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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW January 3, 2020: Squirrel Heads and Gravy: Reboot Edition!

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:

ndlxs - Posted - 01/04/2020:  20:53:59

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. 

Don’t believe me? Check it out here:

and here:

The second one will require a New Yorker subscription, so go to a library to read it. It is worth the effort.

Back to the banjo: In addition to the two parts of the tune, I do a high break for the second part. 

My tabledit is here:;v=24062

The old TOTW:

Mary Z Cox’s version is here:

Don Borchelt’s version:

Piney Creek Weasels, pre-Andrew Alexis:

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


tdennis - Posted - 01/04/2020:  21:20:00

This ditty & the accompaning scientific exposition strikes me as a product of a fevered brain who has eaten one too many squirrels.

Noah Cline - Posted - 01/04/2020:  22:06:18

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. 

Edited by - Noah Cline on 01/04/2020 22:11:29

Wyozark - Posted - 01/05/2020:  05:22:55

I probably won't ever learn or play most of the TOTW OT music, but I really enjoy the history and listening to the versions of it.

cmic - Posted - 01/05/2020:  08:26:43

@noah. I love your rendition. Played with lilt and feeling.

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 01/05/2020:  08:52:56

In December 2014 Dick Kimmel talked to me about the single banjo lesson he taught Dwight Diller in Morgantown in 1968.

Kimmel remembered Dwight was wearing a baseball cap, embossed with the letters CAT for Caterpillar. Kimmel commented:

'“Morgantown isn’t like Pocahontas County. The accent isn’t as strong. It’s more like Pittsburgh than West Virginia. I had never met anyone from the mountains [until I met Dwight].

"I remember visiting [Dwight] in his apartment [in Morgantown.] He was cooking squirrel brains. Someone had gone hunting, gotten some squirrel, and Dwight laid claim on the brains.

"He loved that [West Virginia mountain] culture. He lived the identity of a West Virginia person before he lived the identity of a West Virginia musician.”

JanetB - Posted - 01/07/2020:  16:01:44

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.

Wyozark - Posted - 02/08/2020:  09:57:02

How many squirrels would I need to feed the whole family? . .


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