Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Sandy Boys" -- an A Mixolydian fiddle tune ... with thoughts on capos and breaking out of the "D for dulcimer" lockstep


Highlight (for me) of Mike Anderson's Winter Weekend mountain dulcimer festival in Chillicothe, Ill., came while I was in the car heading back to Springfield and two previously unrelated thoughts bumped up against each other in my mind -- driving the interstates will do that for you -- and, CLICK!, there was a brand-new thought.

At Mike's suggestion, I took Dave Haas' intermediate class. I don't particularly like the standard DAD mountain dulcimer tuning, but Mike thought I might get something out of the class. And of course he was right. Here are a couple of the somethings:

  • One of the tunes we played Friday night was "Sandy Boys." We played it in D Mixolydian, but I remember it from East Tennessee as one of those fine old "A modal," or Mixolydian, fiddle tunes that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. We went over it so many times, it got to be an earworm. And then back in the motel I liked it so much, I got out the tablature and went over it again to keep the earworm going.
  • So the next morning I asked Dave if I could get A Mixolydian by retuning from DAA to EAA, and he said yes -- but

Dulcimer - Hangman's Reel and Sandy Boys - Will Manahan and Dave Haas - OVG 2013 (2/3). Dave, who played backup guitar and posted this video to YouTube on his channel davehaasmusic, says, "Will Manahan (dulcimer) and Dave Haas (guitar) play a medley of "Hangman's Reel" and "Sandy Boys" at the Ohio Valley Gathering, held March 15-17, 2013, in Lexington, KY. Will received a standing ovation for his performance and was asked to play another tune. Thanks to the Louisville Dulcimer Society for hosting this wonderful festival."

"Sandy Boys" begins at 1:00. "Hangman's Reel" is another fine old A-modal fiddle tune.

Sandy Boys - Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman. brucefromga's channel "Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman playing a house concert for Charlotte Folk Society, Nov. 2011. Edden Hammons tune."

"Sandy Boys" on the "Country" Dulcimer by Ben Seymour. Ben, a luthier from western North Carolina, shows off a new dulcimer and plays the tune in D mixolydian, with a variation in the B part that I remember hearing -- and really, really liking -- back home. "Sandy Boys" begins at 1:00.

Sheet music. Lead sheet with guitar chords in abc notation -- with MIDI file (click on "live broadcast" to hear).

To print, click on "download … png." On my Mac, I enlarge it to 125% before printing.

Andrew Kunz' Fiddlers' Companion website has the background -- plus all the lyrics you could want, and even more! Go to and scroll down the directory:

SANDY BOYS. Old‑Time, Breakdown and Song. USA; Kentucky, West Virginia. A Mixolydian. AEae tuning. AB (Silberberg): ABAB'A'BAB (Krassen). A tune from the repertoire of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, fiddler Edden Hammons. The original, however, appears to be in the American minstrel show repertoire, for a similar version (though different in the ‘B’ part from Hammons’ tune) can be found in Phil Rice’s Correct Method for the Banjo (1857), a period tutor, and also appears an 1844 minstrel songbook (reproduced by Harvard Theatre College Collection, Cambridge, Mass.). Gerry Milnes has found ribald words accompanying the tune in West Virginia. The modern “revival” or “festival” version may have stemmed from a ‘mislearning’ of Hammon’s tune by Bob Herring. See also Missouri fiddler Gene Goforth’s related “The Quail is a Pretty Bird.” Carl Baron supplies the following lyrics, sung, in whole or part, to the melody (although it will be recognized there are quite a few ‘floating’ verses):
Sandy Boys
Raccoon's got a long bushy tail.
Possum's tail is bare.
Rabbit's got no tail at all
Just a little bit a bunch of hair.
Squirrely he's a pretty thing
He carries a bushy tail
Eats up all the mossy's corn
And hearts it on the rail
Do come along, sandy boys
Do come along, oh do
Do come along, sandy boys
Waiting for the booger-boo

There are several other verses.

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