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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 4.5.13: And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day.

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:

ChuckJo - Posted - 04/04/2013:  18:15:13

For this week’s TOTW, I chose “And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day”, from Doc Roberts.  I have long been an admirer of Doc’s fiddling. He infuses his rich repertoire of tunes with a distinct bluesy sound characterized by powerful, yet smooth bowing and remarkably clear intonation.

First, I learned to play this tune on the fiddle.  Eventually I was able to eke out a fair approximation of The Cat.  I would dust it off from time to time, but really did not fully commit to it, in part because I didn’t feel fully confident in my fiddling.  But of course, it kept coming back, insisting that I give it the attention it deserved, so that now it lays curled up comfortably at the fire amongst the other familiar G tunes.

I suppose it became jealous of my time on the banjo, so slyly crept into my clawhammer fingers, where it sits now as a banjo favorite.

One of the charms of Doc’s fiddle version, is how the tune wanders in no obvious pattern  (at least to me) between what I am labeling the A, B, and C parts.  In order to share more easily with others, I play it as AABBCC. 

A brief bio of Doc Roberts compiled from the internet (Wikipedia and other sources)

Dock Philipine Roberts was born in 1898 near Kirksville, Madison County, and learned to play the fiddle at an early age with some help from his older brother Liebert. Doc's and Liebert's musical mentor was the African-American fiddler Owen Walker who was born in 1857, and taught Roberts most of his tunes. After finishing his studies in Berea Roberts married in 1913. In 1925, a talent scout, Dennis Taylor, recruited Roberts along with Welby Toomey and Edgar Boaz as old time recording artists for Gennet Records In early 1927, Roberts recorded with the string band, the "Booker Family".  Together with Dick Parman and Ted Chestnut, he formed the Kentucky Thorobreds. They recorded in April 1927 for Paramount.

In the fall of 1927, teamed up with Asa Martin as Martin & Roberts. They made their recording debut in May 1928 for the Gennett label. Between 1927-1934, the duo performed at fiddler's conventions, in schoolhouses, on vaudeville stages, and on radio (WHAS in Louisville, Kentucky). Martin & Roberts recorded altogether more than 200 sides on 11 different labels. Later on, with the addition of Doc Roberts' son James, the Fiddlin' Doc Roberts Trio was formed. In 1928, Roberts was hired, through the agency of Bradley Kincaid, by the National Barn Dance radio show in Chicago . He was paid $50 a week. After only two weeks he quit the show and moved back to Kentucky because he was unable to sleep due to the noise of the big city. The Doc Roberts Trio lasted until 1934 when Roberts retired as a recording artist. During the next 4 decades, he continued to make personal appearances and occasional radio works.

He died at the age of 81 in his hometown of Richmond.

The Cat Came Back: 

I first heard “The Cat Came Back” as a camp song.  The melody in Doc’s version, seemed completely separate from my vague memory of that song, so I didn’t give it much more thought. However, in preparation for this post, I conducted an internet search and quickly discovered 1) The first commercial recording of "The Cat Came Back" was by Fiddlin’ John Carson (OKeh 40119) in April 1924. It doesn’t sound at all like Doc’s version "And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day", recorded on Gennett 3235 on November 13, 1925.  However, the Fiddlin’ John’s version appears directly related the Harry S. Miller Song of 1893:  "The Cat Came Back: A n***** Absurdity." Ouch!  The racism that runs through much of American popular culture is revealed again.   I don’t like reporting this, but just thought you should know.

VIDEO: Chuck Levy Plays "And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day", form Doc Roberts
(click to view)

VIDEO: Doc Roberts & Edgar Boaz - And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day
(click to view)

And The Cat Came Back The Very Next Day

J-Walk - Posted - 04/04/2013:  19:04:42

Excellent choice, Chuck.

Here's the absolute best recording of that tune in the history of the world: Anna Roberts-Gevalt, Joe DeJarnette,The Cat Came Back. It's easily in my top-10 YouTubes of all time. Great fiddle, and absolutely perfect guitar.  Anna has never seemed happier. Watch her face. This video makes me smile every time I watch it.


Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 04/04/2013:  19:14:12

This is a really good tune, indeed. But I must say, after watching Anna Roberts-Gevalt's fiddling on it - with those looooong loooong notes (that sound to me like meows) I can't imagine any other instrument doing it as well.

Here's that video embedded, for the lazy ones among us (like me):

Don Borchelt - Posted - 04/05/2013:  08:33:59

A fine choice for TOTW, Chuck, a great background write-up, and a fine job of picking!  I first heard this tune a couple of years ago from Boston area fiddler and banjo picker John Reddick, but when I sat down to really "deconstruct" it for banjo, I worked from the Roberts-Gevalt video that J-Walk and Marc posted above, a really fine performance.  That B part reminds me of  the loose feeling in the high part of the old tune Cacklin' Hen.   I have attached a video below; I am playing my semi-fretless 1928 Vega Tubaphone, in open G tuning.  I have ordered the parts a little different, I'm not sure why.  I have a tablature of my three finger version posted on my website, if anyone is interested.

- Don Borchelt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 04/05/2013 08:42:07

VIDEO: And the Cat Came Back
(click to view)


bhniko - Posted - 04/05/2013:  08:39:01

Those young ones keep getting better all the time...'the cat's meow'.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 04/05/2013:  08:55:12

In scrolling through all the versions of The Cat Came Back that I own in my iTunes folder, I came across four "strange" ones - all marked as Doc Robers and Edgar Boaz.  Now, I had no recollection of owning one, let alone four, so I listened and discovered these were cuts from John Schwab's recent publication, Old Time Backup Guitar.  Each "cut" starts out at a different speed, increasing from 1-4.  I played along with the first, very slowly, until I felt comfortable enough to speed up to # 2.  That's when I decided to share my finding with the Banjo Hangout folks.  

If you play guitar (which I don't) or know someone who does (and you like giving presents), by all means buy this one, and check out the accompanying cd.  There are many tunes on it, at four different speeds.  It sure helps learn the banjo playing part when one has the backup available.

I am playing it in double D tuning, by the way.  

Here's the link to Schwab's book.


riley12 - Posted - 04/05/2013:  09:42:15

"It sure helps learn the banjo playing part when one has the backup available."


Thank you Banjo Judy!  At last someone comes up with a great back up CD to play to.

MrManners - Posted - 04/05/2013:  10:11:05

here are a half dozen doc roberts

BrendanD - Posted - 04/05/2013:  22:13:19

Ah, one of my favorite G tunes to play on the banjo! I always play it with fiddlers, so I'm not so sure I'm going to sit down and record it as a solo tune, but I do play it pretty melodically. I love Doc Roberts's fiddling, and play a number of his tunes. When I have time, I'll listen to all the examples posted here; maybe I'll glean some new ideas for approaching that tune!

Also, I heartily second BANJOJUDY's recommendation of John Schwab's backup guitar book! John's one of the best, and knows Edgar Boaz's and Asa Martin's backup styless like noone else!

Edited by - BrendanD on 04/05/2013 22:16:49

bahruse - Posted - 04/06/2013:  05:52:33

Let's not forget the singing. ... That cat just keeps coming back!

Here are my three favorite verses

Edited by - bahruse on 04/06/2013 05:59:54

foggers - Posted - 04/06/2013:  06:02:04

Brilliant work there! We just bought the John Schwab book on back-up guitar, (I bought it as an Easter gift for my OH) so this thread is obviously a  sign from the gods of banjo that we should work on this tune together!

It is an excellent book by the way.

Superb research by ChuckJo too - and I think you do exactly right to acknowledge the thread of racism in the way you did (whilst blanking the offensive words) because I think it is vital to remain aware of those things in the past, because sadly, in various places around the globe it is a very present issue. So keeping it in our awareness is the right thing to do.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 04/06/2013:  06:17:39

foggers wrote: " is vital to remain aware of those things in the past, because sadly, in various places around the globe it is a very present issue."

Everywhere around the globe, it is still THE issue, from which all others spring.  Some places are just better at hiding it.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 04/06/2013:  07:26:11

Correction to my previous post. It is played by me in a Double D tuning, but the fifth string is tuned to G.  In essence, a kind of G tuning that I use for the majority of G tunes.

Nice to see others appreciating John Schwab's masterful guitar book.  I think I will snag it and listen to all the tunes on that CD.


Edited by - BANJOJUDY on 04/06/2013 07:27:26

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 04/06/2013:  12:46:44

I snagged the Schwab guitar book a few minutes ago, and The Cat Came Back is listed as an A tune.  I guess we can all try it in A now.

For those who are curious as to the cd content that accompanies the book, here's what is there - each is done at four different speeds:

Doc Roberts Tunes:

And the Cat Came Back - A

Brick Yard Joe - G

Johnny Inchin' Along - G

My Baby Loves Shortenin' Bread - G

The Wagtgoner - C

Waynesburgh - G

There are others by North Carolina Ramblers, Kessinger Brothers, Dykes' Magic City Trio, East Texas Serenaders, and more.

Mtngoat - Posted - 04/07/2013:  09:03:20

Marc said

 "But I must say, after watching Anna Roberts-Gevalt's fiddling on it - with those looooong loooong notes (that sound to me like meows) I can't imagine any other instrument doing it as well."

I once saw Anna do this with Jim McCown on banjo.  They're very good friends and just playing around, but Anna started holding that note longer and longer each time through. much more so than in this video, trying to throw Jimmy off.   Jimmy kept up with it though and never lost time,   I don't know if anyone has a recording of that performance, but it was definitely a keeper.


JanetB - Posted - 04/08/2013:  16:56:15

I like this old-time version of The Cat Came Back, but it's different from how my childhood teacher taught me.  The folksong evolutionary process surely kicked in, with chords and lyrics more reminiscent of the 50's and 60's.  The closest I could find is by Fiddlin' John Carson in the 20's (thanks, Chuck, for pointing me that way):

Today I asked my first graders to sing The Cat Came Back as I learned it long ago.  This is our first take.  They were surprised at the lyrics, as these days I'd not normally do anything with such violent portrayals.

Thanks, Chuck, for an interesting write-up and the good tab and links.





The Cat Came Back


BANJOJUDY - Posted - 04/08/2013:  17:39:24

Cute Kitty.

RG - Posted - 04/08/2013:  17:50:55

Yep Janet, that is a cool cat!

majikgator - Posted - 04/08/2013:  18:14:33

Nice tune, great playing and a good write up i enjoyed the video J-Walk and Marc posted as well. i'll have to hear your fiddle version sometime too Chuck. First time i have ever heard this tune myself.

piscesgrrl - Posted - 04/08/2013:  18:21:42

Wow. This is wonderful. I was expecting that same song I learned in grade school. Chuck, thank you for opening my eyes. I'm going to work on this one :)

Mtngoat - Posted - 04/08/2013:  19:35:16

Here's one by Uncle Charlie Osborne, possibly influenced by John Carson's recording or radio programs as JanetB linked above.;ac=now



Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/09/2013:  14:13:37

Here’s my crack at the 5 April 2013 BHO TOTW, “And the Cat Came Back The Very Same Day,” inspired by Chuck Levy’s deft, accomplished playing, but translated into the much more primitive “sledgehammer” approach to clawhammer music that I tend to take:

Apologies to Chuck, and to the Cat.



Paul S - Posted - 04/09/2013:  15:12:41

First off, thanks Chuckjo for a great TOTW. I'll be learning this one for sure and I'm a dog lover.

Second, Lew there is no apologies needed, love your style of playing.


ChuckJo - Posted - 04/11/2013:  09:24:50

Hi Friends,

Thanks all for contributing to this discussion, and for posting your playing.

Here is another to add to the list.  The Tennebama Ramblers:


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/11/2013:  13:05:22

Nice video.  Thanks, Chuck.

And thanks for a great BNL interview with Mark Johnson.



Edited by - Brooklynbanjoboy on 04/11/2013 13:07:02

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