little Shady Grove to feed him when I'm gone


Johnson (The Kitchen Musician: Occasional Collection of Old‑Timey Fiddle Tunes for Hammer Dulcimer, Fiddle, etc.), No. 2, 1982 (revised 1988, 2003); pg. 4. Rounder 0113, Trapezoid ‑ "Three Forks of Cheat" (1979. Learned from Kilby Snow). Tradition TLP 1007, Mrs. Edd Presnell ‑ "Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians" (1956).


T:Shady Grove

S:Jean Ritchie's 'Singing Family of the Cumberlands'




N:”Very lively”


E/E/ E/E/4E/4|F/E/ D|E/E/4E/4 F/A/|\

B3/2 B/|d3/4d/4 B/B/|A/(F/4E/4)D|\

E/F/4F/4 A/F/|E2||E/E/E|\

F/E/4E/4D|E3/4E/4 F/A/|B2|d3/4d/4B|\

A/F/4E/4D|E/F/4F/4 A/F/|E2|]


T:Shady Grove



K:A Dorian

E2|A2 AA A2 AA|BcBA G2 GE|A2 AA B2d2|e3 d e2 ee|

g2 gg e2 ee|dB A2G2 GG|A2 BG d2B2|A3G A2||

David Holt and Doc Watson: Shady Grove David Holt and Doc Watson perform the song "Shady Grove on December 5, 1998 at the Valborg Theatre on the campus of Appalacian State University. Daivid asks Doc about the song as a courting song. Doc talks about the days he sourted Rosalie, his wife of 62 years.

the chieftains & tim o'brien - shady grove



The Dillards - Old man at the Mill
The original Dillards, live at the Tonder Festival in Denmark in 1999.
Probably the last time they came to Europe to play.

OLD MAN ... [clawhammer bajo]
Guy Wolff playing Old Man At the Mill learned from Clint Howard and Clarence Ashley . Sawmill tuning gDGCD lowered to F sus 4 on a Ramsey Banjo Dobson Neck


Three Babes
Cath & Phil Tyler at the Barrles Alehouse, Berwick-upon-Tweed, June 17 2009.

Wife of Ushers Well - Lecture and Discussion
stacyhm - semi-retired and Professor Emiritus for Barstow College ... "CollegeThese videos are casual mini lectures (usually a few minutes long) to make a single point or two.
They are also an attempt to give the feel of the kind of informal class you might take as an elective on a Tuesday afternoon. They are posted for the benefit of my college students and for anyone else interested in these subjects.

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