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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 6/18/2010 - "Old Yeller Dog"

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:

Mark Johnson - Posted - 06/18/2010:  07:52:28

"Old Yellow Dog Came Trottin Through the Meeting House"

This one offers a lot to talk about. Let's start with the tune itself:

I learned the tune originally from Rayna Gellert's cross-tuned version in F found on her terrific CD "Ways of the World": That's some of my most favorite fiddling...

Charlie Acuff, and his own grandfather (Charlie) are the oft-cited source for this version. Here's Charlie playing it with David Holt:

Our very own Don B quite recently posted a terrific version:

And finally, here's my own attempt:

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! The tune history and family tree are neat too:

The Fiddler's Companion entry COME_TROTTIN _THROUGH_THE_MEETING_HOUSE points out that this tune is essentially "The Old Grey Mare", a relation I had missed having only heard Ms. Gellert's version.

Sadly, once I did make the connection, I was stuck singing "the ol grey mare, well she ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be, ain't what she used to be" over and over for days. More fortunately, though, I chased it down and learned a bit of interesting news about the Old Grey Mare tune:

From the Fiddler's Companion entry on the Old Grey Mare CAME_TEARING_OUT_OF_THE_WILDERNESS :

OLD GREY MARE (CAME TEARING OUT OF THE WILDERNESS), THE. AKA and see "Out of the Wilderness," "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness," "Johnny Stole a Ham," "Old Yeller Dog," "Old Blind Dog." Old#8209;Time, Breakdown. USA. G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. The music was first appeared in print (as "Down in Alabam") in 1858 published by one of Bryant's Minstrels, J. Warner, but it is likely that the tune is older than that (since it closely resembles a contemporary revivalist hymn#8209;#8209;they may have had a common folk ancestor). Bayard (1981) calls it a good example of a popular tune that became traditional (or, if it was a traditional tune reworked by Warner, then a folk tune which became a popular one, which again reverted to folk form). Mark Wilson relates that a parody figured prominently in the famous Lincoln#8209;Douglas campaign of 1860, probably the "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness" version popular in Civil War times.


So, the neat part being that the tune may be a popular tune turned into a "traditional" tune. Or maybe it was even a traditional tune, turned into a popular one, turned back in to a wholly new traditional one. Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to make this point:

If you've been working on arranging a Lady Gaga tune into a piece for your stringband, fear not. Someone back around 1858 did much the same. Ok, please not Lady Gaga, but go ahead and arrange popular music...


Edited by - Mark Johnson on 06/18/2010 18:12:55

vrteach - Posted - 06/18/2010:  09:02:05

Good tune. I only recently learned "Old Yeller Dog" from my fiddler friend Steve, but of course knew "Old Grey Mare" which in Illinois we do tend to call "Old Abe Lincoln Came Out of the Wilderness". But OYD is better because it has two parts; or at least I only know "Old Grey Mare" as a single part.

I've got a version of "Old Yellow Dog" at:

This TOTW marks a milestone of sorts, it's the 100th. Let's have a party.

Edited by - vrteach on 06/18/2010 09:06:14

stevel - Posted - 06/18/2010:  10:02:01

Well I've never heard of this tune (but like others I know Old Grey Mare).

Great playing Mark!



LyleK - Posted - 06/18/2010:  11:05:06

Ditto to Erich, good tune for the TOTW. It gets a fair amount of play time here, with the "3X Brave boys die, way down in Alabam" for the B-part chorus (though people tend not to sing any A part verses). See MissouriMud's first comment in this thread

vrteach - Posted - 06/18/2010:  12:21:39

Actually, I didn't know the B-part chorus.

The second comment on the thread that Lyle gives is also interesting. It talks about "yellow dog Democrats" and that makes one wonder about link of "Old Grey Mare" => "Old Abe Lincoln" => "Old Yeller Dog Came Trottin Through the Meeting House".

J-Walk - Posted - 06/18/2010:  13:12:18

Nice, Mark. I like the harmonics in the B part.

jojo25 - Posted - 06/18/2010:  14:45:08

the melody of "The Old Grey Mare" was used by Lincoln in at least one of his presidential campaigns.

some of da words

Old Abe Lincoln come out of the wilderness...down in Illinois

Aren't you glad you joined the Republicans

ramjo - Posted - 06/18/2010:  15:21:16

Mark, great tune and great playing. I second what J-Walk said about the harmonics on your b part. Thanks for the history too and thanks to you others who've added to it. I used to play this on guitar after trying to learn it from Norman and Nancy Blake's "The Hobo's Last Ride."

But I also liked your challenge to make pop into ot banjo music, and even though you "apologized" (to employ a current term) for suggesting Lady Gaga, I spent the last 10 minutes seeing how "Telephone" would work. (Hey, the A part is crooked, so it can't be all that bad.) Since the grey mare title was different from the pop tune it came from, I figured I'd have to title my tune different from Lady G's. So I came up with "The Droid Came Flying Out of the Pocket." Here it is. It was only worth 10 minutes of my time, so don't waste much of yours on it.

Edited by - ramjo on 06/18/2010 15:33:52

The Droid Came Flying out of the Pocket


RG - Posted - 06/18/2010:  16:47:08

Was going to take a BHO hiatus, but this is one of my favorite tunes-nicely done Mark!! I play this on fiddle based on Charlie Acuff's playing, interestingly enough, here is some info on what the term "Old Yellow Dog" is slang for (besides an old yellow dog...)...put's the tune in a whole 'nother dimension that perhaps fit's or grew out of the Abe Lincoln scenario...I heard my papa, who was born in Tuscaloosa Alabama in 1899 and passed away in 1970 use this term when I was little...

"In the United States, a yellow dog Democrat was a Southern voter who consistently voted for Democratic candidates in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of lingering resentment against the Republicans dating back to the Civil War and Reconstruction period. Today the term refers to a hard-core Democrat, supposedly referring to a person who would vote for a "yellow dog" before voting for a Republican". yellow dog slang&source=bl&ots=Mdjwnp87kT&sig=IRy9ocME_y-KKkH4Dhfkp6XXGCA&hl=en&ei=6wMcTNHrMde4nAfE2fWeDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=old%20yellow%20dog%20slang&f=false


"Yellow Dog Democrat" = HARDCORE Democrat. I think they now call themselves Blue Dog Democrats, because of the connotation with the word yellow, but actually it used to be something of a badge of honor when Texas was a Democratic state. The explanation is this, if the only Democratic candidate for office was an old yellow hound dog, then a YDD would STILL rather vote for the dog than a Republican. This is one of those rare exceptions to the use of the word "Yellow".

Read more:

Yellow dog "mongrel" is attested from c.1770; slang sense of "contemptible person" first recorded 1881.

Mark-are you going to post your CH version of "Poker Face" anytime soon?

Edited by - RG on 06/18/2010 16:58:30

dkmarshall - Posted - 06/24/2010:  13:38:37

This is our theme tune...


biscuit joiner - Posted - 06/24/2010:  16:48:45

Does anyone have a TAB version of this in G or F?

Banjowik - Posted - 07/05/2010:  17:15:36

Can I get on Biscuit Joiners train and ask ever so nicely if anyone has a Tab for this in G please??

chip arnold - Posted - 07/05/2010:  17:48:39

On the video that Mark posted David is playing it in G. No tab but it's a pretty simple tune and easy to see what he's doing on the banjo.

chip arnold - Posted - 07/05/2010:  17:52:55

I first learned this from a fiddler who plays it in D. I play it in D/D and like it much better than playing it in G though most fiddlers do it in G.

Castania - Posted - 07/06/2010:  02:27:53

Originally posted by biscuit joiner

Does anyone have a TAB version of this in G or F?

I posted a fairly simple arrangement based on the David Holt/Charlie Acuff video. It should be a good starting point for your playing.


biscuit joiner - Posted - 07/07/2010:  16:44:28

Originally posted by Castania

Originally posted by biscuit joiner

Does anyone have a TAB version of this in G or F?

I posted a fairly simple arrangement based on the David Holt/Charlie Acuff video. It should be a good starting point for your playing.


Thanks Ken!

tomberghan - Posted - 07/07/2010:  18:10:54

I like your recording (performance) the best Mark!

Here is the tune for those of you who asked.

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