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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: playing jigs in Old Time Music


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/22858

leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/20/2011:  13:18:13



I'm wondering if there is much history of Old Time musicians playing jigs...Today, I'm playing Banish Misfortune, a great 6/8 jig.  I know that it wouldn't go over well at our regular Old Time jam.  As an "old timer of 65" I know that I can play whatever  I want and to me it is still "old time".   If you consider yourself an old time musician, do you play jigs.?.. Are there any CDs or old records of  musicians mixing what we traditionally call old time and jigs?   Of course, when I play alone I play whatever I want, and  I remember that some of the roots of old time go deep into Irish and Scottish soil.    We recently had a "crossover jam" in which local "irish musicians" and I made a list of tunes that go 'both ways' and limited the jam to those tunes.   It went over great.   However, we played no jigs.  What is your knowledge about this subject?   LEE



Edited by - leemysliwiec on 07/20/2011 13:40:37

cornfed - Posted - 07/20/2011:  13:47:59



I guess that if you subscribe to the early recordings theory of what constitutes Old-Time music , anything in 6/8 time is anathema. However, you can find any number of "quadrilles" in published dance music at and prior to the beginning of the 20th century. These are not properly "Jigs", because the are mostly played in duple (2/4) time and were "formal" square dance music, often associated with a specific dance. Many collections also include "Jigs" in 6/8 time. Several older fiddlers that I have been acquainted with played jigs for clogging and flat footing. I guess that this is a form of step dancing. I suspect that you can find examples of this on YouTube, but I don't have any specific links. I personally play a number of jigs that are certainly not Irish Trad by anyone's definition. When people ask me about it, or otherwise challenge the propriety of what I'm doing, I just tell then that I play Midwestern style (whatever THAT means). It mostly makes them be quiet about it ( they don't know what it means either). Bottom line...play what you want, how you want to play it. No one will throw you in jail. Some may even like it.


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/20/2011:  13:57:32



Those are all good points.  Thanks.    I do play whatever I want, but most of the old time fiddlers have NO jigs available to play (at least that they would admit to. )  I think it is the  book of  "1000 fiddle tunes" that includes a lot of jigs.   I'm looking forward to other comments.    


OTJunky - Posted - 07/20/2011:  14:43:36




If by "old time" fiddling, you mean fiddling for dancing all across the country up until the early parts of the 20th century, I think you find jigs played in most parts of the U.S.



Southern O.T. fiddling seems to be the exception to the rule - except for "The Irish Washerwoman" and "Haste to the Wedding" that seem to've survived into Missouri and in some Southern states outside the Appalachian regions.



My own opinion about this is that  introduction of clawhammer banjo playing seriously discouraged playing in 6/8 time since clawhammer banjo playing seems to be "designed" for 4/4 time.



For example, Jehile Kirkuff from Pennsylvania played a lot of jigs but off hand I can't think of a Kentucky fiddler who played jigs.  Probably there are some.  I just can't think of one.



There are a lot of jigs in the New England Contra dance repertoire - and, of  course, in Cape Breton and French Canadian fiddling.



Pete Seeger might have been more accurate if he'd inscribed "This instrument stamps out jigs" on his 5 String banjo's head...big



--OTJ



 




Edited by - OTJunky on 07/20/2011 14:45:05

Mountainbanjo - Posted - 07/20/2011:  15:14:04



quote:


Originally posted by leemysliwiec  If you consider yourself an old time musician, do you play jigs.?..




I'm against it. smiley But I'm primarily into southern OT music. And I play banjer. So no surprises there.


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/20/2011:  15:50:13



Mountainbanjo, you might find it interesting that Ken Perlman launched his career as a banjo player when someone told him that he would have to "sit out" when the group he was in said that they were going to play jigs.  He thought, "why can't I play jigs on the banjo?".. He went home and figured out how to play jigs on the five string and never looked back.   As I recall it, the jigs were his catalyst.   Sorry, Ken, If I didn't get the story exactly right.  



Edited by - leemysliwiec on 07/20/2011 15:52:06

eric marten - Posted - 07/20/2011:  16:14:25



I used to have a recording of Ozark fiddler Art Galbraith playing Over The Water To Charlie, an old time jig (6/8).


OTJunky - Posted - 07/20/2011:  16:26:58



quote:


Originally posted by leemysliwiec




Mountainbanjo, you might find it interesting that Ken Perlman launched his career as a banjo player when someone told him that he would have to "sit out" when the group he was in said that they were going to play jigs.  He thought, "why can't I play jigs on the banjo?".. He went home and figured out how to play jigs on the five string and never looked back.   As I recall it, the jigs were his catalyst.   Sorry, Ken, If I didn't get the story exactly right.  






 I don't doubt it.  Not a lot of opportunities to jam with Perlman though....wink



--OTJ


Mountainbanjo - Posted - 07/20/2011:  16:28:57




I actually dont mind jigs (or "a" jig)if i have a guitar in my hands, but they aren't a big part of the repertoire I'm most interested in. I have no desire to play them on banjo though, but then I'm kind of a homely stick in the mud and Ken is a blooming flar.

leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/20/2011:  16:40:04



quote:


Originally posted by OTJunky




quote:


Originally posted by leemysliwiec





Mountainbanjo, you might find it interesting that Ken Perlman launched his career as a banjo player when someone told him that he would have to "sit out" when the group he was in said that they were going to play jigs.  He thought, "why can't I play jigs on the banjo?".. He went home and figured out how to play jigs on the five string and never looked back.   As I recall it, the jigs were his catalyst.   Sorry, Ken, If I didn't get the story exactly right.  






 I don't doubt it.  Not a lot of opportunities to jam with Perlman though....wink



--OTJ






We were very lucky to have Ken living in Bloomington, Indiana for a couple of years.  He showed up at most jams and was very unassuming and easy to jam with.  He made us sound good without stealing the spotlight.  I really got to like him and think of him as a true  musician friend.   Now that he is living "out east"  things are still good here, but different.   He is a great guy.  



Edited by - leemysliwiec on 07/20/2011 16:40:56

fiddlepogo - Posted - 07/20/2011:  17:37:58



One of the first LP's of Old Time fiddling I heard, and one of the best was the Library of Congress LP



"American Fiddle Tunes".  One side was all Southern fiddlers, including William Stepp and Luther Strong, two of my favorites.  The other side were all <Northern> Old Time fiddlers... and I think it included several jigs.



For some reason, jigs seem to have died out in the South and the Appalachians.



I have several theories:



1. The fiddlers were willing, but the accompanists were weak.  Jigs are difficult to play on banjo clawhammer style.



And they aren't that easy on guitar, compared to hoedowns, hornpipes and waltzes.



2.  The bowing strategies they used on hoedowns and hornpipes didn't seem to work on jigs.



3. Jigs were used in the military in the fife and drum corps, and fifers would bring jigs home from the military and teach them to fiddlers... or they played fiddle themselves.  When the fife and drum corps got replaced by brass bands, that connection was broken.



4. The South didn't get nearly as many Irish immigrants, who tended to be able to play jigs.



5. The popularity of the waltz may have caused people to forget about jigs.



You can even kind of see this in fiddle contests... contestants usually have to be able to play a hoedown and a waltz.  I wouldn't be surprised if jigs hadn't been required before the waltz got so popular (does anybody know?)



In addition, the North seemed to have more of two instruments that did better with jigs- piano for backup, and hammered dulcimer for melody along with fiddle.



Somewhere on the internet, someone shared the tune list out of the fiddle case of an old Michigan fiddler, who was their grandfather.  And the grandfather had a decent number of jigs on the tune list.



Probably the best known Northern Old Time fiddler is.... arghhh... senior moment.... the guy from Pennsylvania... ahh, there it is- Jehile Kirkhuff!!!  He played a LOT of jigs.



Oh yeah... another factor.  It seems Northern fiddlers were more likely to read music, and more likely to use Ryan's Mammoth Collection or its successor, Cole's 1001 Fiddle Tunes... and both contain lots of jigs.



Anyway, it seems what was left of Old Time Northern fiddling got absorbed into New England contradance fiddling.  And now contradance fiddling has come under so much Cape Breton and Quebecois influence, that the Old Time northern repertoire has been neglected.


Shawn Craver - Posted - 07/21/2011:  09:07:53


There are Appalachian jigs and lots of them around the borders between North and South that wouldn't be correctly categorized as New England or Northern. This topic has been discussed on the fiddle-l and probably here quite a bit. Many propose that jigs came "later" with the 1800s Irish immigrants. I believe that fiddlers have played jigs here since the very beginning and especially in the 1700s. That's my short answer!

Paul Gifford - Posted - 07/21/2011:  13:20:22



There are so many misconceptions here.   Let's try to clear up some. 



1.  Not every tune in 6/8 is a "jig."  Some, however, can be.



2.  Few of the 6/8 tunes played traditionally by American fiddlers are Irish jigs.



3.  The existence in tradition is based, I think, on the type of square dancing.  And most of the U.S. used quadrilles in three or more changes.  These changes traditionally used a mix of 2/4 and 6/8 tunes.  From what I can tell, this style was dominant all the way through Canada and in the United States from the Northeast, through the Midwest, and through much of the West.



Here is how I see how the *traditional* 6/8 tunes can be classified:



1.  COUNTRY DANCE TUNES & MARCHES.  These date mainly from the 18th century and are mostly English or Scottish - Irish Washerwoman, Haste to the Wedding, St. Patrick's Day in the Morning, New Rigged Ship, Campbells Are Coming.  These are traditionally widespread around the country



2.  LATER CIRCLE DANCES, etc.  This is a harder category, but these appear to be American - Rustic Reel, Portland Fancy, Tempest.  Early 19th century.  Only found from New England west to Michigan and Wisconsin.



2.  IRISH JIGS.  These seem to have been introduced through mid-19th-century publications.  There are a limited number - Larry O'Gaff, Irishman's Heart to the Ladies, Garry Owen, and a few others



3.  QUADRILLES. These usually lack names.  Their history is pretty obscure.  In Michigan, for example, there is a very widespread C tune; this was published and "regularized" in Canada under the names "Bride of the Winds" and "Rock Valley."  I'm sure this is found elsewhere.  Some are in two keys.  Some are in three keys and were published in series under the name "Gems of the Ballroom" in Chicago.  These are found in NY, PA, Canada, through the Midwest, etc.



4.  LATER MARCHES/TWO-STEPS.  Repasz Band March, others, used for the two-step and circle two-step.  CHristeson's collection includes some of these.



Technically, playing "Banish Misfortune" wouldn't be traditional in the U.S., although "Larry O'Gaff" or "Smash the Windows" would.  The misconception that many have is that 6/8 tunes are "Irish."  I think this has been spread to a great degree by the book *1000 Fiddle Tunes (Chicago, M. Cole, 1940)* that, for a long time, was the only easily available book of fiddle tunes.  However, having "surveyed' many old-time Michigan fiddlers 30-40 years ago, I can say that this had little or no influence.  Few of them played Irish jigs, other than a handful.  The same is true in other areas (see Bayard's Pennsylvania collections, Christeson's Missouri collections, and Gary Harrison's Dear Old Illinois, or Ira Ford's book, for Missouri). The most influential books were the Gems of the Ball-Room series.



The reasons that 6/8 tunes seem to be mostly absent from the Appalachian region (let's say Virginia, most of West Virginia, eastern KY, eastern TN, and north GA, including the Piedmont areas) seem to be:



1.  Popularity of the reel.  All the historical accounts say that the six-handed reel and other variations of it, along with the jig (meaning the cut-out, competitive breakdown) were the usual dances in Virginia in the late 18th and early 19th century.  Although authors say that both 6/8 and 2/4 tunes were used to accompany the reel, I think that 2/4 tunes ("reels") were used to accompany the six-handed reel.  Eventually the dance morphed into something else, but in some places in the mountains it was still called the "reel" around 1900.  So for this reason, 6/8 tunes weren't used.



2.  Country dances ("contra dances") had limited popularity in the South, mainly to the better-off classes who employed dancing masters (in NC and SC, for example).



Cotillions (with calling) developed in the North (probably Saratoga, NY) around 1820.  They consisted of five changes, alternating 6/8 and 2/4, ending with a "jig" figure, usually 2/4.  In the 1850s, they became known as quadrilles.  The popularity of square dancing thus led to a demand for new 6/8 tunes, but a lot of older reels that had been used for country dances were preserved to be used for the last change (examples:  Fisher's Hornpipe, etc.).  For the 6/8 tunes, they used the older ones that had been used for country dances (Haste to the Wedding), plus Irish jigs from books (Elias Howe's probably being the most important), and numerous quadrilles that at best were regionally published, but mostly never saw any publication.  This would explain why they are so obscure, lack names, etc.



 


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/21/2011:  13:33:45



I'll be going to Clifftop this year and I think I will play some jigs just to see what reaction I get.   Who knows, maybe the "youngsters" will like them and I will have started a resurgence of jigs into Old time music (or not)..   I recently posted about my friends not liking C tunes and I think that the absence of  C tunes and Jigs are  just examples  of musicians getting into a "rut".    Maybe it is time for the bolder of us to reintroduce the jig (not JUG....it is already there) into  old time music.   Wish me luck.      PS.  I'll have a red pick-up and a red canopy.... look me up...  LEE


shake n bake - Posted - 07/21/2011:  13:53:54


Sweet Betsy From Pike is an addictive little ditty I used to warm up with . Jig bowing and add a bit each time thru . It's very Irish.

leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/21/2011:  14:35:11



I'll check out that tune... LEE


DownYonder - Posted - 07/21/2011:  20:47:30


Jigs are common in old time music from areas that were home to alot of Scottish and Irish immigrants. For instance, in my my area, the first immigrants were people from the Highlands. Along with their traditions and ways, they brought their music which is why jigs are fairly common in the repitoires of the old time fiddlers in my area.

Mountainbanjo - Posted - 07/21/2011:  20:59:37


Great post Paul! Wish I understood it...

Fiddler - Posted - 07/22/2011:  04:46:24


Great post, Paul! Thanks for the great history lesson.

Additionally, I'll add that there are field recordings here in Texas of fiddlers playing 6/8s.

When I was learning to play back in the 70s/80, I frequently asked the old-timers here in Texas, as well as in Arkansas, if they knew any 6/8s. Nearly everyone of them played 6/8s. The late Lester Bennett, who was my mentor and lived in Mtn Home, Ark, played several great 6/8s in C. My only regret today is that I did not record these folks!

Paul Gifford - Posted - 07/22/2011:  06:20:59



Fiddler said:  When I was learning to play back in the 70s/80, I frequently asked the old-timers here in Texas, as well as in Arkansas, if they knew any 6/8s. Nearly everyone of them played 6/8s. The late Lester Bennett, who was my mentor and lived in Mtn Home, Ark, played several great 6/8s in C.



I wonder if my theory about the type and tradition of square dancing works for Texas and Arkansas.  I know that the Virginia reels were the main dances in pioneer Arkansas and Texas, the main migration path of the settlers (depending) being from the Upper or Deep South.  But there must have been later influences from the Midwest.  I know that mixing round dances (schottische, two-step, waltz, varsovienne) with square dances was true both in Texas and the Midwest.



Someone mentioned Art Galbraith (of ?Springfield, MO) playing one called "Over the River to Charley."  If I recall correctly, that's the same tune I've heard a couple of different Michigan fiddlers play, one being called "Lassie, Art Thou Sleeping Yet" and the other "Old Lady in the Haymow."  Tommy Dandurand (of Kankakee-Chicago, IL) recorded it in 1927 as "Two-Step Quadrille."  A version in 2/4 from Piedmont North Carolina is played in revivalist circles, but I can't think of the name.  This was a fife tune that seems to have been spread that way.  I was told by an old fellow, Chet Parker, that "Old Woman ****ting in the Haymow" was a song that the CIvil War soldiers sang as they marched.


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/22/2011:  07:10:10



Where do you guys come up with this stuff???? Quite amazing, imformative and intersting.  Keep it coming.  LEE


AZJohnB - Posted - 07/22/2011:  07:46:28


If you play for the public at events like farmers markets or flea markets, you will find that an occasional jig (and waltz) will build audience interest and help fill the tip jar. Especially when the banjo player learns to adapt.

carlb - Posted - 07/22/2011:  08:06:26



Two American jigs I quite fond of:



The Little Red Wagon from RP Christeson's "Old Time Fiddler's Repertory", vol. 1



Bonaparte's Retreat from Melvin Wine (a very different tune from 4/4 versions)


Shawn Craver - Posted - 07/22/2011:  09:35:10


I always enjoy your words on this topic Paul and I mostly agree with your categorization. What is so interesting about the SW pA, Western MD, and N. WV tradition (that is mostly dead now) is that there were 6/8s that are mysterious in origins... but I'd agree that they probably came out of the 1700's Scottish and English tradition. Just as many modern Irish tunes came from there as well!

ChickenMan - Posted - 07/22/2011:  10:41:29



Learned this 6/8 tune from Emmett Lundy (born 1864).  Said it was learned from Green Leonard when Emmett was just a boy.  Technically a march, but still in that jiggy mold.



 



Edited by - ChickenMan on 07/22/2011 10:42:19



VIDEO: Chapel Hill March (or Chapel Hill Serenade)
(click to view)

   

leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/22/2011:  12:11:56



Maybe the tune "the new recruit" aka 'green'willis'   came from that tune.  LEE


David M. - Posted - 07/22/2011:  12:42:46


The late Jim Gaskin from Danville, KY played a tune called "Rutherford's Reel" (aka "Leonard's Reel") that was a jig he learned from Leonard Rutherford (Somerset, KY). Key of D. I guess he never learned the name from Rutherford and I have no idea why it's called "Rutherford's Reel", but Jim recorded it on a couple of his albums and that's what he called it.

Paul Gifford - Posted - 07/22/2011:  13:44:01



Yes, "Chapel Hill Serenade" / "Green WIllis" is the name of the one that I couldn't think of the name of in my earlier post.  This is a 2/4 version of an (apparently) English tune called the "Raw Recruit" or the "New Rigged Ship."  Like I said, it seems to have many names.  Words to it, according to the late Walt Taylor, of Bridgeport, MI, were:  "Around the house she scattered her water, / And in the house she pissed in the platter / And around the house she scattered her water, / The old lady she **** in the haymow."



Shawn, the one in Bayard's book "Oh, Dear Mother, My Toes Are Sore" that seems to have been pretty widely known in southwestern PA and probably northern West Virginia is one that I heard two Michigan fiddlers play, so I know it traveled further.  But, like you say, the tradition everywhere is practically dead.  Bayard couldn't identify this particularly, but since it seems like an early one, it probably belongs in my category #1.  The guy I learned it from, Gale McAfee, said it had words, "Mother, oh mother, my toes are sore, from dancing so long on your sandy floor," and that they used to put sand on cabin floors when new, and have a dance in order to pack the floor down.  Oh well.


drdosido - Posted - 07/24/2011:  07:40:49


Tunes in 6/8 are great for old-time square dances. If played right, they're fun to call to and fun to dance to. Unfortunately, not many guitar players today know how to second them. Are you bringing a piano with you to Clifftop. That will help.

leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/24/2011:  10:29:58



Paul, I'll get my piano loaded ASAP!!     You are right about dancing to jigs.  Non-old time groups play them often.  



     I was pleasantly surprised on Saturday when a young woman came to busk with me at the Bloomington farmer's market.   I hadn't seen her tune list and didn't know much about how she played, so to be polite  I asked her to lead the first tune and low and behold, she played a jig.  Seems she learned it from her grandfather in Kentucky.   So, I am going to play more of them with other musicians from now on.  


drdosido - Posted - 07/25/2011:  12:33:37



quote:


Originally posted by leemysliwiec


. . . and low and behold, she played a jig.  Seems she learned it from her grandfather in Kentucky.




What was the tune? Who is she?  Perhaps most important, who was her grandfather?


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/25/2011:  13:02:10



I've sent her a copy of these posts so she can see what we are up to.  I don't doubt that she will respond quickly.  Why didn't "I" think about asking about her grandfather.  Who knows, I might be rubbing elbows with the granddaughter of someone famous.  And,,, someone who plays jigs.  


M-D - Posted - 07/25/2011:  13:19:46



Well, the Scot-Irish were the primary settlers through-out the South, and especially the Ozarks, and while some jigs survived as known pieces, they obviously fell out of favour. I surmise that this is because of the changes in the dances, so the music followed suit. Of all the recorded music that I have, there are no 6/8 jigs to be found. I have heard some known 6/8 tunes that were converted to 4/4, though. I've also asked some remaining old-timers, and while they knew of such music, they themselves know none, and only vaguely recall others ever having played it. I would have expected the Morrison twins to have had these jigs in their repertoire, but know of no recorded examples.



Also, Ozark jig-dancing is not to be confused with Irish jig-dancing.



 


leemysliwiec - Posted - 07/25/2011:  13:24:03



I have converted Soldier's Joy into a jig.  Sounds great.  I am determined to reintroduce jigs into the Bloomington, Indiana repertoire.   Wish me luck.   There must be more to it than "the Irish washerwoman"...  


fiddleblissed - Posted - 07/26/2011:  23:21:14


Thanks for introducing this topic! We always play jigs at our "mostly" old time jams in Ester, Alaska. One banjo players likes to play jigs with us, and one of them switches to guitar for jigs and other Irish tunes. Once you get the bow patterns, jigs are fun to play.

faithwalk - Posted - 07/27/2011:  09:12:23


We play jigs in OT groups and for dances. If the dance caller wants a jig set, we have 'um!

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