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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 03/30/2012 Old Mother Flanagan

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:

vrteach - Posted - 03/30/2012:  08:44:20

Hi folks, I've chosen Old Mother Flanagan (sometimes spelled Flannagan) for this weeks tune. I've known of this tune for a long time, but actually learned it and started playing it maybe 3-4 years ago--picking it up from my fiddler friend. It's a fun one to play for a dance, although somehow we tend to forget about it in the heat of choosing a next tune.

The fiddlers companion has a good bit of information on the tune, noting that there are variants (2-part, 3-part, played in A or G) and a number of related tunes that share melodic parts and phrases.

The tune is pretty well represented on Youtube, and I think there are 8 versions on the banjo hangout audio archive. Most are the 2-part version, and most version that I've found are in A. One nice version is on the Digital Library of Appalachia on fiddle, dulcimer, and banjo. The DLA does not have embedded players, so you'll have to go to the link below and download the mp3 by clicking on the "access this item" link.

Old Mother Flannagan, Robin Warren fiddles with Don Pedi (dulcimer) and Tad Wright (banjo) during a concert at the Asheville Junction. Spring of 1979.;REC=18

Some recordings do it as a three part, where the B & C each consist of repeating what are the two phrases of the B part in the 2-part version (my, it's complicated to keep the A's B's and C's straight!). They may be played as AABC, which keeps the tune square. Here are a couple of those:

Old Mother Flanagan, by Fuzzy Mountain String Band, excerpt available at:

Old Mother Flanagan, by Pretty Shaky Stringband (jam)

The tune is in the Miles Krassen book, but in looking at mine I see that I didn't learn it from that. My evidence is that sometime (probably 1979-1981) I put little dots near the titles of the tunes that I could play, and there is no dot by Mother Flanagan. Also, Krassen's version is a full three-parter played AABBCC. BHO member blanham has included this version in his collection of tunes based on the Krassen tablature:

Old Mother Flanagan, from Chapter 4 of Krassen's "Clawhammer Banjo", played by blanham:

As the Fiddlers Companion states, there are other tunes which are related, at least through the A part, including Old Flannagan and the A & E Rag:

Old Flannagan, played by Alfred Bailey 1986, Berea Digital Content

Old Flannagn, by the Blue Ridge Mountaineers. The Blue Ridge Mountaineers recorded two sides in April of 1929, Old Flannagan and Old Voile (also a good tune), and were fiddle, piano, banjo, and harmonica. Available on an older reissue collection LP titled "Way Down South in Dixie" which can is available at:

A & E Rag, played by Lonnie Robertson 1965. An excerpt is available at:

In the Mel Bay book Ozarks Fiddle Music (a very good book), Drew Beisswenger gives a wide list of tunes that have similar A parts (Old Mother Flannagan, Saratoga Hornpipe, Snapping Jig, Shipping Port and more). Actually, as I listen to the Blue Ridge Mountaineers version, I'm reminded of how I play the A part of the G tune Magpie. He also states that Old Flanagan was brought to Kentucky by a Texan named Brack Flanagan, who taught it to John Hall, who taught it to Frank Miller, who was the fiddler with the Blue Ridge Mountaineers!

Another similar G-tune which shares the other distinctive (to me) phrase in Old Mother Flanagan, as well as having a similar (but different) A part,  is Green Fields of America. I'll attach my version of that, which is based on the playing of Billy Mathews.

Finally, there is another melody which goes by the name Old Mother Flanagan, and is played a bit in Illinois. This is also an A tune from the prolific fiddler Harvey Taylor of Effingham, IL, but it is a different melody. I meant to learn it last night, but instead I watched TV. Maybe later. Maybe someone else already can post a version.

I'm attaching a video where I play the version that I learned, and the version played by the Fuzzy Mountain string band, and also an excerpt of the Harvey Taylor tune.


Edited by - vrteach on 03/30/2012 09:57:52

VIDEO: Old Mother Flanagan
(click to view)

Old Mother Flanagan

Old Mother Flanagan - Harvey Taylor

Green Fields of America

Jason Wilkerson - Posted - 03/30/2012:  09:46:28

This is a delightful tune, thanks for posting, I'll definitely have to add this to this list to learn.

vrteach - Posted - 03/30/2012:  10:12:57

I forgot to mention that although there are not any tablatures available on the BHO, there are some out there for download:

Tom Joad has a version of the 3-part which probably matches an mp3 here on the BHO:

and Julian 44's massive collection has some versions:

Don Borchelt has a three-finger version:

Dan Levenson's festival tunes books have a version.

Edited by - vrteach on 03/30/2012 10:16:17

mojo_monk - Posted - 03/30/2012:  12:01:16


Originally posted by vrteach

Finally, there is another melody which goes by the name Old Mother Flanagan, and is played a bit in Illinois. This is also an A tune from the prolific fiddler Harvey Taylor of Effingham, IL, but it is a different melody. I meant to learn it last night, but instead I watched TV. Maybe later. Maybe someone else already can post a version.


This melody is more prominently known as "Jenny on the Railroad" or "The Route". The inimitable Carter Brothers and Son did it (on 11/22/1928) as "Jenny on the Railroad".

I learned it in Charleston, IL as "Pappy's Old Mother Flanagan." Either way it's a great tune.



vrteach - Posted - 03/30/2012:  12:05:36

Sean, Cool, thanks for the help. It seemed to me that the melody was familiar--but I couldn't put my finger on it.


In general, this tune (the standard tune) is worth learning not just because it is fun, but also because it has some sort of standard little phrases (or licks) that can be applied to other tunes. At least, that's the case that I find.

Edited by - vrteach on 03/30/2012 12:10:46

banjukebox - Posted - 03/30/2012:  15:33:15

I've always liked Old Mother Flanagan. The version I learned is a little different than yours.

Still working on it.

Thanks for posting.


Edited by - banjukebox on 03/30/2012 15:42:02

banjukebox - Posted - 03/30/2012:  15:36:50


Edited by - banjukebox on 03/30/2012 15:39:57

J-Walk - Posted - 03/30/2012:  16:45:43

Good choice, Erich. That's one of my favorite jam tunes and we play it a lot in Tucson.

Today,  just to see if it would work, I tried it in the key of C, using Double C tuning. I think it's actually more fun to play in that tuning. I'll post a recording once I get it smoothed out.

Kitt - Posted - 04/01/2012:  09:00:57

Much enjoyed your presentation, VrTeach. I've been inspired to learn the tune.  it's a bouncy, tuneful and fun to play tune.

vrteach - Posted - 04/02/2012:  13:44:42

BanjoJukeBox: I wouldn't say that the versions are all that different. But you are getting more of the actual notes into the tune--I tend to sacrifice notes on the altar of tempo (one might say). I really like what you are doing.

Jason & Kitt: Great! I hope you guys have a chance to work on it. Post-em if you got-em.

J-walk: I'll be interested in hearing it in Double-D(or C) tuning.

My favorite TOTWs are not necessarily the ones with lotsa posts--I like the ones that are unfamiliar tunes which I then learned. That said, I would enjoy hearing some more versions...

Edited by - vrteach on 04/02/2012 13:47:32

LyleK - Posted - 04/03/2012:  20:12:17

So here's another version, and also killing two TOTW birds with one stone as the following is "Old Mother Flanagan" followed by last week's TOTW ("June Apple").  And speaking of the "A & E Rag" (so named because the A part  is in A and the B part is in E), this week's coming attraction for the TOTW is the key of E.  I'll definitely be using frets for that.


Edited by - LyleK on 04/03/2012 20:17:47

VIDEO: Old Mother Flanagan / June Apple
(click to view)


ZEPP - Posted - 04/04/2012:  06:28:56

Triplets, anyone?  A 2002 recording I did as a demo of tripletification for a student.



Oops--try this corrected link (works for me).  I'd upload it to BHO, but we seem to be having a few issues this morning.

Edited by - ZEPP on 04/04/2012 06:42:31

vrteach - Posted - 04/04/2012:  06:32:33

Sweet, Lyle! (Lyle is one of the people I was thinking about when I said in the June Apple TOTW that I often felt inadequate with my June Apple playing)

I look forward to learning how to play in E.

I don't recognize that banjo, do I?

Zepp: Triplet heaven--cool.

Edited by - vrteach on 04/04/2012 06:44:50

LyleK - Posted - 04/04/2012:  07:27:48

Thanks Erich.  The banjo is a Lincoln B. Gatcomb ( "student" model.  I had been watching e-bay for a while (something I no longer do) for a banjo that was missing its fretboard so that I could replace it with a fingerboard.  But I have the neck angle set wrong and as a consequence had to considerably lower the bridge.  Between that and the banjo not having a tone ring it is a nice little banjo if you are playing on your own, but otherwise gets lost in the shuffle.

Zepp: And chromatic triplets to boot!

JanetB - Posted - 04/05/2012:  06:10:24

Here's my contribution to this TOTW fun song.  It's from the Miles Krassen's clawhammer book.  I used a metronome at 120 (cheating I suppose, but the timing is a bit tricky).  It would need a capo to play in A.  Forgive the sweats, it's 6:00 am and I gotta get ready for school now....

VIDEO: Old Mother Flanagan
(click to view)


BANJOJUDY - Posted - 04/05/2012:  07:06:21

Nice job. Thanks for the video.

olbap - Posted - 04/29/2012:  09:39:01


just recorded a version

Edited by - olbap on 04/29/2012 09:42:02

stigandr5 - Posted - 05/01/2012:  05:47:57

Canjo version. Enjoy!

VIDEO: "Old Mother Flannigan" N.A. Wendte Clawhammer Canjo
(click to view)


vrteach - Posted - 05/01/2012:  07:49:16

Olbap & stigandr5: Those are both great renditions! Thanks for adding on.

Hmm, there are a couple of other TOTWs that I need to revist myself.

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