Saturday, June 16, 2012

My LIttle Georgia Rose

     One thing you can do to create controversy is to start a conversation about whether Old Time musicians ought to play Bluegrass or not. This is a bit like Hatfields fraternizing with McCoys, so watch out or you might get hit!

    On the other hand, many of the casual listeners are not even aware of the difference.  If the band has a banjo, that usually signals "Bluegrass" to many casual fans. 

    So what is the difference?  Well, you get different answers from different people, but to me the main difference is that bluegrass is characterized by a fingerpicked banjo (a style invented by Earl Scruggs, imho, with later styles emerging thereafter).    Bluegrass became stylized around 1945 when Earl and guitar player Lester Flatt joined mandolin player Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys.   Hence Bluegrass often has a guitar lead.  By contrast,  Old Time  has a rhythmic "clawhammer" style banjo, and usually a fiddle lead.  This music existed before bluegrass.  Not everyone agrees, but I believe Old Time is more conducive to jams than other styles, because it is easier to blend several clawhammer banjos, whereas the Scruggs style is so overpowering that it is hard to have more than one banjo player in the group.

So that brings us to the next point.  Is it kosher for Old Time jams to jam to songs from Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass? 

At the Trolley stop, we've started to do My Little Georgia Rose, with Ryan playing lead vocals and guitar.  However, we still play it with an Old Time sound, usually with two or three guitars and a couple of clawhammer banjos.  I'm by no means an authority, as probably the weakest musician in our group, but in my humble opinion it works very well and the fan response has been great.

However, I do have a few observations to share about the great Bill Monroe.  One thing about his songs is that often the sentiment doesn't match the song.  For example, Little Georgia Rose tells about a sweet young woman that the singer has a big crush on. It is a very sweet and sentimental lyric.

But the melody is completely different.  It's a very powerful melody, almost like a hymn.  Let's just say that you could play it for the Heavyweight Champion of the World as easily as some little sweetheart in George!   In particular, the chorus is sung by a lot of power, both by Bill Monroe back in the day, and by the Trolley Stoppers today.  We really boom "She's MY LITTLE GEORGIA ROSE!"   This is actually not that unusual in Bill Monroe's songs. Check out his version of Shady Grove (Ray Hicks has two great version on his new album Shady Grove 2 is the more traditional version, while Shady Grove 1 is based on the Monroe version).  The line "I'm going back to Harlan!" makes it sound llike something dramatic is about to happen.  

      Once you get your mind around that little quirk, the rest of it starts to hang together.  The fact is, Monroe may be considered the Father of Bluegrass to many (though in my humble opinion Earl Scruggs was the single most influential individual, albeit in Monroe's band), but his songs are certainly amenable to the Old Time style. 

     At the Trolley Stop, we play this in the key of C. The Bill Monroe video, which comes to us courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry circa 1957, is in the key of B-flat, meaning the guitar needs to be capo'ed at the fourth fret to play along. 
     So for what it's worth, my take is, heck yeah we can do Bill Monroe songs in an Old Time jam.  It works great with a fiddle lead and a couple of clawhammer banjos playing along side. Just don't use no Moog synthesizers or nothin', y'hear?


My Little Georgia Rose
Written and recorded by Bill Monroe

                     G(C)      C(F)            G(C)
Now come and listen to my story
   G(C)                         D(G)
A  story that I know is true
                 G(C)         C(F)          G(C)  
About a Rose that blooms in Georgia
        G(C)        D(G)                      G(C)
With a hair of gold and a heart so true
        C(F)                                          G(C)
Way down past the Blue Ridge Mountains 
 G(C)                                  D(G)
Way down where tall pines grow
G(C)                                       C(F)
Lives my sweetheart of the mountains
G(C)             D(G)                  G(C)
She's my little Georgia Rose 
Her mother left her with another
A care free life she had planned
The baby now is a lady
The one her mother could not stand


We'd often sing those songs together
I watch her do her little part
She'd smile at me when I would tell her
That she was my own sweetheart 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Little Liza Jane

I've been interested in this song for several reasons, not the least of which is that is the name of a group in Sweden which features Rachel Eddy Herner, formerly of Morgantown.  It turns out that there are several songs that refer to someone named Liza Jane and the whole thing got me very confused.

I remember being confused as a kid by the song Jimmy Brown the Newsboy, because I couldn't figure out why a famous running back for the Cleveland Browns would be selling newspapers.  But back to Liza Jane.  

Anyway one of the songs is called Liza Jane or Little Liza Jane, which the Liza Janes of Sweden performed live in the following video:

Some lyrics from Huey Piano Smith are kind of similar:

Little Liza Jane  

Hey, little girl would you tell me your name?
(Little Liza Jane)
If you be my girl you can wear my ring
(Little Liza Jane)  

(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)
(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)

Take ya downtown, buy you ev'rything
(Little Liza Jane)
If I love you baby, would you feel the same?
(Little Liza Jane)

(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)
(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)

Hey pretty baby can we go strollin'?
(Little Liza Jane)
Yes, you got me rockin' 
When I ought to be rollin'
(Little Liza Jane)

(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)
(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)

Take ya downtown, buy you ev'rything
(Little Liza Jane)
If you be my girl you can wear my ring
(Little Liza Jane) 

(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)
(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)

Look at that girl, can we go strollin'
(Little Liza Jane)
You got me rockin' 
When I ought to be rollin'
(Little Liza Jane)

(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane)
(Oh, Eliza, little Liza Jane).

 2:08  Trk 2
Huey Piano Smith
Ace Records Single # 521, 1956.
Lead vocal, Huey 'Piano' Smith w/
Backing vocals by Junior Gordon,
Dave Dixon and Roland Cook. 
Musicians: Lee Allen - tenor sax
Earl Palmer - drums. Cosimo Matassa Studios, LA.
Album: 'This is Huey Piano Smith' 
Music Club Records #50058 (1998)


Whiskey Before Breakfast

Whiskey Before Breakfast is a really interesting song.  In my humble opinion, it is best done as an instrumental.  In fact many people don't even know that there are words to the song, but in fact almost all fiddle tunes from the Scotch irish tradition do have words.
    Here is a version from the Appalachian String Project, which was played at the Worley Gardner Festival:

I've been trying to do some research on the songs we play at the Wednesday Night Jam at the West Virginia Brewing Company in beautiful downtown Morgantown, but in this case, the lyrics take bad to a whole new level.  The lyrics are nothing more than a joyous celebration of hard core alcoholism.  

    Saints alive, angels protect us
    We've been drinking whiskey before breakfast! 

    The complete lyrics are appended below, just for completeness, but if ever there was a song that begged to be an instrumental, this is definitely it!

    The chord progression goes something like this (and thanks to Bob Shank for clarifying the B part for us)

D   D  GD  A

D   D  GD  AD

D   D  Em  A7 


   The B part has different variations in different parts of the country, and in particular some folks substitute a D chord for the E minor and A7.   In fact it might be that some of us play D during the jam. 
   But underneath all this, there is a very simple tune.  In fact the A part starts with just the scale in the key of D:  (do re mi fa so, or 1 2 3 4 5 if you prefer the Nashville notation).  Then coming down in the B part, you can actually play the whole  
scale backwards (do ti la so fa me re do, or 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1).  So it can be very simple to play, and even a novice can do it.

   Alternatively, you can crosspick the chords and it can become very sophisticated.  Norman Blake's Youtube video shows one way (sorry I can't imbed this video in the blog; you have to cut and paste the link in your browser):

(By the way, if you want to play along with him, he is actually in the key of E-flat (finger postions in C, with the capo on the third fret).

   I used to try to copy a guitarist's son note for note, but Norman Blake cured me of that.  One, he's too good to opy.  Two, Norman teaches some  basic crosspicking licks that can be used with any chord and any song.  So you can crosspick on the bass strings, or treble strings, or whichever strings you want as long as the chord position is right.  It doesn't have to be the exact same notes that Norman plays.

Norman Blake Teaches

Anyway, no one can ever sound exactly like Norman because he is about the cleanest guitar picker in the universe, and the rest of us are mere mortals. 

   But more than just the notes that are played, there are a wide range of sounds that can go with this song.  I would say that Norman's version is a very elegant, dignified version.

   On the other hand, when the lyrics are used, the song takes on a light-hearted feeling.  Check out this version from some little kids:

(Link lost, sorrry)

     And here is a very clean version from Japan. "Japanese Bluegrass Band" is actually the name of the group. That confused me for about a year, trying to find the name of the group.

   In Morgantown, lead fiddler Keith McManus usually plays this song like his hair is on fire.  It's a very powerful version, not at all like the other two. As far as I know, however, there are no recordings of this song, so to hear it you'll just have to come down to the Brew Pub some Wednesday night.

In the meantime, here are the lyrics, for those who are curious, although in all honesty my life will be just as complete if I never hear them again....

Early one morning before the sun could shine
I was walkin' down the street, not feelin' so fine
I saw two old men with a bottle between' em
And this is the song that I heard them singin'
Lord protect us, Saints preserve us
We been drinkin' whiskey 'fore breakfast

I passed by the steps where they were a' sittin'
I couldn't believe how drunk they were gettin'
I said "Old men you been drinkn' long?"
"Long enough to be singin' this song"

They handed me a bottle, said, "Take a little sip"
And it felt so good, I just couldn't quit
So I took a little more, next thing I knew
There were three of us sittin' there singin' this tune

One by one everybody in town
Heard our ruckus and they all came down
Pretty soon all the streets were a-ringin'
With the sound of the whole town laughin' and singin'Whiskey before Breakfast, Norman Blake

Cumberland Gap

  Cumberland Gap is one of the songs that we played onstage at the Gardner Winter Music Festival.  It is a folksong that dates from the 19th century and maybe earlier.  For those who are a little foggy about their American history, the Cumberland Gap was the passage through the Appalachian mountains that allowed settlers to move west from Virginia to Tennessee and Kentucky.  Today of course you just give your car a bit of gas and you can go wherever you want, but when travelling in a covered wagon, you had to choose your route a little more carefully.  Hence it was enormously important to be able to avoid the mountains by travelling via the Cumberland Gap.  Because of its strategic importance, it was the site of many Civil War battles.  

   The earliest recorded version is from Uncle Am Stuart, circa 1924, and believe it or not you can listen to this recording on youtube.  The quality of the recording is kind of poor, and Uncle Am doesn't sing the lyrics.  Nevertheless, here it is,

   My favorite version is from the Woodticks, though it is not available on the Web.  You have to contact Keith or maybe Karen Wade to obtain a copy of the Woodtick's album, which contains many of the Morgantown-style songs including Cumberland Gap. 

   Here's another version from a West Virginia fiddler who I'm sure you will recognize:    

Rising Appalachia has a distinctly different version here: 

...and for good measure, here is a jam version from Morgantown:

Some approximate lyrics are listed below.  As is the case with most Old Time songs, there are only about a million additional verses that can be added.

Cumberland Gap

G                                              Em
Me and my wife, and my wife's pap,
          G                                D    G
We're all going down to Cumberland Gap.
           G                                    Em
Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Gap
           G                            D             G
We're all going down to Cumberland Gap
G                                           Em
I've got a gal in Cumberland Gap, 
           G                        D      G    
She's got a boy who calls me Pap.
Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Gap
            G                       D       G
She's got a boy who calls me Pap.

Lay down boys, 'n take a little nap,
And you'll wake up in Cumberland Gap
Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Gap
You'll wake up in Cumberland Gap.

Billy In the Lowground

    I was first introduced to "Billy in the Lowground"  when my Dad brought home an LP record of live performances by Doc Watson and his late son Merle (Doc Watson on Stage, which you can still buy from  online from your favorite retailer ).

Billy in the Lowground Doc and Merle Watson

   According to Nigel Gatherer, Billy in the Lowground may derive from some Scotch-Irish tunes such as Braes of Auchtertyre ( ), Belles of Tipperary, Beaus of Albany, and O Dear Mother Minnie What Shall I Do?

     In its present form, Billy in the Lowground dates back to at least the 1920's in Kentucky, and was sometimes known as Billy Lost in the Lowlands or Billy in the Lowlands, according a  cording to Andrew Kuntz in The Fiddler's Companion ,  It dates back to Kentucky in the 1920's and perhaps earlier, and was sometimes known as Billy Lost in the Lowlands. 

      Cuje Bertram, Leonard Rutherford (Monticello, Ky.), John Salyer,  and Doce Roberts were among the 1920's Kentucky fiddlers who played the song (see Titon, Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes, 2001).  The song was also known as  “Billy Lost in the Lowlands” (Darley Fulks)  and “Billy in the Lowlands.”  I found a pretty fair version of Rutherford's version on Youtube:

Billy in the Lowground Rutherford

Outside of Kentucky, versions of the tune were played by  Bob Wills and Uncle Jimmy Thompson (Texas), Fiddlin' Cowan Powers  (Virginia), and  Monkey Brown and D. Dix Hollis (Alabama).  North Georgia fiddler Lowe Stokes recorded “Billy” in 1930 with Riley Puckett. Other early recordings include Georgia’s Fiddlin’ John Carson (1923) and Clark Kessinger  (1929). 

     Just for good measure, here is a version from Morgantown's Elmer Rich. 

  And here is a mando and guitar tab. 

TAB: Billy in the Lowground (traditional, arr. Joe Carr, TAB by Bo Parker,

Pick-up measure
  |   |   |   |    

Part A
  C                                   Am
1 |   |   |   |   2 |   |   |   |   3 |   |   |   |   4 |   |   |   |   

  C                                   Am                C           G
5 |   |   |   |   6 |   |   |   |   7 |   |   |   |   8 |   |   |   |   

  C                                   Am
9 |   |   |   |  10 |   |   |   |  11 |   |   |   |  12 |   |   |   |   

  C                                   Am                C
13|   |   |   |  14 |   |   |   |  15 |   |   |   |  16 |   |   |   |   

Part B
  C                                   Am
17|   |   |   |  18 |   |   |   |  19 |   |   |   |  20 |   |   |   |   

  C                                   Am              | C
21|   |   |   |  22 |   |   |   |  23 |   |   |   |  24 |   |   |   |   

| C
32|   |   |   |   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Raise a Rough House Tonight

This song is known by several names and different pronunciations (kind of like listening to a speech by former President Bush).  In Morgantown, it's known as "Raise a Rough House Tonight"  but others know it as "Raise a Ruckus Tonight"   Ruckus can be pronounced so that it rhymes with "Duck Us" or with "Kook Us."
      One of the fellows in  says that the song dates to at least the early 19th century in the form of a slave song.  To me this is very plausible based on the structure of the song and the leader/response pattern of singing the lyrics.  A slave version of the song found its way into print in 1922 (Thomas W. Talley's Negro Folk Rhymes, published in 1922, p. 90.  This doesn't even come close to being politically correct, however, as the N-word is used throughout.     

   The East River Band version, like the Talley version, tells the grim story of a slaveowner woman who promised to set her slaves free upon her death, and one of the slaves got tired of waiting and took matters into his own hand.  One could not understand "Mistress" to be the fellow's wife or girlfriend, but almost certainly a slaveowner. The lyrics appended below allude to the same story, though the Mistress is replaced by a Master.

     The image of a boat floating down a river suggests that a version of this song may have been popular in minstrel shows, some of which were held on the riverboats.  It's easy to imagine that Raise a Ruckas may have been performed in Minstrel shows on the riverboats, but I have found no direct proof of that.  

 Minstrel shows, such as The Virginia Minstrels and  "The Celebrated Negro Melodies"  represent a rich source of musical heritage, despite their questionable attitudes on race. 

John Heneghan and Eden Brower and the East River Band perform this version, with Robert Crumb on the lefty mando (strung for a righty no less!), Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Joe Lauro (Lone Sharks).

Blues musician Buster Brown (not the kid who lives in your shoe) recorded a New Orleans version in 1960.

Best of all, Uncle Earl has a version of this song, which you can find here:  

Uncle Earl is an all-female band, not the least of whom is Rachel Eddy Herner of Morgantown (now Stockholm).  Speaking of Uncle Earl,  one of the past members is Rayna Gellert, the daughter of Dan Gellert, who is a very talented fiddle player who occasionally drops in at the Trolley Stop in Dayton.  How about that? 

Raise a Ruckus

(choice of Jesse Fuller in Something to Sing About! - The personal Choices of America's Folk Singers, collected and arranged by Milton Okun, McMillian, 1968, pp 63-67.)

(A) Come a-long, lit-tle chil-dren come a-long
(A) While the moon is shin-ing (E) bright.
(A) Get on (A7) bo-ard,- (D7)down the ri-ver float,
(A) Raise a (E7) ruck-us to- (A) night!

(1) (A) Love my wife, I love my ba-baby,
Raise a (Bm) ruck-us to- (A) night.
(A) Love my bis-cuits pick-led in gra-vy,
Raise a (E) ruck-us to- (A) night.
(A) Save me the ham-burg,
give me the gra-vy, (Bm) Raise a ruck-us to- (A) night.
(A) Love my gis-cuits sopped in gra-vy,
Raise a (E7) ruck-us to- (A) night.

(2) My old master said to me,
Raise a ruckus tonight,
When he'd die he's set me free,
Raise a ruckus tonight.
He lived so long his head got bald,
Raise a ruckus tonight,
He got out o' the notion of dying at all,
Raise a ruckus tonight.

(3) Old hen sitting on a fodder stack,
Raise a ruckus tonight,
Hawk came along and struck he in the back,
Raise a ruckus tonight.
Old hen flew and the biddies too,
Raise a ruckus tonight,
What in the world is the rooster gonna do?
Raise a ruckus tonight.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

All Night Long (Richmond Blues)

     All Night Long, which is also known as the All Night Long Blues or the Richmond Blues, is a great jam tune.  It's a very simple blues progression, and the chorus only has three words, so even I can remember it. At  Morgantown Brewing Company, we played it in the key of G, while at the Trolley Stop in Dayton Ohio, we played it in the key of C.  

Dan Gellert from Dayton way, nails Richmond Blues at Clifftop, 2013.  

Burnett and Rutherford recorded All Night Long in 1928.  They are actually in the key of B-flat, which is the Antichrist key for intermediate level players (one way out is to try the capo on 3rd and play as if were the key of G). 

Clarence Tom Ashley,  the fellow holding the guitar, and the Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers performed a version of All Night Long, also in the late 1920's.  Ashley would eventually become friends with a young Doc Watson and perform together at various venues including the Newport Folk Festival  in the early 1960s.   A Folkways version by Clarence Tom and Doc is linked here (for whatever reason I'm not able to imbed it in the blog):

The lyrics are not particularly sophisticated. They tell  the story of a fellow (with a wife and family) who left home in order to pursue some other woman.  "I coulda been sleeping in mama's bed" is referring to an ex-wife and not to be taken literally (unless of course, the composer has even more problems than the average blues singer!).  And, as is typical in a blues song, the woman is blamed for everything.  "On account of you....I left my home...I'd rather be dead than be treated this way."

This is a more recent version, and has tap dancing accompaniment.  This is guaranteed to help your sense of rhythm! 

Here's a version from John Heneghan (guitar) and Eden Brower (resonator uke + legs) and the East River String Band with some help from Robert Crumb (Cheap Suit Serenaders), Pat Conte (Canebreak Rattlers & Legendary Otis Brothers), Dom Flemons (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Eli Smith, Craig Judelman & Walker Shepard (The Dust Busters), Ernesto Gomez (Brotherhood Of The Jug Band Blues).

G   C  G   G   Burnett and Rutherford  =  C    F   C   C
G   D  G   G   (capo on 3)                    =  C    G   G   C

G  C   G   G                                         =   C   F    C   C
G  D   G   G                                         =   C   G    G  C


Honey all night long, Baby all night long
Got the Richmond Blues, Baby all night long

I’m going to the depot

Look on the board
If the train ain’t here
Somewhere's on the road
Well I left the country
And I moved to town

That's when my baby
Was done and gone.

Honey all night long, Baby 
all night long,
Got the Richmond Blues, Baby all night long.

If I’d have minded

What mama said
I could-a been sleeping
In Mama’s bed

Me being young

And foolish too
I left my home
On account of you.

On account of you,

On account of you
I left my home
On account of you.

I'd rather be dead;
And in my grave
Than be in this town
Treated this a-way.

All night long, All night long,
All night long, All night long.

Ain’t got no woman
Ain't got no kin
Ain't got nobody
To be bothered with.

All night long, All night long,

All night long, All night long.

(Fiddle break)

So if I live

And don’t get killed
Gonna make my home
In Louisville.

All night long, all night long
All night long, From midnight on.

(Fiddle break)

All night long,
All night long
All night long, All night long.
(Fiddle break) 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Welcome to the Old Time Jam at the Trolley Stop

     Every Wednesday night at 930, a group of music lovers gathers at the historic Trolley Stop restaurant and bar in the Oregon Arts District in Dayton Ohio, 530 E. Fifth Street, 937-461-1101. We play Old Time string music, which loosely speaking is made up of the old folk songs that came to us from the British Isles, and which were modified by the early American settlers.

    Please bring your instrument, pull up a chair and join us if you like, or if you prefer just sit for a spell and we'll entertain you.  
    I'm a newcomer to the group, having moved back to the Dayton area after living in Morgantown, West Virginia the past nine years or so.  In West Virginia I picked up my guitar which had lain in a closet for some 30 years or so.  I took lessons from Dave Asti, a brilliant musician who happens to play banjo and mandolin professionally for the Hillbilly Gypsies.  Dave plays bluegrass but also plays Old Time as well as other styles. 

    It turns out that Morgantown is a major world power in the area of Old Time music, and I was fortunate enough to find out that there are several jams that meet weekly, including the Brew Pub jam on Wednesday nights, Percival Pickers on Tuesday at (where else) Percival Hall on the WVU campus,  Elmer Rich's jam at the Senior Center in Westover, and Irish music at the Blue Moose on Friday night.  So I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about music.  

   I'm not particularly strong musically, but I'm interested in learning about the songs that people play, and so for a couple of years, I've been posting in a blog called the Morgantown Old Time Music Jam Wednesday Night at the Brew Pub.  It's been a way to kind of organized the songs that I'm working on, and to share some information.  It's also been interesting because people from around the world follow it.  

    Now however, my job situation has led me to pull up stakes and move back to the Dayton Ohio area.  I was thinking I would have to learn some other type of music, but amazingly enough there is a very strong jam every Wednesday Night at the Trolley Stop.  Organizers are Rick Good (banjo), Sharon Leahy (bass and guitar) and Sharon's son Ben Cooper (fiddle and bass). Rick and Sharon have worked together in diverse venues such as Rhythm and Shoes as well as Shoefly.

You can read about Rick and Sharon here:

  They are joined by regulars Lynn (mando), Israel (bass), Big Ben (fiddle), Rick Donahoe (guitar), Ryan on guitar and vocals, and little old me on 12 string baritone guitar.  We might be joined by several others on any given night.    There are some ridiculously talented people at the Jam, and others who are just ridiculous, like me.  The thing about Old Time musicians however, is that they are about nicest people that you could ever meet.  You would never guess that they are famous or acclaimed for their work (which they are).  

   I really think that there is something profound that happens when you sit down with a group of people and play music together.  Perhaps this is something that God wants us to do as part of living in a community.  It makes you feel connected in a very special way, almost like an extended family. 
   I plan to stay with this hobby for as long as I'm able, and if there is a way that I can help others to discover the joy of music making I will certainly do so.  This blog may be a modest step in that direction.    I hope it provides a little insight about the songs, and if I can supply some tips for the beginning or intermediate players, I'll try to share what I know.

  In the meantime, I'll share a few videos I made last week.  Dan Gellert came to the jam and led us in a few new tunes (new to me that is).  

 Here's a song I don't know. One of the weird things about Old Time musicians is that they can generally play songs that they don't know, as long as the leader knows it. 

  Here's another song I don't know.

This one is Old Mose (thanks Dan!).

                                And another...