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Nov 19, 2020 - 9:29:46 PM
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1064 posts since 12/2/2012

Tune of the Week

TOTW November 20, 2020

Twenty Eighth of January

My selection for the TOTW is not based upon my particular fondness for this tune, though I like it well enough. It's certainly not a tune to present in anticipation of the holidays, though for me there is a connection which I'll explain.

Christmas 2012 I got a present better than a BB gun, and as good as many toys I got as a kid. It was my RK-O25 banjo. It was winter in Wyoming, and in the long cold evenings I was having a blast learning to play it. But then that following March a friend and colleague down in Colorado was murdered in his home by an inmate who had just been released from prison. I was stunned. I had known Tom since the early 80's when we were both parole officers. Our careers caused us to frequently cross paths and we spent considerable time together in meetings and conferences and often talked on the phone. After I left Missouri for Wyoming I am pretty sure my move prompted Tom to also find a new career path and he landed in Colorado. I forget how the conversation occurred, but his secretary told me that he wanted me to call him to catch up on each other. I was busy and, thinking I had time, put it off. And then it happened. I admit it affected me pretty strongly. I went into a sort of a funk. I stayed busy concentrating on work. The banjo stayed in its case.

Several months later, on Thanksgiving Day to be exact, I was perusing the internet and of course was using Google. The Google “doodle” that day featured a cartoon of a fox following the other forest animals to a clearing. All animals had contributed to the dinner, but what of the fox? At that point he whipped out a banjo and got the animals to dancing. The tune? The 28th of January ! I heard that music and that banjo and was immediately reminded that that was the sound that I wanted to capture and play. I guess it sounds sort of crazy, but I kept playing that “doodle” over and over that day. I can't remember, but I am pretty sure that day I got out my banjo for the first time in months.

So there it is. Thanksgiving is soon upon us. And I am again reminded that it was that day seven years ago that I had a started all over again with fresh zeal to learn this great, fun, quirky, historical, beautiful, banjo. The 28th of January? It has nothing, and yet for me everything, to do with the American Thanksgiving tradition. And even though I've yet to ever play it, (“What?” says the BHO member, “After all that you haven't even tried to play it?) I am pleased to present it as the Tune of the Week.

There doesn't seem to be an agreement on the source, author, or why the tune has that particular title. Here is a quote from a 2007 discussion on Fiddle Forum.

The 28th of January was a  popular fiddle tune in the South during the Civil War. However, it is unclear what if any significance the title has.

I expected it to celebrate a famous battle or event in American history, but I have not found one. I did find that the tune appeared in George Knauff’s 1839 anthology of Virginia Reels under the title The 22nd of February.

George Washington's birthday fits the bill for a significant event in American history and a likely reason for the tune being popular during the Civil War. Washington’s image and name were used extensively by both Confederate and Union supporters.

The tune is said to be related to Miller's Reel which in turn is almost identical to an Irish reel called The Dawn.


Oh, whiskey you're the devil
you're lea-ding me astray!
over hills and mountains
and to forget important dates...

22nd of February
This melody is taken from George Knauff’s 1839 anthology of Virginia Reels. The 22nd of February commemorates the birthday of the most famous Virginian of them all, George Washington. Washington’s image and name, of course, were used by both Confederate and Union supporters as a symbol of their respective causes. In fact, the official Great Seal of the Confederate States of America displays an image of the first president astride a gallant white steed. Today many southern fiddlers know a version of 22nd of February as Miller’s Reel or The 28th of January.

 

I did try to located some significant event on the 28th of January that would inspire such a tune. Nothing really stood out for me except these:

  • In 1671 British pirate Henry Morgan captured Panama City from the Spanish: Spiced rum suddenly eclipsed tequila as the preferred drink of the colonials.

  • In 1754 Horace Walpole, in a letter to Horace Mann, coins the word serendipity (I'm not making this up).

  • In 1887 in a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, the world's largest snowflakes are reported, being 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) thick. (“Pffft” says my brother, “YOU are the biggest snowflake I've seen”)

There have been several discussions on BHO regarding this tune. Some are more in depth than others and there's just too many for me to link. However I think the best one is in regards to BHO's Bob Lanham who made it a project to record all of the tunes in the classic Miles Krassen book Clawhammer Banjo. Bob posted a tab and here is his excellent version: Twenty Eighth of January pdf tab: 28th of January

Here are some interesting versions:

 Fiddle Tune The 28th of January on Appalachian Dulcimer

Fiddle & Old Time Banjo 28th of January

"The 28th Of January"-Old Time Band: Claude Martin, Erica Snow and Ralph Gordon

I'm not sure, but this may be by the Fuzzy Mountain String Band https://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/tunes/wav/28January.mp3

I've already posted the link to the tab here on BHO. I think there are two more places to locate a tab. One is on page 38 of the aforementioned Krassen book. There is also a tab available in the April 1987 edition of Banjo Newsletter.

About a year after his death I wrote a reflective tribute to Tom on my blog page; you can find it under my BHO information page if so inclined.

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the USA, and to those around the world, may this coming week be peaceful and safe for you.

Edited by - Wyozark on 11/22/2020 04:12:17

Nov 20, 2020 - 5:11:22 AM
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carlb

USA

2194 posts since 12/16/2007

In his fiddle book, Miles Krassen states that he learned the tune from Frank George, which I think was also the source for Fuzzy Mountain String Band. Here's Frank, in his later years, playing the tune (starting at 3 minutes).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izYh1RsNERQ

Not sure why the Fuzzy Mountain String Band link above didn't work for me but when I went to Lamancusa's site, it worked.

https://www.mne.psu.edu/lamancusa/tunes/wav/28January.mp3

Nov 20, 2020 - 6:01:45 AM

Wyozark

USA

1064 posts since 12/2/2012

Thanks Carl. I think I've fixed the links.

Nov 20, 2020 - 9:54:38 AM
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ndlxs

USA

390 posts since 9/26/2006

The more or less most recent version of the Piney Creek Weasels recorded this in 2003 for our recording "Off to California"; with me on banjo. We got it from the recording "Old Time Music on the Air", a mid-1990s anthology recording, as played by the Bing Brothers.

Here are the Bing Brothers playing it live:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inn5HrpRuU8

Here is us, the Piney Creek Weasels, playing it live in 2001, starting with dumb jokes (my jokes are ALWAYS hilarious, BTW) and played way, way too fast. I can't believe that I am playing this fast.  The thing I liked about this tune is the way we ended it...halfway through the first part!  I always tried to introduce it with interesting facts on January 28th, but as Mr. Murphy implies, nothing of significance happened on that day. I also tried a few times to tell people I'd give them a free CD if their birthday was on January 28th, until one year four people in the crowd had that birthday, so that was that. I was also briefly convinced it was the day that Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Serbia (the trigger for WW1), but it was actually JUNE 28th.

https://soundcloud.com/ndlxs/28th-of-january



I pulled our recording from CDBaby just before it imploded last year; I was tired of receiving 1/2 cent of royalties per month and no CD sales. If you want a copy, message me and I'll send you one for $10. Or, you can also order them used on Amazon for half that price.  I will probably migrate this recording to Bandcamp soon, minus the two copyrighted tracks.

Thanks to Michael!

Nov 20, 2020 - 10:20:25 AM
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Players Union Member

dbrooks

USA

3943 posts since 3/11/2004

January 28 is my birthday, but I couldn't get a handle on this wickedly weaving tune until our fiddler wanted to add it to our contra dance list of tunes. It's been a while since I wrote the tab, but I think I based it on the Fuzzies' version, with maybe a slight change to fit better with our fiddler's version.

David


Nov 20, 2020 - 11:18:53 AM

6832 posts since 8/30/2004

David,
Thanks for tabbing out this quirky but fun tune....and thanks for those nifty chords :-)....Jack   p.s. pushing late 70s now and need all the help I can get HA

Edited by - Jack Baker on 11/20/2020 11:20:11

Nov 20, 2020 - 12:01:20 PM
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6578 posts since 6/27/2009

When I read the moving story of yours, Michael, and then sought to locate a good learning source, my laptop came up with the Piney Creek Weasels.  As soon as I post here, I'll listen to Andy's jokes and the Bing Brothers, linked above, but I know that the Weasels had a combination of players that were remarkable and I like their take on the tune.  The fiddler, Eric Anderson, has been a favorite ever since watching him years ago at a fiddlers convention in Oroville, California.  The tuning I came up with is an open Am tuning -- aEACE.  One other explanation for the title, given by Miles Krassen, is that an alternate title, 14 Days After, claims that Napoleon began his retreat on the 14th of January.  I don't take this one seriously...


Nov 20, 2020 - 12:14:23 PM

78 posts since 8/1/2012

Yes Andy, crazy fast. Reminds me of how fun it was watching you guys play. 
 

Here is us, the Piney Creek Weasels, playing it live in 2001, starting with dumb jokes (my jokes are ALWAYS hilarious, BTW) and played way, way too fast. 



Thanks to Michael!

Edited by - carolynf on 11/20/2020 12:16:03

Nov 20, 2020 - 1:06:42 PM
Players Union Member

ndlxs

USA

390 posts since 9/26/2006

The George P Knauff manuscripts mentioned above, being from the early part of the 19th century, are as rare as hen's teeth.  However, a recent scholarly book has been published about it that includes a reproduction of the manuscripts.  I happen to have a copy of that book; don't bother looking for PDFs of the original 1833 book (like you can sometimes find for out of print out of copyright books); I tried. 

Here's the tune "22nd of February"; it is in A major and does not appear to be the same tune.  It also does not appear to sound like the "Millers Reel" that I think is a bluegrass standard. 

https://www.banjohangout.org/photo/267823

The search goes on!

 

Nov 20, 2020 - 1:15:13 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

24230 posts since 6/25/2005

Jan 28 is my niece’s birthday, so she has a real birthday fiddle tune.

Nov 20, 2020 - 1:55:20 PM
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carlb

USA

2194 posts since 12/16/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Wyozark

Tune of the Week

TOTW November 20, 2020

Twenty Eighth of January

There is als asssssssssy tab available in the April 1987 edition of Banjo Newsletter.
 

Here is my tab that was in the Banjo Newletter. Not April, or is this the one they accidentally published twice?

https://www.banjohangout.org/tab/browse.asp?m=detail&v=16796

Nov 20, 2020 - 4:23:58 PM
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2089 posts since 1/21/2003

Your bittersweet memories of a good friend led you to make a nice pick Michael.

Oddly enough I was recently listening to the album "Old Time Music on the Air" referenced by Andy. January 28th is one of my favorite cuts from that recording and upon hearing it at that time I Googled the tune and came upon some of the same examples cited above. I always thought the Bing Brothers cut on the album was bouncy and moved at a pretty good pace, until I listened to the video Andy posted of them doing it cleanly at warp speed. And, although my fingers were getting tired tapping the beats to that I think I actually had to tap just a bit faster for his Piney Creek Weasels version!

Janet's mellower version is more my speed (maybe; I'm trying it in A Sawmill and it's a challenge).

Nov 23, 2020 - 12:32:22 PM

JeroenJ

Netherlands

40 posts since 1/7/2014

Thanks wyozark for your nice choice, and thanks Carl for your tab. I was halfway writing down something like it, but needed a 15th fret on the fifth string to match the fiddles in the google version.

I need some time to figure out how the google version keeps it peppy and major and how to play what I can steal from Carl's melody smoothly.
I might be back after a few TOTWs and share where it brought me.

Does anyone know who the musicians are on the google version? It reminds me of the red clay ramblers on michelle shocked's arkansas traveller album, but that could just be the squeeky whistle.

Nov 24, 2020 - 4:47:08 AM
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Wyozark

USA

1064 posts since 12/2/2012

quote:
Originally posted by JeroenJ

Thanks wyozark for your nice choice, and thanks Carl for your tab. I was halfway writing down something like it, but needed a 15th fret on the fifth string to match the fiddles in the google version.

I need some time to figure out how the google version keeps it peppy and major and how to play what I can steal from Carl's melody smoothly.
I might be back after a few TOTWs and share where it brought me.

Does anyone know who the musicians are on the google version? It reminds me of the red clay ramblers on michelle shocked's arkansas traveller album, but that could just be the squeeky whistle.


JeroenJ - Here is a link explaining how the "doodle" was made. Located in southern California, the group is named Hillbillies from Mars. 

Dec 5, 2020 - 6:02:53 AM
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JeroenJ

Netherlands

40 posts since 1/7/2014

I uploaded my version as it is now. I stole from carlb's tab and added the major approach of the Hillbillies from Mars. It is very tough to get it grooving and I'd be curious how carlb's version sounds in the hands of a skilled player. I did as I often do: sawmill capoed up to A and the fifth string tuned up, so I have a high B available there if I fret it.

Very tough to get this tune grooving.

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=

Dec 5, 2020 - 11:42:35 AM
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Wyozark

USA

1064 posts since 12/2/2012

quote:
Originally posted by JeroenJ

I uploaded my version as it is now. I stole from carlb's tab and added the major approach of the Hillbillies from Mars. It is very tough to get it grooving and I'd be curious how carlb's version sounds in the hands of a skilled player. I did as I often do: sawmill capoed up to A and the fifth string tuned up, so I have a high B available there if I fret it.

Very tough to get this tune grooving.

banjohangout.org/myhangout/med...archived=


I think you did very good! I know what you mean in finding it tough to get a 'groove' going, which is the reason I haven't tried very hard to add it to my banjo list of songs and tunes.  But you did good!

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