Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

267
Banjo Lovers Online


Discussion Forum

Want to hide these Google ads? Join the Players Union!

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW Off to California


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/235885

JanetB - Posted - 05/11/2012:  05:35:27



My first Tune of the Week—here goes:   As a native Californian, the Irish hornpipe title “Off to Califonia” piqued my curiosity.  Its happy, hopeful melody and Celtic lilt made it an irresistible piece for me to learn with the Old Time Fiddlers Association of Santa Barbara in the 70’s.  Their source was  O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, 1850 Selections, published in 1903.  Here’s how O’Neill came by the tune he made popular:



Francis O’Neill (1848 - 1934) of County Cork, Ireland became a seaman when lean years failed to offer hope for employment, though his education qualified him to be a teacher.   As a teenager without work, he sailed for four years on various ships and then came to realize the futility of getting ahead in that trade.  



O’Neill liked to credit his musical skill with his destiny and survival at sea.  When rescued from a shipwreck O’Neill was befriended by a Hawaiian seaman with a flute who could only play one tune, whereas O’Neill knew many an Irish tune, having taken lessons when a boy.  The meals shared by that delighted sailor prevented the near-starvation experienced by the other shipmates.  Upon landing in San Francisco O’Neill was again faced with unemployment and went to the San Joaquin Valley, finding work as a shepherd.  He learned two tunes during his California stay in 1868 and Off to California was one of them. 



O’Neill moved back east and eventually became a police captain and chief of Chicago from 1878 – 1905.  His hobby of collecting fiddle tunes from the local Irish fiddlers led to the momentous publication of 1,850 selections in 1903.  It includes tunes such as Off to California, Bantry Bay, Blackberry Blossom, Boys of Blue Hill, Drowsy Maggie, Haste to the Wedding, Banish Misfortune, Happy Days of Youth, Fisher’s Hornpipe, Devil’s Dream, Sailor’s Hornpipe, Swallowtail Reel, 75  O’Carolan pieces, and many, many others.  He wrote his memoirs in Chief O’Neill’s Sketchy Recollections of an Evenful Life in Chicago, with some details of his interest in collecting Irish music at the end of the book.  O’Neill also wrote Irish Folk Music, A Fascinating Hobby with over 300 pages of autobiographical tales and anecdotal notes about numerous tunes.  I recommend both of these interesting, well-written books.



Back to the song itself, Off to California appears to be related to melodies with various titles such as Bound for California, Fireman’s Reel, The Juggler, and Whiskey Hornpipe.  There are two settings in the key of G in the O’Neill book. The Piney Creek Weasels recorded OtC in ¾ time, using it as the title song of the CD.  One of my MP3s includes 3-finger picking of both the waltz time and the hornpipe version, played in open C on a mini travel banjo.  My second MP3 is clawhammered in the key of G and includes tab below.  Other available tabs are in The Banjo Picker’s Fakebook and Mel Bay’s Complete Clawhammer Book.



Check out the following links for more information and examples of Off to California:



Light House Reel minstrel banjo video from Converse's 1893 "Banjo Made Easy"  includes a video for Light House Reel on fretless minstrel banjo, learned from Frank Converse’s minstrel banjo book “Banjo Made Easy” of 1893, and sounding just like OtC, especially the A part.



ibiblio.org/fiddlers/off.htm  detailed historic research



Fiddler's Companion description of OtC  gives names of related songs and ABC notation



Off to California.  Piney Creek Weasels ¾ time version, track #19



From Banjo Hangout we have:



Off to California  Posted by JanetB



Off To California  Posted by banjobill53



Off To California  Posted by Banjowen



Off to California  Posted by banjukebox



Off to California  Posted by tofte32



Off To California (Irish Hornpipe) Posted by tigerwuds



Off to California / The Cherokee Shuffle  Posted by Leon Hunt



 



banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...?id=10652  David Hum



banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...sp?id=676  Old Cremona



banjohangout.org/myhangout/vid...p?id=4177 Lukas Poole & Trent Freeman (Berklee School of Music)



I’m looking forward to your posts and other versions of Off to California.  Hope you enjoy this TOTW as much as I’ve enjoyed participating in it!



Edited by - JanetB on 05/11/2012 05:41:32



Off to California (CH)


Off to California clawhammer tab

maryzcox - Posted - 05/11/2012:  05:52:43


My all time favorite recorded version of OffTo California is on the Deserie ( spel?) String Band's , Land of Milk and Honey :)

JanetB - Posted - 05/11/2012:  06:06:21



quote:


Originally posted by maryzcox



My all time favorite recorded version of Off To California is on the Deserie ( spel?) String Band's , Land of Milk and Honey :)





 Thanks, Mary!  I never would have known about this  Here's a link to the Deseret String Band version.



 amazon.com/Liverpool-Off-to-Ca...mp;sr=8-1


hoverflytheo - Posted - 05/11/2012:  06:07:24



I played this at my folk club, only this week! I'll try and get a recording up soon...


jduke - Posted - 05/11/2012:  06:15:08



The first time I heard of this tune was Reed Martin's version on the album The Young Fogies.  It's still one of my favorites.  I don't play this myself because I've never mastered the triplet and efforts to work around it were never sucessful.  Perhaps it's time to give it another try and your tab is a good place to start.  Thanks.


JanetB - Posted - 05/11/2012:  06:26:19



quote:


Originally posted by jduke




The first time I heard of this tune was Reed Martin's version on the album The Young Fogies.  It's still one of my favorites.  I don't play this myself because I've never mastered the triplet and efforts to work around it were never sucessful.  Perhaps it's time to give it another try and your tab is a good place to start.  Thanks.






 Goodness, knowing Reed Martin did a version makes Off to California even more special!  The triplet is just an open string with two hammer-ons.



Thanks!


JanetB - Posted - 05/11/2012:  07:04:42



Here's the link to Reed Martin's masterful, lively clawhammer version:



amazon.com/Off-To-California/d...mp;sr=8-1



Thanks again, Jeff.


blockader - Posted - 05/11/2012:  07:23:34



thats a cool tune and great info. i'll have to find some time and work on it! thanks, janet.



-justin


tfaux - Posted - 05/11/2012:  07:28:02



quote:


Originally posted by JanetB




Off to California / The Cherokee Shuffle  Posted by Leon Hunt



 






Nice.


dwilliams - Posted - 05/11/2012:  08:26:25


Check out Mike Iverson's (Bluesage) MP3 and tab of this tune at banjoutah.com. Sorry I don't know how to post a link.

MajArcher - Posted - 05/11/2012:  08:50:14



quote:


Originally posted by dwilliams




Check out Mike Iverson's (Bluesage) MP3 and tab of this tune at banjoutah.com. Sorry I don't know how to post a link.






Tab here and .mp3 here.


banjukebox - Posted - 05/11/2012:  09:05:11



Great job. Thanks for posting all that info, Janet. I first heard this tune on an old Kicking Mule record: "Melodic Clawhammer Banjo" Featuring Bob Carlin, Ken Perlman, Andy Cahan, Hank Sapoznik and others. It was accompanied by a tab book. A great source for Fiddle tunes. I still have it on vinyl.



Here's link where you can download the album. Hope it's legal



timesaintliketheyusedtobe.blog...anjo.html



Edited by - banjukebox on 05/11/2012 09:20:02

John D - Posted - 05/11/2012:  09:14:00



Great one Janet.  Thanks.  



Did a quick version in Double C, capo @ 3rd fret.  




Off to California

   

Jonnycake White - Posted - 05/11/2012:  09:24:06



I really should learn this tune - I need another Irish tune to play in Open G.


jojo25 - Posted - 05/11/2012:  11:33:21



nice...I finger pick this...it has always been one of my favs...I do it with my Elizabeth, Illinois buds in a medley with the Boys of Blue Hill and The Rights of Man...or, as I call it...The Rights of Hemorphidites"...giving rights to both genders 


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/11/2012:  16:27:51



Great job on your first TOTW.



I was not familiar with "Off to California" - it's a very pretty tune.  Thanks for the history info - I have family in the San Joaquin Valley (Stockton to be specific), so I was interested to learn of the tune's connection to that area.  As a matter of fact, I am leaving a week from tomorrow for Stockton to attend my niece's college graduation, so this was for me a very timely TOTW selection.  I guess I should get busy learning the tune!


JanetB - Posted - 05/11/2012:  21:27:59



There's some interesting links here and John D's new post to enjoy. 



Bret, Francis O'Neill actually went through Stockton in 1868 and caught a stage coach to the sheep farm where he worked.  It was during this time he learned Off to California.  



There's more recordings that have been done here in the States than I imagined, so the tune is really more popular than I realized.  



Thanks to everyone for your interest and responses. blush     Janet B


SCclawman - Posted - 05/12/2012:  06:00:51



Hey janet!



great write up, and really cool song that I didn't know! enjoyed your version



JohnD - well played!


SCclawman - Posted - 05/12/2012:  06:03:46



quote:


Originally posted by tfaux




quote:


Originally posted by JanetB





Off to California / The Cherokee Shuffle  Posted by Leon Hunt



 






Nice.






man, this version is perfect...unbelievable


Tamarack - Posted - 05/12/2012:  06:17:25


A fine tune with a fine history -- pairs nicely with Cherokee Shuffle. I originally heard it on vinyl in a mountain dulcimer version by a musician whose name I can't remember. In ther early 80s Joel Mabus did a song to the tune of Off to California, lyrics highlighting California quirks and California politicians (fertile ground when one considers both Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan came from California)

steve mcgrath - Posted - 05/12/2012:  06:59:57



Love it and the tab you put up sounds great even at my beginner playing speed, Thanks


vrteach - Posted - 05/12/2012:  10:17:27



Wonderful tune, but...



A while back LyleK started a thread he called "nemesis tunes" by which he meant those tunes that one likes, and works on, but never quite gets. I forget what else I might have listed in my group of nemesis tunes, but I know that "Off to California" was in there. (by the way, Lyle does a great version, played as a reel).



For a couple of days, a decade or two ago, I think I was actually able to play the tune to my  liking, based on tablature from the book "Modal Music and In the Irish Tradition" by Alec Slater, lately re-released as part of Complete Clawhammer Banjo from Mel Bay (Mel Bay has been publishing some pretty good books).



This morning I got out the banjo and found yet again that although I could put the fingers on the right frets and play the notes--the tune escapes me. I may relegate it to the group of tunes that I do on other instruments, while remaining in awe of those who can do it on 5-string banjo. Now I have to figure it out on other instruments.


hoverflytheo - Posted - 05/12/2012:  10:41:47



Here's my recording. It's clawhammer in gDGDE (which I use for almost all my G tunes.)



Not sure where I learned this tune first, but someone at my folk club plays it on the whistle, and separately I heard Henry Sapoznik's arrangement on "Melodic Clawhammer Banjo".




Off To California

   

JanetB - Posted - 05/12/2012:  10:54:34



quote:


Originally posted by hoverflytheo




Here's my recording. It's clawhammer in gDGDE (which I use for almost all my G tunes.)



Not sure where I learned this tune first, but someone at my folk club plays it on the whistle, and separately I heard Henry Sapoznik's arrangement on "Melodic Clawhammer Banjo".






 Delightful, Theo!  You've got that lilt in your music that comes directly from your neck of the woods.  


Julian44_4 - Posted - 05/15/2012:  02:56:36



lylek.home.insightbb.com



Tab from Lyle Konigsberg


JanetB - Posted - 05/15/2012:  06:20:14



quote:


Originally posted by Julian44_4




lylek.home.insightbb.com



Tab from Lyle Konigsberg






 Thanks for this link, David.  The tab follows the O'Neill 1903 notated  version(#1628) very closely.


JanetB - Posted - 05/15/2012:  06:27:38



quote:


Originally posted by vrteach




Wonderful tune, but...



A while back LyleK started a thread he called "nemesis tunes" by which he meant those tunes that one likes, and works on, but never quite gets. I forget what else I might have listed in my group of nemesis tunes, but I know that "Off to California" was in there. (by the way, Lyle does a great version, played as a reel).



For a couple of days, a decade or two ago, I think I was actually able to play the tune to my  liking, based on tablature from the book "Modal Music and In the Irish Tradition" by Alec Slater, lately re-released as part of Complete Clawhammer Banjo from Mel Bay (Mel Bay has been publishing some pretty good books).



This morning I got out the banjo and found yet again that although I could put the fingers on the right frets and play the notes--the tune escapes me. I may relegate it to the group of tunes that I do on other instruments, while remaining in awe of those who can do it on 5-string banjo. Now I have to figure it out on other instruments.






 Thanks, Erich.  LyleK must be the same Lyle David referred to (above) with a link to his tab. 



I've enjoyed  the Mel Bay clawhammer book, too, and thanks for including a link.  



The idea of "nemesis tunes" is interesting.  I'd find them within the bluegrass repertoire, I'm sure.  In the meantime, give me old-time and Celtic!


LyleK - Posted - 05/15/2012:  07:38:16



quote:


Originally posted by JanetBquote:



Originally posted by vrteach


Wonderful tune, but...


A while back LyleK started a thread he called "nemesis tunes" by which he meant those tunes that one likes, and works on, but never quite gets.






 Thanks, Erich.  LyleK must be the same Lyle David referred to (above) with a link to his tab. 



.



.



The idea of "nemesis tunes" is interesting.  I'd find them within the bluegrass repertoire, I'm sure.  In the meantime, give me old-time and Celtic!






Yup, that's me.  I used to have an *.mp3 of Off to California (I think in a medley with Jimmy in the Swamp) at ezfolk.com, but it was lost when that site had a catastrophic failure.  I'll get a youtube posting together soon of these two tunes played out of aADAD (the tuning that Reed Martin used) on a fretless tackhead banjo.



On the tabs, David gave a link to my old site, which unfortunately I can neither remove nor edit.  The current site (lylewk.home.comcast.net/~lylewk/) has far, far more tabs than the site that David listed.



Here's the old "nemesis" thread: banjohangout.org/archive/111983 . I have made absolutely no progress on four of the five tunes I listed.  Thankfully "Off to California" wasn't on that list.  Long been a favorite.


vrteach - Posted - 05/15/2012:  10:44:36



Lyle, thanks for the link to the "nemesis" thread, I had not bothered to look. I'm pleased to say that I did make progress on two of the tunes I listed. But, only because I was forced to. I was required to learn Fishers Hornpipe and Cuckoo's Nest by a friend who wanted to do them as a medley (with Soldier's Joy) for a play he had written. I actually had to go back to the Krassen tablature to get me on the right track for Fishers. And although I can no longer list them as Nemesis tunes, I still feel as though I'm faking them, albeit fairly convincingly.



Later in the thread you added "Sailors' Hornpipe" to the list. I don't think that will ever get off my Nemesis list. Too bad, I do a pretty good Popeye laugh.



I'm glad Mary listed that version by the Deseret String Band--that's one of my favorite albums and I decided to go ahead and buy it in mp3 format. The excerpt on the link provided unfortunately only  includes the first tune of the medley, not "Off to California".


JanetB - Posted - 05/15/2012:  14:37:07



quote:


Originally posted by vrteach



I still feel as though I'm faking them, albeit fairly convincingly.


 


This concept is interesting, too.  When Bill Monroe played, according to Mike Compton, the mandolinist, he often played impressionistically, like Van Gogh painted.  I agree that we don't have to play every note like a fancy fiddler to get the gist of the melody.  Most times a listener probably doesn't notice what's left out, but the tune is still recognizable.  In Off to California it's very melodic.  Playing it impressionistically would be a fun project.


 


LyleK - Posted - 05/15/2012:  21:53:55



Here's that youtube video of Off to California / Jimmy in the Swamp played out of dADAD tuning on a fretless tack-head banjo.



 




VIDEO: Off to California / Jimmy in the Swamp
(click to view)

   

JanetB - Posted - 05/16/2012:  05:14:08



Thank for that video, Lyle.  You sure know these songs and your fretless neck, too!  The two tunes go together well.


Por Pi - Posted - 07/17/2012:  16:57:16



My favorite song!


Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.078125