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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 11 July 2014: Ragtime Annie


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/287901

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/11/2014:  02:56:14


Our TOTW selection, Ragtime Annie, was first recorded by Texas fiddler Eck Robertson in June, 1922, and a few years later by two other Texans, Solomon and Hughes.  Vance Randolph, a fiddler from the Ozarks, recorded the tune for the Library of Congress in the early 1940's.



 



BHO has a sound file of Robertson’s rendition, courtesy of Mark Ralston:



 



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



 



Bill Malone, in his book, Southern Music/American Music, (Chapter 3), articulately disaggregates the components of ragtime, and establishes that the tune Ragtime Annie had a very separate lineage from the urban musical form that became popular in the early 1900s. 



 



books.google.com/books?id=nqdT...p;f=false



 



I learned Ragtime Annie from a David Holt instructional DVD early on in my brief and undistinguished tenure as a banjo player, probably way earlier than I should have, but David Holt’s Homespun instructional DVDs were just so clear and level-headed in their teaching that I went right from Bob Carlin’s introductory DVDs to Holt. 



 



homespuntapes.com/CatalogueRet...ctType=27



 



However, because I wasn’t very smart about keys, and because capos confused fingerboard topography for me, especially once things were moved up a few frets away from the side markers and other inlay indicators that were my musical GPS, I learned to play the tune out of Double C. 



 



That seems to be the way the Italian banjo player Fabrizio Bezzini tackled it:



 





 



 



You’ll need to read the Youtube blurb, and follow the links to Fabrizio Bezzini’s webpage to get the full impact of his banjoing.



 



Here’s a Doc Watson/David Holt duet that get’s to Ragtime Annie after Soldier’s Joy:



 





 



 



I’m uncritically devoted to anything Doc Watson played, and similarly enamored with David Holt’s musicianship, not to mention his banjoing. One real treat while I lived in northern Virginia was seeing his old Deering with the 4 inch deep pot up close and personal at a Birchmere concert, sometime in the late 1990s I suppose. (And as long as we’ve drifted this far, sometime in the mid 1970s I saw Doc Watson for the price of a fifty cent ticket at the University of Pittsburgh student union building).



 



The Fiddler’s Companion lists a bunch of alternative names, and a range of alternative structures and tunings ascribed to Master players.



 



The tune is also known as “Ragged Annie,” “Raggedy Ann (Rag),” “Raggin’ On,” “Bug(s) in the ‘Tater(s),” “What Made the Wildcat Wild.” vithefiddler.com/ragtime-annie...-day-168/



 



There is a long running debate over whether the tune is has its origins in old time tradition, or stems from a lineage of American fiddle breakdowns, as well as whether it can trace its provenance to Canadian music or is more strictly American, and in that American context whether it hails from Texas or elsewhere.



 



In these arguments, issues of antiquity and ubiquity become confused to the point that little light ends up being shed on origins of the tune much less current usages/forms.



 



And logic and evidentiary standards mean less that the frequency with which one argument (or another) is repeated. My favorite example is the Fiddler’s Companion reference to the case made by Reiner and Anick (1989) to the effect that “the tune is derived from a piano piece called ‘Raggedy Ann Rag’,” and that it is “a ‘Midwest’ and ‘Southwest’ tune,” though the authors’ carrying water for this argument do not cite a source for this case, and acknowledge that “so far no one has been able to access a piano melody similar to the fiddle tune.”



 



Fiddler’s Companion does tell us this:



 



BEGIN QUOTE:



 



The earliest appearance of “Ragtime Annie” that can be documented, in print or otherwise, is the recording by Texas fiddler Eck Robertson (along with Henry C. Gilliland) in 1923, and a few years later by the Texas duo Solomon and Hughes. Robertson’s release was backed with “Turkey in the Straw.” “Ragtime Annie” was later recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940′s.



 



END QUOTE.



 



And there is a legitimate debate over the regional distinctions between a two-part version and a three-part version:



 



BEGIN QUOTE:



 



There is often some confusion among fiddlers whether to play the tune in two or three parts, and both are correct depending on regional taste.



 



Eck Robertson’s original version was in three parts (the third part changes key to G major) as are many older south-west versions, and some insist this form was once more common that the two-part version often heard in more recent times.



 



Other Texas fiddlers only learned the two-part version.



 



Glen Godsey writes: “Of the fiddlers I knew in Amarillo in the 1940′s-1950′s, Eck was the only one who played the third part. I learned only two parts as a kid, and we always played just two parts for the square dances. I only learned the third part many years later from Eck’s recording.”



 



Little Dixie, Missouri, fiddler Howard Marshall says the third part has been a vital part of the tune in Missouri for many years, offering that the renowned regional fiddler Taylor McBaine remembered playing it that way as a child in the very early 1920s. Marshall reports that local speculation is that the third part was inserted to relieve a square dance fiddler from the stress of keeping the main part of the tune going through a long set.



 



Gordon McCann (2008) remembered that Missouri fiddler Bob Walsh, a respected entrepreneur who often judged fiddle contests, would deduct points from a performance if the third part was omitted. Drew Beisswenger (2008), however, remarks that the three-part version of “Ragtime Annie” is seldom heard among Ozark fiddlers, and consigns the longer version to northern Missouri fiddlers, and fiddlers west of the Mississippi.



 



Some feel the third part is reminiscent of “Little Brown Jug,” although there can be considerable variation from fiddler to fiddler in the way third parts are rendered.



 



END QUOTE.



 



See: vithefiddler.com/ragtime-annie...-day-168/



 



and



 



ceolas.org/cgi-bin/ht2/ht2-fc2...Joe+Clark



 



(Which may be little more than a shadow or artifact of other postings citing The Fiddler’s Companion as the authoritative source.)



 



Many of the online references note the similarity to the TOTW selection Goin’ Uptown, as Erich points out in his TOTW thread. (See banjohangout.org/topic/270413)



 



Pat “Banjukebox” from Anacortes, WA, recorded this nice, playful version on BHO on 24 June 2014:



 





 



I find Pat’s videos hypnotic. His thumb posture, the consistency and economy of his right hand motion, and the seriously artistic head wear patterns are most interesting – as are some of the items that show up in camera range in the background, including skeletal remains standing adjacent to a banjo pot just behind Pat’s left hand.



 



Here’s a Youtube video of Gary Sizemore playing all three parts of the tune on fiddle. Part Three begins at about the 0:40 second point of the video.



 





 



 



Here is Bob Carlin (on banjo) and Dan Levenson (on fiddle) playing a version of the tune with this third part:



 





 



At about the 1:44 second point in this video, looks as though old Bob expected the tune to end, confusion arising from that third bridge part of the tune? Perhaps. I can’t find a recording of the TOTW subject by Bob alone so I can’t say whether the third part is or isn’t included in the way Bob renders Ragtime Annie.



 



Youtube is filled with versions of Ragtime Annie. I went looking for videos with banjoists of note.



 



Here’s a Youtube audio featuring Charlie Poole:



 





 



 



Here’s one featuring Mike Long on a snappy banjo version set against Glenn Godsey’s fiddling:



 





 



 



Here’s a BHO article featuring tab by the founder of Banjo Newsletter, Hub Nitchie:



 



banjohangout.org/article/33



 



And Eric Gibson on banjo with The Gibson Brothers doing a rousing three finger version (and some very tasteful banjo backup as the rest of the band passes the tune around):



 





 



Another forward roll-based version:



 





 



And here’s evidence that the Scruggs style approach to the tune is just so much easier than any clawhammer version (insert smiley face here):



 





 



Tim Bing in this Youtube, below, taking the tune for several laps around the track at full speed:



 





 



Here’s an unrelated Youtube “must see” banjo video featuring Tim Bing on the 5 string:



 





 



Tim Bing and Dwight Diller are old friends from the 1970s or so. Dwight has recorded and played concerts with Tim’s brother Dave. And Dwight has the highest regard for Tim’s playing. The Bing Brothers and Diller didn’t live all that far apart, but Ragtime Annie was not a tune Dwight played. It just wasn’t part of the Pocahontas County tradition that he zeroed in on, though he did play tunes that had currency in far flung places (such as Big Scioti, an Ohio tune in origin), but only when they had at some point entered the musical lexicon of his region and become part of his musical orbit. Ragtime Annie was not part of Dwight’s drill, as far as I can recall. Tim Bing and Dwight Diller are old friends from the 1970s or so. Dwight has recorded and played concerts with Tim’s brother Dave. And Dwight has the highest regard for Tim’s playing. The Bing Brothers and Diller didn’t live all that far apart, but Ragtime Annie was not a tune Dwight played. It just wasn’t part of the Pocahontas County tradition that he zeroed in on, though he did play tunes that had currency in far flung places (such as Big Scioti, an Ohio tune in origin), but only when they had at some point entered the musical lexicon of his region and become part of his musical orbit. Ragtime Annie was not part of Dwight’s drill, as far as I can recall.



 



Here’s a video of Tim Roswell, a great player, teaching the tune:



 





 



A real strong guitar and banjo duet by Tony Norris and Bill Burke:



 





 



And Martha Spenser of the Whitetop Mountaineers playing clawhammer to the late Frank Grayson’s fiddling:



 





 



Don Borchelt plays a great version of Arkansas Hoosier, an Ozark fiddle tune that was the Banjo Hangout old time Tune of the Week for March 21, 2014.



 





 



In his video, Don notes that the tune comes from the playing of an Oklahoma fiddler named John Mert Reves via home recordings made by his son Merle in the mid-sixties, and that Reves makes a brief and uncredited appearance in the movie Where The Red Fern Grows, fiddling a fine version of Ragtime Annie. I found the scene at the 107:33 point of the video on Amazon Prime Instant Video:



 



amazon.com/Where-Fern-Grows-Ja...ern+grows



 



Here’s a melodic version worth listening to:



 



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



 



And a very nice guitar version, flatpicked, worth listening to:



 





 



Here’s a great video that ought to make you wanna dance:



 





 



Here's my crack at the tune:



 





 



Thanks for tuning it.



 



Have a great time with this TOTW (OT).



 



Play hard,



 



Lew



 



 



Edited by - Brooklynbanjoboy on 07/11/2014 03:02:58

Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/11/2014:  07:20:54


Wow, is it Friday already?  Great write up, Lew and great picking, too.  I also like the sweet version by O.D.  Ed Britt and I play the three part version of this old standard, though we end on the B part. Ed is playing clawhammer style on his Ome Columbine in double C tuning, capoed on the 2nd fret; I am three finger picking my semi-fretless Tubaphone, in open D tuning.  I have a tab posted on my website of my three finger version, if anyone is interested.




Ragtime Annie with Ed Britt

   

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/11/2014:  07:26:39


Thanks, Don.



Here's Don's TAB:



banjr.com/pdf%20files/ragtime%20annie.pdf


janolov - Posted - 07/11/2014:  08:05:41


Thanks for all the information!



I think this version with New Lost City Ramblers and Pete Seeger is worth to mention. Ragtime Annie starts at about 1:20.

 




VIDEO: Pete Seeger and The New Lost City Ramblers - Ragtime Annie Medley
(click to view)

   

JanetB - Posted - 07/11/2014:  11:32:10


Incredible presentation, Lew, and I like the Pete Seeger video, too.  Don and Ed are always a treat, and your video crackles with that relaxed, mountainy style.  It seems like the Bill Malone book is worth having.



I used to play this in open G, but took your suggestion to play it in double C--much better.  I notice that there are several tabs in the archive, but here's one more.



 




Ragtime Annie


Ragtime Annie tab (CH)

vrteach - Posted - 07/11/2014:  14:00:06


It could be that Ragtime Annie is my single most favorite tune to play, even though I like lotsa others.

Here is a version (2-part) that I recorded for myself in 2006. vrteach.org/content/ragtime-annie-2-part



Since I did that I have actually managed to do a skeletal version of the C part in G.



As it happens, this at our Jam this  Wednesday I started Ragtime Annie. Perhaps for the second time in the last 4 years! It just doesn't seem to be played much in the OT groups that I hang with in Central Illinois. I wish that I had had a recorder going because my mandolin-friend Mark did a cool job on it even though I surprised him with the C part.



Edited by - vrteach on 07/11/2014 14:05:46

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/11/2014:  14:47:06


That was clearly great.



Nice to see, from that webpage, that you and Lyle have a two and a half decade long musical association.



Play hard,



Lew


UncleClawhammer - Posted - 07/11/2014:  14:53:03


It is a great tune. I'm somewhat surprised I never added it to my repertoire.



The organizer and promoter of the Music in the Mountains Bluegrass Festival in Summersville, WV, Edgar Kitchen, is a good old-time fiddle player and this is his favorite tune. I spent the whole week at the festival once and almost every night someone called him up to play it. On one occasion he was joined by a friend. It was the real thing.


aeroweenie - Posted - 07/11/2014:  19:56:17


Good pick Lew, thanks for the thorough, and thoroughly enjoyable, documentation!  I used to play this tune 3-finger style but have never tried it clawhammer style.  My Friday evening is now spoken for...


Zischkale - Posted - 07/13/2014:  09:13:51


Eck Robertson of the Brillancy Medley! It's great you got to start your post with his recording (1922, amazing).



I could see the tune being a rag if the syncopation was right, though most examples you posted have the classic fiddle tune sound. I'd be fine with referring to it under one of those great alternate titles, "Bug" or "Wildcat."



Thank you much for introducing me to Fabrizio Bezzini, I'm loving his style and you can tell he's really absorbed in the tune. Good motivation for my practice. Glad to hear some Charlie Poole since I'm so unacquainted with his music, and you did good posting some extra Tim Bing. Not sure if I'd come across his videos before, but man, he's brilliant. And can handle that tune at lightspeed. Also really enjoyed that Gibson Brothers jam.



Great picking as well, unique solo version of the song. Real staccato, punchy sound, I like it. Awesome post.


Zischkale - Posted - 07/13/2014:  13:15:06


quote:

Originally posted by janolov

Thanks for all the information!




I think this version with New Lost City Ramblers and Pete Seeger is worth to mention. Ragtime Annie starts at about 1:20.

 







Thank you for posting this, it's brilliant. Had no idea Pete could shred on mandolin like that. And Mike's clawhammer is unstoppable, that's some serious speed and precision!


Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/16/2014:  12:18:18


Great picking, Janet and Eric.  Janet, it's nice to see another picker with the personal fortitude to play that third part.  Don't worry, I will speak to Eric.  Now, Eric...  



Edited by - Don Borchelt on 07/16/2014 12:18:53

aeroweenie - Posted - 07/16/2014:  16:14:14


OK, here is my take on the tune.  Turns out I had worked this out some time ago and forgot all about it.



 



 




Ragtime Annie

   

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/16/2014:  16:18:05


Nicely done, Paul.  Sweet when a tune that's an artifact of a memory reconstitutes itself, finding its way back to your fingertips.



 


Chadbanjo - Posted - 07/17/2014:  07:33:49


really cool tune, lots of great versions here. I've listened to Charlie Pooles version a lot but never thought about trying it. Sounds a little more difficult then your average tune, but lots to go by here. Fine write up to.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/17/2014:  19:11:52


Wow, somebody's really moving!  Great job, Paul, well played.


vrteach - Posted - 07/24/2014:  15:24:44


quote:

Originally posted by Don Borchelt

Great picking, Janet and Eric.  Janet, it's nice to see another picker with the personal fortitude to play that third part.  Don't worry, I will speak to Eric.  Now, Eric...  







Well, when I read this I was in Iowa without my banjo, so I couldn't do a response. But, last night I had a great opportunity at our 2-times-a-month get together. My friends Lyle and Sue had come over from champaign-banana, my friend Mark from Athens, my friend Janet from Meredosia, and my friend Maureen from the New Holland area, up so we had a fine group. They were willing to play Ragtime Annie three part, and I had my crummy Olympus voice recorder available. The players are Lyle K, Maureen D, and Janet J on fiddle, Mark M on mandolin, Sue F on autoharp, Bill G on guitar, Erich S on banjo, and John W either on 12-string guitar or octave mandolin (I forget what he was playing, but he sounds great on both). It's the first time we had ever played it together so it is a bit rough in the first few measures. I hope it sounds OK, I've only listened to it on my laptop with it's half-inch speakers.



Edited by - vrteach on 07/24/2014 15:26:11



Ragtime Annie (UIS OT group)

   

maryzcox - Posted - 07/25/2014:  06:01:29


Recorded a version of Ragtime Annie on "Florida Banjo" cd.  You may take a listen on my website, itunes, Amazon, Pandora. cool



maryzcox.com



the first 2 parts are pretty standard traditional--but the third part is different.  If Eck can add a third part in 1922 (which I've never particularly liked)--why can't I add a different 3rd part in 2008? Kind of spruce it up a bit for the 21st century :)



Ragtime Annie really is a wonderful old time dance tune and have always enjoyed playing it because of its syncopation :)



Best wishes always,



Mary Z



 




   

Jimmy Sutton - Posted - 07/25/2014:  06:59:31


Here's a version recently put up on you tube played by Jimmy Edmonds. For those of you who don't know Jimmy, he is the grandson of Uncle Norman Edmonds the fiddle player on "Train on the Island" from the 1927 Bristol Sessions".
Jimmy who has been playing since he was four years old was once aged about seven the playing partner of banjo player Uncle Wade Ward.


youtube.com/watch?v=BMnjUcuDgN8

Jimmy Sutton

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/25/2014:  08:19:28


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