Some of these tracks are available on the compilation 'So Far So Good'
This acoustic aggregation comprises:
Dave Arthur (banjo,guitar,melodeon
Pete Cooper (fiddle,viola) and
Chris Moreton (guitar,mandolin) and all share the vocal duties at various times and in varied combinations.
They've been together for some years but this is the first recording under the bands official name. In these days of too clever-clever Americana, its immensely refreshing to hear real old time music played with such verve and melodic nous, by musicians at the very top of their game. Many of the ballads and tunes collected in the US had, of course, their genesis in these isles and the repertory here is best described as Anglo-American.
Here are tales from the dark side supernatural, mysterious, compelling. Of death, true love and false lovers. Sentiment in spades. this hits every spot available!..........Clive Pownceby
TENNESSEE MOUNTAIN FOX-CHASE (Band)
Descriptive pieces have always had a popular place in the traditional repertory and few subjects lend themselves better to the genre than the foxhunt. Although banned in England, hunting and hounds are still as much a part of rural life in the southern states of America today as they were back in 1927 when fiddler Dudley Vance drove the 150 miles across the mountains from Bluff City TN to Winston-Salem NC, with Vances Tennessee Breakdowners, to record six sides for Okeh Records. Only two of the tracks were actually released, but luckily Vances family hung on to the original test pressings, and thus their wild Tennessee Mountain Foxchase was preserved for posterity (Rural String Bands of Tennessee, County Records CD 3511). Like us their line-up was fiddle, banjo and guitar.
Folklorist Leonard Roberts collected a fox-chase cante-fable from Jim Crouch from eastern Kentucky. The narrative, complete with whoops and hollers, was told over an exciting banjo instrumental.
EIGHT MORE MILES TO LOUISVILLE (lead vocal/guitar, Dave; fiddle/chorus, Pete; guitar/chorus, Chris
Dave first learnt Eight More Miles (written in 1947 by Grand Old Opry star Grandpa Jones) from Sandy and Jeannie Darlington, whose infectious enthusiasm for Anglo-American old time music was an inspiration to many on the London folk scene of the 1950s/60s.
In his early twenties Kentucky-born Louis Marshall Jones (1913-1998) was working at WBZ (AM) Radio in Boston when singer Bradley Kincaid nicknamed him Grandpa because of his early morning grumpiness. The name appealed to him and he adopted it, acquiring a false moustache, wire-framed glasses, and a vaudeville outfit, and built his stage persona around it. He remained Grandpa for the rest of his life
He learnt clawhammer banjo from wild woman Cousin Emmy (the first hillbilly to own a Cadillac) in the 1930s, and, being a champion of old time music, did a lot to keep banjo playing alive in later years when it fell from favour amongst many professional musicians. Some think he has a lot to answer for!
THE BOATMAN (vocal/guitar, Dave; fiddle/chorus, Pete) / CUFFY (fiddle, Pete; guitar, Dave)
The Boatman (De Boatman Dance or Dance Boatman Dance) is both a song and a fiddle tune. George P. Knauff published the tune under the title of Ohio River in his Virginia Reels Vol. 4, in Baltimore in 1839, four years before the influential Minstrel songwriter and performer Dan Emmett published it as An Original Banjo Melody!
Like so much Minstrel music of the 19th century it was equally as popular in Britain as it was in America thanks to the regular tours of groups such as the Christy Minstrels, for whom Stephen Foster wrote, and Emmetts Virginia Minstrels. The fact that the Virginia Minstrels met with little success on their 1844 tour, and returned home broke, didnt deter the London music publishers DAlmaine & Co from publishing Dandy Jim from Caroline Emmits celebrated Negro Melodies, or Songs of the Virginny Banjoist that very year. Boatmans Dance was included in the collection.
With the founding of his Virginia Minstrels in 1842, banjoist Daniel Decatur Emmett (1815-1904), established the first all black-face minstrel troupe to perform a complete act, as opposed to other black-face performers who for many years had performed brief burlesques and comic entractes. Prior to this, Emmett (The Great Southern Banjo Melodist) performed around New York with bones player Frank Brower (The Perfect Representative of the Southern negro Characters), and a dancer named Pierce (The Great Heelologist). Emmett wrote such classic minstrel songs as Dixie, Jordan Am a Hard Road to Travel, Old Dan Tucker, Come Ober de Mountain, Blue Tail Fly, all of which took on lives beyond that of the minstrel stage. They are still sung today by old time musicians, and Elvis Presley put Dixie into his American Trilogy medley. Versions of several minstrel songs were collected by Alfred Williams, and published in Folk-Songs of the Upper Thames (1923). There is a theory that Emmett actually got the idea for Dixie from a black fiddle and banjo duo, Ben and Lou Snowden, who gave performances from an improvised stage on the side of their house, in Emmetts hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio. If this were true it would be a bit ironic considering the disfavour with which the Civil Rights Movement regarded the song.
Cuffy seems originally to have been peculiar to southwestern Virginia. Violin maker and old time fiddler Armin Barnett learned it from Nicky Mills of Boobes Mill, and is thought to have been responsible for its dissemination across North Carolina, and elsewhere. It was from him that the Highwoods String Band got the tune, which they recorded on their influential Rounder album No.3 Special (1976), and it was a hot session tune by 1978 when Pete first visited the Appalachians, hanging out for several months with old time revival musicians. The title was said to refer to a runaway slave. Whatever the origins of the tune, the name Cuffy, (Cuffey, Cuffee) was a well known slave name in America, and widely adopted as a stage name by blackface minstrels. Its a custom with the Ewe people of the Volta region of Ghana to name a child after the day of the week on which it is born, and Cuffy is a variation of the Ghanaian Kofi the name given to boys born on a Friday. Other common slave names were Kwaku (Wednesday) and Kwasi (Sunday) which became anglicised as Quack and Quash.
According to Peter Linebaugh & Marcus Redikers book The Many-Headed Hydra The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. (Verso 2000), two men called Cuffee were among thirteen slaves burned at the stake following the New York insurrection of 1741. One of them had been spotted leaving a building that had been set on fire by the insurgents. The uprising turned out to have been a conspiracy of Irishmen, Caribbeans, and Africans who were accused of plotting to burn New York to the ground and murder its white citizens. The leading cell was composed of Gold Coast (Ghana) slaves, the Irish cell mainly of soldiers with a grudge against Protestant England, and hatred for the army.
Fiddle music was an integral part of the conspiracy, socially and militarily. Cuffees group, The Long Bridge Boys, met regularly at a waterfront tavern run by a John Hughson, well known for its subversive clientele, its connections with the underworld, and its raucous fiddling, dancing, and singing. The conspiracy resulted finally in the hanging of sixteen blacks, and four whites (publican John Hughson and his wife amongst them), as well as the burning of Cuffee and the other twelve black, so-called, conspirators. Interestingly, included in the judges list of White Persons taken into Custody on Account of the Conspiracy was one John Corry, Dancing Master.
THE NEW RIGGED SHIP / GREEN WILLIS (Band)
Not to be confused with the exciting Shetland reel
of the same name that master fiddler Tom Anderson printed in his collection Ringing Strings (Shetland Times, 1983), The New Rigged Ship is a traditional 6/8 jig popular amongst fiddlers and melodeon players in England and Scotland.
In her book, Dancing Through Time, Allison Thompson tells how the novelist and fiddler Thomas Hardy is said, at the age of twelve, to have played this favourite dance tune for nearly three quarters of an hour, before his hostess stopped him for fear he might burst a blood vessel.
The tune also cropped up in the repertoire of that other literary fiddler, Northamptonshire poet John Clare. In America the jig morphed into the fiddle and banjo reel Green Willis or The Raw Recruit. Legend has it that Green Willis was a 19th century fiddler from the Galax area of Virginia.
Drinking moonshine at the age of fifteen
Caused poor Willis face to turn green;
Then it turned red, cause he was shamed,
So well play the tune that goes by the name Of Green Willis.
Banjo virtuoso Howie Bursen recorded a great version of this back in the 1980s for Folk Legacy.
THE LIGHT DRAGOON (vocal/guitar, Dave; fiddle, Pete) / DOWNFALL OF PARIS (fiddle, Pete; guitar, Chris)
The Light Dragoon is a little different from most of the musical Trooper and Maid encounters, in as much as here its the pretty maid who takes the initiative with offers of ale, cakes and sex, an offer that, being a mere man, he cant resist. Despite her emancipated attitude, shes still hoping for love, and not just a one night stand. Is that a male/female thing, or just old fashioned? The trooper hearing the bugle call sounding Rouse, scuttles off, pulling up his pants, promising to marry her if and when he returns. Or, as the wonderful North Carolina ballad singer, Dillard Chandler, surreally has it in The Soldier Travelling from the North (Old Love Songs and Ballads from Big Laurel, North Carolina. Folkways 1964):
When silver bells and conks shall stand
When (sic) you and I shall marry.
The conk-shells (cockle-shells? Conch?) also appear in a couple of versions of The Trooper and the Maid (Child No.299) found by Cecil Sharp in Tennessee and North Carolina some fifty years earlier. It wasnt just impressionable 19th century country girls, or middle-class ladies looking for a bit of rough who were attracted to the skin-tight red trousers of the 11th Hussars, or the Dragoons fancy pelisse, slung nonchalantly over the left shoulder. Cavalry barracks have long held a fascination for gentlemen of certain inclinations. The relationship between soldiers and girls seduction, abandonment, girl cross-dressers following their men to war, camp followers, and, rarely, rejected suitors - were perennially popular subjects with broadside and chapbook printers, and widely disseminated in Britain and America. William Taylor, Jackero, High Germany Gentleman Soldier, The Manchester Angel The Trumpet Sounds at Burreldales (Bonnie Lassie Ill Lie Near You), The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie (Pretty Peggy-o), Peggy and the Soldier, Trooper and the Maid, and many more related songs have been sung from Dartmoor to the Ozark mountains of Arkansas.
Dave originally learnt it from the singing of Harry List from Sweffling, near Framlingham, Suffolk, on the 1960s Caedmon series Folk Songs of Britain (later released under licence by Topic Records), and recorded it in 1969 on the Dave and Toni Arthur LP The Lark in the Morning (Topic 12T190). Harry had it from his brother-in-law, Harry Bloomfield, who, although apparently not very good at the three Rs, only had to hear a song a couple of times in the pub to memorise it. A number of textual changes have crept into Daves version over the last thirty five years, not least the last three verses which he added in a fit of martial enthusiasm after reading the exciting letters of Richard Lacey, a young Londoner who emigrated to Illinois in 1860. In 1862 Lacey volunteered to fight for the Southern Confederacy in the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, and later joined the legendary Confederate cavalry commander, John Morgan, as one of his Raiders.
The Downfall of Paris is found in the John Clare manuscripts, and is popular with country musicians all over Britain and Ireland, where it is used in competition set dances. Composed in the 18th century by a Monsieur M. Becourt, an operatic side-drummer, it became a popular dance tune used for the cotillion, a dance introduced into England in the late 1760s by French dancing masters, and a few years later danced at American balls. During the French Revolution (1789-99) the tune was taken up by the revolutionary mob for the song Ca Ira (It Will Succeed), a phrase originally used by Benjamin Franklin with reference to the American Revolution, and passed on to a street singer named Ladre by General Lafayette, a volunteer General for America in the Revolutionary War, and later in Paris a friend of Franklin, the American Ambassador. With its catchy refrain, the song was taken up by the mob. As the revolution grew more bitter and bloody, so, also, did the lyrics, and the song is said to have been sung to many a scene of massacre and bloodshed. The tune was later adopted by the British Army as a march and widely played during the Peninsular War under the title The Downfall of Paris, which, according to musicologist Vic Gammon, may have been put to it by the West Yorkshire Regiment. After 1805 The Downfall of Paris began to appear in printed dance tune collections in England and Ireland. In America, squeezed through the folk tune-grinder, it turned into the well known breakdown Mississippi Sawyer, though some musicians such as the Murphy Brothers Harp Band (Harmonica Masters Classic Recordings from the 1920s and 1930s, Yazoo 2019) whilst playing Mississippi Sawyer still retained the old title of Downfall of Paris.
THE LAKES OF PONTCHARTRAIN (vocal, Pete; Band)
An example of the Anglo-Irish-American musical roundabout that interests us. Despite an enormous amount of interest and research, the origins of the song, claimed as a traditional Creole love song, an English street ballad of the mid 19th century, and an American song from the Civil War period, still remain shrouded in uncertainty.
Pete first heard it from Ulster singer Paul Brady, who learnt it from the singing of Planxtys Christy Moore on the album Cold Blow and the Rainy Night (1974). Christy got it from Mike Waterson after hearing him sing it at Folk Union One, in Hull. Mike had learnt it in the 1960s from a tape sent to him by a fan, almost certainly a copy of the BBC recording of Paddy McCluskey, from Corkey, Co. Antrim, made by Peter Kennedy and Sean OBoyle in 1953. McCluskey had learnt the song around 1905 from another Corkey singer, Frank McAllister, who had picked it up whilst working as a woodsman in America. Paddy McCluskeys (McAllisters) version can be heard on the Folktrax recording The Broken Token (FTX514).
The song is very popular in the States, where it is thought by many to be an Irish song because of the recordings of Brady and Moore, and its publication in Songs of the People (Univ of Georgia Press, 1990); comprising Ulster material collected between 1923 and 1939 by folk song collector Sam Henry. But Henrys source had also been Paddy McCluskey!
Pontchartrain appears in several American song collections, sung to a variety of tunes, often under the title The Creole Girl, but also The Lakes of Ponsaw Train (Ozarks), and a cowboy version, On the Lake of the Poncho Plains. For more texts see Tolman & Eddy Journal of American Folklore XXXV, 387-388, and Gardner & Chickering Ballads and Songs of Michigan, p133. With its reference to railroad cars, the song cant date before September 17th 1832, when the first steam locomotive, the Pontchartrain, was delivered from England and put into service on the Pontchartrain Railroad line that ran five miles from Elysian Fields Street, New Orleans, to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain at Milneburg, the first railroad in the Mississippi Valley.
In New Orleans at the time of the songs 19th century creation the term Creole meant a Caucasian born in America whose parents had been born in Europe, probably France or Spain. An elaborate caste system evolved which, below Creole, included octoroon, quadroon, griffe, mulatto, and black. Quadroon girls did not consider themselves black, but Creoles of colour or femmes de couleur and were renowned for their beauty. Many made careers as exotic courtesans, kept as mistresses by wealthy Creoles who could only marry within their own white peer group. The liaisons, some lasting a life-time, were set up at the famous Quadroon Balls, where the girls were paraded in all their finery by their mothers, intent on setting them up with a good gentleman. The custom was more popular with gentlemen, presumably, than with their wives.
OVER THE WATERFALL (lead guitar,Chris; Band)
A chance for Chris to do some flat-picking on this session standard known in various forms on both sides of the Atlantic. A close relative (the origin?) of Over the Waterfall is The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue in ONeills Music of Ireland: 1850 Melodies (1903). The tune entered the current old time repertory through the Hollow Rock String Bands 1968 recording Traditional Dance Tunes. The bands fiddler, Alan Jabbour had collected it the year before from the Virginia fiddler Henry Reed, who, in turn, had learnt it as a young boy from some travelling showmen. Born in 1884 in Monroe County, W. Virginia, Reed came from a large musical family, whose paternal roots were in Ireland. As a boy he played various instruments including banjo and fiddle, and picked up his tunes from friends, family, and neighbours, one of whom was Quince Dillon, an ex-Civil War fifer, born in 1810, and the source of several of Reeds more interesting tunes. You can listen to Alan Jabbours original field recordings of Reed, on the Library of Congress, American Folklife Centre website in the Henry Reed Collection. The renowned Kentucky fiddler J.P.Fraley also played a version, learned from his father.
Over the Waterfall is also found attached to the lyrics of several songs including the Al Hopkins and the Bucklebusters 1927 number The Fellow that Looks Like Me (Brunswick), which was also popular on the British stage, and the serio-comic song Eggs and Marrowbones (see The Hammons Family Library of Congress recording entitled Mercian Tittery-ary-a). Attempts to establish a connection between the dance tune title and the fact that in Marrowbones the old woman, in attempting to drown her husband, herself falls into the river, would be more convincing if she fell over a waterfall but she doesnt. Although its an attractive, catchy, and popular tune, one can have too much of a good thing, and amongst some contra dance musicians, who have worn their fingers to the bone playing Over the Waterfall for countless dances over the years, its known as The Tune That Wont Go Away.
WILLIES GHOST (vocal/guitar, Dave)
The idea of the revenant, has always held an ambivalent fascination for the living, and however much we might smile at our medieval ancestors gullibility in believing in such matters, we still pass on modern urban legends like The Ghostly Hitch-hiker. And who didnt have a sniffle over Juliet Stevensons and Alan Rickmans portrayals of grief stricken lover and supernatural returnee in Truly Madly Deeply?
In popular belief excessive, prolonged, grief is one of the guaranteed ways of receiving a visit from a dead loved one, bound to the earth by emotional chains. Ballads and folktales are full of such notions. The Wife of Ushers Well laments her childrens deaths so inconsolably that they are dragged back as revenants. Two other things can also produce revenants: lovers promises, or troths; binding beyond the grave, or a dissolute, wicked life prior to death. In Willies Ghost (Sweet Williams Ghost Child Ballad No 77) its both of these that brings Willies shrouded corpse back to Margaret seeking redemption. Like several other important British ballads Sweet Williams Ghost first appeared in print in Ramsays Tea Table Miscellany Vol. 4 (Edinburgh 1740).
This Appalachian version was learnt by Dave in 2000 from North Carolina ballad singer and storyteller Bobby McMillon, in exchange for a version of Tamlin, over the breakfast table in Tunbridge Wells. Bobby, apart from being a delightful person, is a remarkable walking repository of North Carolina folklore, ballads, and tales, and is the worthy recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council Folk Heritage Award. On checking back, after making this recording, Dave found that the words had changed hardly at all since that breakfast exchange: the tune, however, appears to have become a victim of the folk process.
FRED PIDGEONS No. 1 (fiddle, Pete; spoons, Dave)/JENNY LIND POLKA (Band)
Our ornithological pairing of Pidgeon (sic) and Nightingale! Fiddler and master baker Fred Pidgeon (1880-1970) from the village of Stockland, East Devon, had a tune list that reads like an English country musicians Top Twenty. In his repertoire are many of the standard dance tunes found in fiddlers tune books for the last hundred and fifty years Waltzes, barn dances, schottisches, quadrilles and polkas, including, of course Freds Scotch Polka (known amongst contemporary fiddlers as Fred Pidgeons No. 1). In his youth Fred played for village dances all over Devon, Dorset and Somerset with two cousins, one of them his brother-in-law, Joe Pimm.
We all played all three violins. But the oldest of em, hed play a lot of seconds and make we youngsters work. And we used to enjoy it. He could never speak to me when he was playing. Id talk to him and hed give a nod he could never answer. We used to have fine fun.
Fred was recorded by Peter Kennedy in the 1950s and can be heard on The Ladies Breast Knot (Folktrax FTX 087).
The Jenny Lind Polka, or as its sometimes called in the States The Heel and Toe Polka or Sally With the Run Down Shoes, was as popular with earlier old time musicians from Virginia to California, as it was with English country players. Written by the German composer Anton Wallerstein in 1845, Jenny Linds Lieblings-Polka was part of a core repertory shared by many, although not all, English, American and Australian rural musicians in the late19th and early 20th centuries, scraped and squeezed out around the world in a very similar rhythmic style. This musical homogeneity began to dissipate as much of the older functional dance music lost its social raison detre and became merely listening music. In Britain the tune became a favourite with folk revival country bands after its appearance on the hugely influential 1965 album English Country Music, recorded and produced by Bill Leader, Reg Hall, and Bob Davenport, and featuring, amongst others, the East Anglian musicians Walter and Daisy Bulwer (fiddle/piano), and hammered-dulcimer player Billy Cooper.
The tune, like several other Jenny Lind commemorative items, celebrated the massively popular 19th century Swedish singer Johanna Maria Lind (1820-1887). The Swedish Nightingale was an international super star long before the term was coined. She was introduced to America by the showman, hoaxer, and impresario P.T.Barnum in 1850, and performed a hundred and fifty concerts at a thousand dollars a night. Although the tour was a great success for both of them, on her return to Europe she ceased her professional career, becoming a philanthropist and singing teacher, eventually settling in Malvern, Worcestershire, where she died and is buried.
FOOTMARKS IN THE SNOW (vocal/guitar, Chris; fiddle/chorus Pete; banjo, Dave)
One of Bluegrass doyen Bill Monroes most popular recordings was his 1945 Columbia track Footprints in the Snow, which got to number five in the record charts. Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys had put their innovative stamp on what was originally an old time country number, first recorded in 1931 by Ernest Branch and His West Virginia Ramblers as Little Footprints. But as Chris found out from Wayne Erbsens fascinating book Rural Roots of Bluegrass (Mel Bay 2003) the original song was an English Music hall hit, I Traced her Little Footmarks in the Snow, written by Harry Wright in 1880, and sung with great success by George Jolly Little Lewis, a comic artiste and concert producer who died in 1893.
General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, set about conscripting popular variety and music hall tunes into the service of the Lord after hearing George Sailor Fielder sing Bless His name, He set me free in Worcester in January 1882. When he enquired about the fine tune he was told shamefacedly that it was the dreadful tune Champagne Charlie is my name. Why should the Devil have all the best tunes? asked Booth, and four months later the evangelist Gypsy Smith got up at Londons Clapton Congress Hall and sang O the Blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow to the tune of Harry Wrights recently composed popular song, the audience joining in heartily on the chorus.
Alfred Williams, The Hammerman Poet, and first of the folksong collectors to take down what the people actually sang, and not just what he wanted them to sing, found Footmarks in the Snow sung by Mr Clarke of Clanfield, in Oxfordshire (just down the road from Bampton), before the First World War, and Norfolk carpenter Walter Pardon also had it in his repertoire.
FATHER, FATHER, BUILD ME A BOAT (vocal/guitar, Dave; guitar/mandolin, Chris)
Several years ago Francis Shergold, stalwart and longtime Squire of Bampton Morris, decided to dance Highland Mary to the tune of Yellow Submarine, and when challenged by an academic visitor on his use of the wrong tune, Francis, a master of repartee, as well as a fine dancer, suggested he went and pissed in his hat! A critique of a performance shouldnt be based on whether the lyric, tune, key, speed, instrument, is correct but whether it works. Of course we all have our personal preferences, but thats what they are, preferences, and not laws carved in stone. Which is why Virginias Doc Boggs was as happy to sing Papa, Build Me a Boat to the waltzy major Victorian parlour tune, used here, as other singers were to use more archaic sounding, high lonesome, vehicles for the same words. Doc learnt it in the 1920s from Charlie Powers, one of his band members. Dave uses Docs tune (or pretty close) to a set of words that he learnt back in the 1960s, collected by Frank Kidson from a Mrs Hollings, a Lincolnshire charwoman. The dramatic Sailors, oh sailors, dress all in black verse is from Gavin Greigs Folk-Song of the North-East. Widely sung in Britain and the USA with titles such A Sailors Life, Early, Early All in the Spring, Sweet William, and on a Catnach broadside The Sailor Boy and his Faithful Mary, the song, adapted in Wisconsin to the life of the timber-raftsmen, is frequently mixed up with Died for Love, both songs sharing/borrowing verses from each other.
NANCY/ NANCY CLOUGH (Band)
A delightful tune written by Northumbrian piper Tom Clough for his first wife, and said to represent Nancys tripping up and down stairs. Although an alternative theory is that it was written for a favourite sheep! Tom Clough (1881-1964) was a member of the most influential of Northumbrian piping families, with a musical tradition going back some 250 years and his playing was notable for its crisp, staccato fingering, with an emphasis on rhythm and expression. He once likened the sound of the drones to the humming of the bees. In 1930 HMV issued recordings of Tom, making him the first smallpipes player to be commercially recorded. The Cloughs were actively involved in the Northumbrian Pipers Society, Tom being, at one time, Vice-President. In the 1990s the Society published The Clough Family of Newsham, by C.Ormston and J.Say, a family history and collection of tunes taken from the family manuscripts. Pete learnt Nancy Clough from Joe Hutton, Willy Taylor and Will Atkinsons 1983 cassette recording Harthope Burn, MWM Records C103. Recorded several times in the UK, the tune drifted across the Atlantic where it was taken up and adapted by old time revival clawhammer banjo players as Nancy. Here we start with American banjo and guitar before the fiddle slips into something much closer to Tom Cloughs Baroque-like original.
SAIL AWAY LADIES (lead vocal, Dave; chorus, Pete/Chris; Band)
One of those songs that everyone and their dog has recorded because its a great song. Dave plays it in an F tuning (f DGCD) that he got from Dwight Diller. Like so many old time songs it first became popular in Britain through the skiffle craze, appearing on the 7 vinyl EP Lonnie Donegan Hit Parade Vol.2 (1957), as Dont You Rock me Daddy-O. Two years later it appeared on the set-list of the Liverpool band The Quarry Men, who later, as we know, became the Beatles
For a fine fiddle and foot-tapping instrumental version of this song, check out Uncle Bunt Stephens 1926 Columbia 78rpm recording on Smithsonian/Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music. The tune was particularly lucky for Uncle Bunt because in 1926, along with his version of Old Hen Cackled, it won him the title of World Champion Fiddler. It happened thus. Henry Ford (as in Model T) was a lover of the fiddle and in his desire to hear it played by the best and most authentic old time fiddlers, he arranged local, state, and regional fiddle contests through Ford dealerships across the East and Midwest, The winners travelled to Detroit to play before Henry for the Championship. The diminutive, middle aged, Stephens, a farmer who had been playing for local dances since he paid $25 to a tramp for his first fiddle at the age of eleven, beat one thousand eight hundred and seventy six other fiddlers to win the title and, according to legend, a thousand dollars, a handsome suit, a new set of teeth, and a car. A one-armed runner-up, Marshall Claiborne, who played with the bow wedged between his knees and the fiddle in his left hand, was awarded an artificial arm by the generous Mr Ford.
Kentucky fiddler H.L.Bandy had a couple of verses demonstrating how the course of true love doesnt always run smoothly:
I asked that girl to be my beau
She hacked at me with the garden hoe
I asked that girl to be my wife
She took at me with a butchers knife
For a more recent take on it you could catch the Piney Creek Weasels on Squirrel Heads and Gravy (1996) or Bruce Molsky on Lost Boy.
Notes by Dave Arthur, Tunbridge Wells, November 2005 (additional information Pete Cooper)