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.
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.
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!
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.
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.