Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: The Tune of the Week for 1-8-10 is... 8th of Jan.

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/07/2010:  18:14:40

Okay, its the 8th of January, can there be any other choice for the tune of the week? Of course note. Originally called Jackson's Victory, it is said that the old fiddle tune was written, or perhaps renamed, to celebrate the final battle of the War of 1812. We all know the story, or the best part of it. How a British fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane arrived in mid-December, 1814, in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, east of Lake Ponchartrain, carrying 10,000 soldiers and sailors, fresh from what all thought was the final defeat of Napoleon the previous year. How on January 8, 1815, after several weeks of preliminary skirmishes by both sides, 9,000 soldiers under the command of General Pakenham formed their line of battle on the Chalmette Plain, before Jackson's polyglot force of 6,000 frontier militia, Choctaw Indians, Hatian refugees, and pirates, crouched behind earthworks thrown up along the far bank of the Rodriguez Canal. How Pakenham's regiments assaulted the earthworks in a three-pronged attack, certain that the Americans would flee as had happened often before, only to be mowed down by American musket and canon fire, the general himself the victim of a fatal blast of Baratarian grapeshot. And how ironically the great battle occurred two weeks after the peace treaty between the two nations had been signed at Ghent, so that it supposedly needn't have been waged at all.

While the battle may have been anti-climactic in a military sense, it provided a huge boost to the morale and sense of nationhood of the American people, and it eventually propelled Old Hickory to the presidency in 1828. In the battle's aftermath, fiddlers throughout the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas began playing a tune called Jackson's Victory, continuing a long tradition of commemorative tune naming. By the time of the Civil War and its aftermath, however, the Democratic Party and the reputation of its main hero had both fallen under a cloud, and the fiddlers began referring to the tune by the date of the battle, rather than the surname of its hero. Apparently, there was a "no politics" rule in the 19th century as well.

The earliest fiddle recordings of tunes called the 8th of January were made in 1928. The first was by a group which called themselves the Arkansas Barefoot Boys, with one Cyrus Futrell on fiddle. These were followed by recordings by Dr. Humphrey Bates and his Possum Hunters, and Kentucky fiddler Ted Gossett. None of these sound much like the tune we know today as 8th of January, or much like each other. You can here snatches of them from the Amazon MP3 Download page:

Amazon MP3 Download: Eighth of January

The first recordings I could find that sound like the tune we know today as the 8th of January were collected by musicologists Charles Todd and Robert Sonkin at a migrant workers camp in California in August of 1941. These are all available at the Library of Congress American Memories, Voices from the Dust Bowl Collection website. Three are fiddlers and one, surprisingly faithful to the tune, is a harmonica player. The prevalence of this tune among the musicians at the camp could be an indication that it was well known throughout the Dust Bowl, where the migrants were generally from, or it could just reflect how fast old time musicians can pick up a tune from one another when they live and work in close proximity for months on end. Either way, it shows that the tune we usually associate with the title was around pre-WWII, if not pre-Civil War. I've linked to the site, you will have to use the search engine on "Eighth of January" to access the tunes.

Voices from the Dust Bowl

In 1936, five years before Todd and Sonkin were hauling their disc recording machine around the Visalia FSA Camp, a 29 year old school teacher from Timbo, Arkansas named James Corbitt Morris decided to inspire his students interest in history by writing a number of songs about historical subjects. One was about the Battle of New Orleans, which he fittingly set to the tune of 8th of January. Twenty-one years later, he was discovered by Nashville musician and music publisher Don Warden, who was traveling through Arkansas on a talent search. Warden brought Morris to Nashville, and convinced Chet Atkins of RCA Victor to produce an album of 12 of his songs, using the folksy stage name Jimmy Driftwood. The album, entitled Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs, was released in 1958, and included the Battle of New Orleans. The album got little airplay. Atkins and Warden had Driftwood re-record the Battle of New Orleans as a single, shortened to fit the conventional radio format (and with the expletives "hell" and "damn" removed), and managed to get a few stations to put the number on the air in the late night hours. One of the few listeners who heard it was a young rock-a-billy singer from the Louisiana Hayride named Johnny Horton, who recorded the now legendary version of the song in April, 1959, for Columbia Records. Horton's main claim to fame up to that point was that he had married Billy Jean Jones, Hank Williams' widow, but he sold over two million copies of his Battle of New Orleans, and became an instant country music superstar. Horton proceeded to record several more songs with historic themes, including Sink the Bismark and North to Alaska, before he was killed in a car crash in November, 1960, making Billy Jean twice a widow.

YouTube has both Driftwood's and Horton's versions of the Battle of New Orleans. The Horton link below is to a particularly smaltzy television lip sinc performance, which I include here in case you were becoming too nostalgic for 1950s television.

Jimmy Driftwood sings Battle of New Orleans
Johnny Horton sings Battle of New Orleans
Full Lyrics for Battle of New Orleans

There is a copy of Horton's 45RPM record on Ebay right now, for $6.99. Okay, what can I say, there must be a lot of them still out there.

Johnny Horton 45 RPM on Ebay, one of only 2 million, Buy it now!!

Jimmy Drfitwood around 1964

Well, all in all, it's still just a really fine old tune. If you haven't learned it by now, you need to. Ed Britt and I recorded the 8th of January a couple of nights ago, after a long hiatus, so that I could post it for this week's Tune of the Week. My tubaphone is sounding a little punky, but as a famous American once said, you go to war with the weapons you got, not the weapons you want. I'm in Open D, playing three-finger style, and Ed is playing clawhammer style, in Double C up 2:

Ed Britt and Don Borchelt pick 8th of January

The three-finger style tab is available on my website in both Tabledit and PDF format.

There are some wonderful versions of 8th of January posted here on the BHO, but I am going to let the other members talk about their own recordings. Make sure you look up under both "8th of January" and "Eighth of January" in the Archives. The BHO tabs appear to be mostly the Weissberg melodic arangement in G, but I'm sure some other members can point to some good clawhammer tabs.

Here are two transcriptions in standard notation from John Chambers' ABC Tune Finder site, misnamed since he also displays the tunes in PDF, GIF, and other formats. One setting very simple, not much beyond the vocal melody, really, the other more elaborate, showing there is more than one way to win a battle.

John Chamber's ABC Tune Finder

Check out my webpage.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/10/2010 04:58:45

manmademusic - Posted - 01/07/2010:  18:31:54

I just played 8th of January last night at the local jam. Good choice.

OT Banjo - Posted - 01/07/2010:  19:55:49

Thank you Don! Great information and perfect timing!

I was just researching 8th of January a few weeks ago when I realized I have known the melody since childhood. But I knew it from hearing Boots Randolph playing Battle of New Orleans on the saxophone, from an album my father owned.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 01/07/2010:  20:12:40

A couple notes:

Driftwood is credited with the "chorus"
We fired our guns.... etc
But it apparently was taken, nearly word for word, from a Scots ballad about one of their many battles with the English.
Whether that version (which I read here on BHO a couple years ago) had the secondary chorus:
_____"Well they run through the briars and they run through the brambles"
Or whether Driftwood added that, I don't know.

Horton's recording was as obscure as Driftwood's until the record company heard about the Cecil B DeMille movie "The Buccaneer" a reworking of one of his earlier big hits. They quickly withdrew the record and timed its release to coincide with the movie. Major Hit! The movie was a stinker but ther was Charleton Heston playing "old Hickory - a part he was really born to play, and Yul Brennor as LaFitte. Besides, every DeMille movie made money. I know the theater where I saw it with my father and brother was absolutely packed. I thought it was boring, my father thought the original was better and my brother liked the cleavage.

On the battle itself.
There was a lot of doubt that the British would have actually lived up to the treaty had Cockran's campaign been successful. There were in fact no orders sent for him to "cease fire" and the British were still thinking very much about cutting the USA off at the Mississippi. They really signed hoping to gain some time to get the full power of the Royal Navy together against the "upstarts" - just as they had made a Treaty with Napoleon in 1800.

With the army holding New Orleans , and the British Navy capable of bottling up the entire Atlantic coast they would have been in an excellent position to "anaconda" the US into submission just as The Union did to the south in the Civil War.

Between taking an entirely un-British defeat at New Orleans and the eventual re-commencement of the Napoleanic War, the US was able to consolidate its position as the ruler of the Mississippi, and eventually strangle off the British attempts to cut off US westward expansion.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/07/2010:  20:12:55

OT Banjo wrote: "I knew it from hearing Boots Randolph playing Battle of New Orleans on the saxophone..."

When I was a kid just starting to play guitar, my parents took me to a concert of Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, and Floyd Cramer at the Ohio State Fair. What a show!

Woodchuck wrote: "There was a lot of doubt that the British would have actually lived up to the treaty had Cockran's campaign been successful. "

Jackson commented on that issue himself, as he was leaving the Presidency. He reportedly said "If General Pakenham and his ten thousand matchless veterans could have annihilated my little army... he would have captured New Orleans and sentried all the contiguous territory, though technically the war was over... Great Britain would have immediately abrogated the Treaty of Ghent and would have ignored Jefferson’s transaction with Napoleon."

I have no doubt Jackson was right. I also wonder whether the British defeat at New Orleans had any influence over Napoleon's final decision to return from Elba. Napoleon left his island exile on February 26, 1815, about eight weeks after the battle, so he almost certainly knew of the outcome well before he left. Perhaps it helped him find the courage to "pull the trigger" and take the last, greatest gamble of his life. The Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon's final defeat, came in June of 1815.

Check out my webpage.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/10/2010 04:59:05

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 01/07/2010:  21:07:55

I suspect that the men who took Napoleon from his exile were aware of the defeat and might well have seen it as teh beginning of a long fight with the former colonies - one that might have given Napoleon long enough to consolidate his position in France.

I tend to think the defeat at New Orleans was definitely the end of British intentions on the Mississippi river. It is very expensive to transport whole armies across the ocean and with no deep water port on the continent, the war was simply costing too much.

bluebanjo - Posted - 01/08/2010:  04:35:05

Great tune and good choice. I have always like this one and have played it for some time now.

Thanks for that bit of history....... I remember reading an article in "Fret" magazine, more than twenty years ago, about this tune. It said that a woman in Texas composed it and it was chosen to be play at the inauguration of Andrew Jackson and became a popular fiddle tune through the 1800's. It has been some time since the article and I have forgotten all the details. After the Civil War, players lost interest in the tune accept for colored slave banjo players who kept it going. In the early 1900's fiddle player wanted to bring it back and only had those banjo players, for reference to relean the tune. It was not know if the tune they were relearning was the same as the original or if the colered slave banjo players had changed it a bit.

Wonder if anyone else has hear similar info. Thanks again for this post.


frailin - Posted - 01/08/2010:  06:45:33

Gee what a fun read first thing in the morning. I LOVE hearing the history of the tunes. Thanks Don.

Wouldn't it be GREAT if there was a Banjo Hangout Music Compendium of all the TOTW?

vrteach - Posted - 01/08/2010:  07:49:27

A few years back when I was at Midwest Banjo Camp, the camp old time fiddler was Alan Jabbour. I attended the intermediate jam which he lead and it was great to have him give background on each tune that we played.

Eighth of January was one of the tunes, and he told about being in one of the western-southern states (Arkansas or Mississippi I think) in the 1970s. He was working with a woman there and the "8th of Jan" came up and she said that she wouldn't mind never hearing that tune again. When he asked why, it turned out that she was a higher up in the Democratic party, and because of the association with Andrew Jackson the tune was used to open or close all official meetings of the Democrats.

(Image from Wikipedia)

It's been a while, and as I wrote the above I realized how fuzzy my memory had become. If Mr Jabbour reads this I'd be happy if he corrected me.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/08/2010:  09:32:07

bluebanjo wrote: "I remember reading an article in "Fret" magazine, more than twenty years ago, about this tune."

Roger Siminoff was the editor, if I remember right. I'd love to see the story, if anybody has it.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/08/2010 10:49:27

Bill Rogers - Posted - 01/08/2010:  12:05:30

And here's Tom Hanway's thread in the bluegrass forum: .... For further reading, see Benton Patterson, The Generals, John William Ward: Andrew Jackson, Symbol for an Age and William C. Davis: The Pirates Lafitte.

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 01/08/2010 12:13:22

Hunter Robertson - Posted - 01/08/2010:  12:47:07

Interesting that this tune turns up three times in the meager recordings that are available of African American string bands (or at least tunes called "Eighth of January", they don't bear much resemblance to the tune used for "The Battle of New Orleans" as you point out Don). Two on Deep River of Song - Black Appalachia and another on Altamont: Black Stringband Music, with the amazing Nathan Frazier. All three can be sampled on the Amazon page Don linked to.


g3zdm - Posted - 01/08/2010:  13:21:01

I wonder why no Brit has joined the thread
(Actually it's quite commonly played at local UK bluegrass sessions).
Lonnie Donegan version, 1959, which was a reasonable hit in UK :

Edited by - g3zdm on 01/08/2010 13:21:47

BrittDLD1 - Posted - 01/08/2010:  14:43:06

Originally posted by g3zdm

I wonder why no Brit has joined the thread...

I've been busy....

Ed Britt

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/08/2010:  15:21:24

Originally posted by BrittDLD1

Originally posted by g3zdm

I wonder why no Brit has joined the thread...

I've been busy....

Ed Britt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/08/2010 15:21:42

dbrooks - Posted - 01/08/2010:  16:29:19

Great job, Don, with the choice, the background and the links. Thanks.


argybarg - Posted - 01/08/2010:  17:59:39

Great job, Don.

If you don't have a spare fiddler handy and you don't mind playing along with a computer, I enjoyed playing with this version:

tomberghan - Posted - 01/08/2010:  22:12:10

I love this tune! It was the first thing I learned to play on the banjo! So it will always have a special place in my heart. But I didn't know nuttin' bout no old versions . . . it was JOHNNY HORTON I was thinkin' of!

This tune is a favorite among Rockabillys. And Johnny Horton is a Rockabilly god! Nice pick Don. Nice presentation too!

LyleK - Posted - 01/09/2010:  04:35:47

Excellent! Hmmm.... Three weeks from yesterday (Friday) is?

edit: I should learn how to read a calendar more carefully

Edited by - LyleK on 01/09/2010 04:37:45

tfaux - Posted - 01/09/2010:  04:59:01

You mean it doesn't commemorate Elvis Presley's birthday??

Nicely done.

tomberghan - Posted - 01/09/2010:  09:28:16

>>>You mean it doesn't commemorate Elvis Presley's birthday??<<<

Well, Elvis was the King of the Rockabillys (and more) and he did used to tour with Johnny Horton, who was also a Rockabilly . . . so sure I think we can spin this to include an additional commemoration to the King. Good call!

Tamarack - Posted - 01/09/2010:  09:54:59

A wonderful tune well-matched for the occasion. Thanks to all for the fascinating history of the tune and the battle.

My coworker Dianne turned 40 yesterday. I was going to send her an email extolling the virtues of being over 40 and attach a clip of the tune, but she was a mite distracted because she gave birth to her first kid in the early morning hours of the 8th of January.

BRUNO25 - Posted - 01/09/2010:  12:32:45

excellent job, Don! You really did your homework. As I was reading this and listening to some of the youtube links and what-not, my wife started singing along. I was a little surprised. She said they used to sing at the Christian school when she was a kid. I think they called it , "The Battle of 1812."

And I always love hearing you and "The Britt" playing a tune together.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/10/2010:  06:49:50

Hunter wrote: "Interesting that this tune turns up three times in the meager recordings that are available of African American string bands (or at least tunes called "Eighth of January", they don't bear much resemblance to the tune used for "The Battle of New Orleans" as you point out Don). "

Of the four ensembles recorded at the Visalia migrant camp in 1941, one was by an African American brother duo, Bill and Jesse Robinson, on guitar and fiddle. The American Memory site can be a little cumbersone to navigate, so I have converted and uploaded the four audio files so that you can link directly to them. Where Todd and Sonkin came in in the middle of a performance, I have edited the file so that it starts where the musicians come back to the start of the tune.

Robinson Brothers
Pace & Dinwiddie
Rhoades & Allen
Unknown Harmonica Player

Race was something of an issue at the Battle of New Orleans. Among the men volunteering to fight for the American cause was a private militia of Haitian creole soldiers who had fled Haiti after the Haitian revolution, which ended in 1803. This may seem perplexing, as the Haitian revolution was the only successful slave rebellion in history. But these men were from the gens de colour, mixed-race mulattoes who unlike the African born slaves who vastly outnumbered them in Haiti, had remained loyal to the French during the island revolution, and trusted in the ideals of the French Revolution, with its promise of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Most of these men had been professional soldiers, part of the French Republic's military contingent on the island. At the suggestion of Governor Claiborne, Jackson approved the raising of two battalions from among these Haitian refugees, and a similar group of former African-American militia soldiers who had served the Spanish government. The leader of the Haitian battalion was Joseph Savary, who had been a colonel in the French republican army. He and many of his soldiers had fought the year before with Mexican revolutionaries against the Spanish, and were already well organized and battle ready. Their recruitment had been opposed by many of New Orleans white residents and militia, who feared the arming of any "negro" forces, especially those with a history of espousing and fighting for revolutionary ideals. But Jackson, though certainly no abolutionist, was a pragmatist. Facing a battle with the greatest army in the world, he had no intention of turning away what would be the most professional military cadre under his command, no matter how controversial. The Haitian and other African American troops would ultimately represent about 20 percent of Jackson's force. When one of his paymasters complained of his decision to give the mulatto soldiers pay equal to the white recruits, Jackson replied "Be pleased to keep to yourself your opinions on the policy of making payment of the troops with the necessary muster rolls without inquiring whether the troops are white, black, or tea." During the heat of battle, the Haitian soldiers steadfastly held their ground, while some of the white militia, including many of the famous Kentucky riflemen, broke and ran. While the Haitian soldiers did receive equal pay, the American government later reneged on promises of pensions and land grants.

Check out my webpage.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/10/2010 07:04:19

ELWOOD - Posted - 01/10/2010:  08:28:26

Very complete "Tune of the Week" thanks all . Don the links were great puts a new feel and cadance to the tune. I'll make some adjustment to honor this "New" info...........Steve

Ol Lefty - Posted - 01/10/2010:  09:00:34

Don-I thank you for this wonderful thread and applaud you for the discussion of the non-caucasian contribution to the success of the battle.

This it should be noted,is in total contrast to the despicable post by a Brit in the other thread on this interesting matter.

I believe in the First Amendment and for 36 years I vigorously defended it and the other elements of the US Constitution. Therefore, I will allow a foreigner from the losing side(I'm 1/4 Scot and 1/4 English) the acknowledged right to post the link and the right of the parodical morons to compose it and sing it and YT it. To me, however, it is despicable and I am compelled to state my distaste. At least up to my post here, I am pleased to see that no member of the forum has endorsed the Brit's link. I cannot make anyone discontinue this kind of thinking, and maybe banjo players incorporate many of this thinking-for any number of reasons-though that itself, is an unfair sterotype and in my heart, I choose to believe otherwise. I just could not pass the link in the other thread without outraged comment. Mike Tobey

Hunter Robertson - Posted - 01/10/2010:  09:04:09

Originally posted by Don Borchelt

Of the four ensembles recorded at the Visalia migrant camp in 1941, one was by an African American brother duo, Bill and Jesse Robinson, on guitar and fiddle. The American Memory site can be a little cumbersone to navigate, so I have converted and uploaded the four audio files so that you can link directly to them. Where Todd and Sonkin came in in the middle of a performance, I have edited the file so that it starts where the musicians come back to the start of the tune.

Check out my webpage.

Thanks for pointing the Robinson's recording out, I had overlooked it. And for the history, fascinating.

Those LOC sites are about due for an overhaul, but man is there great stuff hidden away in them.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/11/2010:  14:56:21

When I put up the original post, the Digital Library of Appalachia was down again. Now it's back up. I really like this up picking version by a player named Denny Slone, recorded at the Mountain Heritage Festival in Carter County, Kentucky in 1973. Anybody know this guy?

DLA- Denny Slone playing 8th of January

Don Borchelt - Posted - 01/12/2010:  05:26:50

Okay, sometimes if you want something done, you just have to do it yourself! I searched up and down but I only found one free clawhammer tab out there for 8th of January, but it's a good-un. Mike Iverson has a fine tab at his website, both lead and back up, and a really fine MP3 recording.

Mike Iverson's 8th of January clawhammer tab
Mike Iverson picks and sings 8th of January
Mike Iverson's clawhammer tab page

Check out my webpage.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 01/12/2010 05:30:44

Kitt - Posted - 01/12/2010:  07:06:23

I meant to post the link to Mike Iverson's tab last week but I got distracted and then forgot. But as soon as you posted this thread last week I remembered to go back to that tab of Mike's, which I knew of before you posted this Tune of the Week thread. That tab is a good example of Mike Iverson's tabs. He keeps them relatively simple, but interesting at the same time.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories