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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 11/15/2013 - Rye Straw


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aeroweenie - Posted - 11/14/2013:  20:22:56


This week's Tune Of The Week is "Rye Straw", a fiddle tune usually in the key of D. A few months ago, I was in the mood to learn another tune out of Brad Leftwich's fine round peak book and came across "Joke on the Puppy".  I was unfamilar with the name but after playing it a bit I  realized I had heard it before.  I didn't realize it is more commonly known as "Rye Straw", which I found out when I went onto youtube to

listen to some fiddle versions. I really like this tune, it is rhythmic and has an unusual chord structure, and is fun to play.





Here is what Fiddler's Companion has to say (edited for brevity):



------------------------------------------------

"AKA and see "Alabama Waltz" (Mississippi title), “Big Fish,” “Black My Boots and Go See the Widow,” "Dog s*** a Rye Straw," "Dog in the Rye Straw," "The Dog in Difficulty," "The Joke on the Puppy," "Lady's Fancy," "The Unfortunate Pup," "The Unfortunate Dog," "A Whoop from Arkansas," Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA; North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Indiana, Arkansas. D Major (most versions): A Major (Frank Kittrell, Silberberg): G Major (Doc Roberts). Standard or ADae (Frank Kittrell) tunings. AA’B (Titon): AABB (Brody, Kittrell, Spandaro): ABC (Silberberg): AA'BBCC (Phillips): AABBCC (Ford): ABCCB' (Krassen): AABCCCCDD (Reiner & Anick). The melody was known throughout the South and Midwest under a variety of (mostly related) titles, but appears to have first been published in the 1880's by George Coe of Boston, Mass., as "A Whoop from Arkansas." Charles Wolfe (1983) states the Doc Roberts (Ky) used to sing "a scatological ditty involving a dog, a grubbing hoe, and a straw" to the tune, from which most of the titles appear to stem from. Joel Shimberg learned the following words to “Rye Straw” from Missouri fiddle tune collector Bob Christeson:



West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter remarked that the version fiddled by the regionally influential musician Lewis Johnson “Uncle” Jack McElwain (1856-1938) of White Oak (a tributary of Laurel Creek, near the village of Erbacon, Webster County, West Virginia) was so good that: “When Jack ‘Wain played it, you had to open the door and let the stink out” (Milnes, Play of a Fiddle, 1999). Early Grand Ole’ Opry star Uncle Dave Macon, a singer and banjo player, recorded the tune in 1938 (accompanied by a fiddler, identified by the late musicologist Charles Wolfe as Tennessee fiddler Charlie Arrington, who had also been a member of Paul Warmack & His Gully Jumpers) at the end of the song “Johnny Grey” (a version of the ballad “Peter Gray”).



Ernie Carpenter. Photo by  Michael Keller. Courtesy Goldenseal Magazine wvculture.org/goldenseal



It has been variously mentioned as having been played by Rock Ridge, Alabama, fiddlers around 1920 (Bailey), and was mentioned in the autobiography and newspaper accounts of Tom Freeman of Cullman County, Alabama, and also in reports (1926‑31) of the De Kalb County Annual (Fiddlers') Convention (Cauthen, 1990). It was one of the tune recorded by the Atlanta Constitution in an article on the April, 1913, Atlanta fiddler’s convention, as played by C.C. Moon of Logansville, Ga. (Wayne W. Daniel, 1990) . The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by folklorist/musicologist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's. Influential Mt Airy, North Carolina, fiddler Tommy Jarrell knew the tune as "The Joke on the Puppy," though its most common name seems to have been "Rye Straw." A version of this tune is called "Lost Indian," a floating title.



Sources for notated versions: Henry Reed (Monroe County, W. Va.) [Krassen]; Earl Collins [Reiner & Anick]; Ebenezer [Brody, Spandaro]; Howard 'Howdy' Forrester [Phillips]; Clayton McMichen (Ga.) [Phillips]; Ruthie Dornfeld (Seattle) [Phillips]; Doc Roberts (1897-1978, Madison County, Ky., 1930), learned from African-American fiddler Owen Walker [Titon]; Alan Jabbour, after Henry Reed [Silberberg]. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 241. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; pg. 47. Krassen, 1983; pgs. 94‑95. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pgs. 205-206 (three versions). Reiner & Anick (Old Time Fiddling Across America), 1989; pg. 123. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 135. Spandaro (10 Cents a Dance), 1980; pg. 2. Titon (Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 140, pg. 166.  Biograph 6007, Ebenezer‑ "Tell it to Me." Briar 0798 (or BR 4204), Earl Collins‑ "That's Earl." Carryon Records 002, "Ace Weems and the Fat Meat Boys." Cassette C-7625, Wilson Douglas - "Back Porch Symphony." Columbia 15521 (78 RPM), Clayton McMichen & Riley Puckett (1930). Copper Creek CCCD 0193, Bill and Libby Hicks – “South of Nowhere” (Appears as “Dog Passed a Ryestraw”). County 412, Doc Roberts ‑ "Fiddling Doc Roberts" (1983). County 527, Doc Roberts ‑ "Old Time Fiddle Classics, vol. 2" (originally recorded 1930). County 788, Clyde Davenport (Monticello, Ky.) ‑ "Clydeoscope: Rare & Beautiful Tunes from the Cumberland Plateau" (1986). Folkways FS 3809, John Summers‑ "Fine Times at our House". Gennett 7221 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (1930). Marimac AHS 2, Melvin Wine. Mississippi Department of Archives and History AH‑002, Frank Kittrell (Lauderdale County, Miss.) ‑ "Great Big Yam Potatoes: Anglo‑American Fiddle Music from Mississippi" (1985. Originally recorded in 1939). Rounder 0040, "Pickin' Around the Cookstove." Rounder 0128, The Backwoods Band‑ "Jes' Fine" (1980). Rounder 0132, Bob Carlin‑ "Fiddle Tunes for the Clawhammer Banjo" (1980). Rounder 1005, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers‑ "Hear These New Fiddle and Guitar Records." Tennvale 001S, Bob Douglas‑ "Old Time Dance Tunes from Sequatchie Valley." Recorded by Uncle Am Stuart (b. 1856), Morristown, Tenn., in 1924 for Vocalion, and by Clayton McMichen in 1929. 5 String Productions 5SP05002, The Hoover Uprights – “Known for their Reputation” (2006).



See also listing at:



Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources"

-------------------------------------------------



Here is a link to the complete Fiddler's Companion entry:  ibiblio.org/fiddlers/RP_RZ.htm





Here is a link to Tommy Jarrel's version (Leftwich's banjo tab goes perfectly with it):  youtube.com/watch?v=OFTiz8639lg





And links to a fiddle/banjo version (Leftwich & Hurt) and a great banjo version by Adam Hurt with BanjoJudy on guitar:



youtube.com/watch?v=yguCMUAdZq0       youtube.com/watch?v=qHLd7l_Rquw





And here is another very nice fiddle/banjo version by Alyson Slack & Paul Drapper:  youtube.com/watch?v=7xRAgsawzzA





And a somewhat different version by Henry Reed:   loc.gov/item/afcreed.13703b01





And here is my take on the tune, pretty close to the Leftwich tab.  Give it a try, it is a cool tune!!



 



Edited by - aeroweenie on 11/14/2013 20:24:27



Rye Straw

   

janolov - Posted - 11/15/2013:  00:09:55


Here are two more version from the Slippery-Hill site (and The Milliner-Koken Collection Of Fiddle Tunes):



Melvin Wine



Doc Roberts



Brad Leftwich's banjo tab is in double D tuning, but the key/mode is A (Mixolydian). The low notes is not available in A tuning. These low notes seems to occur in all the versions above.


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/15/2013:  06:07:51


I think BHO member and sometimes TOTW contributor Carl Baron did a tab for Banjo Newsletter in July of 1986.  I have a PDF of his tab.  I'd be glad to post it if Carl thinks that's OK.


vrteach - Posted - 11/15/2013:  09:43:19


Among the tunes that I rarely play, this is one of my favorites. I picked it up from a 1977 LP by Pop Wagner & Bob Bovee. When I play it I pretty much have to play fast and barely in control. I'm attaching a version from 2006.




Rye Straw

   

aeroweenie - Posted - 11/15/2013:  12:23:04


quote:

Originally posted by janolov

 

Here are two more version from the Slippery-Hill site (and The Milliner-Koken Collection Of Fiddle Tunes):




Melvin Wine




Doc Roberts




Brad Leftwich's banjo tab is in double D tuning, but the key/mode is A (Mixolydian). The low notes is not available in A tuning. These low notes seems to occur in all the versions above.







Thanks for the correction regarding the key.  I play a few A tunes out of double D but hadn't realized this is one of them!


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/15/2013:  13:40:59


That's Beth Hartness playing guitar to Adam's banjo in this video:



 


jojo25 - Posted - 11/15/2013:  16:46:27


Joke on the Puppy...also the name of a company that makes one-of-a-kind hand tailored shirts...strikingly in your face shirts



facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10...p;theater



and no, I have nothing to do with Ken's business...other than being a satisfied customer



and Ken is an OT banjo player:)


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/15/2013:  19:20:25


Carl Baron did this tab for Banjo Newsletter. It appeared in the July 1986 issue. Carl gave me permission to post this tab. Thanks, Carl



RYESTRAW

   

aeroweenie - Posted - 11/15/2013:  19:20:34


quote:

Originally posted by Brooklynbanjoboy

 

That's Beth Hartness playing guitar to Adam's banjo in this video:




 


Doh! I apologize to Beth, the video was posted by banjojudy.  Thanks for the correction.




 


JanetB - Posted - 11/15/2013:  20:16:49


Nice picking, aeroweenie and vrteach.  Thanks for choosing a good old traditional tune I've been wanting to learn.  I thought I'd try another source as I'm very fond of Melvin Wine's fiddling.  Here's a version from Melvin's recording found in the Slippery Hill link above.  He played it in A, so I arranged it in open G tuning.  Like Jan says above, there are bottom notes you can't hit in the B part so I jumped up an octave.




Rye Straw

   

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 11/15/2013:  20:34:58


Yes, I took that video a year ago when Adam and Beth played a concert in Albuquerque.  



Don't you love the way Adam makes my Chuck Lee banjo sound?  



Of course, Beth's guitar backup is the best.  Those two - terrific version of Rye Straw.



 


rendesvous1840 - Posted - 11/15/2013:  20:40:41


I have a version of Rye Straw,  Bascom Lamar Lunsford. In the notes Lunsford says "There are a lot of unprintable and unsingable stanzas to the old song. " After singing one of these 'possibly not for polite company' stanzas, they would sing "Rye straw, rye straw, rye straw." I don't recall hearing it sung, ever, but there are a number of recordings out there.



Edited by - rendesvous1840 on 11/15/2013 20:43:17

Califiddler - Posted - 11/16/2013:  06:09:51


Tim O'Brien and the O'Boys did a great medley of Johnny Don't Get Drunk/Rye Straw on their CD "Oh Boy! O'Boy!", with Tim playing fiddle and Mark Schatz playing clawhammer banjo.



Edited by - Califiddler on 11/16/2013 06:10:20

hendrid - Posted - 11/16/2013:  07:37:10


Dots sheet music is in the Fiddlers Fakebook page 241 also a version on thesession.org with midi, abc and sheet music and a tune version in hetzlersfakebook.com



Edited by - hendrid on 11/16/2013 07:46:09

BrendanD - Posted - 11/16/2013:  11:57:18


I haven't made my way through all the versions posted here yet, but have really enjoyed the three I've heard: Paul's, Janet's, and Adam's; fine playing all around, with a different feel to each



Here's a recording of Rye Straw (or Joke On The Puppy) from a Clifftop session this past summer; the players are Adam Hurt on fiddle, Beth Hartness on guitar, and myself on banjo. I posted this not too long ago with other tracks from that session, but it seemed appropriate to include it in this thread, too. It's pretty much Tommy Jarrell's version, as interpreted by Adam. So now you've got Adam Hurt playing this tune in this thread both banjo and fiddle, with Beth's inimitable accompaniment on each!



Rye Straw


carlb - Posted - 11/16/2013:  13:29:29


With apologies to JanetB, but I find her playing of Melvin Wine's version of "Rye Straw" a bit too tame and which is a D tune in my book. Here's what I recorded for my CD "Banjo Stuff" in 2000 (aDADE). It might not exactly be like the tab of mine that Brooklynbanjoboy posted, but I find how I play tune evolves without me thinking about it and the recording was made 14 years after the tab.

 



Edited by - carlb on 11/16/2013 13:33:27



Rye Straw

   

RG - Posted - 11/16/2013:  14:14:48


Really liked that version Carl...


ramjo - Posted - 11/16/2013:  14:57:04


I'm sure others have thought of this, but I'll say it anyway. Hunter Robertson teaches this tune on his instructional DVD "Unfortunate Puppy". His version is from Elmo Newcomer. If you buy the DVD, you get the tab for the tune transcribed by Oldwoodchuck.



Great versions and great playing one and all.



~R


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/16/2013:  15:31:17


Hunter provides a "sample" of this tune on Youtube, breaking down his version into licks and easily digested parts:



 



 


bd - Posted - 11/16/2013:  17:08:10


Here's Clayton McMichin & Riley Puckett performing it--with some singing too.




RG - Posted - 11/16/2013:  20:31:03


bd - thanks for posting that!


JanetB - Posted - 11/17/2013:  09:17:10


Great sources to hear.  I like Rhys Jones' video, too.  Here's my question which will help me learn something if you can help:  If the tune is played in the key of A, and sometimes in G, why is the banjo tuning often double D?  I always thought that this indicated tunes which are in the key of D.  When I played along with Melvin Wine he was in the key of A so I naturally thought I should try it in open G tuning, capoed 2.  The other source recordings are either in G or A so I remain puzzled.  Thanks if you can explain this.



 




Rye Straw tab

   

janolov - Posted - 11/17/2013:  11:33:29


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

 

Great sources to hear.  I like Rhys Jones' video, too.  Here's my question which will help me learn something if you can help:  If the tune is played in the key of A, and sometimes in G, why is the banjo tuning often double D?  I always thought that this indicated tunes which are in the key of D.  When I played along with Melvin Wine he was in the key of A so I naturally thought I should try it in open G tuning, capoed 2.  The other source recordings are either in G or A so I remain puzzled.  Thanks if you can explain this.




 







 



This is my thoughts about using the double D tuning to this A tune.



I think this is an example where the tuning is chosen to make the fingering as easy as possible. My first attempt was to use the G or A tuning, but then the low part couldn't be played low (and I think the low part gives a special flavor to the tune - both the  fiddle and the banjo version). My second attempt was to try the standard C tuning gCGBD (capoed at 2nd fret), so I could play the low part and it worked out rather well but there were some difficult (but not impossible) left hand work in the high parts. When I finally tried the double C tuning (capoed 2) both the low part and the high parts worked good.



The double C/D tuning works as long as you play single string brushes, but if brushing chords you must be careful to really fret the full chords. The standard C tuning (capo 2) or standard G (capo 2) is probably better and easier if you brush the full chords.


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/17/2013:  13:09:03


Brendan, that was a fabulous session, and a real smooth trio on that tune.



Janet, you continue to figure out ways to situate the tune in the traditional way of playing and at the same time find a means of carving out your special version of it.  That’s real talent.



 Erich, “out of control,” maybe, but square on the energy of the tune.



And Paul, I like the way you change it up – and I admire the use of that Tommy Jarrell lick on the first two strings. 



That’s why I especially liked the one you posted featuring Alyson Slack on fiddle and Paul Draper on banjo.  It makes so much sense in this tune.   I can never integrate it into my playing without falling off the melody or timing or loosing the tune altogether.  I might just put the Slack/Draper on “loop” and try to figure it out.



 



I found elements of Carl Baron’s tab – the one I posted as a PDF – accessible, and parts harder to fit into the way I slug it out with a banjo.  I’m never really able to pull off the kind of stuff Carl does in the last few notes of Part A, what I count as the 7th measure, toggling between the 1st and 2nd strings, 3rd and 4th frets, and introducing some melodic phrases.  



I should say, when I first saw Carl play banjo at one of the Masters’ showcases at Clifftop sometime in  the early 1990s, it was a jaw dropping moment.  I truly don’t recall who was the Master Fiddler behind whom Carl was playing, but he hit every note gymnastically, and kept true to the rhythm of the piece at the same time. 



 



Here’s my crack at the tune.   I tend to at least try to play things a bit slower these days, though I’m finding that I even speed up slow tunes when I’m filming myself. 



 




 


The old West Virginia Pocahontas County guys who showed me how to play the banjo a long while ago used to ask me “Why you playing so fast?  You want this to be over with quicker or what?” 



 



Thanks for all the great music in this TOTW.



 



Play hard,



 



Lew



 



 


JanetB - Posted - 11/17/2013:  13:21:20


Thanks, Jan, you seem to have hit upon the answers to my question--a two-part answer involving both the low note and the fingering.  I was listening to Melvin Wine on the Slippery Hill site and I think he used the low D only once in the recording.  I verified this just now in the Melvin Wine transcription found in the Milliner-Koken book, though this low note is used a lot more in the Tommy Jarrell and Doc Roberts versions. It is an important sound I couldn't get without jumping up an octave.  In addition, there are more open string notes in the double D tuning, especially in Brad Leftwich's Round Peak Style book, than in the way I'm playing it out of open G tuning, making the fingering easier.  I wonder how many other G/A key tunes have been clawhammered out of double C/D tuning. It's my first encounter with it.  This is part of what makes the Tune of the Week a fruitful and fun learning venture, so again, thanks.



On a side note, I've also encountered Carl Baron's work for the first time and discovered he has two CDs available if you contact him.  He's actually learned from and played with Melvin Wine and is another authentic resource for me to tap into.


wallflower - Posted - 11/17/2013:  16:01:38


When I got Brad Leftwich's book, I listened to the CD and decided I wanted to learn “Joke on the Puppy” and “Rockingham Cindy” first because those two tunes just resonated with me. I can’t do either of them justice yet but you’ve inspired me to go back at it.


mtmncobb - Posted - 11/17/2013:  18:54:31


Great tune! I like to play it with a good fiddler. This is the way I learned to play it from the fiddler I play with.




VIDEO: Joke On The Puppy
(click to view)

   

banjoak - Posted - 11/18/2013:  19:26:22


Depending on the version, it can have a very unusual rhythmic and chord structure leading to the alternate title "Joke on the Guitar Player"


carlb - Posted - 11/19/2013:  05:28:08


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

 On a side note, I've also encountered Carl Baron's work for the first time and discovered he has two CDs available if you contact him.  He's actually learned from and played with Melvin Wine and is another authentic resource for me to tap into.




JanetB, thanks for the ad.


aeroweenie - Posted - 11/20/2013:  18:21:24


Thanks everyone for your contributions, nice variety of versions presented, and lots of good information - I know a lot more about the tune than I did when I posted this TOTW!


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