"COLORED ARISTOCRACY. AKA and see "Southern Aristocracy." Old#8209;Time, Breakdown. USA, West Virginia. G Major. Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AA'BB' (Brody). This late 19th century or c. 1900 tune is more correctly categorized as a cakewalk (which suggests ragtime from its syncopated rhythms) rather than a fiddle tune though the popularized version apparently comes from old-time fiddler Sanford Rich, a resident of Arthurdale, West Virginia in August of 1936. Arthurdale, according to Kerry Blech and Gerald Milnes, was a resettlement camp for displaced persons during the depression, a project of Elanor Roosevelt’s, and it was there at a festival of folk heritage that musicologist Charles Seeger (father of New Lost City Ramblers member Mike Seeger) recorded the Rich Family for the Library of Congress (AFS 3306 B2). Gerald Milnes has located Sanford’s son, Elmer Rich, an elderly man who still fiddles and who remembers the event. Mike Seegar learned the tune at a young age by playing the aluminum recordings in his parent’s house. It became one of the first tunes recorded by his group the New Lost City Ramblers in the early 1960’s, and introduced the song to “revival” era fiddlers.
The second chord in the accompaniment has been variously played as both an E minor and an E major. The origin of the title remained obscure, although it was speculated that it derived from Reconstruction sentiments (or resentments) about the perceived attitude (either within or without the black community) of some African-Americans (i.e. that “Colored Aristocracy” was a gentrification of “Uppity N....r”). However, Peter Shenkin tracked the title to a piece of sheet music from a 1902 revue entitled “In Dahomey,” which starred the famous African-American vaudeville duo Williams and Waltker. The music (entitled “Leader of the Colored Aristocracy”) is credited to Will Marion Cook, words by James Weldon Johnson (later of Harlem Renaissance fame), published by Harry Von Tilzer. Another “Coloered Aristocarcy” dates from 1899 credited to one Gus W. Bernard (published by the Groene Co.); it is listed as a “Cake-walk” on the cover. Neither the Bernard tune or the one published by Tilzer is the “Colored Aristocracy” played by fiddlers, however. Bob Buckingham reports that a fiddling preacher of his aquaintance named Buck Rife (originally from the Beckley WV area) calls the tune "The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn" and gave that he had it as a youngster learning clawhammer banjo from an uncle. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 72. Phillips (Fiddlecase Tunebook), 1989; pg. 11. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; pg. 33. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 25. Columbia GP18, Taj Mahal #8209; "De Old Folds at Home." Folkways FA 2396, New Lost City Ramblers#8209; "vol. 1." Folkways 2494, New Lost City Ramblers #8209; "Sing Songs of the New Lost City Ramblers" (1978. Learned from a Library of Congress recording of the Riche Brothers at the 1936 Athurdale, W.Va. fiddler's Convention). Fretless FR 200A, Yankee Ingenuity #8209; "Kitchen Junket" (1977). Front Hall FHR#8209;01, Bill Spence & Fennig's All Stars #8209; "The Hammered Dulcimer." Rounder 0002, Spark Gap Wonder Boys#8209; "Cluck Old Hen." Rounder 0075, Richard Greene#8209; "Duets." Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40098, New Lost City Ramblers – "There Ain't no Way Out" (learned from the Library of Congress field recording of Sanford Rich)."