I started with the tuning first here, after I fell for Ken Perlman’s B minor tuning from his Clawhammer Style Banjo book. From gDGBD you just drop the third and fifth a half-step and you’re there (f#DF#BD). I enjoyed fooling around with it so much I decided to select my tune around it.
I ended up with Old Drake, a crooked ol’ minor tune from West Virginia’s East side. It’s referred to as Big Fancy some times. I won’t get far into history here, as it’s so well documented and I’m sure plenty of y’all know the stories better than I. Dwight Diller did extensive field work and interviewed the Hammons family at length (link to that work below). This is one of the tunes he picked up from Burl, who learned it from his uncle Edden.
Edden was a character. There are some choice quotes on his Wikipedia entry, and he’d apparently wander around with his fiddle stored in a full sack of flour. Just pulled the fiddle out when it was time to get down to business, blow the flour off in a big cloud of white powder. He said, “Upon my honor, that's just as good as the best cases every [sic??] made.”
Haven’t heard his version of the tune yet, but Burl can be heard on the Slippery Hill site for a woefully short thirty-one seconds:
Your tuning brings out a new beauty in Old Drake, Aaron. I like learning anything David Margolin and Yigal Zan do as a duet, and especially appreciate learning from Burl Hammons, Dwight Diller, and Jimmy Tripplett (who played with Dwight and which is the source for Yigal's version),
Here's my Old Drake in regular modal tuning (gDGCD).
Sounds great Aaron. I've never heard of the tune, but I loves me some alternate tunings. And this is a totally new one to me.
I actually came across it trying to play a pop tune in the key of B minor, had remembered Ken Perlman listing the tuning in his book. It's a really enjoyable one to play out of, give it a shot when you can!!
I have also found that some tunes in A modal (the Milliner-Koken book presents the tune in A modal Dorian mode based on Burl Hammons) works good with aDGBD or eDGBD without capo! This seems to be one of these tunes where it works.
Well, Aaron, here's a tab close to your version and using your tuning. Anita Kermode calls this a D variant tuning: zeppmusic.com/banjo/tuneindx.htm (#79 in this alphabetical list). It's certainly a nice way to get lots of the notes in one position with several open strings and is a good argument for using various tunings due to ease of playing and interesting tonal sounds. One thing I did discover was that Edden Hammons tune of the same name is not the same tune.
Looks spot on, Janet, thanks! My arrangement was looking quite a bit different since I didn't note those first four notes as a pickup, but it all adds up nicely and you handle the crooked measures really well. Wasn't aware of that list view of the Kermode tuning index--that's a way easier method of hunting through the tunings for a good one.
I'm left wondering where Burl got his Old Drake from!