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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 11/18/2016 Puncheon on the Floor

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Mtngoat - Posted - 11/18/2016:  03:55:41

TOTW (OT) 11/18/2016 – Puncheon on the Floor

I’ve chosen Puncheon on the Floor from Dobson, North Carolina fiddler Esker Hutchins (1901 – 1975) for this installment of TOTW.   The tune is perhaps better known in OT jam circles as simply Puncheon Floor, a name attached to a couple of other unrelated tunes, and Hutchins himself appears to have used the names interchangeably.  Mr. Hutchins credited his source as Crawley Hamlin (1869 – 1936), an older Surry County fiddler. 

According to the Fiddler’s Companion the title refers to the frontier practice of building cabin floors out of trees split down the middle (puncheon logs) and set in the ground with the round side down and the flat side up.   After the puncheons were edged with the broad-axe and joined together, the floor was worked with an adz until it was smooth. 

Here’s a 1972 field recording of Hutchins playing the tune:

And here’s his commercial recording:

Here’s a rollicking rendition without banjo:

Here’s a string band session with banjo:

Puncheon on the Floor had not been played in my weekly jam group for probably five or six years until a newcomer called it during our last session.   It is such a fun tune that I suspect it will be returning to our regular rotation again for some time to come.

Cathy Fink provides instruction and a tab in her free video lesson here:

Readers are encouraged to post comments, performances, and tabs contributing to this thread.

Edited by - Mtngoat on 11/18/2016 14:42:41

Cyndy - Posted - 11/18/2016:  04:23:12

Nice choice! I've been experimenting with this tune for a few weeks using Cathy Fink's lesson (thank you!) as a jumping off point and it's been an enjoyable challenge. Looking forward to following the other links you posted. Thanks!

cmic - Posted - 11/18/2016:  08:06:22

There is two tunes related to this one on The first one is BullFrog on a Puncheon Floor

The other one is Puncheon Floor Both of them with a banjo tab.

But the one I prefer is played by Cathy and Marcy on their CD "Old time banjo festival"


hendrid - Posted - 11/18/2016:  08:24:43

Here is a slow fiddle lesson version by Ila Mae, posted by CR Hanks with the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers, Eugene Oregon area:

​Here are several versions of the dots.  It is interesting that it changes key G to D from the A to B part or reverse depending on which version.


Edited by - hendrid on 11/18/2016 08:40:41

bhniko - Posted - 11/19/2016:  09:38:06

This one caught my ear. Enjoyed listening to the brief versions of the tune on Don Hendrix abcnotation link above.

Looking forward to hearing what other members will post. Thanks.

JanetB - Posted - 11/19/2016:  12:04:47

Nice pick, as always, Mtngoat.  When I heard Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer perform this tune on The Old Time Banjo Festival CD, I, too, was impressed and drawn to it.  I remember looking up what a puncheon floor was, so here now is a video showing how such a floor was restored in an old cabin.


Cathy Fink's tabbed version is in open G tuning and is very clear and fun to play.  However, when I listened to Esker Hutchin's version on Slippery Hill I found he was tuned down to an F key, so I thought I'd try it in a favorite tuning Adam Hurt helped me become so familiar with -- fDGCD, which he calls SRB and which I'd also learned as Cumberland Gap tuning.  It's interesting that Cathy was instrumental in helping Adam get started as a professional performer and they're great friends.


Edited by - JanetB on 11/19/2016 12:06:43

vrteach - Posted - 11/20/2016:  11:00:56

Fun tune, but it does not get played much here in Central Illinois. I like to fiddle it when I'm volunteering at the New Salem historic site because several of the buildings (notably the Rutledge Tavern) have puncheon floors.

As an aside, if it has the title "Puncheon on the Floor" it could have a different meaning. A Puncheon is a small barrel or cask, usually for liquor or wine:

I have a fiddle version on my web site, sounding a bit out of control as usual.

Edit: as I read about it, the puncheon wasn't very small, being around 80 gallons (US). 

Edited by - vrteach on 11/20/2016 11:05:33

bhniko - Posted - 11/20/2016:  14:33:09

What a laborious process...and still having the time to play the fiddle and banjo to boot must have been exhausting.

Nice rendition. Now all I have to do is find time to give it a try.

Mtngoat - Posted - 11/23/2016:  16:11:30

Janet and Erich,

Thanks for the contributions.   The name certainly makes more sense now that Erich's provided a bit of clarifying information. 


Edited by - Mtngoat on 11/23/2016 16:14:10

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