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Jun 10, 2021 - 9:26:34 PM
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172 posts since 4/10/2010

TOTW  6/11/2021 - Brickyard Joe

I’ve chosen Brickyard Joe for this installment of TOTW.   The internet offers few clues to the tune’s origin.  While the title probably refers to someone engaged in the manufacture or distribution of bricks, the date and location of the tune’s composition and the race and employment status of the subject are less clear.   We do know that pre-industrial 19th century brick production was a labor intensive process exploiting slaves in antebellum times and African-American freedmen, convicts, immigrants, and children after emancipation.  Titon says the tune is indigenous to central and northeastern Kentucky, is believed to be derived from the African-American tradition, and cites 1915 as the first published reference of the tune.

Kentucky fiddler Doc Roberts (1897–1978) recorded Brickyard Joe for the Gennett label on August 24, 1928.  Roberts, a white farmer from Madison County, is known to have played with and learned from local black musicians such as the Booker brothers and fiddler Owen Walker, whom he credited as a major influence on his own style and repertoire.   A short biography of Roberts is here:

Here is the original Roberts recording:

Here’s a 1974 field recording of Bath County, Kentucky fiddler George Hawkins (1904-1991):

Here’s a 1992 field recording of Rockcastle County, Kentucky fiddler Walter McNew (1912-1998):                         

Here’s a fiddle and banjo duet:

Here’s a string band version:

Here’s a Clifftop jam version:

Lyle Konigsburg has a tab in old G tuning here:

And standard musical notation of the tune can be found here:

Bricks and brick production seem to have been the subject of heightened scholarly research between 1990 and 2010 and a Google search will bring up some fascinating reading if you have an interest in history, anthropology, archeology, or early technology.

Viewers are encouraged to post observations, opinions, performances, and tabs contributing to this thread. 

Edited by - Mtngoat on 06/10/2021 21:52:26

Jun 10, 2021 - 11:36:18 PM
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41071 posts since 3/7/2006
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It is a nice tune. A tab is included in Art Rosenbaum's first book Old Time Mountain Banjo. It is in an Old-Time three-finger style and is based on fiddler John W. Summers. It has four parts, the Doc Roberts versions seems to have only two parts.

Jun 11, 2021 - 11:52:17 AM
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245 posts since 6/29/2015

It is a nice tune so great choice for tune of the week. Here’s a slower version I came across. Really like the pace of these musicians

Jun 11, 2021 - 1:12:54 PM
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315 posts since 3/22/2005

Good tune, good choice. Thanks for posting.


Jun 12, 2021 - 2:04 AM
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41071 posts since 3/7/2006
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Here is John Summer's four part version, that is the basis for Art Rosenbaum's tab in his first book:

Jun 12, 2021 - 8:28:50 AM

172 posts since 4/10/2010

I also like the relaxed pace and I found the banjo accompaniment interesting.

Wikipedia has this to say about Mr. Summers. "John Wesley "Dick" Summers (1887-1976) was an old-time fiddler from Indiana. He learned to play from his family, but a Tom Riley of Kentucky was also an influence. Summers did not originally read music, but did learn to do so in his 70s.[1] He was one of the only old-time Midwestern fiddlers to have a commercially distributed album in the post-World War II era.[2] As indicated though his style had Southern, and as mentioned Kentucky, influences.[3]" So perhaps he was introduced to the Roberts' tune by Tom Riley.

Thanks for the input fellas.

Jun 13, 2021 - 8:41:08 PM
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6658 posts since 6/27/2009

You always pick an interesting tune, Mtngoat. Having heard Brickyard Joe while playing along with the virtual Baltimore Old-Time Jam (join them Tuesday night this week), I put it on my learn list.  This version, however, is crookedly different and comes from Bruce Greene on his CD Five Miles of Ellum Wood, Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Solos. He wrote, "The Old Time Brickyard Joe came from Franklin County fiddler James 'Pop' Baker [born around 1889].  All the old fiddlers in north central Kentucky remembered him and his band, called The Sixty-Fivers, because of that they were all at least that old."

I used a tuning I don't normally use, gDGBE, where the first string is tuned up to an E.  It made the fingering much easier.

Edited by - JanetB on 06/13/2021 20:43:59

Jun 14, 2021 - 12:16:59 PM
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277 posts since 9/27/2014

That's lovely, Janet!

Jun 14, 2021 - 8:06:34 PM
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172 posts since 4/10/2010


Beautiful playing as always and thanks for the tab.  Here are a couple more "Old Time Brickyard Joes" from the John Harrod collection of field recordings.

Thanks again.

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