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Bisbonian - Posted - 12/16/2011: 15:14:11
This week, I picked Old Mother Logo as the Tune of the Week. I can't find a lot of background on this tune; there doesn't seem to be much history available, at least on line. The fiddler's companion has it in D major, but everything I have heard is in D minor, so I didn't know what to make of that. I know that I first heard it on R. D. Lunceford's "Dropthumb" album, and that he got it from Mel Durham, who passed away a few years ago. To quote R.D. from an archived BHO thread;
Mel Durham, I think, is ultimately the source for the tune.
I first met Mel in 1969 at the Southern California Old-Time Fiddlers' Association.
He is a Southern Illinois fiddler, and posseses a fund of rare tunes, a few of which
are included in my Drop-Thumb and Cotton Blossom recordings. Old Mother Logo is on Drop-Thumb.
Mel picked the tune/song up from his grandfather Jonathan Durham (probably born in the 1860's) who would sing it
while working on the family farm. I believe the tune to be unique to the Durham family.
Mel has taught it to many people throughout the years. There was in fact a local So. Cal.
band called "Old Mother Logo" that I recall from the '70's and '80's. Maybe they're still around.
My version is based on Mel's fiddling and singing of the tune.
Old Mother Logo, she likes whiskey
OldMother Logo, she likes wine
Old Mother Logo, she got drunk
Crossed the river on a pumpkin vine.
Old Mother Logo, she had children
Old Mother Logo, she had three
Old Mother Logo, she had children
One of them looked just like me.
Oh the death of my poor children
Oh the death that they did die
One got drunk, the other one drowned
One got choked on a pumpkin vine.
In the same discussion, Bob Flescher (BHO moniker: Sandy Bob) said that:
The song came from Mike Seeger who got it from Bob Durham, Mel Durham's brother whom wa the banjo player of the three brothers and the guy who taught me to drop thumb. The New Lost City Ramblers used to follow Bob around to get old tunes from him. I was there the night that Bob gave them Old Mother Logo, back state at the Ashgrove in Los Angeles about 1964. Next time I heard it, outside of me playing it, was at a Merl Watson festival when Mike was singing it solo. I was back behind the stage when I hear someone singing this song which I thought only I knew. I about fell down and said to my self, "Who the heck is singing this song that only I know?" When I saw it was Mike I remembered when Bob gave to him. I guess the "yoke" was on me. Yes, the Deadwood Revival does a good job but the second verse they sing was not in the original song. It only had 3 verses. Verses 1, 3&4 are the original song. Bob told me that the song comes from Southern Illinois and probably goes back to an old English drinking song. Makes sence because in the song the lyrics are: " Old Mother Logo she likes whiskey, Old Mother Logo she likes wine, Old Mother Logo she got drunk and swam across the river on a punkin'vine."
I was very taken by R. D.'s version when I first heard it, and put it on my list of tunes to learn, "later", as I was having enough trouble with the more common tunes at that time. But one day when jamming with J-Walk, he showed me the basics of the tune, in D minor, in double D tuning. It really wasn't that hard to pick up. I started listening to a few other versions for comparison. The first I found was the Deadwood Revival version on their self titled album. You can hear a pretty good sampling of it on Amazon: amazon.com/gp/product/B000QQSU...p;sr=1-25
There are several YouTube versions, each with some variance from each other, by the bands Yellow Dog: youtube.com/watch?v=ORLgCxQKbVQ
But I have to say that my very favorite version, I discovered right here on the Hangout, an mother and son duet by Linda and Wes ZenPickin. According to Linda:
Linda and Wes (Mother and son of the Bumpass One Boot Band) celebrate that we are now a TWO Chuck Lee banjo family. We were playing Old Mother Logo, together and this is what appeared. Both of us have been playing banjo way less than a year, but I'm pretty pleased with the result! Enjoy!
When I head that two-banjo version, I was blown away. I didn't pick up the fact that they both new players until putting together this post. Quite a few variations on the theme of the original, some interesting improvisation, and an almost hypnotic, trancelike quality. Listen for yourself: banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...icid=8978
I put together a video of my own interpretation of the tune, not to the level of any of the others mentioned, but I really do have fun playing it, so here it is: youtube.com/watch?v=HcFzbvAr5yM . I'd love to hear, or see, any of your versions.
Edited by - Bisbonian on 12/16/2011 18:10:37
Strumelia - Posted - 12/16/2011: 20:49:32
Nobody's singing it?- it has such great lyrics!
I still have the Banjo Newsletter page i ripped out years ago with Lunceford's version of it- one of these days I gotta work on it, I really like it and it's fun to just play instrumentally...but sadly I totally cannot sing it in the key of C or D...so I'd have to work something else out at some point if I wanted to sing it.
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 12/16/2011: 22:08:16
Thanks for putting this tune on TOTW.
From what I know the tune was peculiar to the Durham family. I hadn't read Bob Flesher's account, but it fits right in with what I know about the tune. I'm sure that because of Mike Seeger, the tune got spread far and wide.
I've heard Mel Durham fiddle and sing it many times. Mel passed away a few years ago, but he still lives on through his music.
Mel Durham resources:
From my Cotton Blossom tab book:
Mel Durham was born July 11th, 1914 near Johnsonville, Illinois. The Durham family originated in Northern England where Durham Castle stands to this day. Mel’s ancestors immigrated to Virginia, then west to Ohio, and on to White County, Illinois where Mel’s grandfather
Jonathon H. Durham was born. The family later moved to Mel’s birthplace in Wayne County.
Mel’s native region of Southern Illinois was settled mainly by Virginians, and at the outbreak of the Civil War, there was a strong likelihood that many of Illinois’ southern counties were going to declare for the Confederacy. Through the political machinations of Union General “Black Jack” Logan, Illinois was held intact for the United States. Even so, Southern Illinois possesses a strong Southern culture which is evident in the music of the region.
Mel learned his fiddling mainly from his father Mel senior (born 1892), who as a boy would go sit outside working on tunes he had just heard at a square-dance, losing track of time until someone went and got him. Mel’s repertoire consists of many local Southern Illinois tunes and local variants of tunes of wider currency. His fiddling is very rhythmic with an infectious swing and an elegantly articulated clarity that is a hallmark of much Midwestern fiddling. I find his style quite reminiscent of what I later heard when I lived in the Missouri Ozarks.
A veteran of combat in North Africa, Italy, and Europe, Mel served with infantry units in the U.S. Army, winning the Bronze Star for valor.
After World-War Two, Mel moved to Southern California. I met him in 1969 at the Southern California Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association when I was a boy. Widely known and respected in Old-Time and Bluegrass circles, Mel has been an honoree at the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice Music Festival, and has taught his brand of Southern Illinois fiddling at the Festival of Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington on several occasions. Additionally, he served as the president of the Southern California Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association for fifteen years.
Mel has a great interest in seeing Old-Time music passed on to the younger generation, and to that end has gone to great lengths to assist anyone who shows a desire to learn the music. Such great Old-Time musicians as Tom Sauber and Bob Flesher have acknowledged Mel and his brothers as being among their early influences.
As for myself, Mel took great pains to impress upon me the importance of striving for a traditional sound. He did much to help me formulate my style on both the fiddle and the banjo. In addition, some of my rarest and finest tunes are from his fiddle repertoire, a couple of which appear in this book.
I have many fond memories of getting together regularly with Mel and a mutual friend, Ray Bell, originally of Paragould, Arkansas. Mel’s wife Peg would cook a nice dinner, after which we would retire to the family room for an evening of Mel’s fiddling with Ray on guitar, and myself working at drop-thumb banjo.
In addition to being a mentor to me, Mel has been like an uncle. Were it not for him, I would not be the musician I am today. I am blessed in knowing him.
Mel can be heard fiddling over fifty of his tunes on: “Skillet Fork- The Southern Illinois Tunes of Mel Durham”
Edited by - R.D. Lunceford on 12/16/2011 22:13:32
Bisbonian - Posted - 12/17/2011: 06:47:26
Thanks, R.D., that really adds a lot to the story.
twothphry - Posted - 12/17/2011: 09:46:38
I can remember jamming with Mel at many a festival and jam around So. Cal. At the time I just thought he was an old geezer who could sure fiddle. Now I realize he was a great wealth of knowledge about old time music and such. Why do we always learn things after the fact!
vrteach - Posted - 12/17/2011: 10:37:39
Old Mother Logo shows up among the combined lyrics for Pennyryle Tea, from versions of that song collected in southern Illinois either 1853 or 1947. I didn't realize that Mel Durham might be the source of the eponymous tune, it helps explain who Mother Logo shows up in the lyrics of Pennyryle Tea, which is a quite different melody.
Edited by - vrteach on 12/17/2011 10:42:56
strokestyle - Posted - 12/17/2011: 11:59:40
Fabulous being a big Mel Durham fan I think this is a winner of a TOTW. I first got Mel's CD from reading one of RD Lunceford's post's here on the HO. I really enjoy that cd. I emailed his family met his daughter and we have become good friends. Music builds kinship's just like we all read here today. One friend then another, one tune then another, all the time we are filling our tune bags and our friend bags. I'd like to thank the banjo for enriching my life!
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 12/17/2011: 13:13:00
Right on Christine!
There's more to the music than just the music. It is just one part a of a bigger picture.
When we're lucky enough to play it in that larger context it gives it an expanded meaning and purpose.
How's Banjo Billy by the way?
strokestyle - Posted - 12/17/2011: 14:16:26
Bisbonian, sort of a diversion but the fabric is related...
"Expanded meaning and purpose", I like it! Billy is Still fiddlin' and fillin' the tune bag so full I can't lug it around with me! New tunings and more complicated as we go on. He's got me interested in classic picking for rags , waltzes, cakewalks and lullabies'. I'll never keep up, but sure is the best part of my life working on the banjo. Thanks for tuning me into Mel! I have seen quite a few of Mel's tunes posted here and the FHO, I still can't get Jingle At The Window Tideo. Hard as I tried, even after some tips from Ramjo, I can't figure out the A/B/C parts, or if there are three parts (may be a good TOTW for future TOTW'ers who are in the know on this tune) . Some of my favorites from Mel's CD: Number 2, Dolf Skinner's Tune and Coming Through The Canebreak, all the tunes are good!
Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 12/17/2011: 17:54:14
Boy, this TOTW is a good read!
And I haven't even watched the videos and listened to the sound clips yet!
Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 12/17/2011 17:54:41
strokestyle - Posted - 12/18/2011: 07:25:06
Since I can not edit my earlier post, it was RG that helped me with Mel's Jingle at The Window. Thanks RG!
ScottK - Posted - 12/18/2011: 09:41:02
Great TOTW post! Thanks for all the info Bisbonian and R.D. Really enjoyed all the recordings. Had to go order the Skillet Fork CD after that. Looking forward to hearing more of Mel's playing.
MountainBanjo - Posted - 12/18/2011: 10:40:16
One of my favorite D tunes/songs.
RG - Posted - 12/18/2011: 10:47:40
Nice TOTW from one of my favorite OT fiddlers...and no worries Christine! BTW, "Jingle's" structure is AAAABBCCBB (repeat)...I'll try to record a banjo version of it and send to you (want to re-do that fiddle version too, I had just learned the song and listening to me play that was rough!)...
I did Mel's "Alonzo Janes" a while back (about 2 years now I think) as a TOTW, another tune I could play all day.
Mel's "Skillet Fork" CD is filled with a bunch of great tunes, I really like playing them on fiddle & lucky that I get to jam every now and then with some of the guys who played on that album so we always put some of his tunes in the air...
R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 12/18/2011: 21:13:56
By the way, Mel's daughter Judy is a BHO member.
I'm hoping she'll post to this thread before long.
Chris Berry - Posted - 12/21/2011: 13:56:10
Originally posted by RG
BTW, "Jingle's" structure is AAAABBCCBB (repeat)...I'll try to record a banjo version of it and send to you (want to re-do that fiddle version too, I had just learned the song and listening to me play that was rough!)...
I'll just add to what Rick said that the C part of "Jingle" is basically the A part played an octave higher. Stan Shapin, by the way, used to sing an incredibly filthy verse to "Old Mother Logo" that I wouldn't repeat here even if I could remember it -- not sure if he got it from Mel or not, I'll have to ask him. Mel did have a rather colorful verse to "Irish Washerwoman" he would sing sometimes if he wasn't in mixed company.
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