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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 01/06/2017 - Black Snake Bit Me on the Toe

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Mtngoat - Posted - 01/06/2017:  14:01:09

TOTW (OT) 01/06/2017 Black Snake Bit Me on the Toe

I’ve chosen Black Snake Bit Me on the Toe by Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport (b 1921) for this installment of TOTW.  A biography of Davenport, a legendary musician and personality, is in this recent TOTW post here: 

The Traditional Tune Archive has this to say:  “Old-Time, Breakdown. D Major. DDad tuning (fiddle). The tune is a version of The Pateroller Song or Run Johnny/Smoke/n***** Run, which supposedly dates to the slave rebellions of the 1830's and the attempts of the plantation owners to establish organized patrols to prevent clandestine meetings and runaways”.  

The tune has a modest internet presence with only Davenport’s source recording and four other performances, all posted below. 


A 1981 recording of Mr. Davenport:

Phil and Moonshine:

Bob Carlin:

Howard Rains and Jerry Hagins:

Dean Barber:


I did not find any tabs for the tune but as Dean Barber says it is pretty simple and most folks should be able to pick it up after playing along a couple of time.   If you can get a basic melody and a good rhythm you’ll be welcome anywhere this tune is played.

Readers are encouraged to post facts, observations, opinions, performances and tabs contributing to this thread.

Edited by - Mtngoat on 01/06/2017 14:11:23

JanetB - Posted - 01/07/2017:  09:30:10

Great little tune, Mtngoat!  There's a Clyde Davenport DVD that includes his banjo playing and I like everything he plays.  Black Snake Bit Me on the Toe wasn't hard to figure out, as you said, though I left out a 5th fret, 4th string note in the B part for ease of playing.  The meter of the tune is a bit unusual, with 8 measures in the A part and 12 in the B part.

Mtngoat - Posted - 01/08/2017:  15:49:44


You and Bret are the pillars upon which TOTW rests.  This fantastic resource would have ceased to exist long ago were it not for the contributions you both make.

The recording and the tab are spot on as usual. 

I normally play it square 8X8 unless the fiddler insists differently.

jamesd - Posted - 01/11/2017:  12:31:03


Just wanted to thank Mtngoat for this tune.  I had never heard it .  I enjoyed listening to all  the playing of the tune you posted.

And thanks to Janet's tab, I was playing it quickly.  Good tune to sit and play over and over.......


JanetB - Posted - 01/12/2017:  20:40:08

Thanks, Mntgoat and James for the appreciative words.  I'm grateful to Brett who guides TOTW and makes it accessible and interesting for folks like me.  The source for this week's tune, Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport is worth a year-long study himself.  I recommend looking at Jeff Titon's book Old-Time Kentucky Tunes (whose tunes are all included on the Slippery Hill website). He was born in the year 1921 (same year as my mother) and I assume still may be fiddling.  I watched the DVD "Shades of Clyde" again.  Black Snake was the last tune.  Clyde fiddles smoothly with great rhythm (and his clawhammer banjo is equally great).  TOTW has covered other tunes unique to him -- Dandy Jim, Ask That Pretty Girl to be My Wife and now Black Snake Bit Me on the Toe.  Here's a sample of his fiddling (in a tune learned from legendary fiddler Leonard Rutherford) and banjo picking learned from his father.  I like his calm, friendly demeanor.





adri - Posted - 01/17/2017:  09:36:17

Great Tune!!

Many thanks!

Zischkale - Posted - 01/20/2017:  14:44:32

Immediately had to learn your Wildcat TOTW a few months back, and here's another animal (or maybe animal as double entendre) tune that's new to me. Thanks for posting! Need to listen to more Davenport.

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