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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 11/28/2014 - Yellow Barber

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:

Paul Meredith - Posted - 11/28/2014:  10:35:47

This week's TOTW is "Yellow Barber", also known as "Arthur Berry" and "Arthur Barrie".  It seems to be pretty common D tune but I had never heard it until a few months ago on (great site!).  Summarizing from the Fiddler's Companion (, which was the only source of information I found, the tune seems to be from the Kentucky, West Virginia, southern Ohio area.  The title likely refers to a mulatto barber.  And, news to me, "it was fairly common for fiddlers and other musicians to moonlight as barbers (or vice versa)."  There was at least one known mulatto barber who was also a fiddler, William B. Taylor, born in kentucky in 1821.  He had a band (composed of barbers!) that was very active in the Minnesota territories from 1849 until Taylor's death in 1862.  But there is no mention as to whether this tune is attributable to, or evan refers to him.

A version of the tune that seems to have made it more widely known was recorded by east Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas before he died in 1974 (only 39 years old).

In searching the web to find out more about the tune, imagine my surprise that the tune was the topic of a BHO thread earlier this year (, though not a TOTW.  There is a lot of good discussion there, sorry for stealing your thread JanetB!   Janet based her playing on Nick Hornbuckle's playing (see below) and  the Buddy Thomas recording which I've linked here (, a fantastic resource):

The earliest recording (1951 at the latest) I could find of the tune was made by, surprise, Ed Haley! here is a sample:

Here are a few fiddle versions from youtube, there are many more.

This Clifftop version is pretty basic, and long, which makes it ideal to learn from:

Another rendition from Clifftop, as "Arthur Berry::

This Alan Block version is my favorite:  The guitar accompaniment by Martha Burns is excellent.

And here are a couple of solo banjo versions.  A clawhammer version From JanetB (see thread above):

And a two-finger version from Nick Hornbuckle:

My arrangement is somewhat spare but I think it compliments the fiddle pretty well.   Below is a solo banjo version and one where I'm playing along with the Allan Block youtube video.

I really like this tune - it just flips my switch both melodically and rhythmically.  It is fun to play, with lots of room for improvisation.


Edited by - Paul Meredith on 11/28/2014 10:38:49

Yellow Barber

Yellow Barber (Allan Block)

Mtngoat - Posted - 11/28/2014:  11:46:25

That's a great job Paul,  It compliments the fiddle very well.  .

dbrooks - Posted - 11/28/2014:  13:47:57

Good choice and nice playing, Paul.  I agree that your banjo pairs well with Alan Block's fiddle.  A local fiddler here asked if I knew this tune and I did not.  So I put some tab together for our next opportunity.  I'm still learning the tune and will probably modify the tab some, but some may find it helpful.

David Brooks

Clawhammer tab eBooks for Kindle


Edited by - dbrooks on 11/28/2014 13:48:16

Yellow Barber


Dock Jekel - Posted - 11/28/2014:  17:53:32

I never heard of this tune myself until very recently.  Two amazing, perhaps equivalent versions are Buddy Thomas's recorded version and Bruce Molsky's.  I was really getting psyched to learn this tune and listened to the BT version, over and over, but  my wife is not that fond of it, and I suppose it IS on the notey side for my taste.  It's on 'Old Time Jam Machine!

Buddy Thomas Version

Edited by - Dock Jekel on 11/28/2014 18:00:16

LyleK - Posted - 11/28/2014:  21:59:30

This has long been a personal favorite and I almost always pair it with "Forked Deer."  But while I used to play it on banjo I rarely do anymore because I tend to get lost in "A" versus "B" parts.  On fiddle I don't seem to have this problem.  So attached is my fiddle version and an old banjo tab from my tab site.  I very much enjoyed the versions I've heard here so far, and look forward to hearing some more.


VIDEO: Yellow Barber - Fiddle
(click to view)

Yellow Barber

trapdoor2 - Posted - 11/29/2014:  06:18:29

It is one of my favorites from local fiddler, Bob White, who plays a great version. Great to play on the banjo.

JanetB - Posted - 11/29/2014:  23:15:40

Nice versions, Paul.  You chose a great tune for TOTW.  Many of Buddy Thomas' tunes are intriguing and fun to listen to. I also like the Ed Haley version you posted and wonder where he learned it and who he passed it on to.  By reviewing my original post I'm reminded that there's a link to another fiddler who taught Buddy Thomas the tune--Morris Allen.


JanetB - Posted - 03/05/2014:  


Originally posted by Stevesrustyone


I think Morris Allen...was my next door neighbor. He sold me my first fiddle for $25.00.... He used to play his fiddle on the front porch for me and would ask me what their names were. A few I still remember, at the time they all sounded the same to me LOL.. Yellow Barber, Brown Button Shoes, Apple Blossom and Pumpkin Vine are a few that come to mind.

He got me started on my fiddle journey in life...


Buddy Thomas

Yellow Barber

Don Borchelt - Posted - 11/30/2014:  19:30:30

Great choice for Tune of the Week by Paul (aeroweenie), a great write up, and a fine job of picking the dang thing on top of it all.  It's always a pleasure to hear and watch Nick Hornbuckle pick a tune in his elegant style, very fine.  Janet's picking is always a treat, too, such mellifluous, bell like tones!   Lyle, though, puts us all to shame by showing us that he can fiddle, too.  I hate you, Lyle!  No, I don't.

Here is my contribution.  I got interested in this tune a few years ago when I heard it in a jam session at the New England Folk Festival. I decided to rework it a month or so ago when I started attending Allan Kaufman's Sunday old-time jam session at The Burren, in Somerville, Massachusetts, where it appears to be a favorite tune, but I have been dragging my feet.  Then here it is- this week's time TOTW.  I decided it must be karma, and I had better get moving.  I am picking my 1928 semi-fretless Tubaphone three finger style, in open D tuning (aDF#AD).  I have a tab posted on my webpage, if anyone is interested.

- Don Borchelt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 11/30/2014 19:34:11

VIDEO: Yellow Barber
(click to view)


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 12/02/2014:  19:07:53

Glad to see this as a TOTW.  It gets played with some regularity at my local jam here in Columbus, Ohio, where most of us got it from Portsmouth, Ohio, fiddler Jimmy Wheeler.  It is included on the Field Recorders CD devoted to Jimmy (

Thanks for the great write-up.

Clawdan - Posted - 12/02/2014:  20:22:39

One of my favorite tunes AND fiddlers (Buddy Thomas). Folks would do well to listen to anything of his you can get. Kitty Puss was his only commercial album but there is also Recorder's Collective cd as well as a lot on the Digital Library of Appalachia. And, yes, a bit more notey than we are used to but then, his notes - or perhaps how he uses them - is what makes the tune so distinctive and wonderful. In many ways it is the triplets that make the tune and are distinctive of the region (Ohio Valley) and perhaps a nod to the old Scottish tradition that predated our old time way. It's a great contest tune that has done me well even out in the western contests of Arizona.

I did get it into my Festival Favorites for Clawhammer Banjo (MelBay 30224) and will do it as a tune-torial in the future.

Other good recordings of it are done by John Hartford, Ed Haley, Jimmy Wheeler and Roger Cooper.

Play Nice,

Dan Levenson

vrteach - Posted - 03/10/2015:  13:03:09

As I realized this topic had not yet entered the archive, I'm going to resuscitate this TOTW. Last year Lyle & Sue came over to our jam, and after our mandolin player started Forked Deer, Lyle surprised us by heading into Yellow Barber. I can't really play it by my self, but I could sort of follow.

Edited by - vrteach on 03/10/2015 13:04:09

jojo25 - Posted - 03/10/2015:  15:57:58

I first heard this fine tune from Bill Mort...a faboo mando player...gotta work on getting this in the mix with my music buds...thanks to all for your contributions...just what I needed after cleaning the "skunk" off my dog:(

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