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TOTW Same Old Man Living At the Mill for March 1 2019

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Feb 24, 2019 - 6:50:29 PM
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4504 posts since 2/24/2004

“Old Man At the Mill “ is a traditional folk tune with many variations and slightly different titles & you can search for its history on google. Some of them delve into all these meanings of the circle of life and death as the turning of the mill & its certainly a good discussion among folk scholars of the 1960s—when this song seems to be recorded the most. 

 

But I’m a clawhammer banjoist who has played and danced at many old time dances. When I learned the words last year so I could record it on my baritone banjo—it became apparent to me that many of the lyrics were old square dance calls.   “First to the left & then to the right”  “Ladies Step Forward & the gents fall back” Also I’m going to guess that “ one hand in the hopper & the other in the sack” is some dance direction lost to the last century or longer.  Also “Mill turns around of its own free will “ sounds much like some sort of circling movement.   Although much of this tune seems to be dance calls embedded in an earlier folk song—the last verse seems the most curious to me & guess it may have been added at a later date ? “My old man’s from Kalamazoo”   Which is a Michigan City famous for making Gibson Banjos. No wonder banjoists love to play and sing this tune.  And I’m no exception—I looked inside my old Gibson RB250 mastertone & sure enough it says—made in Kalamazoo, MI J

 

My first encounter with this song was hearing the Dillards perform it bluegrass style.

Old Man Living At the Mill  Dillards

https://youtu.be/Jqg-Eo0Quto

Back Porch Bluegrass 1963

 

And Smithsonian Folkways recorded Doc Watson & Clarence Ashley singing and playing it in 1960-62

https://youtu.be/O6Fs4J3VLMQ

 

And here’s a pretty recent version of Molly Tuttle playing and singing it on clawhammer guitar

Molly Tuttle on Clawhammer guitar

 

https://youtu.be/xbaAmr9LXKA

 

I hope you’ll take a listen to my version that was recorded last October in the Carolina Mountains.  Yep—that’s a baritone banjo J

https://youtu.be/kx_YxepZt98

 

There are many, many other versions out there—many on youtube & I know many folks that follow TOTW have their own versions that they may share—so want to leave room for lots of versions and discussion.

 

 Best wishes & good picking,

Mary Z Cox

www.maryzcox.com

 

 

 

 

 


Feb 24, 2019 - 7:57:27 PM
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Players Union Member

rbfour5

USA

942 posts since 11/9/2010

Nice! Like you, my first exposure was to the Dillard's version; second was Doc Watson; my third is yours! I really like it- gonna have to get your CD now!
Thanks for posting this Mary!

Feb 24, 2019 - 8:13:54 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

21839 posts since 6/25/2005

I first heard the tune, as the song “Leatherwing Bat,” from Pete Seeger. Peggy Seeger also recorded it. “Leatherwing Bat” is documented in the Lomaxes Folk Song, USA, as I recall. 

 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GbB1zx0-we4  — Pete

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Duk-TUbRvM0. — Peggy

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 02/24/2019 20:14:53

Feb 24, 2019 - 9:24:41 PM
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Lew H

USA

2217 posts since 3/10/2008

maryzcox Thanks for posting these versions of this neat song. I couldn't locate it just now, but the Mary Parlor collection of recordings at the Univ. of Arkansas has a version called "Young Man at the Mill." Parlor says it is not a square dance song , but a play party song. A play party sometimes used some of the same moves as square an contra dance, but instead of instrumental music, people sang and clapped. This was handy if no fiddler was available, but also practiced by those church folks who viewed the fiddle or dance as sinful.

Feb 25, 2019 - 4:30:56 AM

4504 posts since 2/24/2004

Just in case anyone is curious—got so carried away with this song when we were recording it that we took pix at 2 different Mills —Mingus Mill in NC & Hagwood Mill in SC . 

www.maryzcox.com

Feb 25, 2019 - 4:33:37 AM
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588 posts since 5/20/2008

"My first encounter with this song was hearing the Dillards perform it bluegrass style. Old Man Living At the Mill Dillards youtu.be/Jqg-Eo0Quto Back Porch Bluegrass 1963"

And my first encounter was the Dillards' re-recorded version on their 1970 album "Copperfields".

Feb 25, 2019 - 12:02:51 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

21839 posts since 6/25/2005

The recording from “Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s” linked above is, of course, Fred Price on fiddle and Clint Howard on vocal.  I’m sure that was the Dillards’ source—I know of no other first-hand one for the old man at the mill verses. 

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 02/25/2019 12:06:56

Feb 25, 2019 - 12:51:15 PM
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628 posts since 6/9/2009

I think the next recording of this one after Watson, Howard, and Price was the Holy Modal Rounders on their first record in '64. That's where I first heard it.

Feb 25, 2019 - 6:45:06 PM
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25 posts since 12/7/2018

If this song came on my playlist on the way to work, I would end up singing it on the way and whistling it all day long. It's an earworm for sure.

Feb 25, 2019 - 7:37:40 PM
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4504 posts since 2/24/2004

quote:
Originally posted by C A McClellan

If this song came on my playlist on the way to work, I would end up singing it on the way and whistling it all day long. It's an earworm for sure.


Same Old Man Living At the Mill is on itunes, spotify, bandcamp--many others.  It can be on your playlist. It will be up on pandora soon.   You can also listen on the link below.

maryzcox.hearnow.com


Feb 25, 2019 - 9:05 PM
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25 posts since 12/7/2018

Oh, it popped about twice a week. There's a constant rotation in my head of Old Man at the Mill, Soldier's Joy, Reuben, Snowdrop, Old Joe Clark, and Cripple Creek. I probably drive my coworkers nuts, the filthy bluegrassers; what, with their fancy three fingers and all that.

I do really like your new CD, by the way. I think, sometimes, that we get too caught up in `the way it's always been,' that we forget to be inspired. Thats what I like about your playing.

Edited by - C A McClellan on 02/25/2019 21:05:34

Feb 28, 2019 - 2:25:33 PM
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6197 posts since 6/27/2009

Leave it to Mary Z to give us another neat song to learn.  I'm enjoying the new CD, Carolina Banjo.  The fact that Doc Watson had anything to do with Same Old Man Living at the Mill is a big plus, and the fact that its lyrics are square dance calls is another plus.  My childhood guitar teacher, now 90, Mary Ellen Clark, gave me three of her framed drawings.  She often sketched at musical events and was present at informal jams when Doc and Clarence Ashley came to the Los Angeles area.


Feb 28, 2019 - 3:07:13 PM
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slc

USA

350 posts since 9/19/2010

"One hand in the hopper, the other in the sack" is probably four hands in the center, go round. The "sack" could refer to one's pocket.

Many (!) years ago I heard Bertram Levy play this quite often (I was a very shy teen neighbor, just starting banjo, and I'd lurk at his house at every chance I could get). I always really liked this tune! I've since heard versions (trying to remember where!) with additional verses.

Here's a much more recent clip of Bertram and his daughter playing it on fiddles, in concert in Buenos Aries: youtu.be/AoiQC04kQQU

Mar 3, 2019 - 8:00:38 PM
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259 posts since 7/7/2007

My old man was from Kalamazoo. He was from Kokomo before he was from Kalamazoo.

Always a fun tune. I first heard it on a New Lost City Ramblers recording while I was living in ... Kalamazoo. The old Gibson factory was a revered piece of ground, even though it was a tired old industrial building in a tired old industrial part of town.

Apr 17, 2019 - 3:07:37 PM

4504 posts since 2/24/2004

If you'd like to just hear a streaming of this song its here :)

maryzcox.hearnow.com

Best wishes,

Mary Z Cox

maryzcox.com

Apr 18, 2019 - 12:02:04 AM

Paul R

Canada

11211 posts since 1/28/2010

My first exposure to the song was by ex Fairport Convention member Iain Matthews, from his "Valley Hi" album in the early Seventies, produced by Mike Nesmith. It translates decently to pop/country rock, too. youtube.com/watch?v=d0ArbRYRZzI

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