Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Soldier's Joy": New tune for April @ Prairieland Strings and Clayville

We've had a request for "Soldier's Joy," and I've located dulcimer tab for our "first Tuesday" session of the Prairieland Strings on April 1. It's one of the grand old fiddle tunes, and we'll introduce it at Saturday's session of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music, too. It's on the Music Roots slow-jam program's website out of Mountain View, Ark., and it's a very playable version of one of the grand old fiddle tunes:

Along with the dulcimer tab, Music Roots has a lead sheet with guitar chords. PDF files of both are available in the directory of tab for beginners at:

Among other lyrics cited in Andrew Kunz' online Fiddlers Companion are these:

Chicken in the bread tray scratchin' out dough,
Granny will your dog bite? No, child, no.
Ladies to the center and gents to the bar,
Hold on you don't go too far.


Grasshopper sittin on a sweet potato vine, (x3)
Along come a chicken and says she's mine.


I'm a‑gonna get a drink, don't you wanna go? (x3)
Hold on Soldier's Joy.


Love somebody, yes I do, (x3)
Love somebody but I won't say who.


I am my mama's darling child (x3)
And I don't care for you.


Dance all night, fiddle all day,
That's a Soldier's Joy. (Kuntz)

Here are couple of YouTube clips:

One shows the Athens, Ala., Dulcimer Jam Group playing in unison ...

And here's a good basic festival version on fiddle and guitar. (When you hear people talking about the "festival version," it means the standard, fleet-model, no-frills version of a tune.) Says Wilmer Kerns, who played guitar and posted it to YouTube, "This is a basic version of the fiddle tune for those who are interested in learning it. Variations of this oldtime tune may be traced back as far as the late 1600s.Texans play it differently than players in Southern Appalachia and from those in New England and Nova Scotia. Sometimes it is played with so many embellishments that the tune is hardly recognizable."

And a 1929 recording, with lyrics, by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, on the PreservationHall101 website:

Preservation Hall 101 gives this background on Gid Tanner, whose recorded version became pretty much the standard in 20th-century America:

James Gideon Tanner, fiddler extraordinaire and comedian, was born at Thomas Bridge, Georgia in 1885. His old time fiddle music was to become one of the ingredients of modern country and western music as formulated by Jimmie Rodgers in the early 1930s. The Skillet Lickers were very influential in the 1920s-30s building the bridge that connected Appalachian folk music to modern popular music and gave respectability to the formerly ridiculed "hillbilly" music. The band of crazy geniuses consisted of blind Riley Puckett-guitar (and vocals on this recording); Clayton McMichen-fiddle ; Fate Norris-banjo; and chicken farmer Gid Tanner-fiddle. McMichen's voice can be heard at the intro saying "Well folks, here we are again . . ." Tanner memorized the words and music to over 2000 fiddle tunes but couldn't read a note of music.. Tanner, at age 38, and Puckett made their first recordings (duets) for Columbia as early as 1924 in New York. They had been coaxed to those 1924 sessions by Frank Walker of Columbia and their sessions pre-dated recordings of early pioneers such as Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family by several years. The first records cut as The Skillet Lickers were produced in Atlanta, Georgia in 1926. The Skillet Lickers recorded sporadically with different musicians making up the band and when they disbanded in '34, they had made around 100 records for Columbia and Bluebird.
But the tune is much older than that. Andrew Kunz has this at
SOLDIER'S JOY [1] (Lutgair An Sigeadoir/t-Saigdiura). AKA and see "French Four" [2], "I Am My Mamma's Darlin' Child," “John White,” "The King's Head," "The King's Hornpipe [1]," "(I) Love Somebody [1]," "Payday in the Army," "Rock the Cradle Lucy." Old‑Time, Bluegrass, American, Canadian, English, Irish, Scottish; Breakdown, Scottish Measure, Hornpipe, Reel, Country Dance and Morris Dance Tune. D Major (almost all versions): G Major (Bacon, Bayard‑Simmons). Standard or ADae (Edden Hammons) tunings. AB (Athole, Bayard‑Simmons, Shaw): AABB (most versions): ABCDE (Cooke {Ex. 54}). One of, if not the most popular fiddle tune in history, widely disseminated in North America and Europe in nearly every tradition; as Bronner (1987) perhaps understatedly remarks, it has enjoyed a "vigorous" life. There is quite a bit of speculation on just what the name ‘soldier’s joy’ refers to. Proffered thoughts seem to gravitate toward money and drugs. In support of the latter is the 1920’s vintage Georgia band the Skillet Lickers, who sang to the melody:


Well twenty-five cents for the morphine,
and fifteen cents for the beer.
Twenty-five cents for the old morphine
now carry me away from here.


Bayard (1981) dates it to "at least" the latter part of the 18th century, citing a version that has become standard in James Aird's 1778 collection (vol. 1, No. 109) and Skillern's 1780 collection (pg. 21). London publishers Longman and Broderip included it in their Entire New and Compleat Instructions for the Fife in 1785. Kate Van Winkler Keller (1992) says that the hornpipe “Soldier’s Joy” appeared with a song in London in about 1760. John Glen (1891) and Francis Collinson (1966) maintain the first appearance in print of this tune is in Joshua Campbell's 1778 A Collection of the Newest and Best Reels and Minuets with improvements. It has been attributed to Campbell himself but Collinson notes it is hardly likely as it is a well known folk dance tune in other countries of Europe. There is also a dance by the same name which is "one of the earliest dances recorded in England, but no date of origin has been established. It is still done in Girton Village as part of a festival dance. The tune is also well known in Ireland" (Linscott, 1939). The melody was used in North‑West England morris dance tradition for a polka step, and also is to be found in the Cotswold morris tradition where it appears as "The Morris Reel," collected from the village of Headington, Oxfordshire. Scots national poet Robert Burns set some verses to the tune which were published in his Merry Muses of Caledonia. In the first song of Burns' cantata, The Jolly Beggars, by the soldier, is to the tune of “Soldier's Joy.” Early versions of "Soldier's Joy" can be traced to a Scottish source as far back as 1781; variants can be found in Scandinavia, the French Alps, and Newfoundland (Linda Burman‑Hall, "Southern American Folk Fiddle Styles," Ethnomusicology, vol. 19, #1, Jan. 1975). Jean-Paul Carton identifies a version of “Soldier’s Joy” in the tablature manuscript of French fiddler Pierre Martin, dating from around 1880. He says: “I find (Martin’s) version of Soldier’s Joy—simply referred to as Été [a type of dance], tab #132—surprisingly close to some of the American versions, including the bowing, which is indicated in the tab.” [Reference: Claude Ribouillault, Violon du Poitou, Répertoire de danses en tablatures (Cahier de Pierre Martin, vers 1880), UPCP-Métive, Les Cahiers du CERDO No. 1, CPCP-Métive: 2003].

And this:
In America the melody is ubiquitous. Early printings of the melody are in Benjamin and Joseph Carr’s Evening Amusement (Philadelphia, 1796), Joshua Cushing’s Fifer’s Companion (Salem, Mass., 1804) and Daniel Steele’s New and Compleat Preceptor for the Flute (Albany, 1815). It was cited as having commonly been played for country dances in Orange County, New York, in the 1930's (Lettie Osborn, New York Folklore Quarterly), and Bronner (1987) confirms it was a popular piece at New York square dances in the early 20th century. The title appears in a repertoire list of Norway, Maine, fiddler Mellie Dunham (the elderly Dunahm {b. 1853} was Henry Ford's champion fiddler in the late 1920's). Musicologist Charles Wolfe (1982) says it was popular with Kentucky fiddlers. The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, from the playing of Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's, and, for the same institution by Herbert Halpert in 1939 from the playing of Mississippi fiddlers John Hatcher, W.E. Claunch and Stephen B. Tucker. Fiddler and outdoorsman Leizime Brusoe (Rhinelander, Wisconsin), born in Canada around 1870, recorded it on 78 RPM under the title “French Four,” which was actually the name of the dance he usually played it for. “Soldier’s Joy” is one of ‘100 essential Missouri tunes’ listed by Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden. It was also recorded by legendary Galax fiddler Emmett Lundy, and is listed as one of the tunes played at a fiddlers' convention at the Pike County Fairgrounds, Alabama (as recorded in the Troy Herald of July 6, 1926) {Cauthen, 1990}. Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner said: "Every fiddler plays this. Some not so good" (Shumway). Howe (c. 1867) and Burchenal (1918) print a New England contra dances of the same name with the tune. Tommy Jarrell, the influential fiddler from Mt. Airy, North Carolina, told Peter Anick in 1982 that it was a tune he learned in the early 1920's when he first began learning the fiddle, at which time it was known as "I Love Somebody" in his region. Soon after it was known in Mt. Airy as "Soldier's Joy" and, after World War II, as "Payday in the Army." Another North Carolina fiddler, African-American Joe Thompson, played the tune in CFgd tuning. Gerald Milnes (1999, pg. 12) remarks that tune origins were of significant value to West Virginia musicians who often tried to trace tunes to original sources. It was the first tune learned by Randolph County, W.Va., fiddler Woody Simmons (b. 1911). Braxton County fiddler Melvin Wine (1909-1999), says Milnes, used family lore to attribute the tune to his great-grandfather, Smithy Wine, of Civil War era. Smithy, it seems, had been detained by the Confederates in Richmond under charges of aiding Union soldiers. Although imprisoned, his captors found out he was a fiddler and made him play for a dance, and Smithy later associated the tune with this incident, calling it “Soldier’s Joy.” For further information see Bayard's (1944) extensive note on this tune and tune family under "The King's Head." During a Senate campaign in the 1960's the piece was played to crowds by Albert Gore Sr., the fiddling father of the Vice President during the Clinton administration (Wolfe, 1997).
And much, much more. I first learned the tune on dulcimer from Betty Smith of western North Carolina as a children's song with lyrics "I love somebody, yes I do."

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