Just a New Year’s Warning to my fellow banjar players: when you see the date 1/3/20 on the friendly email reminding you of your promise to write the tune of the week, don’t just look at the “20” and think “oh, I’ve got two weeks!”. Mea culpa.
This is yet another Tune of the Week Reboot, Squirrel Heads and Gravy. From 1998 until recently, I played banjo with the remains of the Piney Creek Weasels, a group started by the late Rick Abrams in the 1980s. Rick and that version of the band spread this tune around widely, and it is an easy on and a fun one to play. When we get together, we always play this one. So does every one else. Learn it. It was written by a fiddler, Chris Germain, in 1975 as a joke and spread virally since that time.
And oddly enough, Mad Squirrel Disease is a very real thing and a very real viral disease resulting from the practice of consuming squirrel brains in rural portions of Tennessee. It is related to Mad Cow Disease and a disease called Kuru, or transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, seen in New Guinea. It is usually fatal and results from eating brains.
The tune goes at a pretty good clip. Long ago, I saw some words written for this on the internet which I was not able to re-locate, so I ended up writing my own words to it. Unfortunately, there are so many words you can’t sing them fast enough to keep up with the banjo. Here is one verse: the chorus had help from Don Borchelt. When I get home on Tuesday, I may or may not do a video of my version of the song and the banjo tune.
If you want a fancy dinner, and you know you’re not a winner
And you only have a rusty pellet gun
Put on your hunting garment and go searching for a varmint
And you can shoot them when you see them on the run
Some gals don’t like confronting their man who goes a-hunting
for a cute furry critter with a face
She says that it is vicious, but he thinks that they’re delicious
until he tastes them at dinner on the plate
Squirrel heads and gravy, squirrel heads and sauce
Squirrel heads and gravy!
Squirrel heads and gravy, and some chardonnay
Squirrel heads and gravy, but kiss that girl some other day
I learned it originally from Mary Z. Cox's recording several years ago and have added my own flair to it over time. It pops up in jam sessions from time to time.
Actually, about the same time I was learning it, I remember hearing the Piney Creek Weasels recording of it on 96.9 WSIG out of Harrisonburg when I still lived in Virginia. The "Hey, can somebody pass me the ketchup?" line has for whatever reason stuck with me all this time lol.
Anyway, here's a video I recorded of it a couple months ago on one of my mountain banjo builds, tuned down to fCFAC.
I'm hoping you'll come through with a recording, Andy, complete with vocals. It fits the Piney Creek Weasel infectious style of toe-tapping, happy music. As it is, I found a recording by the Family Sheets Band to learn from because I liked the fiddling. They sung a short chorus and it's been in my head for two days now. :( I'd much prefer our green pasole soup dinner than your squirrel heads and gravy.