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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 5/31/13 - Little Rose is Gone

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handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  08:57:57

My pick for TOTW is the great fiddle tune “Little Rose is Gone,” sometimes just called “Little Rose.” I heard it and learned it from the great recent release “Debut,” by Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band. In addition to great stringband tunes, this CD also has this fine banjo/fiddle duet with McCoy and Adam Hurt, as well as some fabulous solo songs by McCoy for which he accompanies himself using both clawhammer and up-picking styles. He does a great clawhammer version of “Little Birdie” and also a fabulous three-finger up-picking version of “Little Pink.” Finally, for folks who don’t appreciate Adam Hurt’s playing as an accompanist as opposed to solo banjo player, he simply kicks ass on this CD: tasty, rhythmic, and propulsive. Sadly, I was not able to locate a You-Tube of McCoy and Hurt playing this tune together.

The main recorded source for “Little Rose is Gone” is Wilson Douglas, of Clay County, West Virginia. He states that he learned it from French Carpenter, also of Clay County. I have not been able to locate a version by Carpenter. It’s not listed among the songs presented on his [only?] recording “Elzics Farewell: Old-Time Songs and Tunes from Clay County, West Virginia.” This seems to be only available on vinyl, and you can get a copy for $95 on Amazon! I searched the Digital Library of Appalachia and there were no recordings by French Carpenter there.

Here’s the Fiddler’s Companion entry:

LITTLE ROSE (IS GONE). AKA and see "That's My Rabbit, My Dog Caught It." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA, West Virginia. A Dorian. Standard tuning. AB. The tune, at least the first part, is a version of "That's My Rabbit, My Dog Caught It," recorded by the Walter Family of Woodford County, Ky. Wilson Douglas, a West Virginia fiddler who also recorded the tune, said of its origins:

            That's a slow one. That's one of French's (Carpenter, Douglas's mentor) specials. He liked to play that, especially when he felt a little bad. It's about as old a tune as you'll hear. There were two pioneers, we'll call them frontier man and his wife. They settled  somewhere in the southern part of West Virginia, way back. Her name was Rose and her husband came in one day and she was gone. They never did find her. They didn't know if Indians had killed her or taken her captive. This old fellow had some kind of an old fiddle with gut strings. He was grieving so, he composed this tune and called it the 'Little Rose.' French said his grandfather Saul told him that tale and he played it just like he was grieving. That old slow time, see? (from an interview with Nancy McClellan).

Gerry Milnes also collected the tune and story from Douglas, although at that time the story told was different in some details. According to Milnes, Douglas told him his version of “Little Rose” was composed by Harmon Carpenter, a Civil War soldier, who left his fiancé, Rose, to go and fight in the war. Upon his return he found that Rose had been murdered by nightriders, whereupon he took up his fiddle and composed the tune. The nightriders were Jayhawkers, Union sympathizers in a guerrilla war fought in the West Virginia mountains where there was much sympathy for the northern cause. Harmon had evidently joined the Confederate army, and thus his loved ones were targeted.


Source for notated version: Wilson Douglas (W.Va.) [Phillips]. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; pg. 79. Reed Island Rounders - “Wolves in the Wood” (1997). PearlMae Muisc 004-2, Jim Taylor – “The Civil War Collection” (1996). Rounder 0047, Wilson Douglas - "The Right Hand Fork of Rush's Creek" (1975).

Wilson Douglas was from Clay County, West Virginia. There is a You-Tube interview with him from 1989 which is great, and there are various clips of him playing after the interview. At one point in this interview, referring to himself and other old-time musicians appearing at the Vandalia gathering in 1989, he says the priceless line: “The same milk-cow kicked all of us….We’re all hyper and wound up!” Douglas also reveals that he stopped playing the fiddle for 15 years at the age of 25 before picking it back up at the age of 40! Great news for all us late-starters! Here’s the link:

Douglas also put together a beautiful autobiographical piece which was included with the CD re-issue of his great record “The Right Hand Fork of Rush’s Creek: Old Time Fiddling by Wilson Douglas,” which includes a version of “Little Rose is Gone.” The piece describes how he came to play the fiddle by playing guitar for his grandmother, and then honed his skills by putting in serious listening to and learning from first Ed Haley and then French Carpenter. He concludes with this lovely passage:

           :"And the way I feel about music, I think these musicians - I do it myself - each one is expressing his past, his present, what he should have been, and what he hopes to be.  And he’s expressing all of his sorrows, all of his happiness.  - if you study him close you can almost read his life.  And I think when they’re all playing good, clean, honest music - banjo-picking, guitar-playing, fiddling, what have you - I think you’re just as close to heaven on this earth as you’ll ever be.  If you’ve got the music in you.  You know what I mean?  I believe that.  I don’t mean I put that above a hereafter or above an eternal life. But in this world, that’s my Paradise.  In this world."

If you don’t have the CD, this piece is available at the following link:

The CD from Rounder Records is available from Amazon in “hard copy” or digital download.

The Berea collection also has a 1973 recording of Wilson Douglas playing the tune, and you can stream it or download it for free:

I didn’t find any versions of “Little Rose is Gone” in the BHO Jukebox. However, Yigal Zan and David Margolin recorded a fine video version of the tune which you can access either through the BHO or on You-Tube:

Fiddler Mark Crabtree plays the tune on two available YouTube clips, once with banjoist Joel Specht and once with guitarist Rory Mullenex: Mark Crabtree (fiddle) and Joel Specht (banjo) play "Little Rose" at the 2010 West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville. Mark learned the tune from his mentor, the great Clay County, W.Va. fiddler Wilson Douglas. Mark Crabtree (fiddle) and Rory Mullenex (guitar) play Little Rose at the 2011 Vandalia Gathering. Mark learned this tune from his mentor, the great Clay County fiddler, Wilson Douglas.

I put together a tab for the tune for my banjo class at the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture in Montpelier, Vermont []. McCoy and Hurt play it in “G” tuned to pitch on the CD, so I’ve tabbed it in G-modal. The tune is square in total shape—i.e., it’s 16 bars long—however, the “A” part extends past the “normal” 8-bar frame by a measure and one-half which gives it an awesome, crooked feel and strong emotional impact. I’ve tabbed it out in a “basic” version and also with a full variation.

McCoy and Hurt play it pretty regular, but when you listen to Douglas’s solo fiddle version you can hear that he not only changes tempo but also extends notes to great effect.

I will post a version of me playing the tune later today since I’m not at home right now. Enjoy, and let me know what you think! Ted



Little Rose is Gone TAB


R Buck - Posted - 05/31/2013:  09:09:54

Good tune although some would question the atmospherre of this tune compared to "That's My Rabbit".

davidbragger - Posted - 05/31/2013:  09:42:14

We brought Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller out to the Los Angeles Old Time Social a couple weeks ago and one of their CDs "Cherry River Line: Traditional Music From The Monongahela National Forest" features a supremely cool version of "Little Rose is Gone." The CD features the playing of Gerry Milnes, Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller. I can't get enough of it! The guitar chord choices are a real plus too!



Jay K - Posted - 05/31/2013:  11:03:20

Great write up, can't wait to dig into this tune. BTW, very pleased to find a hangout member who also lists X as one of his favorite bands!

handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  11:15:52

Hey David, thanks for the reference to the Milnes et al CD, I'll have to get that one. I really enjoyed his book "Play of a Fiddle," which is also available for purchase:

Thanks for the kind words, Jay K. I do love "X," and was sad to hear of Ray Manzarek's recent passing not only for his own music but also because of his work producing and promoting "X."

handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  15:29:27

Here's a quick, Friday after work take on "Little Rose is Gone." Besides being a beautiful tune, this summer marks the too sudden death of my mother, Rosemary Ingham. That lovely Rose is gone as well. Much love!!!

VIDEO: Little Rose is Gone
(click to view)


handsup8 - Posted - 05/31/2013:  16:43:02

Okay, here's one last post of me playing this one, solo on my Frost gourd banjo! Cheers!

VIDEO: Little Rose is Gone--Frost Gourd Banjo
(click to view)


banjoannie - Posted - 05/31/2013:  21:38:21

I love x too.I've seen them many time. I grew up in LA punk scene. LOVE THIS TOTW!

handsup8 - Posted - 06/01/2013:  06:44:18

Thanks, Annie! 

LyleK - Posted - 06/01/2013:  08:00:29 for Chance's CD.  You can stream complete tracks from the CD (including Little Rose) as well as download the entirety.  My fav from the CD is probably "Jimmy Johnson, (Bring the Jug Around the Hill)."  But the whole CD is fantastic so it is hard to pick favorites, and any tune/song from the CD is TOTW-worthy.  Great pick Ted. 

ScottK - Posted - 06/01/2013:  10:35:03

Great choice and great write-up, Ted!   Really love your playing in both of the videos you posted.

Another X fan here, too.  smiley


handsup8 - Posted - 06/01/2013:  10:54:54

Thanks Lyle and Scott. It's a great tune, and "Debut" is a fine CD. I was thinking of doing "Little Pink" for the TOTW since I worked up a 3-finger and claw version of that. Maybe next time! Ted

carlb - Posted - 06/02/2013:  06:06:59

West Virginia fiddler, Lee Triplett also played “Little Rose”, a version a bit different from Wilson Douglas.

Gadaya - Posted - 06/02/2013:  12:24:06

Great tune! Here's my take on it... I learned this version from the playing of french old-time fiddler Polo Burguière. I play it on the fiddle the first time through and then added the banjo track/video.

handsup8 - Posted - 06/02/2013:  13:23:21

C'est hyper-super-cool, man. That's a kick-ass version of the tune, Gadaya, both fiddle and banjo! I miss la belle France even more knowing that there are fine Old-Time musicians such as yourself and Polo there! I lived in France way back in 1994-95! Cheers from the States.

handsup8 - Posted - 06/03/2013:  06:01:22


Originally posted by carlb


West Virginia fiddler, Lee Triplett also played “Little Rose”, a version a bit different from Wilson Douglas.

Thanks for the reference, carlb, I'll have to chase that down!

JanetB - Posted - 06/03/2013:  06:40:23

The tune and story are beautiful and bittersweet.  I totally enjoyed all of the videos above of Little Rose and found the gourd banjo video brings out the most emotion.   I tried it in three different tunings and used the one Adam Hurt has listed in the liner notes in the above link for Chance McCoy's Debut CD (sure worth the download and optional tip of $6).  Adam uses fDGCD.

Thanks for another TOTW extending my knowledge about Appalachian musical history.

Little Rose is Gone


handsup8 - Posted - 06/03/2013:  06:54:32

Hey Janet, beautiful playing there! I didn't have access to the liner notes so I was not aware that Hurt was using that "Cumberland Gap" modal tuning for this! I will have to try it that way since the "f" in the drone serves to make the tune even more wistful and lonely as in your fine version. Thanks so much for posting.

Tamarack - Posted - 06/03/2013:  18:47:17

A wonderful melancholy tune and great insight into the lives of the old-time fiddlers.

JanetB - Posted - 06/05/2013:  05:38:42

I've continued to enjoy exploring this tune and recorded a version set in open G tuning based solely on Wilson Douglas' recording.  I don't think it feels as melancholy in this tuning, which goes from C to Am, chordally speaking.

VIDEO: Little Rose is Gone
(click to view)


janolov - Posted - 06/05/2013:  11:12:53

The G tuning is very interesting!

I started to play it in sawmill tuning (capo 2), but when I heard Janet's version I suddenly realized the possibilities of the standard G tuning for this tune. Even if it isn't chordal music, I think this piece have an "understatement" of modulations between C major and A minor (even if you don't play the chords you can "hear" them), and the G tuning seems to have more possibilities to enhance this than the sawmill tuning has.

However, I feel a little hesitation about the fifth string. The g string drone goes well through most of the tune, except for the endings of both parts. I am just now experimenting with the fifth string tuned down to e or up to a, and just now I think the fifth string  down to e gives a nice effect. The fifths string to g emphasize the C major flavor, the fifth string to a emphasize the A minor feeling, but the fifth string to e opens for both the C major and A minor, I think. Another option may be to avoid the fifth string in the end of part A and B, and just play the notes of a clean Am chord.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 06/06/2013:  09:23:31

This tune was a great choice.  A lot of unique takes on this one.  I thought Ted Ingham’s gourd banjo, and the banjo/fiddle duet were really fine, authoritative versions.  Gael Hayat’s take – both banjo and fiddle – were equally compelling, and Janet Burton’s open G tuning was spirited, and inspiring.  Jan Olov captures some of the challenges in figuring out what tuning to opt for, and how that contours the way this tune comes out.  Here’s my attempt to get at this tune:


I haven’t been able to track down Carl Baron’s reference to a Lee Triplett version.  Anyone manage to find this one?


Play hard,



cashwo_wv - Posted - 06/08/2013:  21:13:49

I have some recordings of Doc White playing some great versions of this tune. He doesn't say where it came from unfortunately. Great tune and I'm glad to see it as TOW.

janolov - Posted - 06/08/2013:  23:53:09


Originally posted by Brooklynbanjoboy


I haven’t been able to track down Carl Baron’s reference to a Lee Triplett version.  Anyone manage to find this one?


Play hard,



Here is Lee Triplett's version:

BrendanD - Posted - 06/11/2013:  00:56:59

Thanks for posting this tune, Ted! It's one of my favorites and holds a special place in my heart, as I first heard it at Wilson Douglas's home in 1979, when I made this recording:

Wilson says at the beginning that  it's in the key of C, so he hears that as the "base key", though the low part is in A minor, which is the same scale. I play it on the banjo out of double-C tuning, where it fits very well. I haven't recorded myself playing it, but I really enjoy hearing all the great takes on the tune posted here, as well as the variety of tunings people have chosen to play it in.

handsup8 - Posted - 06/11/2013:  17:59:24

Hey Brendan, thanks for the post and sharing that wonderful recording of Mr. Douglas. I'll have to give it a try out of double-C, and I'm sure we'd love to hear your take on it that-a-way! Ted

handsup8 - Posted - 06/11/2013:  18:02:38

Hey Lew, thanks for posting your take on the tune as well. I enjoyed your video, though I was hoping to see your hands! I also appreciate the kind words about my videos, and I'll pass on the compliment to my lovely wife Alice who taught it to me! Cheers, Ted

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