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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 10-21-2011 Forked Deer


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/218579

Mtngoat - Posted - 10/21/2011:  04:50:41



I’ve chosen Forked Deer for this installment of TOTW.  Given the tune’s popularity, at least in the circles I frequent, I am a bit surprised that it has not been featured before.



An internet search revealed a hundred or so videos for Forked Deer and the Banjo Hangout Media Archive has 18 recordings by members here:   Banjo Hangout Media Archive  .   J-Walk found that Forked Deer was the fourth most frequently recorded tune in his vast OT music collection and the tune placed ninth in an informal Hangout survey of members’ favorite tunes.  The complete compilations can be found here:  J-Walk and here:  Survey Results



Forked Deer is an old tune, widely distributed across the South from Virginia to Texas and north to the Ohio and Missouri rivers.   The title is considered vulgar in some parts of the country, particularly in the Ozark region, and various pseudonyms have been invented in these areas to allow the tune to be played in mixed company.   



The first historical mention of Forked Deer comes from Knauff’s 1839 tune compilation entitled Virginia Reels.  Folklorist Alan Jabbour recorded the tune from Henry Reed (b 1884) who recalled that it was in the repertoire of Quince Dillon (b 1826).



Musicologists disagree on the origins of Forked Deer.   The Library of Congress says the tune cannot be traced to the Old World while R.P. Christian, John Hartford, and the Fiddler’s Companion all see a relationship to the Scottish tune "Rachel Rae”.  John Harrod and Mark Wilson say the two tunes sound ”rather different in performance and it is likely that Forked Deer was present in American musical tradition prior to the first publication of Rachel Rae” in 1794.



Most modern Old-Time musicians play a standard 2 part version of Forked Deer but some earlier fiddlers played versions with 3, 4, 5, or even 6 parts.  West Virginia fiddlers Wilson Douglas (b 1922) and French Carpenter (b 1899) for example played three part versions as did Virginian Henry Reed.   Kentuckians Ed Haley (b 1883) and Blind Bill Day (b 1861) and Tennessean Charlie Bowman (b 1889) played 5 part versions.    Early Grand Ole Opry star Arthur Smith (b 1898) played a 6 part version.



John Johnson (b 1916), who was said to have fiddled his way into and out of most jails in West Virginia, also played a six part version and was disappointed to learn that fellow West Virginian Clark Kessinger (b 1896), an early  recording artist and radio performer,  only played a two part version.  



Forked Deer can claim a couple of distinctions in American music:  A performance by Texan Eck Robinson (b 1887) was recorded by Victor at the first commercial session devoted to American fiddle tunes in 1922 and the 1927 Gennett recording of Taylor’s Kentucky Boys, with African-American fiddler Jim Booker (b 1872), is considered the first racially integrated recording session in country music history.



More information on this tune can be found at the Fiddler’s Companion here:   Fiddler's Companion   and at the Library of Congress Henry Reed Collection here:   Henry Reed Collection  . 



Forked Deer is included in recent tab collections/ instructional books by Levenson  (Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch), Parker (Clawhammer String Band Favorites), and Brody (The Banjo Picker’s Fakebook).  Burke’s classic Old Time Fiddle Tunes for Banjo includes tabs for the versions by Taylor’s Kentucky Boys and Charlie Bowman linked below.



The recording which set the standard for Forked Deer is the 1927 Gennett release by Taylor’s Kentucky Boys with Marion Underwood (b 1881) on banjo and Jim Booker on fiddle.   The balance between the banjo and fiddle is just about perfect and truly remarkable given the state of recording technology at the time.   You can hear it here:   Taylor's KY Boys  



Another early recording of Forked Deer was made by Tennessean Charlie Bowman and his brothers at Columbia Studios in New York in 1929.  The Bowmans were invited to New York after a favorable audition at a hotel in Johnson City, Tennessee.   Charlie plays fiddle with Walter on banjo.  While the banjo is somewhat overwhelmed by the guitar and fiddle at times, the performance as a whole is very well done.   You can hear it here:  Charlie Bowman



One of my favorite banjo players is Earl Thomas Jr. (b 1940) of Trapp, Kentucky.   This field recording was made in 1997 and released on the Rounder Kentucky Old-Time Banjo CD.  As pointed out in the liner notes, Mr. Thomas “does a very deft job of selecting the right melody notes to make a spritely banjo piece.”   If you’ve not yet purchased the CD you should consider doing so just to gain exposure to the various Kentucky banjo styles.   You can hear a snippet of the tune here:  Earl Thomas   



John Hartford considered Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley’s 1946 home recording of Forked Deer to be the best available rendition of the tune.   Banjoist Adam Hurt plays a solo based on Haley’s version here:   Adam Hurt   



Here is a nice banjo/ fiddle duet by David Holt and James Leva taken from a March, 2011 performance at Appalachian State University:   Holt and Leva



And here’s a modern stringband version from the archives of the Digital Library of Appalachia:  Whoopin Hollar String Band



So call out Forked Deer the next time your turn comes around at a jam.  You can’t go wrong with it. 



Edited by - Mtngoat on 10/24/2011 16:58:42

Califiddler - Posted - 10/21/2011:  06:25:25


I play the version from David Holt's Homespun Clawhammer Banjo DVDs. In Double C, capoed up. Great tune!

TOTW - Posted - 10/21/2011:  07:19:43



megaupload.com/?d=616IL19O



 



Contains Adam Hurt, Benny Thomasson, Brett Ratliff, Bruce Molsky, Bryan Sutton, Ed Haley, Edden Hammons, Esker Hutchins, Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, J.P. Fraley, J.W. Day, John W. Summers, Kessinger Brothers, New Lost City Ramblers, Taylor's Kentucky Boys, Red Clay Ramblers, Spring Valley Boys, Tommy Jarrell, Blanton Owen, Mike Seeger, Sen. Robert Byrd,


J-Walk - Posted - 10/21/2011:  07:27:43



Nice write-up, Mtngoat.



That Taylor's Kentucky Boys recording is interesting:




photo shows Taylor, the band promoter, holding fiddle.. in fact the fiddle on the recording is by Jim Booker a well known and respected Black fiddler.. but the company did not want to use a Black musician in the photo.




There is no shortage of recordings. You'll find 18 more in the BHO music upload area, plus 10 more at Fiddle Hangout.



I'm going to try to work it out on my Bowlin, using dADF#A tuning. If I have any success, I'll add another recording to the BHO music library.


cbcarlisle - Posted - 10/21/2011:  07:54:19



To get an idea of the "other" parts, listen to Jilson Setters.



youtube.com/watch?v=OvgxflwVgd...e=related


WGE - Posted - 10/21/2011:  09:08:22



Thanks for an interesting history of this fine tune.  I learned it first long ago from the Burke book.  I was surprised to hear it may be played with up to six parts!  I actually called this tune recently at a local jam and the group enjoyed playing the tune; I know I did, particularly the coarse part I know. 


vrteach - Posted - 10/21/2011:  15:40:54



Great choice and really nice writeup. Does everyone pronounce it "Fork-ed Deer?" That's how I've always heard it.


cbcarlisle - Posted - 10/21/2011:  20:34:41



Or "Forky/Forkey Deer." There's even a Forky Deer Creek in Arkansas.


Julian44_4 - Posted - 10/21/2011:  21:25:33



TablEdit file here



banjohangout.org/tab/browse.as...p;v=18324



PDF here



clawhammerbanjotab.co.uk/page2...ge35.html


clawhammerist - Posted - 10/22/2011:  06:41:25


Attention, "TOTW":

You are posting copyrighted music for download through MegaUpload without the permission of at least THIS artist. I realize that copyright issues can be murky when the repertoire in question is in the public domain, as well as when the recording artist is deceased, but I am asking you to please remove my recording of this tune from this download site immediately. I also suggest that you reconsider making *ANY* commercial releases available in this format without the explicit permission of the artists or labels.

Mtngoat, I am sorry to have to chime into your interesting and well-intentioned thread in this manner. The background that you have provided on "Forked Deer" is just great; it taught me a lot! (Also, I appreciate your posting my YouTube link; as that video is something that I uploaded myself, it certainly does not present the kind of problem that TOTW's MegaUpload offerings do....)

Adam Hurt
adamhurt.com
cdbaby.com/artist/adamhurt

Mtngoat - Posted - 10/22/2011:  07:33:28


Clawhammerist,

Your point is well taken. The copyright laws protecting intellectual property and artistic material are responsible in large part for the great variety of music we enjoy. I'm sure the owners and management of this forum share your concerns and are addressing the issue.

Also thanks for your kind words regarding the write up. I was so pleased to find your video, it fit perfectly with the subject research.

J-Walk - Posted - 10/22/2011:  09:53:50



I recorded a video of me playing my Bowlin along with Earl Thomas' recording of Forked Deer. But now I'm afraid to post because of copyright issues. 



It's a private video on Youtube, so it can only be found if you know the URL. If anyone would like to watch it, send me an email or PM and I'll reply with the link. 


J-Walk - Posted - 10/22/2011:  10:31:18



On second thought, here's that video. If it's a copyright violation, Google will be informed, and the audio will be removed.



youtube.com/watch?v=tsCkZmelj1A



Nothing great about it. Just a demo of playing the tune on a low-tuned banjo. In this case, dADF#A


Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/22/2011:  10:37:00



quote:


Originally posted by J-Walk




I recorded a video of me playing my Bowlin along with Earl Thomas' recording of Forked Deer. But now I'm afraid to post because of copyright issues. 



It's a private video on Youtube, so it can only be found if you know the URL. If anyone would like to watch it, send me an email or PM and I'll reply with the link. 






There's no copyright issue with what you've done. That's covered by "fair use" ... you haven't posted a commercially available recording - you've posted YOUR playing along with a recording. Nobody can take that and strip your playing off to get a free copy of the original recording. Furthermore, you're posting it for educational purposes.



Adam is complaining that his commercially available recording is being distributed for free. That's piracy. What you've done by posting yourself playing along with a recording is an entirely different thing, and is perfectly alright.



You can post the URL here with no fear of copyright violation, and I'm glad to see you've done so. I listened to it and I quite enjoyed it.



Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 10/22/2011 10:43:23

Mtngoat - Posted - 10/23/2011:  07:02:49


J-Walk, thanks for the video link. Great job on that Bowlin fretless! By watching your fingering I was able to get a good start on the tune with my homemade gourd banjo.

gailg64 - Posted - 10/23/2011:  08:21:47



Thanks Mtngoat for the informative write-up and for the suggestion of this classic old-time dance tune. Forked Deer really seemed to be popular just about everywhere, propelled by the popular Bowman recorded version. Walter Bowman's nice banjo picking always perks up my ears & it reminds me of how it was played around where we live. I have  just uploaded a very nice version from the NC PIedmont with fiddler Lauchlin Shaw of Harnett County and 2-finger banjo player A. C. Overton, who was born in Granville County (north of Durham). I recorded this directly off of our radio, so it's a little bit fuzzy, but it's just fiddle & banjo so I think the quality of the music comes through loud & clear. Enjoy!


​G


 


quote:


Originally posted by Mtngoat




I’ve chosen Forked Deer for this installment of TOTW.  Given the tune’s popularity, at least in the circles I frequent, I am a bit surprised that it has not been featured before.   An internet search revealed a hundred or so videos for Forked Deer and the Banjo Hangout Media Archive has 18 recordings by members here:   Banjo Hangout Media Archive  .   J-Walk found that Forked Deer was the fourth most frequently recorded tune in his vast OT music collection and the tune placed ninth in an informal Hangout survey of members’ favorite tunes.  The complete compilations can be found here:  J-Walk and here:  Survey Results



Forked Deer is an old tune, widely distributed across the South from Virginia to Texas and north to the Ohio and Missouri rivers.   The title is considered vulgar in some parts of the country, particularly in the Ozark region, and various pseudonyms have been invented in these areas to allow the tune to be played in mixed company.   



The first historical mention of Forked Deer comes from Knauff’s 1839 tune compilation entitled Virginia Reels.  Folklorist Alan Jabbour recorded the tune from Henry Reed (b 1884) who recalled that it was in the repertoire of Quince Dillon (b 1826).   Musicologists disagree on the origins of Forked Deer.   The Library of Congress says the tune cannot be traced to the Old World while R.P. Christian, John Hartford, and the Fiddler’s Companion all see a relationship to the Scottish tune "Rachel Rae”.  John Harrod and Mark Wilson say the two tunes sound ”rather different in performance and it is likely that Forked Deer was present in American musical tradition prior to the first publication of Rachel Rae” in 1794.



Most modern Old-Time musicians play a standard 2 part version of Forked Deer but some earlier fiddlers played versions with 3, 4, 5, or even 6 parts.  West Virginia fiddlers Wilson Douglas (b 1922) and French Carpenter (b 1899) for example played three part versions as did Virginian Henry Reed.   Kentuckians Ed Haley (b 1883) and Blind Bill Day (b 1861) and Tennessean Charlie Bowman (b 1889) played 5 part versions.    Early Grand Ole Opry star Arthur Smith (b 1898) played a 6 part version.   John Johnson (b 1916), who was said to have fiddled his way into and out of most jails in West Virginia, also played a six part version and was disappointed to learn that fellow West Virginian Clark Kessinger (b 1896), an early  recording artist and radio performer,  only played a two part version.  



Forked Deer can claim a couple of distinctions in American music:  A performance by Texan Eck Robinson (b 1887) was recorded by Victor at the first commercial session devoted to American fiddle tunes in 1922 and the 1927 Gennett recording of Taylor’s Kentucky Boys, with African-American fiddler Jim Booker (b 1872), is considered the first racially integrated recording session in country music history.



More information on this tune can be found at the Fiddler’s Companion here:   Fiddler's Companion   and at the Library of Congress Henry Reed Collection here:   Henry Reed Collection  . 



Forked Deer is included in recent tab collections/ instructional books by Levenson  (Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch), Parker (Clawhammer String Band Favorites), and Brody (The Banjo Picker’s Fakebook).  Burke’s classic Old Time Fiddle Tunes for Banjo includes tabs for the versions by Taylor’s Kentucky Boys and Charlie Bowman linked below.



The recording which set the standard for Forked Deer is the 1927 Gennett release by Taylor’s Kentucky Boys with Marion Underwood (b 1881) on banjo and Jim Booker on fiddle.   The balance between the banjo and fiddle is just about perfect and truly remarkable given the state of recording technology at the time.   You can hear it here:   Taylor's KY Boys  



Another early recording of Forked Deer was made by Tennessean Charlie Bowman and his brothers at Columbia Studios in New York in 1929.  The Bowmans were invited to New York after a favorable audition at a hotel in Johnson City, Tennessee.   Charlie plays fiddle with Walter on banjo.  While the banjo is somewhat overwhelmed by the guitar and fiddle at times, the performance as a whole is very well done.   You can hear it here:  Charlie Bowman



One of my favorite banjo players is Earl Thomas Jr. (b 1940) of Trapp, Kentucky.   This field recording was made in 1997 and released on the Rounder Kentucky Old-Time Banjo CD.  As pointed out in the liner notes, Mr. Thomas “does a very deft job of selecting the right melody notes to make a spritely banjo piece.”   If you’ve not yet purchased the CD you should consider doing so just to gain exposure to the various Kentucky banjo styles.   You can hear a snippet of the tune here:  Earl Thomas   



John Hartford considered Kentucky fiddler Ed Haley’s 1946 home recording of Forked Deer to be the best available rendition of the tune.   Banjoist Adam Hurt plays a solo based on Haley’s version here:   Adam Hurt   



Here is a nice banjo/ fiddle duet by David Holt and James Leva taken from a March, 2011 performance at Appalachian State University:   Holt and Leva



And here’s a modern stringband version from the archives of the Digital Library of Appalachia:  Whoopin Hollar String Band



So call out Forked Deer the next time your turn comes around at a jam.  You can’t go wrong with it. 






 


majikgator - Posted - 10/23/2011:  16:19:06



Nice tune i too am surprised that it hadn't already been done so great addition. i am currently trying to work up a new version for my little jam group to match the fiddler there, i have only played the one from Brad Leftwich's Round Peak clawhammer book which isn't a "typical" version i guess but close enough, i have also worked through the one in Miles Krassen's book a little. There seem's to be a lot of tabs for it, almost all of them are two parts i believe. Mac Benford's take on Ed Haley's version has four parts and can be heard on his great Half Past Four CD a tribute to Ed Haley and there is a companion tab "book" available for it as well macbenford.com/id4.html  .  Both YouTube renditions by Adam Hurt are really great he is so talented, a nice guy, AND DESERVING so do buy his CDs.



 


aeroweenie - Posted - 10/23/2011:  18:57:31


One of my favorites, I love the key change in the 2nd part. I too am surprised it has not been TOTW before. It is fun to experiment with different ways of playing it. I now play a two part version inspired by David Holt. I picked it up while watching a PBS show on railroads which he was narrating with Forked Deer playing in the background. I find I have to play it a bit differently on my fretless though as I don't know the neck well enough yet and/or my technique is somewhat lacking.

J-Walk - Posted - 10/23/2011:  19:00:52



That's a key change in the 2nd part? I didn't realize that.


Chip Booth - Posted - 10/24/2011:  07:36:03



J-Walk, I have thought often about whether this a key change or not.  I just opened up the Tabledit version posted above and looked at few notated versions online, and there is not a single accidental in the B part, so all the melody notes and chords are still in the original key.  However, for practical purposes there is certainly a tonal shift to the key of A, though in many versions I have heard this shift is a bit weak and leaves me tonally confused at times. If were I improvising over the B part I would certainly be thinking in the key of A.  This might lead to a non-traditional sound, but my background is certainly not traditional.  I have yet to learn this song on banjo, and my intention is to create my own Tabledit using a mandolin based version I am particularly fond of.  It shifts over strongly to A, and I relate to that sound a little better.



Edited by - Chip Booth on 10/24/2011 07:38:04

hendrid - Posted - 10/24/2011:  08:02:38


Chip I was wondering the same thing about the key change. I took a look at Forked Deer in the Fiddlers Handbook. For practical purposes if the tune is in the key of D, it seems to change to A for the B part but ends on a D note and A is the 5th chord of the D key and the G chord which is used in the B part is the 4th chord of the D key. Is this the old I, IV, V primary picking chords on simple tunes. Guess it does not matter if it works.... Don

Supertone - Posted - 10/24/2011:  09:37:35



I recently worked out Marion Underwood's banjo part (as close as I could get it) from the Taylor's KY Boys version of the tune:

youtube.com/user/johnfabke#p/u...UDBO7roQw


gailg64 - Posted - 10/24/2011:  10:08:19



Nice take on that, John. That's more or less what I hear going on too. Of course it could certainly be 2-finger, but it really sounds up-picked.


​G


quote:


Originally posted by Supertone




I recently worked out Marion Underwood's banjo part (as close as I could get it) from the Taylor's KY Boys version of the tune:

youtube.com/user/johnfabke#p/u...UDBO7roQw






 


Supertone - Posted - 10/24/2011:  11:02:10



Thanks for the kind words Gail. I should try it with 2 fingers!


 


 


quote:


Originally posted by gailg64




Nice take on that, John. That's more or less what I hear going on too. Of course it could certainly be 2-finger, but it really sounds up-picked.




G


quote


:


Originally posted by Supertone





I recently worked out Marion Underwood's banjo part (as close as I could get it) from the Taylor's KY Boys version of the tune:

youtube.com/user/johnfabke#p/u...UDBO7roQw






 






 


banjo bill-e - Posted - 10/24/2011:  14:16:49


Mtngoat, I have not grasped how the title "Forked Deer" could be considered vulgar, but that means that I do not understand some double entendre or slang, I suppose. Can you, within the bounds of decency, give me a clue as to what offends these people?

Mtngoat - Posted - 10/24/2011:  16:45:29


The vulger title reference is about three paragraphs into the Fiddler's Companion piece linked in the write up.

Incredibly, an alternate title considered acceptable was "Frisky Deer" which was an euphemism used by, for those of us old enough to remember, Richie Cunningham's parents on the old TV show "Happy Days".

blanham - Posted - 10/25/2011:  05:10:11



One of my favorite tunes.  I happen to have one from a jam session (10-08-2011) with Susan Staton (dulcimer), Kerry Blech (fiddle), and me (banjo).  The banjo is a Bart Reiter "Round Peak" and the tuning is "Classic C" (gCGBD) capoed up to D.



Bob



 



Edited by - blanham on 10/25/2011 05:10:49



Forked Deer

   

majikgator - Posted - 10/25/2011:  10:17:06



Nice jam Bob. i guess you were closest to the mic, in any case i feel for a dulcimer player trying to be loud enough, it's such a great old time instrument though. Wish i could have been there.


Mark Johnson - Posted - 10/25/2011:  11:13:52



quote:


Originally posted by Mtngoat




The vulger title reference is about three paragraphs into the Fiddler's Companion piece linked in the write up.



Incredibly, an alternate title considered acceptable was "Frisky Deer" which was an euphemism used by, for those of us old enough to remember, Richie Cunningham's parents on the old TV show "Happy Days".


 






The Fiddler's Companion bit about the vulgarity quotes a book that is one of my favorite possessions.  There are two wonderful books put out by Vance Randolph and the University of Arkansas Press, titled "Roll Me in Your Arms" and "Blow the Candle Out".  Both are collections of "unprintable" Ozark folksongs and folklore gathered in the first part of the 20th century.  



The songs are clever and amusing in and of themselves, and range from instances like the one at hand here where the title of a tune is mildly risque to things that are just plain filthy.



In addition to just enjoying the songs themselves, I think the collection serves as strong argument against those that seem to think our culture is going downhill in some fashion.  It shines quite a light on that line of thinking to discover that a level of filthiness still forbidden on the radio was being sung by old housewives on their Missouri front porches 90 years ago.



Anyway, they're fascinating books if you can track them down.  



 



On a completely different note, this is a great TOTW.  This is up there pretty high in the list of songs I have jammed on a million times but couldn't play on command if I had to.  I'll have to give the files here a 2nd and 3rd listen and see if something sticks.  



 



Mark


blanham - Posted - 10/26/2011:  20:16:28



quote:


Originally posted by majikgator




Nice jam Bob. i guess you were closest to the mic, in any case i feel for a dulcimer player trying to be loud enough, it's such a great old time instrument though. Wish i could have been there.






You are correct, majikgator:  the Zoom was closest to me.  Actually, if you pan to the right channel, you'll get a little less banjo, but it is the *BANJO* hangout after all.  smiley


SCclawman - Posted - 10/26/2011:  23:05:27



 



Thanks to TOTW for introducing this song to me! I sat down and tried to work on this the past 2 days. This is my first time playing in this classic C tuning, and I've definitely enjoyed it.


 


I've also enjoyed listening to Blanham's version of it from Miles Krassen's clawhammer book - link to mp3


 


 


Edited by - SCclawman on 10/26/2011 23:06:54

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/28/2011:  08:06:12



A fine, growly version by J-Walk (even if the lawyers are now coming after him).  Bob (blanham) does some real nice picking with his friends, just right!  This is my contribution; I'm only about a week late! I am three-finger picking on my semi-fretless Vega Tubaphone, in open D tuning.




VIDEO: Forky Deer
(click to view)

   

Mtngoat - Posted - 10/28/2011:  15:08:33



Great playing by all!



I actually had Blanham's recording in the draft write-up as the solo example until I came across Adam Hurt's Haley version which fit much better with the historical research presented.



Thanks for the contributions.



Edited by - Mtngoat on 10/28/2011 15:09:38

vrteach - Posted - 11/06/2011:  09:55:27



Several weeks late, but...



This has never really been one of my tunes, although we've been playing it often in our twice-a-month jam over the past several years. Several times I've had to be the main lead instrument, and after listening to the many fine banjo versions here maybe I can finally do a good job on this.




Forked Deer

   

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