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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 11/13/2015 - Jake's Got the Bellyache

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jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/13/2015:  05:40:37

Jake’s Got the Bellyache comes to us from West Virginia fiddler, Edden Hammons.  I’ve been waiting for “Jake” to pop up as TOTW, but since it hasn’t, I volunteered to make this my first submission.  I learned this tune a few years ago from a fiddler friend and have been “possessed” by it ever since.  The B part, in particular, seems to have a hypnotic quality.  Edden Hammons tunes are commonly played at jams in and around my area in Colorado, but Jake seems to be unknown.  So, I usually just play it at home for my own enjoyment.

Not much is known about the legacy of this tune beyond attribution to Edden Hammons.  At least my internet searching hasn’t yielded much other than that it is related to Kate's Got the Bellyache from eastern Kentucky. Maybe the BHO collective mind can help.

The Edden Hammon’s rendition is notated in the Milliner-Koken collection of American Fiddle Tunes.

Here is what the Traditional Tune Archive (TTA) has to say about Jake:


“JAKE'S GOT THE BELLYACHE. Old-Time, Breakdown.  A Mixolydian.  ADae tuning (fiddle).  AAB.  This moderate tempo modal breakdown was in the repertoire of West Virginia fiddler Edden Hammons [1].  A version (with a slightly different rhythm and a more pronounced modal character) called "Kate's Got the Bellyache" has been collected in southeastern Kentucky from the playing of Estill Bingham.  Also played in 'G'.”


There are two quirks in Jake.  The standard run through is AAB, rather than AABB.  Also, the B part consists of 12 measures, rather than the usual 8 measures.

So, let's get on to known recordings. First, here is a recording of Edden Hammons from the Slippery-Hill website:


Claire Milliner and Walt Koken play a bit more of an up-tempo Jake in this YouTube video:


Contemporary recordings released commercially include:


To my knowledge, there are no commercially recorded banjo solo/lead renditions.  Lee Sproull of Birmingham, Alabama recorded himself playing Jake on a Dobson he recently built.  He graciously consented to share the recording here.  Thanks Lee!

Lastly, I've included my most recent take.  Originally, I played Jake in open A (aEAC#E), but I have since switched over to sawmill tuning (aEADE) and like playing it there much better.  My rendition is fairly melodic and based on the the transcription in the Milliner-Koken collection.

So,if anyone knows more about the legacy of Jake's Got the Bellyache, let's hear it.  Of course, add your rendition here too.

Thanks for tuning in.

Edited by - jack_beuthin on 11/13/2015 11:59:41

Jake's Got the Bellyache - TOTW (OT) 11/16/2015

Jake's Got the Bellyache - played by Lee Sproull

banjukebox - Posted - 11/13/2015:  08:01:55

Great tune, Jack. This is one I've never heard before. On my "to learn" list now. To my ears, it sounds as though the B part is 4 bars played 3 times, so AABBB?

mworden - Posted - 11/13/2015:  10:18:29

Nice pick.  It sounds a bit more "Irish" to my ears than many West Virginia tunes, especially in Rafe Stefanini's version.

vrteach - Posted - 11/13/2015:  10:40:46

That's a good tune. Thanks!

jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/13/2015:  10:58:25

Mike, I agree, which is why I am curious about the pre-Hammons history.  The Rafe Stefanini version definitely has an "old country" feel.

Pat, from a banjo perspective, it does sound more like AABBB with a 4-bar B part.  The Milliner-Koken transcription shows slight variations within the each of the 4-bar runs in the B part, which I guess is the reason for the AAB take.  

Edited by - jack_beuthin on 11/13/2015 11:02:01

JanetB - Posted - 11/13/2015:  13:00:36

A rich reserve of tunes goes along with studying Edden Hammons -- thanks for a great choice, Jack, and your nice version.  I listened to the original source recording and then added an up-the-neck B part on the last four measures in an attempt to get a lower note than the modal tuning allows for. 

If you haven't looked at this 77-page booklet on the family, here's an interesting link:  There's not a lot about Edden specifically, but some information begins on page 25 with photos and a quote from a 1905 article.   Here's another link specifically about his life:

Jake's Got the Bellyache (TOTW)

Jake's Got the Bellyache

jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/13/2015:  13:26:08

Janet,I love your partially raised B part!  Much like the Rafe Stefanini version, I get that sense of a tune that has a legacy going back into the mists of time.

bhniko - Posted - 11/13/2015:  15:25:46

Again...just ot thank all for TOTW. Truly enjoy the history and all of you playing.

JanetB - Posted - 11/14/2015:  09:45:12

When Jake's Got the Bellyache begins it reminds me of another tune -- Melvin Wine's Hannah at the Springhouse.  In a biography of him called Fiddling Way Out Yonder, The Life and Music of Melvin Wine that song is delved into.  He said that it's a "way back yonder tune" and called it a "listening tune."  The fact that both Melvin Wine and Edden Hammons were both in West Virginia is an interesting connection.

In extensive liner notes in the CD set called "Edden Hammons Collection, Volumes 1 and 2" there's general discussion of the sources for his old-time fiddle tunes.  The sources are only pointed in the general regions of Kentucky, Virginia, or West Virginia and tunes are linked to family or other regional fiddlers.  The Hammons family music is said to have been passed on from generation to generation.  I bring this up because we're looking for Scotch-Irish roots of this week's tune and haven't found them yet.


VancePants - Posted - 11/14/2015:  11:36:56

Good stuff Jack (or is it "Jake"?) and Janet... .  Like this tune and have it on 'The Haints' CD, featuring Erynn Marshall's solid fiddlin' and Jason Romero's fine pickin'.  If i have some time later, i may join in... cheers!

jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/14/2015:  13:54:31

Janet, very interesting connection there with the Melvin Wine tune, Hannah at the Springhouse.  While researching the history of Jake, I contacted Erynn Marshall to see if she had any deeper insights.  She came up shorter than I had, and asked to report back if we uncovered anything new.  I will definitely pass this on to her.

Hey Ken, I've been called "Jake" now and then, but there's no bellyaching about this tune and the responses here.

VancePants - Posted - 11/14/2015:  15:23:12

Had some time before headin' out to dinner... so here be Jake... and hope i don't git no bellyache!

Jake's Got a BellyAche - TOTW


VancePants - Posted - 11/15/2015:  06:25:40

AND... here's a vid where i'm pickin' along with "The Haints" CD (it's a bit long, but it's really good practice:):

Yigal Zan - Posted - 11/30/2015:  17:25:03

Sorry to get in so late. The tune is very similar to the Irish reel, You Rogue You Dar'n't Meddle Me - no. 632 in the O'Neill's 1001 collection, Francis O'Neill: The Dance Music of Ireland" (Lyon & Healy 1907)

jack_beuthin - Posted - 11/30/2015:  18:14:09

Yigal, I think you just nailed the old country source.  I couldn't find a recording, but I did find sheet music and a midi file on the web.  More than a bit of similarity there.  Thanks!

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