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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 04/09/2010 Needlecase


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/175666

vrteach - Posted - 04/09/2010:  13:22:34


This weeks tune is a bit of a return to the well-known set of tunes, with Needlecase

History-wise, there's not much that I could find. The Fiddlers Companion gives the following:

quote:

NEEDLE IN THE CASE. AKA "Needlecase." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA, southwest Alabama. D Major. Standard tuning. AB. One of the tunes described as a "popular old-time tune" that the Clarke County Democrat of May 9, 1929, predicted would be "rendered in a most approved fashion" at an upcoming contest in Grove Hill, Alabama. Tennessee musician Sam McGee popularized the tune with his finger-picked banjo recording, while Vermont fiddler Pete Sutherland adapted it as a fiddle tune.



And I have not found anything earlier. I'll be interested if someone else has more information on the antiquity of the tune.

It's a fine tune, and has been recorded many times although not up there with the really well-represented tunes. I didn't find a link for the earliest recording by Sam McGee, but an excerpt of the one he did in 1957 with his brother Kirk and Arthur Smith later, and released by Folkways in 1964 can be heard at:

folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.a...temid=223

Also on Folkways, Mike Seeger did a replica version on:

folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.a...emid=2518 (you'll have to scroll down to number 123)

Both of these versions are 3-finger picking. Hmm. I haven't checked to see what key/tuning they are using.

Where I know the key on fiddle or clawhammer versions, it's in D.

There are numerous versions here on the hangout and I think it even shows up twice in the "top 100" tunes. Just sort of randomly picking a few:

banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...cid=14663 by ramjo

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived= by clawdan

banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...cid=16287 by me

banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...cid=13305 by oldtimejamming (Joe Costa)

and my personal favorite:

banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...icid=5548 by Jane Rothfield on fiddle and Pete Peterson on banjo

If you go to cdbaby.com/ and search for Needlecase you'll get many hits, including the CDs by Dan Levenson, Jane Rothfield, and Joe Costa mentioned above.

Oh, and about 80 miles to the east of me in the Champaign/Urbana area they play a variant of the tune, sometimes called "Peter at the Back Door". It's in D, but has a C-chord in it. Maybe one of my neighbors can post a version of that.

Now, what is a needlecase? Looking up the term needlecase on dictionary.com gives the following definition:

quote:

Nee"dle*case`\, n. A case to keep needles.



So that's clear enough. Going back in time before the development of industrial/mechanical methods of making wire, and drilling the hole to produce the eye, needles would have been fairly labor intensive to make. And we know that they can be easy to lose, particularly if one is near a haystack. Archaeologically, needle cases have been found going back to the Bronze age in the Old World, and particularly in Viking and Mediaeval sites.


For example this copper needle case (with iron needle) is from excavations of 14th century London.

The place I work has several in the collections. Some are hard cases, and fancy like:


Carved Ivory (or bone) Needle Case
c. 1900-1920, about 3 1/2 inches long (8.9cm)

And some are soft, like:


Cloth Needle Case
c. 1870-1900, about 4 x 2 7/8 inches (10.1 x 7.3 cm)

Ok, I'm done for now. I'm going to be out of touch from time-to-time next week so I may not be able to keep up on commenting in this topic.


Edited by - vrteach on 04/10/2010 07:10:13

Viper - Posted - 04/09/2010:  13:46:33


One of my favorites to play. Though my recording is only twice through the whole tune. Perhaps this weekend, I'll record a fuller version.

Wonder why such a pretty melody was written for these cases. People must have really loved their needle cases. Cheers!

harvey - Posted - 04/09/2010:  14:09:43


A good choice -- a wonderfully simple tune, that I like to play around with. I learned to play it first from Ken Perlman's "Clawhammer Style Banjo".

vrteach - Posted - 04/09/2010:  14:27:32


I forgot to mention that this is one of the common tunes that I didn't learn until a short time ago. I was playing at a local ice cream social with a fiddler friend, and when he played it I decided to go ahead and learn it.

ScottK - Posted - 04/09/2010:  14:29:22


I learned Needlecase from Ken Perlman's book, too. It was one of my early favorite banjo tunes to play and I still enjoy it a lot. Good choice!

Scott

Frailblazer - Posted - 04/09/2010:  14:34:09


Needlecase is definately one of my favorite tunes. It's a fun one to play. I've got a recording up on my home page using Nylgut strings tuned down 2 whole steps.

Here's a link if you'd like to check it out:
banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=

- Ric

ramjo - Posted - 04/09/2010:  14:41:54


quote:
Originally posted by ScottK

I learned Needlecase from Ken Perlman's book, too. It was one of my early favorite banjo tunes to play and I still enjoy it a lot. Good choice!

Scott



Ditto. (Perlman credits Kate Brislin for the source of that arrangement.) There are also a bunch of youtube versions I stole from. I particularly like these:

youtube.com/watch?v=N0f6Beq9kdY
youtube.com/watch?v=Z_d4VS2j4MM (for the sentiment of the happy couple on a sunday morning as well as for the playing.)

Dock Jekel - Posted - 04/09/2010:  15:22:30


I play needlecase in the style of Sam McGee and Mike Seeger, 3- finger style. It is a fun tune. I do not use picks, so it is a little tricky getting good speed going. Sam and Mike used gCGBD- C tuning.

Dock Jekel - Posted - 04/09/2010:  15:35:39


Hey, I want to thank you, "vrteach", for your outstanding contributions to TOTW. I have used your index many times! Great job Erich!

J-Walk - Posted - 04/09/2010:  16:35:23


quote:
Originally posted by vrteach
And we know that they can be easy to lose, particularly if one is near a haystack.


One of the few times I've laughed out loud while reading BHO.

Good one, Erich. And good TOTW choice, too!

MrSrubas - Posted - 04/09/2010:  17:36:46


Oo! I got one on my music page. Kind of old, and not our best, but a recording all the same. LOVE this tune.

banjo_brad - Posted - 04/09/2010:  18:39:04


Good choice. I've been working on putting it on my fretless - I've always liked this tune.

WildJimbo - Posted - 04/09/2010:  18:42:01


I've never felt particularly proficient with this tune. There's just too many places in it for me to just blow it up! It's not for lack of playing it either; we play it as a regular tune in our set list with the LMB, so I've had plenty of practice at it. Never-the-less it's still one that bum-fuzzles me for whatever reason.

Now, mind you I'm not afraid to share this evening's recording of it. If anything I've learned to "suck courageously". Seriously, no one gets injured or killed. How bad could it be? Right? Sigh...

Here goes nothing!

-=Jim Pankey

Despite the warts on this tune I still think you'll enjoy my class at SKAK 2010! acoustic-camp.com



Needlecase

   

vrteach - Posted - 04/09/2010:  18:55:55


Ah, I wish I had had the Perlman book and a decent banjo back when I was in my banjo-formative years. I probably would have gone more melodic than whatever it is that I am.

I DO enjoy the tune of the week, and the tiny bit of work that it takes to keep the index is gratifying. I like to watch it grow.

Judy has the big job. Did you notice that she said she has lost the records of who is on schedule for the next several weeks? banjohangout.org/topic/175630

If one of you is signed up, let her know.

ramjo - Posted - 04/09/2010:  19:05:16


Thanks Erich and thanks Judy. TOTW is one of the highest points on BHO for me. Judy, I hope everyone on the upcoming list responds and helps to mitigate the didn't-backup-blues. If not, I'm sure you'll create a new topic. Can't lose totw, that's for sure.

LyleK - Posted - 04/09/2010:  20:59:05


"Peter at the Back Door" is pfagan's (banjohangout.org/my/pfagan) "fault." He apparently came up with the idea of substituting a C chord in the A part (the less charitable form of the story is that he forgot some of the details of the A part). His variant then got labeled as "Peter at the Back Door" because of its similar sound to "Sadie at the Back Door." It makes for an interesting time through Needlecase if everyone knows that it is coming up. So here's one time through Needlecase, once through Peter, and then back to our regularly scheduled message: banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...cid=16929

Nice pick, and nice pickin' Erich. I like the other banjo playing here better than mine on Needlecase. Can I get extra TOTW points for courage in also doing the fiddle track?


Edited by - LyleK on 04/09/2010 21:10:02

Dock Jekel - Posted - 04/09/2010:  21:42:36


Thanks Judy, too!!!!

RWJones1970 - Posted - 04/10/2010:  05:06:58


*** Wonderful choice! I enjoyed everyone's version of the tune. My personal favorite is Mike Seeger's 3 finger version. I learned this one from RD Lunceford's "Cotton Blossom". He is just a fantastic player as well.

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=

Don Borchelt - Posted - 04/10/2010:  07:06:00


Eric has demonstrated his remarkable taste in tunes with another thoughtful choice. About thirty years ago, when I was teaching bluegrass banjo, I used to have my students learn Sam MGee's Needlecase, among several examples of pre-bluegrass three finger picking. McGee's performance really exemplifies that 19th Century parlor tune flavor that was a big influence on old time music.

I hadn't heard anyone play the tune in many years, until I went to my first Clifftop festival in 2008, and faked my way through the tune in a jam session with a clawhammer picker named Peter (I didn't get his last name) from Australia, under Dan Leavenson's tarp one night. It immediately went on my list of "tunes I gotta learn." As soon as I got home, I started working on my own version in open D tuning. I can still get really excited about a new tune; when I find that I don't, it will be time to hang it up.

All really fine versions posted here, a surprising and amazingly wide variety of approaches, from Ric's gutsy, deep throated bounce to Starship Panky's wistful, almost modal composition, and lots of neat and interesting things in between and around.

Don Couchie and I recorded this one evening at Clifftop last year, sitting around at our campsite. I didn't post it before this, because Don's elegant clawhammer picking, just perfect in person, didn't come through with enough volume on my little Tascam DR-1 for some reason. I have played with the levels a little bit to bring it out front more, and have uploaded it. I am playing in open D tuning on my Tubaphone; and I believe Don was in double C tuning capoed on 2, playing the metal rimmed banjo he borrowed from Reed Martin.

Don & Don playing Needlecase

I have the three finger tab posted on my website, in both Tabledit and PDF format, in case anybody wants to look at it.

banjr.com/tablatures.htm

A few months ago I tried an experiment, recording my banjo along with the MIDI playback from the Tabledit file, sans MIDI banjo track. I have linked to the file, because it has the up-the-neck variation that I wasn't playing last year when I made the recording with Don. It came out better than I expected, but I haven't uploaded it to the BHO, given that I am essentially playing with a robot, and I can't lose the feeling that it's just plain wrong.

Me and my computer playing Needlecase



Also, Eric's link to Dan Levenson's MP3 points to the wrong file. here is the correct link:

Clawdan playing Needlecase


Edited by - Don Borchelt on 04/10/2010 08:14:52

vrteach - Posted - 04/10/2010:  07:10:53


Sure enough, I had pointed to ramjo's version twice. I have fixed the link in my initial post.

Heh-Heh, "Starship Panky." I have an urge to mound up my mashed potatoes.


Edited by - vrteach on 04/10/2010 07:17:32

banjo bill-e - Posted - 04/11/2010:  06:56:47


The talent level here at the hangout is just amazing. I listened to and loved every single version linked above.
It was great to hear all the individual takes on a great tune, and each one had it's charms.
I love this place!

banjoholic - Posted - 04/11/2010:  07:15:51


Great choice! And so many awesome versions.

I recorded this tune for a children's CD. It's a duet of banjo and banjola - the banjo is fingerpicked, then banjola is clawhammered. It was the 2nd to last tune on the CD, so the idea was for it to be a bit soporofic.



Needlecase

   

tomberghan - Posted - 04/11/2010:  09:02:45


Josh . . . that is great! I love the big bounce it has. With that big hop-step in there it sounds like a Cake Walk Dance. Great job.

Inspired by TOTW, I just learned Needle Case. I have a pretty good version, but it is kind of average . . . kind of typical . . . a lot faster than yours (like most of them) . . . but after hearing yours, I'm sure your performance is going to creep right into my version (more like cake walk in!) Man! I really like that tempo and big beat.
Tom

mralston - Posted - 04/11/2010:  09:14:10


I posted a version of Needlecase on YouTube and a guy posted a response which was pretty unusual. Or at least, the instrument is unusual.... a "panjo," which "consists of a teakettle(body), vacuum cleaner wand(neck), electrolux dust attachment(peghead), vacuum cleaner hose end(tailpiece), laminated yardstick(fretless fingerboard). clothespin (bridge), carpenter's pencil(nut), shop-made friction pegs, and fishing line and weedeater line(strings)."

The Panjo version of Needlecase:
youtube.com/user/psuggmog#p/u/...iuFYkKCjI

banjoholic - Posted - 04/11/2010:  13:14:54


quote:
Originally posted by tomberghan

Josh . . . that is great! I love the big bounce it has. With that big hop-step in there it sounds like a Cake Walk Dance. Great job.

Inspired by TOTW, I just learned Needle Case. I have a pretty good version, but it is kind of average . . . kind of typical . . . a lot faster than yours (like most of them) . . . but after hearing yours, I'm sure your performance is going to creep right into my version (more like cake walk in!) Man! I really like that tempo and big beat.
Tom



Thanks, Tom! You're right, it does have a cake walk feel. And I love cake walks. Almost as much as I love cakes!

vrteach - Posted - 04/11/2010:  14:59:34


quote:
Originally posted by tomberghan

Josh . . . that is great! I love the big bounce it has. With that big hop-step in there it sounds like a Cake Walk Dance. Great job.




I agree with Tom, and I expect I'll also try for a similar sound. I still enjoy playing Needlecase fastish...but that slow lilt is great.


Edited by - vrteach on 04/11/2010 15:00:05

jbalch - Posted - 04/11/2010:  16:37:51


Lots of really great versions posted! Thanks for sharing them all.

I learned Needlecase from Kate Brislin at the Tennessee Banjo Institute. She taught us a version where she tuned her 5th string down to F.

That lesson changed my whole approach to playing in double C. I love the tune and I'm greatful to Kate for the breakthrough.

I just uploaded the version we recorded for ~HOT~ Biscuit Jam. (In response to a question...I tune the 5th string to E ... not F on this recording ... Thanks for reminding me WildJimbo).

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=

Liz Pearson -two-finger banjo, & bass,
Jack Pearson -mandolin,
Shad Cobb -fiddle
John Balch -clawhammer banjo


Edited by - jbalch on 04/11/2010 20:03:21

tomberghan - Posted - 04/11/2010:  21:01:19


I have this CD . . . I love this CD.

Several times I have asked John if there is something in the water where he lives. (I am still looking for a scientific explanation)

Sun Records is from Tennessee. Ike Tuner, Howlin Wolf, and BB King all started recording there. Elvis and Carl Perkins came from there. Nashville . . . the Grand Old Opry . . . they even have a Banjo institute there for cryin in a tub! On and on . . . all from Tennessee . . . and John Balch is from Tennessee.

Nuff said!

msen.com/~brianhef/tbi1992n.html

jbalch - Posted - 04/12/2010:  05:50:19


Tom:

There is stuff in the water here...but I'm not sure you want to be drinkin' it.

Speaking of Tennessee...Sam McGee wrote Needlecase. He was from Franklin, TN about twenty miles from here. "Sam and Kirk McGee...from Sunny Tennessee."

vrteach - Posted - 04/13/2010:  09:32:49


quote:
Originally posted by jbalch

Tom:

There is stuff in the water here...but I'm not sure you want to be drinkin' it.

Speaking of Tennessee...Sam McGee wrote Needlecase. He was from Franklin, TN about twenty miles from here. "Sam and Kirk McGee...from Sunny Tennessee."





Do you KNOW that Sam McGee wrote Needlecase? I suspected it, but didn't find any evidence as I looked around.

gailg64 - Posted - 04/13/2010:  12:51:51


Thoughts on Needlecase: I am not sure that Sam wrote it either, but he almost certainly "made it up" based on a type of tune that was "in the air," in the early 20th century, being rapidly absorbed into the vernacular banjo tunebag from 19th c. written sources. These sometimes had "fandango" in the title, there would be 2 or 3 parts, each part a different style of uppicking, the 2nd or middle part often would run through I, IV and IV chords, and if there was a third part it would be done at least once in a syncopated 3 finger style. (Snowdrop, Baptist Shout,etc. etc. )

Among Sam McNeil's banjo tunes, archived on the Digital LIbrary of Appalachia is a fine example--I think he calls it simply, Fandango. McNeil was a banjo player (and fiddler) from Floyd county who had played with a 1920s string band called the Floyd County Ramblers. He lived a long life & continued to play until old age-- and was recorded by Blanton Owen & Tom Carter in the 1970s. McNeil's fandango is in entirely a beautiful 3 finger style.

Interesting how things go round & round: in my grandfather's generation, these tunes, which came from vernacular/"classic" style banjo, were always done in up-picking styles. (My g-father was in the Trinity College banjo & mandolin club a few years before Fisher Hendley, a banjo fingerpicker famous for playing with a band called the Aristocratic Pigs.)

Somewhere in the the mid-19th century, the classic style & its "fandangos" that had come from the popular guitar repertoire, replaced the stroke or minstrel style in popular banjo playing. Today, however, these tunes are mainly being absorbed into the contemporary banjo tunebag as clawhammer tunes. Since clawhammer resembles "stroke" style, we have come full circle---unless of course there were also African up picking styles, in which case, it's an endless spiral!
GG



quote:
Originally posted by vrteach

quote:
Originally posted by jbalch

Tom:

There is stuff in the water here...but I'm not sure you want to be drinkin' it.

Speaking of Tennessee...Sam McGee wrote Needlecase. He was from Franklin, TN about twenty miles from here. "Sam and Kirk McGee...from Sunny Tennessee."





Do you KNOW that Sam McGee wrote Needlecase? I suspected it, but didn't find any evidence as I looked around.

Couchie - Posted - 04/14/2010:  06:52:50


Don, thanks for posting our version of Needle Case. I must admit that this was to me a new version of the tune when we played this one at Clifftop, but after giving it another listen I realize that it is a wonderful tune.

Your playing is as always, completely to my likeing. I'm really looking forward to spending more time at Clifftop and more of these relaxed recording sessions. I'm sure there is no better way to go.

vrteach - Posted - 04/14/2010:  11:58:39


Thanks Gail. Seems as though many of those guys didn't want to say they wrote the tunes. But they might have said they learned it "from an old Negro fellow".

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