I first heard Old 1812 played by the fife and drum contingent of the 26th North Carolina Troops reenactment organization to which I belong. I heard it again later as the title theme to Clint Eastwood’s movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. The tune has origins in the American Revolution when it was known as Welcome Here Again. I’ve always liked the melody and it works well on the hammered dulcimer, so, with apologies to all fifers everywhere, here is my version.
Wagoner is the old-time step-child of a tune found in George Knauff’s 1839 edition of Virginia Reels under the title, The Hero. Dan Emmett, composer of Dixie and co-author of an 1862 fife and drum manual, reworked The Hero into a showpiece for fifers called Governor’s Island. As often happened, the fiddlers took the piece and made it their own, and Wagoner is the result. Wagoner and Grey Eagle (found elsewhere in this collection) are considered companion pieces because, as the story goes, they were named after two famous racehorsesone horse from Kentucky and the other from Tennessee.
The celebrated race between these two horses was run on October 5, 1839 at the Oakland Race Course in Louisville, Kentucky. Entrance fees for the owners was set at a stunning $2,000 each (a LOT of money in those days). Wagoner, the favorite, had won a 4-mile heat a few days before by defeating a horse named Cato in 7:48the fastest time ever seen in Kentucky. The big October 5th race saw the challenger, Grey Eagle, set a faster pace to within 100 yards of the finish, when Wagoner suddenly came from behind to win by a neck with another record breaking time of 7:44. Bruce Greene taught us this version of the tune he learned from Glenn Fannin of Magoffin County, KY, and Bev Baker of Clay County, KY.
I learned this piece in a class I took from Jimmy Triplett, a young fiddler living in Elkins, WV, who has a real knack for old-style fiddle playing. Hog-Eyed Man has wide circulation throughout most of Pennsylvania and the upper South. There are several verses associated with the tune that border on the risqué (“Sally’s in the garden sifting sand, Susie’s upstairs with the hog-eyed man”). First published in 1853 under the title, Hog EyeJigg, the piece was likely a staple of the minstrel stage. This one is great fun to play.
Liza Jane / Buffalo Gals
The first tune in this medley is the fiddle version of that familiar folk song, Little Liza Jane, the words of which begin:
There's a house in Baltimore / Sixteen stories high
And every story in that house / Was full of chicken pie
I first learned the tune from Madison County, North Carolina, fiddler, Doug Phillips who called it Old Liza Jane, It and the second tune, the familiar Buffalo Gals, were staples on the minstrel stage of the mid-nineteenth century. Buffalo Gals, also known as Round Town Gals or Alabama Gals, appears in George Knauff’s 1839 collection of Virginia fiddle music under the title, Midnight Serenade. It was made popular on the minstrel stage by performer John Hodges (“Cool White”) and published by him in 1844 with the title, Lubly Fan. Bruce Greene pieced this fine version together from the playing of William Lee “Jake” Phelps of Elkton, KY, and Sammie Dyer of Lafayette, TN
Colonel Crockett / Jenny On The Railroad
Colonel Crockett comes from George Knauff’s collection of Virginia Reels, published in 1839. David Crockett, you may recall, was a legend of the American frontier of the 1820s and 30s, famed for his long hunts and sharp wit. The people of west Tennessee sent him to the state legislature in 1821, and then to the US Congress beginning in 1827 for three terms. His defeat in the election of 1835 embittered him to Tennessee politics, causing him to announce that “the voters can all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.” Ranging into Texas on a search for wild game and a fresh start in politics, Crockett stumbled upon the Alamo and joined the garrison there in their fight for independence from Mexico. Faced with overwhelming odds, the defenders held the Mexicans at bay for thirteen days before being completely wiped out on March 6, 1836. Crockett’s death gave rise to his legend, spawning books, plays, and music. The present tune appeared in print for the first and only time in 1839, three years after Crockett’s death. It is likely of Scottish origin, although no antecedents have been positively identified.
Jenny On The Railroad is a later incarnation of Colonel Crockett. As often happens in the folk tradition, a tune like Colonel Crockett is changed here and there by different musicians over time. Eventually, some of these variations become well known and popular to the extent that the tune rarely gets played in its original form and sometimes acquires a different title. In this case, the main variation with Jenny On The Railroad is that it begins in a major key, while Colonel Crockett begins in a minor key. We learned this version from Bruce Greene, who first learned it from Letcher County, KY, fiddler Manon Campbell (born 1890). Bruce says that Mr. Manon called it Jenny Put The Kettle On.
Getting Out of the Way of the Federals / Run, Rebel, Run
Getting Out of the Way of the Federals is closely related to the tune Seneca Square Dance, which we included on our first CD. This version comes out of Missouri where there are a host of other titles for this tune including, The Federal Hornpipe, Waiting for the Federals, and Shelby’s Mule (referring to Confederate general Joseph O. Shelby). Missouri, especially along its border with Kansas, was the scene of some of the most brutal guerilla warfare in the nation during the Civil War. The Federal government was determined that Missouri not join the Confederate States, despite the large portion of its population that had Southern leanings. Raids and counter-raids became common and, soon, any semblance of law and order vanished. For the pro-Southern population of Missouri, it soon became prudent to “get out of the way of the Federals.” Bruce Greene learned this version of the tune from Bob Butler of St. Louis.
Old time fiddler Red Wilson of Bakersville, NC, gave us the title for the next tune, Run, Rebel Run. Dating back to the 1830s, this tune is sometimes called Run, Johnny Run and The Patteroller, or Pattyroller. Most musicologists date this song to the period just after the bloody slave uprising in Southhampton County, Virginia, led by Nat Turner in August of 1831. In the aftermath, curfews were imposed upon slaves by patrols or “pattrerollers.” The tune first appeared in print as a minstrel skit in White’s Serenaders’ Songbook, published in Philadelphia in 1851. Bruce Greene learned this version from a Library of Congress field recording of William M. Stepp (born circa 1875) made in Saylersville, KY, in 1937.
Bruce Greene taught us this West Virginia tune. Gerry Milnes says that this Civil War era tune comes from the playing of Earnest Carpenter and Melvin Wine, who calls it Gunboat Whistled into Georgi-o. Gunboats, of course, were Union vessels that effectively shelled Confederate coastal and river fortifications throughout the war. My feeling is that this was a song at one time, but I have been unable to track down any words.
Stacked Them Up In Piles / Abe’s Retreat / Who’s Been Here Since I’ve Been Gone
I learned Stacked Them Up In Piles from Jimmy Triplett of Elkins, WV. Jimmy learned it from West Virginia fiddler Melvin Wine. Melvin remembered just a few lines from the song: “O, we run them nine miles, and we stacked them up in piles; besides what got drowned in the river.” Gerry Milnes, folklorist at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, steered me to a more complete set of words in John Harrington Cox’s Folk-Songs of the South. Alas, Cox had only collected one verse and a chorus. He interviewed his informant for this song, Mr. A. C. Payne of McDowell County, WV, in August of 1918. “Mr. Payne,” wrote Cox, “said that he rode a horse in a parade on Election Day in Breathitt County, Kentucky, played the fiddle, and sang this song.” I’ve tried to figure out what engagement this song refers to, with no success. Bowling Green, Kentucky, was evacuated by Confederates in mid-February 1862 with no fighting to speak of then or at any point later in the war. Then, there is Bowling Green, Virginia, a small village southeast of Fredericksburg that was occupied at various times by cavalry troops, but was never the scene of a running battle, or great carnage, or even a large river where men would have “got drowned.” The “Black Horse” in the song is likely a reference to the famed Black Horse Cavalry (so-called because all the troopers rode black horses), which comprised a portion of the 4th Virginia Cavalry that fought under the command of Major General J.E.B. Stuart. My best guess is that this fragment comes from a song composed by a member of Stuart’s command, possibly Sam Sweeney, a minstrel employed by Stuart to provide musical background for cavalry raids and impromptu parties.
Abe’s Retreat first appeared on our Civil War Collection, Volume 1 CD, but I ran across this version of the tune and liked it so much that I decided to reprise it. I learned this rendition from a cassette entitled Folk Music & Lore of the Civil War, a collection of field recordings made primarily by Gerry Milnes, and produced by the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV. Fiddler Harvey Sampson’s version of the tune is pretty laid-back and “bluesy,” giving it a whole different feel from the version on our first CD. The title, Abe’s Retreat, is a reference to the Union defeat at the battle of First Manassas (or, Bull Run) that took place on July 21, 1861.
I heard the following version of the story behind the tune, Whose Been Here Since I’ve Been Gone, from West Virginia folklorist and musician, Jim Costa: It seems there was a man from Greenbrier County, WV, who’d gone off to the Civil War and had been away for over three years before he had an opportunity to come back home. As he neared his house on a Monday morning (the day women traditionally did the washingcalled “Blue Monday”), he spied his wife hanging up clothes on the line. He figured he’d surprise her by sneaking into the house, keeping the hung-out clothes between him and her, then taking his fiddle off the wall to play her a tune. As he sat down to play, he noticed a baby girl in a cradle in the corner of the room and men’s clothes hanging near the bed. About that time, his brother walked in, as did his wife after hearing the fiddle music. Standing around in awkward silence, the brother finally tried to break the ice with some idle conversation. “John,” he said, “what’s the name of that tune you were just playing?’ John answered back, “It’s called, ‘Who’s Been Here Since I’ve Been Gone.’” The version of the tune we play here comes from the Helton family of Magoffin County, KY, via Bruce Greene.
Rickett's Hornpipe / Fisher's Hornpipe
The hornpipe is a dance form that was most popular in England and North America from the 1780s to the 1850s. Performed at a slower pace than a reel, the hornpipe was characterized by fancy footwork that was the forerunner of modern tap dancing. The hornpipe tunes themselves were somewhat more complex than the reels and tended to be played slower not only for the dancers, but in order to fit in all the notes as tastefully as possible. After 1850, the hornpipe as a dance form began to decline in popularity although the tunes themselves continued to be played, though often in speeded up versions played in reel time. Rickett's Hornpipe was first printed in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1781 as an untitled dance piece. Around 1800 the tune became associated with John Bill Ricketts. Ricketts was an English immigrant to America who became famous as a circus promoter in the 1790s. Rickett's Hornpipe was quite well known in the mid-19th century and appears in many printed collections including Elias Howe's School for the Violin in 1851 and his Leviathan Collection of Insrtumental Music in 1858. Fisher's Hornpipe was fist published in 1780 in Scotland appearing in a collection of hornpipes composed by J. Fishar. The other tunes in this collection were soon forgotten, but this one survived and flourished into the 19th and 20th centuries. It, too, was widely played at the time of the War Between the States and also appears in the Elias Howe collections cited above. This track is taken from our earlier recording, Little Rose is Gone.
Solo fiddle playing is a tradition that was well established at the time of the Civil War. Contests were often held to determine the best fiddler in a brigade, regiment, or even down to the company level. Old issues of Confederate Veteran magazine are filled with stories of fiddle contests and the exploits of fiddle players. For example, an article appearing in an 1894 edition speaks of treasure trove of entertainment granted to the boys of General A.P. Hill’s signal corps while stationed on Clark’s Mountain in Orange County, VA. “Down by the river,” an old veteran of the corps recalled, “was the regiment of Barksdale’s Mississippians. In one company of ninety men, ‘seventy-five were good fiddlers.’ We cultivated these fellows and they cultivated us. We had a dance three nights out of the week, and went courting two out of the other four.” Years after the war, fiddle contests were held at veterans’ reunions. At the 1916 United Confedertate Veterans’ reunion in Birmingham, Dr. Lauriston H. Hill, former surgeon for the 53rd North Carolina Regiment, organized such an event where “old vets and their children can contest.” He urged them to come prepared “to do your best” for “the championship of old-time fiddlers.” And, after they’d done their best, Dr. Hill added, “if you don’t mind, these old Tarheels will show you how they play and put ‘the tar on you.’” These contests were fierce and serious affairs with bragging rights awarded to the winner. Thus, Dr. Hill closed his announcement with a bit of bragging of his own: “I will say, lastly, that when allowed to play, I have won the first prize.”
Scott’s Return on this recording is a good example of a contest tune played by a master fiddler in the Old-time tradition. And, Bruce Greene is one of the finest there is. Bruce learned this version from Milo Biggers (born around 1890) of Glasgow, KY. Bruce adds: “Mr. Biggers got it from Henry Carver, a legendary fiddler of that area and patriarch of a musical family that included the Carver Boys (recorded in the 1920’s), Cousin Emmy, and Noble (Uncle Bozo) Carver. Milo said it was a Civil War piece, but all he knew about it was something about an old soldier coming back from the war.”
Old Virginia / Granny, Will Your Dog Bite? (two versions)
Old Virginia appears in Volume 2 of George Knauff’s 1839 edition of Virginia Reels. The tune, more commonly known as The Flowers of Edinburgh, was (and still is) widely known throughout the upper south in the years leading up to the Civil War. It’s a fine melody with Scottish origins. The first version of Granny Will Your Dog Bite comes down through the military fife and drum players common to both Civil War armies. Bill Bynum, respected fife scholar, musician, and rap singer, relates that, “according to a 26th North Carolina Regiment veteran’s memoirs, one recruit played Granny Will Your Dog Bite on the fife as he marched to be sworn in.” In another instance, according to Bynum, a member of the 3rd Arkansas is said to have played this tune on the fiddle while preparing to charge at the Battle of Sharpsburg in September of 1862. We learned the second version of Granny Will Your Dog Bite from Bruce Greene. When we went to record this in the studio, we all “fell in the groove,” as they say, and didn’t want to stop playing it. Bruce says it he learned it from Everett Kays of Hickory Grove, KY, who got it from his uncle Clyde Kays. This is one of those traditional tunes that actually includes words. These words appear to have their roots in the play-party tradition of the southern mountains.
Granny will your dog bite cow kick cat scratch
Granny will your hen peck sow root the corn patch
Granny will your duck quack old grey goose hatch
Granny will your dog bite no child no
And, from Bruce Greene…
Granny will your dog bite no child no
Daddy cut his biter off a long time ago
Old Dan Tucker / Step To The Music, Johnny
Old Dan Tucker was a staple of the minstrel stage from its very beginnings. The song was composed by Daniel Decatur Emmett, author of other famous melodies including Dixie, Turkey In The Straw, and Blue Tail Fly, when he was only fifteen years old. Emmett first performed Old Dan Tucker at a Fourth of July celebration in his hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio. At age seventeen, he joined the US Army and became the leading fifer at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. After his discharge, he traveled with the circus, honing his musical skills and learning the technique of Negro impersonation that was then coming into vogue. During the winter of 1842-43, Emmett, playing the fiddle, teamed up with Frank Brower on the bones, Billy Whitlock on the banjo, and Dick Pelham on the tambourine to form the “Original Virginia Minstrels.” They premiered their act on February 6, 1843 at the Bowery Theater in New York. The Virginia Minstrels and their song, Old Dan Tucker, were an instant success, spawning a horde of imitators and the black-face minstrel phenomenon that lasted on the stage for nearly a century. During the Civil War, the tune was played by fifers (Emmett co-authored a fife and drum manual for the US Army in 1862) and fiddle players on both sides. Legendary West Virginia fiddler Melvin Wine remembers his father taking him on several visits to an old Union Army veteran named Benny Harrell. Harrell had played this and other tunes in march time for the troops during the war, and Melvin learned them from him as a boy.
Step To The Music, Johnny is an obscure tune. So obscure, in fact, that I don’t believe it’s ever been recorded before now. I stumbled across it in Ira W. Ford’s Traditional Music of America. Ford provided not only the tune, but in this case, the oral tradition handed down with it
“During the Civil War, a foraging party of Northern troops came upon a dance attended by a large body of Confederate soldiers. Surrounding the place and taking them by surprise, the invaders captured the Southerners without a shot being fired. The fiddler, not a soldier although a strong Southern sympathizer, became somewhat sarcastic in his remarks to the Northerners, so they decided to take him along with the other prisoners.
“One of the Yankees conceived the idea of having the fiddler play a lively tune to march by on their way back to the Northern lines. So, at the bayonet’s point, the fiddler obeyed. From time to time the Yankees would yell: “Step to the music, Johnny!” which subsequently became the accepted name for this tune.”
Speed the Plough / Grey Eagle / Speed the Plow / The Devil’s Dream
Speed the Plough was a piece with wide circulation in the middle of the 19th century. We offer two versions here. The first is a Kentucky version from fiddler Vincent Crawford of Anderson County, via Bruce Greene. The second is a version from south central Virginia that is also associated with a particular dance known by the same title.
Grey Eagle and Devil’s Dream are mentioned in a wonderful war-time story published in an 1895 edition of Confederate Veteran magazine (pages 362-365). The story appeared in the contents of a letter written by Joseph P. Polley of the Texas Brigade to his “charming Nellie” while he was stationed at Morristown, TN, in January 1864. Polley, and his two companions, Jack and Green, were detained by the provost guards whilst attempting to return to camp after a day of “foraging.” Not knowing the password, Polley attempted to talk his way out of the predicament, but to no avail. Suddenly, he spied an old violin and bow lying near-by. In a flash of inspiration, Polley seized the fiddle and handed it to Jack, saying “Give us some music, old boy.” Jack, it tuned out, was a gifted fiddler, though a bit of a prima donna. “Generally,” wrote Polley, “we have to beg Jack to play, and, when he consents, it is with the lordly, far away manner of one who feels that he is ‘casting his pearls before swine.’” But, on this occasion, he “grasped the fiddle and began to tune it, with an eagerness that was surprising, for he is much more fastidious ordinarily about the violin he plays on, than about his eating, …he has an unutterable horror of drawing the bow across the strings of any except his own violin.” Their captors “expected only a little amateur sawing,” wrote Polley, “but Jack had not got halfway through The Devil’s Dream ere they realized that a master hand wielded the bow and the highest order of musical genius directed the hand.” Next, Jack dazzled the assemblage with his rendition of Arkansas Traveler, complete with it’s associated skit. From there, “Jack switched off suddenly to Grey Eagle, and as he played, called all the turns of start, backstretch, homestretch, and finish of the grand Kentucky race that was the inspiration of the author in composing the music.” At the requests of his captors and comrades, Jack played tune after tune until, “at last there was a lull, a hush, a silence. Jack laid the fiddle and the bow tenderly on the blanket…and reached out for a coal with which to light his pipe.” Polley seized the moment. He rose, gathered his equipage, and, looking full in the face of the provost guard lieutenant, announced, “Well, gentlemen, we must be getting back to camp.” To everyone’s astonishment, the lieutenant smiled, then outlined the best route by which the three could return to their camp. (For another example of how dazzling fiddling won a prisoner’s freedom, see the notes for Camp Chase on our Civil War Collection, Volume One).
Grey Eagle, as alluded to above, was said to have been written in honor of a racehorse (see notes on Wagoner). Bruce Greene learned this version from a recording of Jim Booker (born 1872) from Jessimine County, Kentucky. (Booker, incidentally, was reputed to be the only black old-time fiddler recorded in the 1920s and 30s. He played and recorded with a white string band called “Taylor’s Kentucky Boys”). Devil’s Dream was originally known under the title Devil Among the Tailors, and is either of Scottish or Irish origin, depending on who you ask. Its first American appearance in print was in Reilly’s Flute Companion, published in 1816. Our version comes from fiddlers Pat Kingery (born 1912) of Nobob, Kentucky, and “Blind” Bill Day of Rowan County, Kentucky, via Bruce Greene.
22nd of February
This melody is taken from George Knauff’s 1839 anthology of Virginia Reels. The 22nd of February commemorates the birthday of the most famous Virginian of them all, George Washington. Washington’s image and name, of course, were used by both Confederate and Union supporters as a symbol of their respective causes. In fact, the official Great Seal of the Confederate States of America displays an image of the first president astride a gallant white steed. Today many southern fiddlers know a version of 22nd of February as Miller’s Reel or The 28th of January. This tune can certainly be played in fast moving reel time, but I elected instead to present the piece with a bit more “stateliness” as befits its subject.