The Banjo Hangout tune of the week for June 24, 2022 is a rare one: it is called “Wild Goose”, and seems to be exclusively available here:
This video was posted by Banjo Hangout member CND several weeks ago; it is a cassette tape by Uncle Dave Sturgill of Piney Creek, North Carolina and features the late Rick Abrams, founder of the Sacramento based band Piney Creek Weasels until he passed in 1997 at the young age of 47. I knew Rick, but did not know him well; after several years, we re-started the Piney Creek Weasels and continued his legacy for about 16 years. We never did this tune, though, and the version of the band I joined did not have it in their repetoire.
The band changed personnel a lot since he started using this name for his bands; this particular tape was recorded in 1991. Rick went out to the old time banjo contest every year in Mt Airy, NC; one of the times I saw him at the post office he told me the story of how it took him years and years of attending for him to win first prize. He told me that they have to know you to let you win. He had a friendly rivalry with Bob Flesher at that contest. He was a dear friend of a former co-worker of mine, Andy Rubin, who himself is known for his klezmer clawhammer banjo playing; they both attended the same Temple.
This tune is called “Wild Goose”; it appears to be unrelated to the many versions of the fiddle tune “Wild Goose Chase”. In this thread on Mudcat.org, hangout member CND transcribes Uncle Dave’s story that Sturgill had heard this tune as a child but it had been forgotten by the late 1970s. On the YT link, you can hear Rick saying how excited he was by this tune, so much so that he wanted to go out and record it right away. I don’t have Rick’s recording of this; it was released on cassette 31 years ago. I have surveyed the two Piney Creek Weasels fiddler emeritus that I know to see if they remembered this tune at all.
Uncle Dave Sturgill was also noted for his mountain-style banjos that he built: Rick owned one, as did my mom’s cousin, the late Bob Kramp of Charleston, NC. The Foxfire 3 book contains a section on his banjos; it appears to be reproduced here:
I thought this would be a good TOTW; I recently decided that those who truly are devoted to old time fiddle and banjo music are attracted to tunes you have never heard of before played by old musicians you have never heard of whose recordings you can not possible find anymore. This certainly qualifies; CND found the cassette this tune was found on at a gas station in North Carolina.
But, it is a catchy tune: it sounds a little bit like the highly rhythmic, hell-for-leather fiddle tunes played by some of the black string bands/performers, like Joe Thompson and Gribble, Lusk and York.
I changed the melody a bit; the tab and the video reflect the way I do it now. By “now”, I mean since yesterday morning…when I first worked it out on the banjo.
Here is my tab:
Here is the video of me playing it on my fretless banjar (trying to remember to fret with my fingernails); keep in mind that I've just been playing this tune for a little over 24 hours.
Here are the dots for the tune, as I hear it from the Youtube link:
Thank you for your research, and posting. Neat song.
interesting! Thanks, Andy.
Had you thought also of trying it out on the fiddle?
Yes, I was playing it in GDGD on fiddle; the open strings really make it much easier to play on the fiddle. Which would suggest it "should" be played in A, of course...
A nice treat and great story, Andy -- lots of history in this TOTW. Your banjo and playing is sweet and I appreciate the challenge of a fretless on a tune learned that very day. Tell us more about the banjo, please.
I found the B part very interestingly phrased on the recording and tried to copy it. It's a fun and busy little tune. The wild geese must all be getting ready to fly off together to some distant place of their migration travels, or maybe they have all landed and are chatting together as they eat. At least, that's how the title affects me.
Edited by - JanetB on 06/25/2022 13:05:54
'Tunes or Theory first' 49 min