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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 10/19/2018 “Ragged Shirt”


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/347479

rudy - Posted - 10/18/2018:  19:38:25


Ever-vigilant for a catchy tune that is outside of the commonly heard, my curiosity was piqued by a comment made by Andy Fults (Oldpappy) as a result of his TOTW May 25, 2018 “Jimmy Johnson” topic:



banjohangout.org/archive/343060



In the process of discussing “Jimmy Johnson” JanetB posted a video of Ralph Roberts playing “Jimmy Johnson”.  Andy commented on that posted video and further commented about Ralph Roberts:



“Ralph plays a few tunes I have never heard anyone else play, so they may be close to the brink of extinction. One, which he plays every time I see him is a tune he calls Ragged Shirt.”



Being naturally inquisitive, I did a bit of internet sleuthing to try and find reference to “Ragged Shirt”.  It turns out to be obscure enough that I couldn't find many examples to listen to.



I did find a couple of premo references to “Ragged Shirt”, the first being an actual demonstration sound clip of Ralph Roberts playing the tune on Don Borchelt’s excellent website.  You can find that clip, and several other Ralph Roberts sound clips there:



banjr.com/roberts.htm



Further snooping led to West Virginia fiddler Bobby Taylor doing “Ragged Shirt” on Youtube:



youtube.com/watch?v=YZqP5JnIdas



Now the dilemma.



Both are fine tunes, both titled “Ragged Shirt”, but obviously NOT the same tune as far as I can tell.  I like ‘em both, so this TOTW ends up being a “two fer”; the Ralph Roberts version (above) or the Bobby Taylor version.



Hopefully there will be someone else that can shed some light on these very different versions of “Ragged Shirt”, although there are a few more Youtubes of the Bobby Taylor version, so it looks like that version wins if you are going by the “popular vote”.



Here’s my quick rendition of the Bobby Taylor version of “Ragged Shirt”:





Thanks for viewing and hopefully we’ll have a few folks who review Ragged Shirt and post their versions!



 


Edited by - rudy on 10/18/2018 19:40:32

OldPappy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  05:30:21


Randy,



So tickled you posted this as TOTW.



The tune is evidently a favorite of Ralph's, and as you said it is a different tune than the other version you located, which is often so of many of these old tunes.



Within the Hammons family recordings there are entirely different versions of tunes by the same name.



Ralph grew up with Maggie, Burl, and Sherman, and remembers Edn Hammons and others from that generation playing music, so a lot of the music heritage Ralph has in his own music.



I think these very obscure tunes are the ones needing rescued from being lost, which is why several of us are picking them up. Matt Evans plays Ralph's version of this tune on fiddle, and my wife is learning it. I tried to pick it up on banjo last week, but it is one of those deceptively simple tunes I have some trouble with.



I do like your rendition of the other version, but I hope some banjo player with more talent than I do will try to render Ralph's version as well, especially if they can tab it.


Edited by - OldPappy on 10/19/2018 05:33:48

ndlxs - Posted - 10/19/2018:  05:59:20


Dots for the Taylor version:

taterjoes.com/fiddle/RaggedShirt.pdf

Version by the Brothers Canote:

stringband.mossyroof.com/RaggedShirt.mp3



 

dbrooks - Posted - 10/19/2018:  06:16:58


Nice tune. Thank you, Rudy and Old Pappy. Here's some tab for what I hear in Ralph's playing. Taterjoe has the tune in A, but I hear it in G. Also, my version is simpler than the version played by the Canote Brothers (I love their playing). So take your choice. I expect we may hear from JanetB and Janolov as well.



David


OldPappy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  06:35:29


Great to have some Tablature on this tune. I don't play by tab, but it is very useful in figuring out a tune. I am not blessed with much talent, and have to work with a new tune a bit before I can play it.

rudy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  06:36:22


quote:

Originally posted by OldPappy

Randy,



So tickled you posted this as TOTW.



The tune is evidently a favorite of Ralph's, and as you said it is a different tune than the other version you located, which is often so of many of these old tunes.



Within the Hammons family recordings there are entirely different versions of tunes by the same name.



Ralph grew up with Maggie, Burl, and Sherman, and remembers Edn Hammons and others from that generation playing music, so a lot of the music heritage Ralph has in his own music.



I think these very obscure tunes are the ones needing rescued from being lost, which is why several of us are picking them up. Matt Evans plays Ralph's version of this tune on fiddle, and my wife is learning it. I tried to pick it up on banjo last week, but it is one of those deceptively simple tunes I have some trouble with.



I do like your rendition of the other version, but I hope some banjo player with more talent than I do will try to render Ralph's version as well, especially if they can tab it.






Hi Andy, Glad you like the post.  I owe the inspiration to you, obviously.



Since you're one of the folks on BHO that are intimately familiar with Dwight Diller's works I was curious to know if DD ever plays "Ragged Shirt" since it appears to be considered of West Virginia origin.



I'll see if I can post a quick video of the Ralph Roberts version, which I also think is a great tune.  I was thinking that posting both tunes might muddy up the waters a bit, but what the heck...  wink

OldPappy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  06:49:13


Dwight doesn't play it, though he has been with me every time I have visited Ralph.

It evidently is just not a tune he is interested in playing, though he seems happy that it may be salvaged from obscurity.

Ralph only plays it on fiddle, though Ralph has been learning "clawhammer" banjo for the last few years, and has a style of his own, a delicate touch, that I like very much.

rudy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  11:12:59


For those playing along at home, here's the Ralph Roberts version of Ragged Shirt.  The second pass through the B section has an added high note on the 1st string that isn't part of the Ralph Roberts version, but I like to throw it in as an alternate B section.  Feel free to stick with the first AABB pass and leave out the high notes if you wish.





 

JanetB - Posted - 10/19/2018:  15:18:19


Thanks for a great little tune, Rudy.  Your play-along recordings are welcomed and the source recordings are helpful.  



Bobby Taylor has a long family history of fiddling and learned from some of the best.  In his liner notes to "Bobby Taylor Plays 'Ragged Shirt' and Other Favorite Fiddle Tunes from West Virginia" he pays homage to many of the greats.  In 1977 Bobby was West Virginia state champion fiddler.  About Ragged Shirt he writes that it came from "Bill Iman of Kanawha County.  I tried to keep this one as close as possible to his version in style and playing."  



Thanks to Don Borchelt for recording Ralph Roberts.  I used his recording for a clawhammer arrangement and play it first in this medley of the two versions.  I find plenty of melodic and structural similarity between them.  The biggest difference is in the modality of the B part.  Both have short 8-measure A and B parts.  Thanks to David Brooks for his tab -- it was helpful.





 


Edited by - JanetB on 10/19/2018 15:24:43


OldPappy - Posted - 10/19/2018:  18:01:08


BOY Howdy!

I like both renditions of the tune!

I am so pleased that this TOTW has inspired others to take a tune that was on the verge of obscurity, and learn to play it.

In my view this is what TOTW is all about, preserving music from past generations.

I can't wait to post my next TOTW, which I bailed on previously, but am ready any time Janet says to go.

In my opinion, TOTW is the most important parts of BHO in my opinion.

BrendanD - Posted - 10/21/2018:  02:06:36


I hear both of these versions of "Ragged Shirt" as definitely the same tune, though very different versions, as is not at all unusual in West Virginia. Ralph Roberts in particular is known for having idiosyncratic versions of tunes, this being one of them. That said, though Bobby Taylor's source was Bill Iman, he doesn't play it just like Bill Iman; in fact, I hear his version as somewhere between Iman's and Ralph's versions, though closer to Bill Iman's. Here is a recording of Bill Iman playing the tune in 1978:



Ragged Shirt



I'm thinking this was probably recorded by Paul Epstein, though I'm not sure; I don't know Paul personally. This is where I learned the tune, though I may have been introduced to it by Jimmy Triplett, who plays Bill Iman's version.

rudy - Posted - 10/21/2018:  06:03:34


Thanks for the additional information, Brendan. The tunes are indeed similar enough that you can hear them as the same tune, the greatest difference being in the "B" section as I hear them.

I like both of the examples, although I always hear the Ralph Roberts version as wanting to be played "straighter" than the Iman / Bobby Taylor version.

When I sit down to play the Bobby Taylor version I find that the basic tune seems to be particularly receptive to adding syncopation and subtle changes in note timing that can add a lot of interest to the tune, at least for me.

When I sat the camera up to do a quick pass through the Bobby Taylor version I had to go back and listen to the original recorded version because I'd already locked onto "embellishment" that made the tune less than recognizable, but therein lies half the fun (for me at least) of finding a new tune.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/21/2018:  07:43:37


When Don Couchie and I played this tune with Ralph Roberts that night at Clifftop back in August, 2012, I had not heard it before, and you can hear me hunting and pecking around for the melody the first few times through. For years now, I have been wanting to go back and really work on this, and come up with something more faithful to Ralph's very personal style of fiddling, and I was thrilled to see it selected as the Tune of the Week. Sometimes it takes a sign to get you to do even the small things that you are supposed to do to quiet your troubled spirit. My thanks to Rudy for his excellent choice, and I really enjoyed his fine, delicate rendition of both Bobby Taylor's and Ralph's versions of the tune. I only wish, Rudy, that you had played them longer. I agree with Janet's assessment, that there is "plenty of melodic and structural similarity between them," perhaps enough, that as Brendan said, they are essentially variations of ther same tune. It is typical of Ralph's playing, to distill the melody of tune down to its essentials, and then playfully execute those essential elements in ways that are fresh and mezmerizing. Often, he will play a tune in major, like Abe's Retreat, that just about everybody else plays modally. One thing Ralph does here that I didn't notice until I slowed the field recording down- when he plays the C in the low part, the 4th degree of the scale, he slightly sharpens it, so that it falls somewhere between the C and the C#. I incorporated that when I play the tune in open position, on the fretless part of my fingerboard. Up the neck, I tried it both ways, and settled on using the straight C note.

What can we say about Janet's wonderful, thoughtful performance, a delightful medley of Ragged Shirts. Can't wait to hear Old Pappy's version! Someday, I will get to Bobby's interesting version, but right now my "to learn" list, dictated by the wandering curiosity of my local jam partners, is pretty long as it is.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/21/2018:  07:51:41


When I was web-searching around yesterday for information on Ragged Shirt, I came upon this video of my good friend Don Couchie playing it on his fiddle. Don played the guitar on the 2012 Clifftop recording of Ralph, and apparently when he got back home to Ontario, at the end of September he recorded it on fiddle and posted it on YouTube and the Fiddle Hangout. Some people have more ambition than I do, I'm afraid. It took me another six years.




Edited by - Don Borchelt on 10/21/2018 07:52:00

rudy - Posted - 10/21/2018:  08:13:02


Don, Thanks so much for your illuminating posts in the discussion of Ragged Shirt.  There are some fine renditions being posted; I love your melodic up the neck excursions!



Youtube will indeed pull up some other examples of Ragged Shirt as banjo or fiddle versions.  Another link I probably should have posted is Bobby Taylor teaching the tune at Midwest Banjo Camp; he discusses it's origin and it's association with Bill Iman.





 


Edited by - rudy on 10/21/2018 08:14:14

OldPappy - Posted - 10/22/2018:  04:19:39


Wow Don!

"What can we say about Janet's wonderful, thoughtful performance, a delightful medley of Ragged Shirts. Can't wait to hear Old Pappy's version! Someday, I will get to Bobby's interesting version, but right now my "to learn" list, dictated by the wandering curiosity of my local jam partners, is pretty long as it is."

Yes, Janet's medley was wonderful, and your rendition of the tune is also. You are a fine banjo player.

I really like the video you put together, including the tribute and picture of Ralph. Top notch all the way around.

Might be a while before I can post a version, haven't picked my way through it yet, and am overloaded with too many other things right now to have much time for fun.

ScottK - Posted - 10/24/2018:  09:35:36


I learned a version of this back in 2007 that my fiddle buddy Joe Moore called Old Ragged Coat.  It's a little different, but you can hear a family resemblance, so I assume it's a branch off the same tree.  I posted a banjo recording of this version to BHO back then:  Old Ragged Coat.



Scott

rudy - Posted - 10/24/2018:  12:33:20


quote:

Originally posted by ScottK

I learned a version of this back in 2007 that my fiddle buddy Joe Moore called Old Ragged Coat.  It's a little different, but you can hear a family resemblance, so I assume it's a branch off the same tree.  I posted a banjo recording of this version to BHO back then:  Old Ragged Coat.



Scott






Thanks, Scott.  You can hear that it is definitely rooted in the same tune with a bit of permutation in the B section.

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