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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tune of the Week: 7/02/2010: Little Sadie


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/181773

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/01/2010:  17:14:19


OLD TIME TUNE OF THE WEEK, 2 JULY 2010: “LITTLE SADIE”

A couple of months ago, when I signed up to post this week’s tune, I had something else completely in mind, that I played in this peculiar tuning that I had developed: eAEAE, that works particularly well on my old Fairbanks because of the reduced tension of the low-tuned strings.

But then I was noodling around one day in that tuning (but with the capo at the 2nd fret, 5th string not capoed; so: eBF#BF#) and a familiar tune emerged. It took me a moment to realize it was Little Sadie, a song that I’d heard a lot over the years, but never actually learned. So I looked up the words on the Internet, found Doc Watson’s version, and played it that night at a (non-old-time) jam session, where it was enjoyed so much by the other players that we played it at least three times through all the words. It turned into a kind of acoustic rock version of Little Sadie!

After that I decided to develop my own personal version, so I used the Internet again to check out various versions and stuff about the history of the song, and then fashioned a version of my own – drawing, in particular, on ideas that stuck in my head from the versions by Hedy West and Johhny Cash, built on a foundation of Clarence Ashley’s version – sort of. With a gradually evolving version of my own, and all this research already done, it seemed like this would be a good choice to post as Tune of the Week (and with the added bonus that it’s a song…with words…that tells a story. Since I feel that songs are somewhat neglected by old timey banjo players these days, I’m happy to post one here).

The way I play this song has evolved through repeated playing these last few weeks. My own version is somewhat idiosyncratic in it’s timing and right hand technique. I have tried to give it the loose structure of an unaccompanied ballad, so there are extra bars of music here and there in the sung verses. The instrumental verses use a combination of clawhammer, with elements of up-picking in the last line, and the second line is played almost entirely with my thumb as a kind of thumb lead clawhammer. The sung verses are more or less regular clawhammer, but occasionally I switch momentarily to two finger picking or strumming. The words are somewhat idiosyncratic as well. The verses about cocaine, influenced no doubt by Johhny Cash’s version, actually refer to a case that I tried as a lawyer. (In that real case, the woman lived, and my client got 14 years for attempted murder.)

I also found, for this version, that capoing up to the 4th fret in C#m was a better spot for my voice, so I raised the 5th string accordingly, and thus ended up tuned: f#C#G#C#G#.

It’s not really as weird as it looks. The logic of the tuning is that the intervals are a lot like G modal…except the second string has been moved over to the fifth string position, so you get a lot of mileage out of that fifth string. The 4th and 3rd strings have now become the 3rd and 2nd strings, respectively, and an extra lower string has been added at the 4th string position.

It’s not unusual for me to have my 5th string as a lower note than my 1st string, and especially to have it at notes other than the 1st and 5th of the scale. I find that doing this opens up a lot of unexpected harmonies that wouldn’t otherwise be there. I encourage you to try it.

Here are a bunch of links that might be of interest:

This is my version’s YouTube link:
youtube.com/watch?v=Afhtk7_d85I
And if I’ve done this right, this should be the link to the same video here on the Banjo Hangout:
banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...p?id=5160

Here are a couple of Clarence Ashley itunes links. Clarence Ashley was the first person to record this song in the late 1920’s, so his version is the ‘standard’ from which most others are derived. These links will take you to that early version. He also recorded it again later, when rediscovered during the sixties “folk-boom”, both by himself, and with his friend, neighbour and collaborator, the great Doc Watson:
itunes.apple.com/us/artist/cla...id2768967
itunes.apple.com/us/album/litt...310291202

Here’s Hedy West, in a live concert in 1967. Little Sadie is song # 7 on the playlist. (This is on Wolfgang’s Vault: which is impresario Bill Graham’s personal tape collection, a super source of live concert material that you can listen to as streaming audio … join it, it’s free). Her version is particularly unusual in having a 3 line blues-like structure. Hedy West (1938-2005), author of the classic “500 Miles”, was a great singer and banjo player – an authentic folk artist with deep personal roots in the tradition – whose singing and playing are not well enough known I think:
wolfgangsvault.com/hedy-west/c...show.html

Here are some varied YouTube videos I liked:

Lightning Wells doing 2-finger picking version, video link:
youtube.com/watch?v=6ttdTeBForA

A fretless version, by mustardboy2:
youtube.com/watch?v=UJ7V1W1dFMk

A slightly Irish flavoured version by QRS666, with some really nice touches in his playing:
youtube.com/watch?v=eat7znFp8LI

Wayne Erbson, live, for which you can find a TAB in his book, “Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus”:
youtube.com/watch?v=4wqmxClvupU

You can also find a tab and a recording on Mike Iverson's site, in the melodic clawhammer style:
bluesageband.com/Tabs.html

For stuff about the origins and various diverse versions of the song, check out these Mudcat Café threads:

“Origins: Bad Lee Brown/Little Sadie”:
mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=54361
“Origins: Bad Man’s Blunder/Little Sadie”:
mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=106124

One of those threads lead me to John Lomax’s 1939 field recording of a prisoner, Willie Rayford, singing unaccompanied at Cummins State Farm, Camp #1, near Varner, Lincoln County, Arkansas:
memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/S...ib:@FIELD(OTHER+@band(+rayford,+willie+))

Here are some versions that aren’t exactly your grampa’s old time music:
A very non old-timey version that I love is by Crooked Still, seen in this live 2008 video, with a rather fuzzy picture. The Bela Fleckesque banjo is great:
youtube.com/watch?v=wVB_IMVFDe...e=related

Here’s one by Gerry Garcia, live in 1986 unfortunately not on banjo:
youtube.com/watch?v=6vGVLTwILA...e=related

Here’s Johnny Cash’s version, that he called Cocaine Blues, in a live recording (also not on banjo).
youtube.com/watch?v=XdnGOKTMjg...e=related

And to round out the ‘not-on-banjo’ versions, here’s one by a fellow from France who calls himself Gadaya on YouTube. Gadaya’s version is on ukulele. He has some fantastic blog sites on traditional music, which are super resources for info and tunes. Find the links on his YouTube page:
youtube.com/user/gadaya#p/u/14...92kgBBkiw

Hope you have fun with this tune.

Bill - Posted - 07/01/2010:  17:58:45


Extraordinary rendition Marc.

I discovered it on youtube before you posted it here, and was moved to learn to play it. This posting just added to my knowledge and enjoyment.

Thanks!

Bill

banjered - Posted - 07/01/2010:  17:59:38


KA-OOLLL! Great job of playing and TOTW! Thanks! TC

Coonskin - Posted - 07/01/2010:  18:13:51


WOWSA!!!!

Your version kicks butt!!! I play it pretty much the way Clarence Ashley plays it when I clawhammer it(it's the first tune I learned on the banjo...straight from the record), but I never took much time to work it any other way.

Your way is just dang neat!

J-Walk - Posted - 07/01/2010:  19:41:40


HOO-YAH

... Just to keep the sting of uppercase first words going.

Cool rendition, Marc. I think your video might overpower the tune discussion here.

What are those sculptures in the background? Equally cool.

ramjo - Posted - 07/01/2010:  19:42:48


Marc--the research, the writing, the playing est formidable!

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/01/2010:  20:07:48


Thanks a lot, guys.

Anybody have any other versions of the tune they want to draw to our attention?

J-Walk, those are Makonde sculpture from East Africa (Mozambique/Tanzania/Kenya).

drew-gurbach - Posted - 07/01/2010:  20:18:52


Do ya think this is a tune I should learn? Is it a regular "jam" tune?

ScottK - Posted - 07/01/2010:  20:22:39


Wow! Great recording and and a great write-up Marc! Really enjoyed that a lot!

I learned this tune from Ken Perlman's Clawhammer Style Banjo book (which coincidentally is where I first heard of you), but haven't played it much lately. I'm going to have to dust it off.

Crooked Still does a cool version of Little Sadie. There are a couple of YouTube videos out there. Here's one: youtube.com/watch?v=wVB_IMVFDec

Scott

woops - just noticed you already mentioned Crooked Still. Read your post too fast and thought you were actually talking about Bela Fleck...


Edited by - ScottK on 07/01/2010 20:23:48

Supertone - Posted - 07/01/2010:  21:05:58


I'd worked out an arrangement of the tune but I tried to stick pretty close to Clarence Ashley's version:
banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...?id=16946


Edited by - Supertone on 07/01/2010 21:09:45

derwood400 - Posted - 07/02/2010:  03:25:59


Marc, I've sayd it before, and I'll say it again... You are the MAN! I've always loved this tune, but you just shot it right off the charts with your version.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 07/02/2010:  04:29:49


I love that tune for many reasons, and even one of our cats is named Little Sadie.

Thanks for the great job folks - all of you who contribute to the Tune of the Week make our lives richer.

AND, ok, here's the plug - I am looking for more volunteers. I have openings in August - which is just next month, and I really need more folks to step up to the plate and help with keeping the Tune of the Week going.

Email me at inquiry@siliconheights.com and get yourself a date. Even newbies - it is not hard to come up with a tune to introduce - the hangout members are always eager to dispense additional information after the initial introduction of a tune - correct folks?

mojo_monk - Posted - 07/02/2010:  04:38:41


Great TOTW, Marc!

Not long after I moved to St. Louis, MO last year, I encountered a very interesting tune at a weekly jam session which the fellers around here call "Little Sadie". It's in the key of "D" but starts on an "A" chord (so they tell me), thus adding a decent amount of flavor. I've prolly asked a dozen times where it comes from, but it just doesn't stick in my memory . From what I can tell it sounds like something from down around the Ozark area. Could be wrong, however. I know it's on the "Boney Goat Band" CD if anybody out there has it...

I any event, here's the link to a recording I made at one of the jams. All parties will remain anonymous in case of outstanding warrants: box.net/shared/h7iqe0pges


-Sean
2ftlbanjer.wordpress.com/


Edited by - mojo_monk on 07/02/2010 04:41:54

vrteach - Posted - 07/02/2010:  08:53:52


Amazing Marc! You've resurrected and revived this song for me. Lovely version.

I agree, we need more songs.

LyleK - Posted - 07/02/2010:  09:17:10


Wow! Love it. And I'll second Erich's comment about more songs. I enjoy them, unless it's me singing them, in which case...

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/02/2010:  13:45:37


Many thanks to all of you for the appreciation.

Thanks Supertone for posting your version. It's very nicely played..and, while based on Clarence Ashley's classic rendering of the tune, it certainly has some touches that are unique to you here and there.

Drew-gurbach: you should learn this tune...it's a classic...if it's not played at jams you attend, you can introduce it. I recommend you listen to Supertone's version for a really good model. It's clean and clear and well articulated.

(My version is rather too crooked to be good for jamming. When I play it with other people, I tend to straighten it out for their benefit...or I forewarn them that there will be extra bars thrown in that they have to pay attention to. The approach I take depends on how good they are at listening.)

Sean: That's a nice tune there with the same name as the TOTW...it doesn't sound related in any way...I wonder if it is, somehow.

And finally, I'll agree with myself, and Erich and Lyle, that we need more songs...since when did everyone become so afraid of singing?

Just think about what Jimi Hendrix said about how he started singing. He said he heard Bob Dylan sing, and said to himself, "Man, if that guy can sing with that voice - so can I!"

And I say, if Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix could sing with their voices...so can the rest of us!


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 07/03/2010 07:42:54

g-hog - Posted - 07/03/2010:  08:47:57


Great tune! I love it on banjo, but haven't ever gotten around to trying it. Been playing it this way, or similar, on guitar for the past 35 years or so... youtube.com/watch?v=DwG3N4B_PwE

... not that great, but just the way I got into doing it.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/03/2010:  19:59:03


Well, Peggy, I think your version is really fine (even if it is on the guitar). I really like it when you move the chord up the neck, and you have a really nice bluesy bend that you throw in that really suits the tune. I'd bet you could transfer something like that arrangement to banjo too, and it would be dynamite...and I almost forgot to mention that it was a really nice vocal, too!

Any more versions lurking out there, folks?

Dock Jekel - Posted - 07/03/2010:  20:18:23


Your version is played well! Sounds like you've been playing this one for a while. Thanks for sharing it! This tune happens to be one that I LOVE sung by the late Tommy Jarrell! (recorded). Unfortunately, blasphemy as it may well be, I do not normally prefer Tommy's singing. You know, there are so many of these morbid murder tunes.... I kind of wish I had the nerve to take them on. Thanks again. Should I start with Pretty Polly?


Edited by - Dock Jekel on 07/03/2010 20:22:19

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/03/2010:  20:33:04


quote:
Originally posted by Dock Jekel

Your version is played well! Sounds like you've been playing this one for a while. Thanks for sharing it! This tune happens to be one that I LOVE sung by the late Tommy Jarrell! (recorded). Unfortunately, blasphemy as it may well be, I do not normally prefer Tommy's singing. You know, there are so many of these morbid murder tunes.... I kind of wish I had the nerve to take them on. Thanks again. Should I start with Pretty Polly?



Well, Doc, I've been playing it exactly 3 months...but I must have played it close to 1,000 times over those months, so I guess that counts as a while!

Pretty Polly is a great one...take it on! When you're happy with it, post it for us all to hear!

(I play so many murder ballads , or songs of that ilk, that I sometimes find I can do an entire evening's performance without singing a single song that doesn't have death in it. At times it seems like I'm on a one man campaign to prove that the banjo doesn't have to be a happy instrument!)


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 07/03/2010 21:17:35

banjo_brad - Posted - 07/03/2010:  20:44:17


Great version, Marc!

I used to play this when I first started playing banjo, but for some reason I let it slide. Need to get it back.

-B-

majikgator - Posted - 07/03/2010:  21:11:54


Very different take on Little Sadie, i guess the first time i heard that song was by John Renbourn on the Faro Anni album in the early '70s and then later i discovered the Clarence(Tom) Ashley version Both of those had a modal sort of minor sound which is how i play it, pretty straight forward. i really enjoyed your more narrative style though and the additional lyrics are definitely in the folk realm of things, treating a song as a living thing like - this is the way it REALLY happened, the truth of a thing is really of no consequence, the making the listener believe it's true is the whole thing. i really enjoy folk music as story telling and a lot of the old songs of the British isles many of which were carried on and "modified" in Appalachia have that quality.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/03/2010:  21:19:19


quote:
Originally posted by majikgator

Very different take on Little Sadie, i guess the first time i heard that song was by John Renbourn on the Faro Anni album in the early '70s and then later i discovered the Clarence(Tom) Ashley version Both of those had a modal sort of minor sound which is how i play it, pretty straight forward. i really enjoyed your more narrative style though and the additional lyrics are definitely in the folk realm of things, treating a song as a living thing like - this is the way it REALLY happened, the truth of a thing is really of no consequence, the making the listener believe it's true is the whole thing. i really enjoy folk music as story telling and a lot of the old songs of the British isles many of which were carried on and "modified" in Appalachia have that quality.

So do ya have a recorded version for us to hear? It would be a nice thing to share if you do!

Colinski - Posted - 07/06/2010:  14:18:42


Great version of Little Sadie, Marc!

On a side note: with all due respect to my beloved Johnny Cash, the song Cocaine Blues was written in 1947, 20 years before JC recorded it live at Folsom Prison. I have a western-swingin' version recorded by Hank Thompson in 1959 and sounding very 50's, which makes for a rather surreal listening experience.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 07/06/2010:  15:14:19


quote:
Originally posted by Colinski

Great version of Little Sadie, Marc!

On a side note: with all due respect to my beloved Johnny Cash, the song Cocaine Blues was written in 1947, 20 years before JC recorded it live at Folsom Prison. I have a western-swingin' version recorded by Hank Thompson in 1959 and sounding very 50's, which makes for a rather surreal listening experience.



Thanks a lot...that's very interesting. Is the 1947 version of Cocaine Blues substantially the same as Johnny Cash's version? Who wrote it?

(Oddly, I had heard the Cash version in the 60's, but had completely forgotten about it. When I was working out my version of Little Sadie, I came across that set of words, but didn't notice to whom they were attributed. Then I was singing it to a friend in Tanzania, of all places, and he said "Hey, you gotta here this Johnny Cash song, Cocaine Blues!" and he played the Cash version that was on his Ipod..and I went "Heck they're the same song!"

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