Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

321
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 11-29-2013 Cacklin' Hen


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/274955

ajisai - Posted - 11/29/2013:  05:46:36


When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure the butter-rich crispy edges of stuffing baked in a pan are where it’s at, but yesterday I also indulged in a hearty helping of Cacklin’ Hen. Delicious! 



A few weeks ago I was introduced to a two-finger thumb-lead banjo version of the tune from the Mike Seeger / Paul Brown Way Down in North Carolina album and the more I listen to it, the more I really like it.



Here’s a link to a clip of the tune I’m talking about: 



amazon.com/gp/product/B0010VEU...u_dp_trk7



The version I have was tabbed out by Matt Brown for gDGDE tuning and it includes a measure of 2/4 sandwiched between two slightly different 4/4 A parts, followed by a B part written in 5/4 which is played three times. Crooked intrigues me.



Searching for tab to share, I came across an online version from Andrew Alexis that’s drawn from the same source recording. It's similar to Matt's, but it has some significant differences. For example, Andrew’s tab divides the B into five measures of 4/4 while Matt’s breaks it into four measures of 5/4.



pineycreekweasels.net/andy/tun...ackle.PDF



The Fiddler’s Companion calls Cacklin’ Hen a bluegrass or old-time breakdown in G and says that it’s a “fiddle contest standard,” citing an example of it being used as a “category” tune for a contest in Tennessee as early as 1899. 



The entry provides a long list of recorded examples and sources for notation, and seeing it made me wonder--




  • What was the source for Paul Brown’s two-finger version?

  • Are there significantly different versions of the tune that share the same name?

  • How does Paul Brown's version relate to the popular fiddle tune?



I suspect the answer to the first question is in the album’s liner notes, but, unfortunately, I don’t have access to them--one of the downsides to purchasing music digitally online. If you do, would you please post?



A possible answer to the second question surprised me. I expected to find a number of different tunes called Cacklin' Hen but in the short time I had to look, the recordings that I found, whether they were old-time, or bluegrass, or blues, seemed to be strongly related through




  • an A part that has a distinctive high melody (g a g e g g; b a g e g g); 

  • a repetitive, sometimes lengthened, low B part that rises and falls in a more rhythmic than melodic way; 

  • and, of course, chicken sounds.



Of all the fiddle examples below, I'd say only one--the Kartchner version--departs from the popular melody in any significant way. If you know of others that are unique, in part or as a whole, please share.



Hill Billies (1926) -- youtube.com/watch?v=zUkrmJa17TQ



​Skillet Lickers (1928) -- youtube.com/watch?v=xk8DwuIu8H8



Edden Hammons --slippery-hill.com/M-K/GDAE/G/C...mmons.mp3"> slippery-hill.com/M-K/GDAE/G/C...mmons.mp3



KC Kartchner -- slippery-hill.com/M-K/GDAE/G/C...en-KC.mp3



Coon Creek Girls -- youtube.com/watch?v=4aSH_fglRd8



Chubby Wise (1973) -- youtube.com/watch?v=dt9tu5tgSGI



Howard Armstrong (1985) -- youtube.com/watch?v=1Qv9HEc2-EE



These two banjo examples also seem to capture the melodic and rhythmic characteristics of the popular fiddle tune



Tim Bing (2008) -- youtube.com/watch?v=Pmdnv5YeJzw



Joe Birchfield (c. 1956-1969) -- youtube.com/watch?v=t5EwdKEEw-w



but Paul Brown's version still seems unique to me. I'm beginning to be able to hear some similarities to other Cacklin' Hens, but I'm still not  quite sure how it ties in. I'm hoping that someone can enlighten me. And I'm hoping that some of you will contribute your own versions of the tune this week.



I'm looking forward to reading your posts.



 



Edited by - ajisai on 11/29/2013 06:15:24

orangikan - Posted - 11/29/2013:  07:11:02


Thanks for the great write-up! This is a tune that has recently come up on my radar thanks to this utterly awesome Tim Bing video from Clifftop 2013 (different from the one linked above): youtube.com/watch?v=4aZB5LuKlao


ajisai - Posted - 11/29/2013:  07:18:35


quote:





Originally posted by orangikan



Thanks for the great write-up! This is a tune that has recently come up on my radar thanks to this utterly awesome Tim Bing video from Clifftop 2013 (different from the one linked above): youtube.com/watch?v=4aZB5LuKlao



 





You're absolutely right. To me that's one straight-up, driving version of Cacklin'Hen -- my kind of tune! And Jimmy in the Swamp is a nice added bonus. Thanks for the link. How did I miss that one?


aeroweenie - Posted - 11/30/2013:  11:47:06


Agreed, very informative write-up.  I've heard this tune many times over the years but never knew its name and never tried to play it.  I really like the Birchfield banjo version, I am unfamiliar with him.


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/30/2013:  13:33:09


Found this while stumbling around in the BHO tab section:



banjohangout.org/tab/browse.as...p;v=14275



Posted by Yigal Zan



I can't find a version on his Youtube channel, but he's got a lot of other very well played tunes.



youtube.com/user/yigalzan/vide...helf_id=1



Lew


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/30/2013:  15:19:29


Yigal just pointed out to me in an email that there’s a recording of David Margolin on fiddle, and Yigal Dan on banjo, playing Cackling Hen, posted on the Music page of Yigal’s BHO home:



banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...;archived=


Yigal Zan - Posted - 11/30/2013:  15:44:46


Check the Coon Creek Girls' rendition at,



youtube.com/watch?v=4aSH_fglRd...wInLwtNZY

 


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/30/2013:  16:19:17


Sorry, Yigal.  I typed your name wrong.  My bad.

Lew


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 11/30/2013:  19:12:31


Don Borchelt - Posted - 12/02/2013:  06:01:49


Yigal, that's a fine job of picking, well done.  Do you know if Dave ever lived in the Boston area? The picture below is from the Spring of 1973, a pick-up band I assembled for a one-time gig outside at Boston College, and I think that was the name of the bushy fellow playing the fiddle.  That's me forty years younger and one-hundred pounds lighter!  The guitar player, whose name I can't remember either, told me that my obsession with fiddle tunes had ruined me as a bluegrass picker.  I guess he was right about that.





Here is my version of Cacklin Hen, recorded in 1998 with my friends Brian Clancey and Tom Speth.  We called our trio Wry Whiskey.  I had started with the Skillet Lickers version, believe it or not, then took giga-normous liberties.  That would get me arrested by the old-timey police today, but the rules were looser back then, and the divide between bluegrass and old-time was not so musically or socially well defined.



- Don Borchelt



PS:  Nobody played chicken tunes quite as well as Howard Armstrong. 



PPS:  My theory is that nothing in creation is as naturally syncopated as a chicken, and so chicken tunes, channeling the spirit of the great fowl, are the inspiration for ragtime. wink



 



Edited by - Don Borchelt on 12/02/2013 06:09:59



Cacklin' Hen with Wry Whiskey

   

Yigal Zan - Posted - 12/02/2013:  07:27:58


Don, your rendition is fantastic. I'll check with "Dave" (he is always been called David) and get back to you. 

 


Yigal Zan - Posted - 12/02/2013:  12:53:30


Hi Don,



Here is David's response (both me and my wife believe this picture is posted, among others, on a wall in David's house, but we'll be able to verify only in Januarry).



"Hi Yigal!



Very cool to hear about Cacklin' Hen reaching the top of the hit parade! As for the

picture, it IS me! Of course, I have absolutely no memory of that gig, but luckily,

other people have a better memory than I do."





 


banjomary - Posted - 12/02/2013:  14:43:17


Hi ajisai, thanks for writing this entry and for posting all these great links! Cousin Emmy does a blistering fiddle version of Cacklin' Hen that I absolutely adore. The Digital Library of Appalachia has it archived at dla.acaweb.org/cdm/ref/collect...a/id/1129

JanetB - Posted - 12/04/2013:  05:26:20


Great choice, Cyndy!  Lots of history here and I listened to fiddlers I've never heard before.  Here's a version mostly from the Coon Creek Girls with a little Chubby Wise thrown in, as well as David Margolin and Yigal Zan.  I think my hen is just starting to get around the barnyard--she must be a little Banty.



The reunion of Don and David through BHO is amazing!



Edited by - JanetB on 12/04/2013 05:27:32



Cacklin' Hen

   

trapdoor2 - Posted - 12/04/2013:  07:10:01


Bob Flesher plays my favorite version. IIRC, he won some major banjo contests with it.


blockader - Posted - 12/04/2013:  08:01:07


Great write up Ajisai! Though here in the South we eat dressin' not stuffing, haha. I just started learning this tune on the fiddle a few weeks ago, I've had it stuck in my head for 6 months. I haven't tried it on banjo yet, but sure have enjoyed the versions posted! Most of my favorite old versions have been posted, Louie Blueie's and Coon Creek Girls especially. Tommy's version is great too, though i can't find it online to post it. Heres another of my favorites, Dan Gellert et al:



youtu.be/BLcDfA4t8uE


GSCarson - Posted - 12/04/2013:  09:38:58


Don B, love your version, that's the kind of stuff I like!  If anyone listened to how I end up playing half these tunes, I'd be in OT jail as well most of the time.  Also enjoying the other versions on here, this is a great tune.



Don't forget Reed Martin's versions on "The Old Time Banjo in America - great!! and his self produced cd.  Wish the Old Time Banjo record was re introduced on cd....., there were some neat cuts on that.



Glenn C.



 



 



 


Don Borchelt - Posted - 12/04/2013:  10:22:01


Yigal, good to see David is still thriving and fiddling in the "land of enchantment."  My thanks to you and to Glen for the nice complements.  The thing I remember most about David, besides his fine fiddling at all those Old Joe Clark's jams, was how incredibly quiet a person he was.  It was always just- don't worry about me, I'm cool.  I admire that, even though it is way, way beyond my garrulous reach.



A very nice job by Janet B.  That's one very high-toned hen, Janet, for sure.  Glen, I have Reed Martin's CD, and it is one of my favorites.  I learned Twin Sisters, Tater Patch, Last Chance, Chilly Winds, Ducks on the Millpond and Sally in the Garden from that CD.  There are over 37 cuts, I still can't believe he got them all on.  I took the liberty of taking a brief 30 second sample from his fine version of Cacklin' Hen.  I've also provided two links for anyone interested in obtaining the CD.  There is no finer clawhammer picker on the planet, I highly, highly recommend it.



Reed Martin Cacklin' Hen Sample, MP3 Format





From Elderly



From Amazon



Edited by - Don Borchelt on 12/04/2013 10:23:51

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 12/05/2013:  06:53:45


This was another home run TOTW.   Good on you, Cyndy.



I really like Tim Bing’s version. 



Here’s another one, with a fairly good view of the banjo player’s fingerboard:







And here is a bluegrass version:



youtube.com/watch?v=0S6f5oUng5c






I threw that one up here because I have a feeling I learned Cackling Hen from a bluegrasser, consequently I’m playing it out of G. 



I have a vague recollection, from the early 1990s -- yes, things as recent as the 1990s are now “vague” to me – of sitting around at a picnic table during Clifftop and playing clawhammer to Roger Sprung’s three finger picking version of Cackling Hen. 



(The banjo player in the video above might have retuned; see how at the end of the tune he turns away from the microphone and starts fiddling with the banjo?  He might have just been retuning, or he might have been rushing to get back to standard G, where a BG player would be most comfortable.)



There’s another possible explanation of why or how I learned it in standard G tuning. 



A bunch of my West Virginia -- and, ok, North Carolina and Kentucky, heck, just all my “southern” friends -- never get tired of telling me that a guy from Brooklyn will just never be able to do justice on a banjo to railroad tunes or chicken tunes.  



They tell me that growing up not knowing the difference between a diesel and a steam locomotive, or more specifically only having the IRT or the BMT subway system as a frame of reference, disqualifies me. 



Similarly, these friends also tell me that growing up only know what I do about chickens from supermarkets makes it genetically impossible for me to play a credible chicken tune. 



So I may have been left to my own devices to dope out the clawhammer approach to this tune, and the consequence seems to have been that I tried to get at it from open G tuning. 



Anyway, here’s my Hen:



youtube.com/watch?v=2pSQgWxmn-U





I really like Paul Brown’s two finger version.   Truth be told, I like anything that Paul Brown plays, he’s got such a deft touch on banjo and on fiddle. 



Thanks for this TOTW.



 



Play hard,



 



Lew


ajisai - Posted - 12/05/2013:  08:18:39


I've really enjoyed reading all the comments and hearing the versions that have been posted this week. Thanks for that! 



It's not the kind of a fiddle tune that I'm usually drawn to, but the more I listen to it, the more I really like it. It seems powerful in a way that would make it fun to play. I might have to tackle it one of these days.



But, in the meantime, here's the banjo version that inspired my TOTW choice. It's from Matt Brown's tab which is based on Paul Brown's playing and I accidentally flip the two A parts the second time through in this go around but my goal has been to reach the point where I can play it through without big tune-stopping stumbles and that's begun to happen, so I'm not too worried about it. : )



Cacklin' Hen



Edited by - ajisai on 12/05/2013 08:20:48

janolov - Posted - 12/05/2013:  12:07:51


I think Cacklin' Hen is a wonderful tune. When listening to different recordings I have found that ther are two different aspects of the tune:
1. Music: it is a good tune that gives a lot of opportunities and challenges to the player.
2. Entertainment (or whatever you want to call it): there are many recordings that contains sounds effects (imitating a cackling hen)

When starting with the tune in the end of the week, I was a little confused of if I should concentrate on the music (the tune) or the entertainment (the cackling). I have decided to start with the tune and leave the cackling to the future - I think the entertainment effects will fall out naturally after a while when the tune works naturally.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 12/10/2013:  09:08:56


Just got this message from Paul Brown



BEGIN TEXT:



Hello there Lew,



[Got] your message regarding my banjo recording of Cacklin' Hen.  Thanks for your questions and for referring me to the Banjo Hangout discussion.

At the moment I'm not on Banjo Hangout.  I've not had the time, but that may change soon and it might be a good idea for me to hook up there.



Meanwhile, I can tell you a little about the tune as I played it, and still do.





It's not a version from anyone in particular.  But it was inspired by a Georgia banjo player whose name does not come to mind at the moment.  I'll get that for you.  A LP of him was put out many years ago.  I'll find it in my collection [...





When I say inspired, I mean that his overall approach and lift inspired me.  I'm not at all true to what he did in my playing of the tune.  It's probably not even in the same tuning.  But I like playing my favorite fiddle tunes on the banjo when I can come up with a good fit in tuning and style.  There's not always another musician around, so it's fun to figure out how to make a tune sound good on the banjo alone.  That's what I did with this tune, solely for my own enjoyment.  Then we wound up putting it on the Mike Seeger/Paul Brown CD. 



More detail coming.  I just wanted you to know I have your message and will respond further.



Best wishes for the holidays,



Paul



END TEXT


ajisai - Posted - 12/10/2013:  10:58:12


quote:

Originally posted by Brooklynbanjoboy


Just got this message from Paul Brown ...




Lew--Thanks for following up.



And, thanks to Paul for providing some background on his version of the tune. I look forward to hearing more about it.



I'm glad his "solely for my own enjoyment" tune ended up on the album. It's both a treasure and a delight.


cmic - Posted - 12/11/2013:  04:33:48


@ajisai


quote:


Originally posted by ajisai

 

...



Searching for tab to share, I came across an online version from Andrew Alexis that’s drawn from the same source recording. It's similar to Matt's, but it has some significant differences. For example, Andrew’s tab divides the B into five measures of 4/4 while Matt’s breaks it into four measures of 5/4.




pineycreekweasels.net/andy/tun...ackle.PDF


... 




 



I'm actually playing this tune 2 fingers. I like the melody. However I do not know how to play the second measure of the tab you mentioned in your post. This measure doesn't include the right number of quarter noes. So it seems. How to play that ? Or is there any "typo" ?



If any one could put some light on this...



Cheers


ajisai - Posted - 12/11/2013:  05:56:04


quote:

Originally posted by cmic

 
@ajisai



quote:


Originally posted by ajisai

 


...




Searching for tab to share, I came across an online version from Andrew Alexis that’s drawn from the same source recording. It's similar to Matt's, but it has some significant differences. For example, Andrew’s tab divides the B into five measures of 4/4 while Matt’s breaks it into four measures of 5/4.




pineycreekweasels.net/andy/tun...ackle.PDF


... 





 




I'm actually playing this tune 2 fingers. I like the melody. However I do not know how to play the second measure of the tab you mentioned in your post. This measure doesn't include the right number of quarter noes. So it seems. How to play that ? Or is there any "typo" ?




If any one could put some light on this...




Cheers







Hopefully someone with more experience will chime in, but in the meantime, based on the way I learned the tune ...



I think the first measure is short, containing the two groups of notes ending with the open 1-5. The next measure starts with the 3rd-fret note on the 1st string and then it continues with 4 beats per measure until you get to the last measure.



If you cut the last note of the last measure in half, you can anticipate the 7th fret note and that will bring things back around.



 



And then, on the B part, it might be a 2-4 side rather than 2-3 and the last 2-3 side might be 3-2.



Also, the tuning on the tab says fCGFD capo 2 but I read through playing from gDGDE and it seemed to sound right.



 



 


janolov - Posted - 12/11/2013:  06:24:20


If I interpret TablEdit right it is the fifth string note that shall have the duration of one quarter note. Compare the timing in the notation and the tab in the picture. This can happen in TablEdit if you are not carefully.





Also note that the tuning in the tab is wrong.It should be fCFCD (not fCGFD)  (and capo2)


JanetB - Posted - 12/11/2013:  06:31:22


Glad this thread is still alive--there's much to learn here.  Banjoike said he'd enjoy seeing my version on video, so here it is.




VIDEO: Cacklin' Hen
(click to view)

   

cmic - Posted - 12/11/2013:  14:40:15


@ajisai



OK. I already guessed the tuning was fCFCD. This is one of the reasons I'd like to play Cacklin Hen, because I already play Last Chance with this tuning. However I notice the 2 slides "typos". Happily for me, it's not too late to fix my playing 8-). Thanks



@janolov



Great. This gif drops some light on what i considered a mystery. Now perfectly clear. (Hum...where did he find the score ??).

Thank you for your help.



Cheers


Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.09375