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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: About that Reuben's Train song


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mwc9725e - Posted - 10/20/2008:  16:10:50


The tune for Rueben's Train seems to be used in a number of songs: 500 Miles, Long Steel Rail, and of course Rueben's train are some I recall. Is this because the melody's old, and people through the various generations have put their own words to it, or is it just out-and-out plaigerism? I remember when I was a little boy in rural Texas in the early/middle 30s that a lot of tunes had "home made" lyrics added to them. I always thought it might be because in those days, it wasn't easy to just get on the web and look up lyrics. Recordings weren't readily available either, so if lyrics were needed, folks just made up their own or did without.There was probably no deliberate attempt to defraud anyone.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/20/2008:  16:41:05


I think it is mostly mis-remembering and of course discovering that you have a bit you can contribute to the song. I have never even thought about the origins of Reuben but I've done a few versions over the years.

There were many recordings in the 20s but I think Grayson and Whitter (Train 45) are my favourites. I mostly think of "Long Steel Rail" as being a differnt tune - aka "Fred Cockerham's Roustabout", sometimes recorded as "Hop High My Lulu Gal".

Currently we tend to do the Round Peak Version which actually has two parts (Whistle & Moan) - it is one of my 200 Tabs by the Authour of Rocket Science Banjo but the next set is not quite ready for it's closeup yet.

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost the price of an email. Send it to: oldwoodchuckb@yahoo.com, with "RSB" in the subject line you will get a free copy of Rocket Science Banjo complete with about 40 ez clawhammer tunes. I neither keep nor re-use your email.



WATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHIS!

You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdRuf4X0X7g
Banjo Brad is hosting How To Mold A Mighty Pinky adn other material at
http://home.thegrid.net/~fjbrad/id20.html



pernicketylad - Posted - 10/20/2008:  16:46:22


I know that in the Irish music tradition it was common to take the melody of a song and put new words to it.
The reason for this, as I remember being told, was that people had an important message to convey or story to tell but hadn't a tune to tell it by...it was easier to just put it to some well established tune.
All the best.

There are three types of people in the world.....those who can count and those who can''t!

Supertone - Posted - 10/20/2008:  17:17:55


recently posted a version of this with two banjos (bluegrass and clawhammer)
http://www.banjohangout.org/myhango...asp?id=16946
Bluegrass player is the great Bob Black and I was playing clawhammer style.
It is a fun tune to play. I really like the Grayson/Whitter version as well.

vernob - Posted - 10/21/2008:  02:21:15


There are a number of songs written by folksingers using an old tune for the melody. Woody Guthrie did it a lot. This Land is Your Land is sung using the melody of Little Darlin Pal of Mine by the Carter Family. I think it's a perfectly good way to write a song. It's a part of the folk process. Do you use a separate tuning for Reuben's Train? I usually use f#DFAD.

Bruce Vernon

"A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the banjo, but chooses not to." - Mark Twain

"Don''t worry about mistakes. There aren''t any." - Miles Davis

Ronnie - Posted - 10/21/2008:  08:50:54


I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail is very similar

www.bobbythompsonbanjo.com

Boyd1 - Posted - 10/21/2008:  13:37:41


I agree with vernob. It's completely legit and a big part of the folk process. And fun to research. Guthrie's Pastures of Plenty and Pretty Polly is a good one.
I've had a special interest in all the Henry Lees. Henerly /Henry Lee/ Loving Henry/ Young Hunting (Child ballad 68)/ Scotland Man and so forth and so on. Sometimes the bird squeals, sometimes it falls for the bribes of the murderous old lady, sometimes something different happens.
Rueben is a great one to think about. How many versions! I play it in G, once in a while in g#EG#BE or more recently up a step to f#DF#AD. I'm particular to Cockerham's Train 45.
I'd like to hear more about Long Steel Rail. I've always considered it to be in the Rueben family as well. Is Hop High my Lulu Gal the same as Hop High Ladies?

***************************
Anything you can imagine is real. - Pablo Picasso

banjo bill-e - Posted - 10/21/2008:  13:58:00


----"It's completely legit and a big part of the folk process"

Would you still consider it "legit" if I wrote new lyrics to that, or any other tune, today? I ask because I do it all of the time. I write my own lyrics to most of the tunes that I have learned to play on the banjo. I am only amusing myself, so no big deal.
But I do wonder if I were to ever play them in public if I would get people accusing me of ruining or stealing the song?
I must admit that I like my own lyrics better than most of the originals! I think that the "folk process" continues, but I may be a distinct minority!

------------------
Bill

I''m trying for that "ragged, but right" sound. I''m half way there!

Boyd1 - Posted - 10/21/2008:  14:08:02


Yes, I would. Without a doubt.

***************************
Anything you can imagine is real. - Pablo Picasso

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/21/2008:  14:51:59


Bob Dylan did it. Woody Guthrie did it. Some times we know who the folk are that did the processing - sometimes we don't, but all lyric changes came from somewhere.
My only problem with writing new lyrics for old time tunes is the same problem I have with writing songs in general - I'm not interested in anyone's special "feelings" and I don't want to hear your opinion of something that isn't your business - examples:
Anything by James Taylor comes under the heading of singer/songwriter touchy feely to me. I don't care what melody you use I don't want to hear it.

The second is harder to state but here are a couple examples. Hedy West used to sing a little ditty called "Shiloh Town" and then Tim Somethingorother turned it into this big to do about the Civil War and broken hearted widows etc - all this about 100 years too late. I barfed.
Recently I heard a "protest song" that some Singer/songwriter though was important enough to mention on the usenets. Naturally he wrote it but more importantly he was taking the inhabitants of the Middle East to account for not solving thier problems by now. I would bet this idiot thinks he is making the world a better place by talking down to people he considers to be inferior to him because they don't understand how important brotherly love is.
Other than that - have fun. And obviously anyone who wants to write that sort of stuff will go ahead too. Who knows there might be another Dylan out there - but I haven't heard one yet.



If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost the price of an email. Send it to: oldwoodchuckb@yahoo.com, with "RSB" in the subject line you will get a free copy of Rocket Science Banjo complete with about 40 ez clawhammer tunes. I neither keep nor re-use your email.



WATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHISSPACEWATCHTHIS!

You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdRuf4X0X7g
Banjo Brad is hosting How To Mold A Mighty Pinky adn other material at
http://home.thegrid.net/~fjbrad/id20.html



R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 10/21/2008:  16:03:32


quote:
Originally posted by banjo bill-e
Would you still consider it "legit" if I wrote new lyrics to that, or any other tune, today?



I think it would be fine- obviously as long as there's no copyright issue involved.

In the case of traditional tunes, go for it. People have been doing just that for centuries. I think that if you go far back enough, the conception of song ownership didn't exist in the way it does today. Guys like Stephen Foster and their publishers were probably the beginning of the modern songwriting industry we have today, and Foster got ripped off in spite of it all !!!

There was a group whose name escapes me who wrote a song about the O.J. Simpson trial and sang it to "Shady Grove". Now that's the folk-process in action.

Go for it. I think what you are doing can only enrich the tradition.

R.D. Lunceford- "Missourian in Exile"
Model 1865 Bowlin Fretless Banjo
****************************************************
"Drink from the Musselfork once, and you''ll
always come back." -Dr. Bondurant Hughes, 1917

pernicketylad - Posted - 10/21/2008:  16:58:45


I knew someone had to mention that old magpie Bob Dylan.I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan but I always feel uneasy when I hear the beautiful song "Bob Dylan's Dream".The dream might have been his but IMO the song certainly isn't!This wouldn't bother me but the song is credited to him on "The Freewheelin".The liner notes do make reference to the fact that he heard the song "Lord Franklin" played by Martin Carthy in 1962 and that the tune found a new home in "Bob Dylan's Dream" but you have to look for that information.
I remember seeing a documentary where the same Martin Carthy seemed put out (to say the least) when recalling how he played his setting of "Scarborough Fair" for a young Paul Simon.
I think the idea of adapting a melody for your own purposes is great once you clearly acknowledge the source.
All the best.

There are three types of people in the world.....those who can count and those who can''t!

"King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O
Ki-Mo-Ke-Mo-Ki-Mo-Ke, Way down yonder in the hollow tree....."


Edited by - pernicketylad on 10/21/2008 17:30:15

rteale - Posted - 10/21/2008:  19:39:10


quote:
Originally posted by pernicketylad

I knew someone had to mention that old magpie Bob Dylan.I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan but I always feel uneasy when I hear the beautiful song "Bob Dylan's Dream".



I came to old-time music or what I prefer to call "pre-war (WW2)" - jazz, blues, folk, country etc" late in life. I remember how gobsmacked I felt with the sudden realisation that pretty much everything I liked about Dylan's songs had been ruthlessly pillaged from the old, blues, folk and country guys. It was like discovering your guru was a shameless charlatan. (I got over it - eventually).

One of my favourite games with my rock-loving workmates is to play various Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, Sleepy John, Memphis Minne, Blind Willie Johnson etc tunes with a "name the Led Zeppelin song which rips this off mercilessly usually without credit". Hardly an original idea in their heads.

Ray




brokenstrings - Posted - 10/21/2008:  19:46:34


To me the great majority of singer/songwriters have admirable sentiments, but as for the music--feh! * So if they take an old folk tune, at least you have a good melody to listen to.

*Exceptions: Malvina Reynolds, "What Have They Done to the Rain?" and several others.

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

Bill Rogers - Posted - 10/21/2008:  22:34:29


Folklorists have documented an entire family of tunes/songs related to Reuben's Train. Some were mentioned above. But they also include 900 Miles, Georgia Buck, Skillet Good & Greasy, and several others. It's the nature of folk music and the folk process that this happens.

Bill

writerrad - Posted - 10/22/2008:  10:34:46


quote:
Originally posted by mwc9725e

The tune for Rueben's Train seems to be used in a number of songs: 500 Miles, Long Steel Rail, and of course Rueben's train are some I recall. Is this because the melody's old, and people through the various generations have put their own words to it, or is it just out-and-out plaigerism? I remember when I was a little boy in rural Texas in the early/middle 30s that a lot of tunes had "home made" lyrics added to them. I always thought it might be because in those days, it wasn't easy to just get on the web and look up lyrics. Recordings weren't readily available either, so if lyrics were needed, folks just made up their own or did without.There was probably no deliberate attempt to defraud anyone.//

Banjo historians believe the tune that Reuben's train is set in is a very, very old banjo tune, probably one Black people played on the original four string gourd banjos before five-string banjos became prevelant.
While recorded arrangements of Reuben's train amd Train 45 in the 1920s and 1930s cast a tight stamp on the tune, it is really the same tune as "Skillet Good and Greasy" and the way folk, especially Black folk singers sing "Rabbit in the Log." It is a very simple tune really based on what is called the Blues scale, one of the more dominant forms of African music brought to the US by us.

Older traditional banjoists Black and white like Doc Watson, or Lucius Smith, an african American banjoist from mississippi who played with Syd Hemphill's band and started learning banjo at the turn of the 20th century often report that this is the first tune they learn on the banjo.

Inasmuch as it deals with railroad trains, the version of the tune entitled Reuben and its derivaties like Train 45 and Five Hundred Miles, are probably putting later words on an old already well-used banjo tune.

In the 1930s Alan Lomax collected a version of the tune from one of the Golden Gate Singers that was more like a ballad that connects the song to the campaign to oust Black railroad engineers by violence which went on around the imposition of Jim Crow in the 1890s. The issue of Black membership in the Railroad Unions was an enormous issue over which no less than Eugene V. Debs resigned from the union when he could not convince the membership to accept Black membership.

It is also related to in the Pines





Tony Thomas black banjo player

vernob - Posted - 10/23/2008:  06:58:43


Tom Paxton wrote a song called "A Rumbling in the Land" to the tune of "Blind Fiddler." It sounds out of date today but it worked fine in the early 1960's. Full disclosure: I didn't know it was the tune of Blind Fiddler at that time. I was drawn into old time music and country blues by first enjoying the popular recording artists of the folk scare. Since that was the way it came to me, I'm forgiving of those who wrote new lyrics, made it more radio friendly, more college campus than Appalachian, etc.

Bruce Vernon

"A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the banjo, but chooses not to." - Mark Twain

"Don''t worry about mistakes. There aren''t any." - Miles Davis

mwc9725e - Posted - 10/23/2008:  07:23:44


quote:
Originally posted by vernob

Tom Paxton wrote a song called "A Rumbling in the Land" to the tune of "Blind Fiddler." It sounds out of date today but it worked fine in the early 1960's. Full disclosure: I didn't know it was the tune of Blind Fiddler at that time. I was drawn into old time music and country blues by first enjoying the popular recording artists of the folk scare. Since that was the way it came to me, I'm forgiving of those who wrote new lyrics, made it more radio friendly, more college campus than Appalachian, etc.

Bruce Vernon

"A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the banjo, but chooses not to." - Mark Twain

"Don''t worry about mistakes. There aren''t any." - Miles Davis



Bob Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown" sounds remarkably like "Pretty Polly".

andymullen - Posted - 10/23/2008:  09:10:53


it seems like there are certain chord progressions (and their associated melodies) that are part of our - for lack of a better term - collective unconscious. that's just the way the melody wants to go. probably goes back to all of the songs that our parents sang to us as children (well, at least mine did...but they were stoned hippies...).

stealing is such an ugly word. borrowing is much nicer.

what was it that tom leher said? "don't evade your eyes...plagiarize! but be sure to call it 'research!'"

my two cents.

Andy Mullen
Minstrel at Large
*****
New Album, "The Toenail Jar," is available FREE at
AndyMullenMusic.com

Richard - Posted - 10/26/2008:  05:51:20


Great tune that i have pillaged to perform also, with Tommy Jarrell's lyrics ( as found in the leftwich book) but i really like the b part that Kyle Creed plays with Tommy, et al on the 'June Apple' recording - i'm not sure whether that's the 'whistle and moan' that oldwoodchuck was talking about ?

"There is nothing whatsoever that does not become easier with acquaintance" - Santideva

hear my band: http://www.myspace.com/latitudefolkmusic

my own page: http://www.myspace.com/richbanjo

Stop by my homepage and hear my new tunes !

oldtimer - Posted - 10/26/2008:  10:51:03


Here is my favorite clawhammer version by my old friend, Frank Lee:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y-vqOMI-7Y

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey


"Time passes unhindered"

Bill Rogers - Posted - 10/26/2008:  20:16:29


That's a great version, but I think my favorite remains the one Gaither Carlton recorded back in the 60s. Pretty much perfect, IMO.

Bill

BanjarBilly - Posted - 10/27/2008:  19:49:32


Last weelk on NYC Radio there was a great story on music from Afghanistan, and how Ahmad Zahir took westen music and put in a easten setting here is part of the story and the clip is cool http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/...gments/93888

Richard Dress - Posted - 10/27/2008:  20:14:18


Here is some info on the "Train 45" Bill Monroe version:

Often played as an instrumental in bluegrass, this song is a version of “Reuben’s Train” popular in various forms since 1898.

Fiddlin’ John Carson recorded it for OKeh in 1924 as “I’m 900 Miles from My Home”, Norman Gayle for Champion in 1927 as “Train No. 45” (crediting Whitter), George Banman Grayson & Henry Whitter for Victor in 1927 as “(Old) Train Forty-Five”--for Gennett in 1927 as “Train No. 45”--for Bluebird in 1927 as “Train 45” (County Records reissued their version for the 1999 album The Recordings of Grayson & Whitter, and Document Records reissued it for the 2000 Grayson & Whitter album The Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Volume I: 1927–1928), Fleming and Townsend for Bluebird in 1927, David Foley for Challenge in 1928 as “Train Number 45”, Riley Puckett for Columbia in 1929 as “Nine Hundred Miles from Home, Emry Arthur for Paramount in 1931 under the title “Reuben oh Reuben”, the Carolina Ramblers String Band for Perfect/Banner in 1932 as “Reuben’s Train”, Wade Mainer, Zeke Morris & Steve Ledford for Bluebird in 1937 (crediting Zeke Morris) under the title “Riding on That Train Forty Five” (Rounder Records reissued it for the 1998 compilation album Train 45: Railroad Songs of the Early 1900s), Zeke Morris for Victor in 1941 as “Riding Train No. 45”, Wade Mainer & the Sons of the Mountaineers for Bluebird in 1941 under the title “Old Reuben”, and Woody Guthrie for Moses Asch in 1944. Sometimes, versions of this song appear under the titles “500 (or 900) Miles from my Home”.

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys released this version on a 45 rpm single for Decca Records in January 1968 (MCA Records reissued the song for the 1983 Bill Monroe album Bluegrass Collection, Volume IV, and Bear Family reissued it for the 1991 Bill Monroe box set Bluegrass: 1959-1969). He recorded it again at Bean Blossom in 1979 (MCA Records released it in 1980 under the title Bean Blossom 79 and Bear Family Records reissued it for the 1994 Bill Monroe album Bluegrass 1970-79).

Among others, Sonny Osborne released the song (as an instrumental) for his 195? Gateway album Five String Hi Fi, the Laurel River Valley Boys for their 1958 Judson Records album Music for Moonshiners, the Stanley Brothers (instrumental) for their 1958 King Records album The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys (Gusto’s Hollywood label reissued it for the 1997 Stanley Brothers album 16 Greatest Hits; King Records reissued it for the 1997 album The Stanley Brothers & the Clinch Mountain Boys; Westside for the 1999 Stanley Brothers album 1958-1961: Ridin’ That Midnight Train; and King Records reissued it for the 2000 Stanley Brothers album Complete Starday and King Instrumentals, for the 2002 Stanley Brothers album All Time Greatest Hits, and for the 2003 Stanley Brothers box set The King Years: 1961-1965), Country Gentlemen (instrumental) for their 1961 Folkways Records album Folk Songs & Bluegrass (Smithsonian Folkways reissued that album in 1991), the Osborne Brothers for their 1962 MGM Records album Bluegrass Instrumentals, Jimmy Martin (instrumental) for his 1962 Decca Records album Country Music Time (Bear Family reissued it for the 1994 box set Jimmy Martin), the Potomac Valley Boys for their 1970 GHP Records album Bluegrass from Virginia, J. D. Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys (instrumental) for their 1973 King Bluegrass Records album Bluegrass Holiday (a reissue of their 1968 Lemco album of the same title), Ralph Stanley (instrumental) for his 1974 Rebel album A Man and His Music (Rebel reissued it for the 1995 Ralph Stanley album Classic Bluegrass and for the 1995 Ralph Stanley box set 1971-1973), Ola Belle Reed under the title “Ruben” in 1975 for Heritage Records, J. D. Crowe & the New South (instrumental) for their 1976 Towa Records album Live in Japan, Mac Wiseman for his 1990 CMH Records album Grassroots To Bluegrass, Benton Flippen (instrumental) for his 1994 Rounder Select album Old Time, New Times, the New Lost City Ramblers for their 1994 Vanguard Records album Old Time Music, Ralph Stanley for his 1996 Rebel Records Grayson & Whitter tribute album Short Life of Trouble, the Kentucky Colonels (instrumental) for their 1997 Hollywood Records album Livin In the Past, Raymond Fairchild (instrumental) for his 1997 Rural Rhythm Records album 31 Banjo Favorites (Volume I), Del McCoury & his Dixie Pals (instrumental) for their 2000 Vivid label album Stricktly Bluegrass Live, Doyle Lawson (instrumental) for his 2004 Crossroads Records album School of Bluegrass, the Stanley Brothers again (recorded in 1956) for their 2004 Columbia Records album An Evening Long Ago: Live 1956, and Tangleweed for their 2005 Squatney label album Just a Spoonful.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 10/27/2008:  21:41:33


How can you leave out Peter Paul and Mary?? (500 Miles)

Bill

Richard Dress - Posted - 10/27/2008:  22:05:50


limited scope

brokenstrings - Posted - 10/27/2008:  22:07:02


If "Reuben's Train" is really the same tune as "Skillet Good and Greasy," how come you play the former in graveyard tuning and the latter in plain old G?

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

Bill Rogers - Posted - 10/27/2008:  22:19:15


It's not the same tune. They are both in a family of closely-related tunes. Incidentally, Reuben's Train / Train 45 is played in either G or D tuning. It's one of those rare tunes that sets well in either.

Bill

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/28/2008:  15:26:17


The usual Stringband Key is A in A tuning, while the Grqaveyard version seems to be more banjo solo oriented - although there are plenty of times when there's a fiddle around too.
I've done a 2 part setting with 2 Fred Cockerham-ish variations in my ongoing "300 Clawhammer Banjo Tabs From The Author of Rocket Science Banjo. There will be more news about that real soon now.

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost a couple mouse clicks. Download your free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players, at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer tunes. - which are up to about 40 now.

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material



brokenstrings - Posted - 10/28/2008:  20:53:56


Bill, you've relieved my mind. I was wondering why I couldn't hear it as the same tune.

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

RedZinger - Posted - 10/29/2008:  00:15:54


Maybe it’s coincidence, but in Everything you wanted to know about clawhammer banjo, Ken Perlman mentions that a banjo playing friend of his encountered a tune in Mali (I think among the Dogon tribe) that was the same as Reuben’s Train. He has a tab of the Malian version in the book.

I think Dwight Diller’s version is my favorite. It’s one of those tunes that are especially well suited to Dwight’s chunky style.

So, to me Reuben sounds fine in open G on a fretted banjo, but it has to be in Reuben tuning for fretless --doesn't sound right otherwise.

Cool thread.
Rob


Edited by - RedZinger on 10/29/2008 00:17:44

ambpicker - Posted - 10/29/2008:  13:30:22


Is this the same tune as Reuben, like Earl played on FMB in D?

Leslie

writerrad - Posted - 10/30/2008:  06:14:01


quote:
Originally posted by brokenstrings

If "Reuben's Train" is really the same tune as "Skillet Good and Greasy," how come you play the former in graveyard tuning and the latter in plain old G?

Jessy

Frailaway, ladies, frailaway!

///

What contemporary revival players or the last few traditional players played a tune in is useful and interesting, but it really covers a brief period in the history or evolution of the banjo.

As I said research, especially Cece Conway's comments on the tune tend to say that the tune as opposed to the variety of songs associated with it, goes back far before the five-string banjo back to tunings used on four string gourd banjos.

This tune can be played in a variety of tunings, almost every single tuning. It basically is applying the blues scale on a major scale tuning and is pretty simple. One week a few years ago, I retuned my banjos to about 6 different tunings that I then knew and played the song in each.

Traditional Black banjoists seem to play the tune in a variety of tunings including the equivalents (most traditional players rarely play at concert pitch) of G, Gmodel, G minor, D (Reuben D not CC tuned up to DD) and variations on D with the F# tuned to G, and/or A, and variations with the low D string tuned down to C.

The D Reuben tuning is often thought as being closest to how early 4 string banjos were tune. One can play the tune easily on a four string gourd banjo with three "regular" strings and one short string.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any published versions of the tune by African American banjoists except one on the digital library I think by John Snipes. There will be one on the forthcoming double CD set of Black banjo songsters following up the original one both by Scott Odell and Cece.

I have heard several versions of the tune on unpublished field recordings collectors have shown me. On a field recording by Bob Winans made in the late 1970s, Rufus Kasey plays the tune both in G and in D Reuben, although he calls the tune Reuben in D and "All I could do to love you"

Current old time banjo revivalist tend to have a narrow concept of tunes based on the tab oriented way many learn tunes. The complexity of how tradition and aural and oral tradition evolved tunes, especially African originated tunes like this, is much more complex and more subtle.

We are also assaulted by the pop folk and pop country seizure of this song taking off from Hedy West's 1960s rendering of the song as 500 miles, a variant not found much in the tradition, and certainly not as a banjo tune, although it has been played very well by Bluegrassers.

Tony Thomas black banjo player

writerrad - Posted - 10/30/2008:  06:16:25


quote:
Originally posted by ambpicker

Is this the same tune as Reuben, like Earl played on FMB in D?

Leslie



Yes. Earl says it was playing Reuben in the Reuben D tuning that he first crystalized his own personal style of finger picking. Said he kept picking it all day
tt

Tony Thomas black banjo player

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/30/2008:  19:19:55


Tony,
Hedy West's 500 Miles was basically a version of Woody Guthrie's 900 Miles and just as likely to have gotten to Hedy via Pete Seeger as through the oral tradition. I know there were Pop recordings of 500 Miles before Hedy West started her career - usually under other titles and with various C&W style additions. The Kingston Trio did a version - title unknown in the late 1950s and I know I was already familiar with the tune at that time - Weavers, Almanac Singers, Guthrie himself. It is hard to say since I was a child at the time and a lot of the records were 78s - always a risky and impermanent medium for people who moved a lot.

I have a couple recordings of "I'm 900 Miles From My Home" - one is by Fiddlin John Carson - I believe it was recorded acoustically in the 20s and another by I.D. Stamper from a 60s lp - he was probably in his 60s or 70s at the time. I tend to think the tune entered the white tradition about the same time as other blues (or bluesy) black music started making inroads into popular music.

What has not been discussed here (I suppose because most of us play fretted banjos) is the "Train Effects" in Reuben. Something usually noted in slide work - but with a fretless banjo the whistle etc is all doable without anything but fingers (and hopefully good nails).

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost a couple mouse clicks. Download your free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players, at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer tunes. - which are up to about 40 now.

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material



writerrad - Posted - 10/31/2008:  05:47:48




Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material

When I went to that site and click on a link for what should be your site:

My Dade County job community blocked it with
"The website you have attempted to access:
http://home.thegrid.net/%7Efjbrad/id20.html;
is categorized as: "Adult/Mature Content" and has been blocked"

I always thought that meant something sexy, but apparently this means something by a mature senior citizen like you, mostly for mature adult seniors like me.

Tony Thomas trying to be humourous if a bit off topic



Tony Thomas black banjo player

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 10/31/2008:  13:23:31


OUCH!
Brad is in process of doing things to his site at the moment - he just moved servers, so I'm not sure where that came from but I have to assume it is a fleeting anomaly.
I'll get in touch with brad and tell him about that - the net is always evolving - but I am not, and everything to do with my website is completely beyond the possibility of my control. So I'll point Brad to this thread and see what he can do
Perhaps this is that famous "October Surprize" we hear about every election cycle???

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost a couple mouse clicks. Download your free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players, at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer tunes. - which are up to about 40 now.

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material



Boyd1 - Posted - 11/04/2008:  10:13:45


I read somewhere, a while back, that Rueben and Skillet were in the same family. I found this strange at the time, but have given it a lot of thought since then. I do now think that not only are they in the same family, they are kissing cousins.

***************************
Anything you can imagine is real. - Pablo Picasso

writerrad - Posted - 11/04/2008:  11:31:31


quote:
Originally posted by Boyd1

I read somewhere, a while back, that Rueben and Skillet were in the same family. I found this strange at the time, but have given it a lot of thought since then. I do now think that not only are they in the same family, they are kissing cousins.

***************************
Anything you can imagine is real. - Pablo Picasso



The way so many people learn banjo and fiddle tunes today approaches them as if they were all distinctly written copyrighted songs the way commercial music is written today. This is accentuated by the way that there is an extreme concentration among Bluegrass and old time players of learning to play a tune in the exact way some master played the song.

This really cuts people of from what the real process was in the tradition. The tune Reuben and the other songs are based on is a very basic old tune, probably began in Africa. It is pretty easy to play in almost any key or tuning identified with the banjo because there is not much variation and it simply articulates some of the simplest harmonics of the Blues scale.

People who study these things believe that it the tune was written long before there were any railroads or even before there were any metal skillets to speak of, though I doubt before Rabbits were chased into logs by dogs.

All sorts of different words and articulations of these tune grew up as people learned and made the music, not based on recordings or tab or lessons, but on the way one picker played the tune and his people danced to the tune and whatever words he might want to put or not put to it.

Reuben etc is just one fairly recent (recent by saying the late 19th Century) variant. Particularly through the medium of recordings like Whittier and Grayson's Train 45 and others, more and more distinct ideas about the tune got pushed forward especially as it entered the Bluegrass repertoire (after all Earl said it was the first song he picked his picking with), the folkie, and the o****ry repertoires.

To see more we need to get our ideas formed by being around those repertoires and the worse narrowness that accompanies how current Bluegrass and old timey players approach a song.

Rufus Kasey who was a Virginia old time banjoist whose music I love played at least two different versions of this tune, one in D and one in G and called one Reuben and the other All I can do to love you. Frankly the one in G with the different name is what I try to pick because it hits my idea of the tune better.

On the other hand, they put out a tape of John Lee Hooker the blues artist singing at a house party in the forties just before his blues records made him a star. He sings what he calls "Rabit {know I cant spell that is why I am an English professor, LOL} on a log," and it sounds more like Reuben than most versions of Reuben, LOL. Same thing with Doc Watson's skillet good and greasy although when he plays Reuben he puts in train sounds.

There are more names than tunes. A good easy to play tune that just describes the music is going to draw many different names and words.

TT

Tony Thomas black banjo player

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 11/04/2008:  21:18:25


I'm with you on that Tony. I find the homogenization of tunes very disturbing. When I played flamenco the trend was away from playing variant falsetas of a given rhythm for as long as you liked and toward playing 3 to 4 minute long "pieces" that were never varied, and meant to be played as if they were classical guitar studies.

Today I find that most of the flamenco guitar pieces on youtube are people playng a specific Sabicas or Juan Serranos piece. Ther is no life there, nothing to make the heart pound. I don't care if some hot shot kid can play a given Sabicas piece cleaner than Sabicas - I'd like to hear that kid's ideas - what HE makes of the basic form. How many ways HE can ad lib a few basic falsetas.

I always thought old time was too varied to fall into the same hero worshipful trap as Bluegrass - but lately I'm not so sure.

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost a couple mouse clicks. Download your free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players, at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer tunes. - which are up to about 40 now.

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material



mwc9725e - Posted - 11/06/2008:  04:25:24


quote:
Originally posted by oldwoodchuckb

I'm with you on that Tony. I find the homogenization of tunes very disturbing. When I played flamenco the trend was away from playing variant falsetas of a given rhythm for as long as you liked and toward playing 3 to 4 minute long "pieces" that were never varied, and meant to be played as if they were classical guitar studies.

Today I find that most of the flamenco guitar pieces on youtube are people playng a specific Sabicas or Juan Serranos piece. Ther is no life there, nothing to make the heart pound. I don't care if some hot shot kid can play a given Sabicas piece cleaner than Sabicas - I'd like to hear that kid's ideas - what HE makes of the basic form. How many ways HE can ad lib a few basic falsetas.

I always thought old time was too varied to fall into the same hero worshipful trap as Bluegrass - but lately I'm not so sure.

If you are interested in what I say and would like to know more, it ony cost a couple mouse clicks. Download your free copy of Rocket Science Banjo - the Advanced Method For Beginning to Intermediate Clawhammer Players, at:
http://www.rocketsciencebanjo.com

Along with the full text in PDF you will also find the four current RSB videos and the "25 EZ Clawhammer tunes. - which are up to about 40 now.

Banjo Brad is still hosting "How To Mold A Mighty Pinky" and some other material at:
http://www.pricklypearmusic.net
A site full of interesting banjo material







Interesting Tony, I experienced that same feeling with flamenco guitar -- it all started to sound alike to me and I gave it up. Maybe that's a product of too much reliance on tabs? When I was a kid, we didn't have sheet music readily at hand, so we learned from records or even the radio. If we were lucky, we had a neighbor or relative who would show us a few things. When you learn that way, it seems like you never ended up playing exactly like the guy on the radio etc. played it. I was in my late 20s when I started classical and then flamenco guitar, so things had changed -- tablature was used a lot. I think tabs can be good, if you take the attitude that the tabs are a starting position, but you're free to play whatever variations you feel like playing, within some degree of reason probably. Maybe teachers should emphasize that.


Edited by - mwc9725e on 11/06/2008 04:26:30



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