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Clawhammer Lesson #1: Chuck Levy Presents Wilson Douglas' Paddy on the Turnpike

Posted by ChuckJo on Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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Banjo:  Gold Tone BC 350+ with a ZerO Glide Nut.  Recorded in Gainesville, Florida, accompaniment provided by the Cicada Chorus.

This version of Paddy on the Turnpike  t comes from Fiddler Wilson Douglas of Clay County West Virginia. Wilson was born in 1922 on a farm in rural Clay County in an area known as Rush Fork.  Sometime in the early 1980’s, Kate Brett and I decided to visit some older players in West Virginia.  We were looking for Wilson, and happened to stumble upon David Morris, who arranged a meeting.  I did not know Wilson well, but he had a fierce feeling and a deep passion for old-time music that was moving and inspiring.  Wilson Died at age 76 in 1999.

Wilson recorded “Paddy on the Turnipike” on “The Right Hand Fork of Rush’s Creek”, Rounder Records 0047, recorded and produced by Guthrie T. Meade and Mark Wilson, 1975 , re-released on CD in 2005.  Wilson plays this tune in the key of G on the recording.  When I worked it out on the fiddle, it seemed to fit best with the fiddle tuned “GDgd”.

The album notes say this:  "There's two versions and the West Virginia one is different from the one they play in Kentucky and North Carolina.  The one I play is the West Virginia 'Paddy on the Turnpike.'  It's got a hornpipe time, if you notice the drone.  It's played by all the old mountain fiddlers;  Even Ed Haley played the West Virginia 'Paddy on the Pike."  It was first played by the Carpenters and the Hammonses". 

J.P. Fraley, fiddler from Rush, Kentucky, notes that the tow portions of this melody are similar to the fiddle tunes "Pidgeon on the Gate" and "Bluebirdy on the Snowbank."

Wilson’s recording actually starts on what I would call a fragment of the “B” part, and then goes to the “C” part, before going to the “A” part. (The tune ends on the “C” part).  I have recorded the tune with the “A” part first, the “B” part second, and the “C” part third.  The “A” and “C” parts repeat, but the “B” part is only played once.

Towards the end of the recording, Wilson plays a variation on the “A” part.  The first time I play through the tune, I play it straight, but the second time through, I play the “A” variation.  For variety, I created some up-the-neck variations for the third time through before returning to the theme the last time around.

Get tabs and MP3 files >

There are three tabs in Tabledit format (.tef) and as .pdfs available for download: 1) A standard version, 2) a version modeled after Wilson's variation, and 3) a variation up the neck.  Note that the “()” in the tab means the note may be played more quietly or maybe skipped entirely, at the discretion of the banjoist.

2 comments on “Clawhammer Lesson #1: Chuck Levy Presents Wilson Douglas' Paddy on the Turnpike”

gailg64 Says:
Sunday, January 5, 2014 @5:53:58 PM

Unless I've mistaken for over 30 years (not impossible, I admit!), the tune you're playing here is Wilson Douglas' Paddy on the Turnpike, which sounds like cripple creek in the beginning. The tune that Wilson called Rocky Road to Dublin, though it's also cross tuned (or at least was on the Right Hand Fork of Rush's Creek) is a different tune.
I used to try to play both tunes on the fiddle but gave up after discovering I couldn't get close to Wilson's sound because he was an up-bower & I'm a down-bower, like most of us. On the tune that he called Rocky Rd. to Dublin, the second part really has that characteristic "upside down" up-bow bounce.
Here's a link to Wilson Douglas playing Rocky Rd. to Dublin: (rec. by Kevin Delaney in 1973).

ChuckJo Says:
Sunday, January 5, 2014 @7:50:05 PM

Yes, Gail you are right. On my computer, the tune I referenced was called "Rocky Road to Dublin". However, when I checked the LP, the tune I referenced was the 6th cut of side 2, Paddy on the Turnpike.

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