I always find the history of a tune interesting, as well as information about the musicians. The Devil Eat the Groundhog comes from Kentuckian Owen “Snake” Chapman (1919 - 2002), who learned it from his elderly father, Doc Chapman, born in 1850. BHO member Jim Reed brought the tune to us a couple of years ago with a video of his friend, Kentuckian fiddler and banjo picker Paul David Smith (1933 – 2011). Paul had learned it from Snake and they’d recorded it together on Snake’s Up in Chapman's Hollow CD. Additionally Paul came out with a CD whose title name is Devil Eat the Groundhog. Snake plays the fiddle on this and Jim’s brother, John Reed, plays the guitar.
The tune is catchy and upbeat, but actually the song is about a hound dog who stole the groundhog meal after the hunter had dressed it. The lyrics are:
God almighty d____d dog (3X)
The devil eat the groundhog!
Jim Reed had been mentored by Snake and Paul when they used to visit his childhood home in Pike County, Kentucky. If you want to learn more about Jim's experiences with Snake and Paul, go to Paul Roberts’ interview on his banjocrazy.com website and see theInterview with Jim Reed. Here’a a part of it:
Paul Roberts: Can you remember any musical experiences as a child that helped you as you were learning to play?
Jim: I know one thing for sure. Paul David Smith and Owen “Snake” Chapman had more to do with my playing than anyone. ..I’ve listened to them all night long. Not once did they play the same song twice.
At the time I was about 12 years they started coming to my dad’s house to pick with my dad and my brothers. Of course, I wasn’t really that good, but they heard some sounds that I was playing that fit into their fiddling. They’d mostly played with clawhammer players and hadn’t been around too many 3-finger style pickers. So you can say they took me under their wings and started telling me, ‘we will play this slow, and when we nod our head, you take a break.’ From there, I started playing fiddle tunes on the banjo. They taught me to be smooth and play notes you don’t hardly hear on a banjo. I think that it may be that some of my playing is just because of their experience and patience.
Banjo Hangout friends say the nicest things. Sharing our old-time tunes is much fun, even with the hunter's cursing in The Devil Eat the Groundhog. I've been meaning to put a link here to some groundhog recipes, though you might have to bring one to California in case you do visit. wildliferecipes.net/Game_recip...index.asp