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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 24 Aug 2018 Frosty Morn

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

Cyndy - Posted - 08/23/2018:  23:26:27

This week's tune is Frosty Morn from the playing of Doc and Merle Watson. You can savor it in the fuzzy-but-still-wonderful video below.

So, this is not the popular jam tune Cold Frosty Morning played here by Alan Jabbour. And, it's not the Cold Frosty Morning played by Melvin Wine. This Frosty Morn is unique!

According to liner notes for The Doc Watson Family (Smithsonian/Folkways CD SF 40012), "This song was learned from the playing of Jim Collier, who learned it from Bayard [Byard] Ray, a fourth generation fiddler from Marshall, North Carolina." (The album is available for listening through Amazon Music.)

A biography of Bayard Ray written by Eugene Chadbourne is available on ALLMUSIC.

And, many recordings of Mr. Ray are available on Digital Library of Appalachia. Just search for "byard." Most of the matches are for fiddle music, but there are a couple for banjo. Unfortunately Frosty Morning isn't included. Mr. Ray's music can also be found on FRC 113 titled Obray Rasey and Byard Ray: Recordings from the Collection of Ray Alden.

Frosty Morn appears to have been a Watson favorite as they recorded it a number of times, according to a catalog of Watson recordings compiled by Randall Rode with help from BHO members in 2013: 1992 Remembering Merle; 1994 Old Time Banjo Styles.

And, interestingly enough, there appears to have been a band of the same name. Don McLeese's notes published on Amazon for the 'Round The Table Again album by Doc Watson with Frosty Morn (Richard Watson, T. Michael Coleman, Bob Lamar Hill, and Joe Smothers) says it was a "group formed by Watson's late son Merle in the mid-1970s ... to play a wider range of material than he and Doc generally performed, and the band frequently toured as the Watsons' concert opener."


I know I'm not alone in associating tunes with people and/or places and/or events. I remember, very clearly, sitting on a boardwalk bench in Grover Beach, California, when I was first working on this tune--and it was anything BUT a frosty morning! David Bragger introduced me to the tune and it didn't take long for me to realize that it would become a favorite. I’ve been playing it ever since.

I've attached a "porch" recording (gDGCD) that I made today (inside because with everyone's air conditioners hard at work the porch is too noisy for that sort of thing right now). It's nothing fancy—just my in-the-moment take on David's take on the Watsons' tune—but it will give you some idea of just how fun it is to play. 

I'm looking forward to hearing others' recordings of the tune and I'm hoping some of you will have additional information to add.


Edited by - Cyndy on 08/24/2018 07:33:06

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 08/24/2018:  02:54:18

Nicely done TOTW, and nicely played tune.

Here's my favorite version:

Play hard


Cyndy - Posted - 08/24/2018:  05:02:33

Lew, I love that version, too! :)

RG - Posted - 08/24/2018:  08:39:39

Great tune and great version Cyndy!!!  Always enjoy your takes on tunes...

Edited by - RG on 08/24/2018 08:40:31

GrahamHawker - Posted - 08/24/2018:  09:12:25

I've never heard Cold Frosty Morning played the same way. This is a rather excellent variation.

chip arnold - Posted - 08/24/2018:  09:24:16

A favorite of mine. Here's my 2-finger version ... Mayyybe some one can make this a live link.



Cyndy - Posted - 08/24/2018:  09:41:14

chip arnold Here's a link:

And jbjgraham Excellent, indeed! I love how the three instrument voices weave together.

cmic - Posted - 08/24/2018:  10:16:47

For chip:

This is a version I used to play, sometimes.



chip arnold - Posted - 08/24/2018:  11:06:39

Thank you Michel :-)

OldPappy - Posted - 08/24/2018:  11:37:10

I have always considered "Cold Frosty Morn", and "Frosty Morn" as two different tunes, though they may be distant kin.

I do like Doc Watson's and other's versions which are played lively and fast, but I think of them as something other than the tune I play of the same name.

Lew posted Dwight Diller's rendition of the tune as it is played in his part of WV.

This is my favorite version, and also since it was the first tune I learned from Dwight, it is the one I play.

To me the tune is about death, as are many modal tunes, and when played fast and lively it becomes something else entirely.

OldPappy - Posted - 08/24/2018:  13:17:49

I found a rendition of "Cold Frosty Morning" which I think shows the kinship between "Frosty Morn" and "Cold Frosty Morning".  

It is played here by Hilarie Burhans, who I have always liked to listen to, and she does a fine job with this tune.


Edited by - OldPappy on 08/24/2018 13:21:00

JanetB - Posted - 08/24/2018:  16:15:38

So pleasing to hear you play, Cyndy. Anything with Doc Watson and son Merle for TOTW is appreciated, as well as the links to others' playing.

Instead of using the banjo, I used Doc's guitar to arrange Frosty Morn for clawhammer banjo. Because I hear the relationship to Cold Frosty Morning I thought of putting them together in a medley, so here it is sandwiched in-between. There are differences, mainly in the A part, but they go together well and are in the same modal tuning. It's interesting that Miles Krassen, whose tab taught me Cold Frosty Morning, linked it to the fiddle playing of Henry Reed.

I like Dwight Diller's slower rendition, too -- I often play moderately slow. His seems to draw from both Frosty Morn and Cold Frosty Morning, especially in his B part.  

For discussion on Cold Frosty Morning here's the link to the 2010 TOTW discussion:  TOTW, 7/23/10, Cold Frosty Morning

Edited by - JanetB on 08/24/2018 16:21:04

jack_beuthin - Posted - 08/25/2018:  10:23:33

Enlightening post. I never thought deeply about Cold Frosty Morning versus Frosty Morn, but as Andy states, thinking of these as separate but related tunes makes sense now. I've known this tune for so long that in a jam I just follow whoever calls it (whichever it, it is). I just varied whatever I played without much further thought.

I also like to let loose when playing by myself and experiment a bit with the Cold Frosty Morning/Frosty Morn genus. It's a good tune for messing around, which is maybe how these different versions evolved. Anyway, here is my current "fooling around" rendering. Maybe I should just re-title it as "Sub-zero Early Day with Hiccups" (using metric here).

Thanks Cyndy for posting this. Goes to show that there is always something to learn, even on something you think you know well.

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