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Sep 18, 2020 - 9:37:19 AM
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91 posts since 6/29/2015
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A Rose for Polly

This weeks tune of the week is a charming fiddle tune called A rose for Polly. From what I can find about the tune, it is a tune from North Carolina and is referenced in book 2 of Traditional American fiddle tunes published in 1995.

tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:R...or_Polly_(A)

It is attributed to the playing of Willie Hunter who In turn, learned it from his grandfather. A recorded version of willie playing the tune is on the 1976 recording Deep in Tradition, recorded when Willie was 56.
I first came across it in about 2008 after seeing Bob Smakula’s clifftop finals performance in 2008 on YouTube, which is mesmerising.

youtu.be/4FAlJWxLXJA

Bob says in the video, his version was sourced from banjo player Glen Smith who in turn links his source to Willie Hunter. Willie in turn credits his source as being from his grandfather so the tune probably dates back as far as at least the 1920’s and North Carolina.
I found several later recordings of the tune on fiddle, one of the best being Old Sledges Chance McCoy.
youtu.be/wTwz2CV3jO4

One thing that I noticed was that a in all these version the tune was played in standard G tuning except Bob Smakula’s version which he played in G minor, which was simply dropping the b string half a semitone but it gave a completely different feel to the tune. So when did the tune change from g to g minor. Bob states he learned it from the playing of Glen Smith a banjo player and fiddler. Information on Smith is very sketchy and not many recordings survive. Definitely no recording of him playing a Rose for Polly on either fiddle or banjo. Glen Smith has bern discussed before on hangout here, with no definitive answers:

banjohangout.org/archive/132688

I then came across Mark Johnson on YouTube as he was classed as a claw grass player, which I’d never heard of, and he plays a tune called Jerusalem ridge, which is remarkably similar

youtu.be/KjSkLtRzkBI

Ahah I thought, the tune a Rose for Polly is one of those tunes that has several names and once I searched Jerusalem ridge in YouTube there were dozens of videos as opposed to three or four titled a Rose for Polly.
Going through the videos I it became clear Jerusalem ridge is attributed to being composed by Bill Monroe, a mandolin player and band leader of a bluegrass band. He is credited with its composition in 1975 from notes on Wikipedia here:

tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:J...lem_Ridge

But as someone mentioned on a recent discussion on banjohangout, band leaders often took credit for their band members compositions and input.

banjohangout.org/topic/365556

Here is Bill Monroe playing Jerusalem ridge:

youtu.be/1JVg5HpyFLY

To me, that dosnt sound like a new composition but a new name for a Rose for Polly. Looking at other tunes Bill Monroe has put his name to, they showcase his instrument, a mandolin, Jerusalem ridge certainly dosnt as he can hardly be heard and the fiddle is the lead.

So what came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows and really, who cares, as they both have their place in the music scene and any concrete evidence is all lost in the vaults of time. The best version of Jerusalem ridge I’ve heard is by fiddler Micheal Cleveland/Bathan Rivers and the best Rose for Polly is Bob Smakula’s. Both class acts!

Cleveland: Jerusalem ridge

youtu.be/yFBhwTLoG0Y

Smakula: A Rose for Polly

youtu.be/4FAlJWxLXJA

And my favourite Rose for Polly in standard G tuning by our own famous banjukebox on here. He’s a great player and I’d love to see him play this in G minor

youtu.be/YEFvcguJbfM


One thing I’ve noticed from the videos on YouTube is that no banjo player quite gets the 3rd part of the tune just right, me included. Banjukbox omits the 3rd part in his version but nobody apart from Smakula gets the right groove for the 3rd part. I’ve watched bobs video hundreds of times and for the life of me I just can’t see how he gets the feel of that 3rd part although from his playing, it dosnt appear that complicated, it’s just the rhythm as he plays it which I can’t figure.

And here is my humble offering.

https://youtu.be/Mu6xPFWOchE



I’ll get my coat!

Edited by - Hay-on-Wye on 09/18/2020 11:11:30

Sep 18, 2020 - 10:49:23 AM
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72 posts since 8/1/2012

Really nice job you did with your banjo! I could have stood for it to go on another 10 minutes at least. But I have to know, at the end, was that a clock ticking or a metronome? ??
I wouldn’t be surprised if JRidge came from Rose for Polly. After all, Clinch Mountain Backstep couldn’t be much closer to the old time tune, Lonesome John.
I was surprised that I enjoyed the g major version as much as I did. Having that open tuning really allowed for some nice shifts of mood in the tune.

Edited by - carolynf on 09/18/2020 10:50:30

Sep 18, 2020 - 11:02:27 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Carolyn, it was one of many clocks I have in that room. Being mechanical, they don’t keep time with each other and the on the hour chime can last several minutes sometimes at midnight

Sep 18, 2020 - 2:44:32 PM
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2345 posts since 4/7/2010

Neill,

For clarification, there were two old time musicians with the name Glen Smith. One was a banjo player from Virginia that was a bit older that Glen Smith the fiddler. Fiddler Glen Smith is the fellow I learned Rose for Polly. He was born and raised in the Galax area of Virginia and migrated to Ohio in the 1960's, then landed in Elizabeth, West Virginia. I started playing music with him around 1979, mostly back up guitar.

There are several Glen Smith recordings out there. He recorded on the Kanawha label as well as on a few things for the Augusta Heritage label. Part of the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis and Elkins College here in Elkins, West Virginia. Goldenseal Magazine, published by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, printed a good biographical article in the 1990's. Glen was presented with the Vandalia Award, in the 1990's.

When ever Glen had the urge to play Rose For Polly, he would look at me and say; "How about we play a little Graveyard Music."


Bob Smakula

Sep 18, 2020 - 3:40:10 PM
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6539 posts since 6/27/2009

Wonderful choice, Neill, and outstanding portrayal of the tune which you've shared a passion to learn to play and to learn more about.  I learned from Bob Smakula's, and am thrilled that he chimed in to give us more details.  This must be the fiddler he played with:  Glen Smith.  I understand Carl Baron played back-up guitar for Glen, too, in the 70's.  Perhaps Carl will tell us more about him.  I hear similarity in the A part of Monroe's Jerusalem Ridge.


Sep 18, 2020 - 5:52:55 PM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Aha, very confusing, so is this the bloke, I found this on fiddle hangout

fiddlehangout.com/myhangout/me...archived=

And thanks Bob for the clarification.


Janet, thanks for putting the tab up, I shall have a good look at it in the morning (it’s 2 am here in the U.K. at the moment ) and see if I can sort the 3rd part rhythm out as per your tab.

Sep 18, 2020 - 6:08:01 PM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Just played your mp3 through a couple of times Janet and yep you’ve got that 3rd part rhythm bang on! It’s a very syncopated tune and I think you’ve cracked the syncopation wide open al through your recording. Thanks Janet

Sep 18, 2020 - 10:23:56 PM
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448 posts since 2/6/2011
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Great choice of tune for TOTW. I've always enjoyed this one. My source is North Carolina Fiddler Tommy Hunter (not sure if he's related to the Scottish fiddler, Willie). Both Berea College recordings and Slippery Hill credit Tommy as their source:

https://dla.acaweb.org/digital/collection/berea/id/3110/

https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/rose-polly

Hillary Dirlam, playing here with the Reed Island Rounders is of the impression that he wrote it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPLS4V2Im6g&ab_channel=banjojudy

Thanks for referring to my version in G which I learned based on the versions recorded above. You mentioned that I omitted the C part, but if you listen again, you'll hear it. Here's a link to the 3-part tab I came up with:

https://www.banjohangout.org/tab/browse.asp?m=detail&v=23028 

This only goes to show that back in the day, many fiddlers were playing their own versions of the same tune. One would travel over the mountain to play some music, hear a tune they liked and take it back to their own little holler to try to recreate it.

Sep 18, 2020 - 10:42:12 PM
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448 posts since 2/6/2011
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Here's a link to Tommy's recording on June Appal records with John McCutcheon backing him up on guitar.
Deep in Tradition

Sep 19, 2020 - 12:45:12 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Another Ahaa moment. After re listening to your version in G, I can hear your 3rd part. I thought you were just playing it AABBA repeated but I now hear the C part which is very similar to the A part. Interesting you say Tommy Hunter could possibly be related to Shetland fiddler Willie Hunter. The Shetland fiddle style is quite distinctive with accents on the back beat and a lot of use of drone strings. It’s now classed as Shetland fiddle for all the islands..... that is main Island, Whalsay, foula, Bressay Feltar, Yell and Unst but as little as 50 years ago they all had their distinctive style despite the islands being in some cases 5 miles apart. I can hear some of the Shetland influence in Tommy Hunters playing. In turn, Shetland fiddle has a lot of Norwegian influence, more so than Scottish.
Could a Rose for Polly come from Shetland via Norway, now that’s a thought. In fact, a bloke that commented on the video I put up of a Rose for Polly called it pretty. He’s never commented on any of my other videos so why this one?
Here he is playing a reel that Ken Perlman includes in one of his books

youtu.be/z1gvg6JH1pI

Sep 19, 2020 - 12:52:01 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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I should add, the bloke in the video, Bernard is a born and bred shetlander, living on the north of the main Island. His Channel is well worth a listen. It’s a bit eclectic as he’s a bit non conformist in his ideas and language sometimes but the music is superb and his videos show life on a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic.

Sep 19, 2020 - 3:15:47 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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quote:
Originally posted by JanetB

Wonderful choice, Neill, and outstanding portrayal of the tune which you've shared a passion to learn to play and to learn more about.  I learned from Bob Smakula's, and am thrilled that he chimed in to give us more details.  This must be the fiddler he played with:  Glen Smith.  I understand Carl Baron played back-up guitar for Glen, too, in the 70's.  Perhaps Carl will tell us more about him.  I hear similarity in the A part of Monroe's Jerusalem Ridge.

 


The skipped 5th string on your tab at bar 15 is a revelation Janet as it keeps the syncopated run going. I always thought they way I played that bar wasn't quite right but I couldn't solve it.  Same with the c part.   
it's going to take me a while to re- learn some of the tune as it's embedded in my head

Sep 19, 2020 - 7:36:05 AM
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6539 posts since 6/27/2009

There is always more than one way to play a tune, Neill. Using the thumb on the off-beats is a method seldom used, but one Adam Hurt showed me. It would be interesting to get a tab from Bob’s version to see how he does it.

Also, not playing anything for a whole quarter note is very foreign to my clawhammering. I actually do that in measure 21, but sometimes I quietly hit the third string, 3rd fret before the brush just to keep the time.

Sep 19, 2020 - 7:52:52 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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I’ve recently been doing for about a month now learning the Dan Walsh tabs he’s sent me. Couldn’t get my head around what he was doing to start with as your claw hand needs to keep moving up down up down to keep the beat, you can’t just stop and then pick it up again. So the ghost notes as he calls them need to be missed. That’s why it’s so important in syncopated tunes to land that thumb. In fact you need to do it all the time otherwise you have to re-learn the basic clawhammer strike. It’s something I’d forgotten about. Bad habits are hard to get out of!

Sep 20, 2020 - 2:37:56 PM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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I like Janets tab, but trying to undo the way I play it and convert to Janet’s is proving difficult

https://youtu.be/R8F_S66xkps

Luckily the clock chimes otherwise I’d still be playing it

Edited by - Hay-on-Wye on 09/20/2020 14:38:59

Sep 25, 2020 - 10:11:25 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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youtu.be/FH4mi3egbO8

I’ve gone with Janet B’s tab as it sounds real cool and has that 3rd part just right. I think I added a half a bar the first time around at the end of the A part ..........old habits die hard!

Sep 25, 2020 - 10:42:35 AM
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carlb

USA

2155 posts since 12/16/2007

WV Glen Smith played both old time tunes and also played in a bluegrass band. When I met him at the Morris Brothers festival in 1972, he was mostly playing with other old time fiddlers. That continued when I went to Glenville the following year when I had a wonderful session with Glen, Dwight Diller and myself. Then Glen started bringing a bluegrass band to Glenville (I think his son was a member) and spent most of his time playing with them.

I always thought of Glen as a cross between old time and bluegrass. He was mighty fine.

Sep 25, 2020 - 11:00:19 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Nice bit of background info Carl,  did you hear glen play a rose for Polly?quote:
Originally posted by carlb

WV Glen Smith played both old time tunes and also played in a bluegrass band. When I met him at the Morris Brothers festival in 1972, he was mostly playing with other old time fiddlers. That continued when I went to Glenville the following year when I had a wonderful session with Glen, Dwight Diller and myself. Then Glen started bringing a bluegrass band to Glenville (I think his son was a member) and spent most of his time playing with them.

I always thought of Glen as a cross between old time and bluegrass. He was mighty fine.


Sep 25, 2020 - 11:39:33 AM

carlb

USA

2155 posts since 12/16/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Hay-on-Wye
  did you hear glen play a rose for Polly?quote:
 

Not that I recall.

Oct 2, 2020 - 10:55:38 AM
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Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Slowed down version of the 3 section of the tune. Based on Janet Burtons tab

youtu.be/Y1-UndlpEhw

Oct 3, 2020 - 3:28:56 PM

QldPicker

Australia

83 posts since 4/17/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Hay-on-Wye

Slowed down version of the 3 section of the tune. Based on Janet Burtons tab

youtu.be/Y1-UndlpEhw


Very well explained. Thank you!

Oct 9, 2020 - 9:26:26 PM
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72 posts since 8/1/2012

Hay-on-Wye I just tuned in to the first performance in the Florida State Fiddlers Convention (virtual) and the most excellent musician Chance McCoy is playing Rose For Polly, about 12 and a half minutes in. His fiddle is 5 stringed so gets some wonderful low notes. You'll want to listen to it! banjohangout.org/myhangout/hom...id=106982

Oct 10, 2020 - 12:20:30 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Thank you so much for the heads up Carolyn. Just listened to the whole of chance’s playing and he’s amazing. Rose for Polly as you say starts at about 10 min 40 seconds in and has a lovely bassy Tone.
Chence mentions the tune is about a girl who disappeared in the West Virginian mountains During the civil war. I also note Chance says the tune is an example of how old time music influenced bluegrass. A reference to Jerusalem ridge perhaps?

Oct 10, 2020 - 12:28:14 AM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Here’s link to changes playing

Rose for Polly starts at about 10 mins 30 seconds

youtu.be/mRQFtNVQdpM

Oct 19, 2020 - 1:56:04 PM

Hay-on-Wye

Wales

91 posts since 6/29/2015
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Leon ballad playing Jerusalem ridge.

youtu.be/FO2wk4H9cOs

Oct 22, 2020 - 12:03:31 PM

8 posts since 9/30/2020

Excellent work you did, I really like it.

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