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Jul 8, 2020 - 9:50:46 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

I was listening to a recording made of Tommy, maybe in his own parlor. Somebody (off mic) must have asked him if he knew/played a certain tune. Tommy replied that "I only know 2 or 3 tunes."

Got me wondering. How many tunes did Tommy know? (I know for a fact he knew more than three.)

Edited by - bsed on 07/08/2020 09:52:50

Jul 8, 2020 - 11:19:01 AM

Earworm

USA

115 posts since 1/30/2018

I've noticed it seems to be a convention among old-time fiddlers of earlier eras to downplay their skills, maybe so they won't sound vain? Maybe someone can back this up... It reminds me a little of the Shakespearian convention of asking an audience's forbearance in tolerating poor players. Clearly, Jarrell knew a lot of tunes.

Jul 8, 2020 - 12:53:02 PM

Jimbeaux

Germany

348 posts since 5/24/2016

Brad Leftwich's book of transcriptions of Tommy's playing contains 83 tunes transcribed only from Tommy's playing. And if I made the effort, I could find probably at least 10 more that aren't included in the book.

He was definitely kidding. His repertoire was huge. I know modern fiddlers may play 1-200 or even more, but back then, most rural fiddlers stuck to their favorite 20 or so tunes and didn't learn much more. Of course I can't say that with any authority, but Tony Thomas, a banjo historian, has said similar things about rural banjo players. People like Tommy and John Salyer who could play more than 80 tunes were probably just the crem de la crem.

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:38:50 PM
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11038 posts since 9/23/2009

...or maybe somebody asked him about some particular type of tune...and he mighta responded he only knew two or three. Ex..."Do you know any coal miner's tunes?" I only know 2 or 3. Do you know any tunes in F? Do you know any tunes so and so is famous for? etc., etc. etc.

Jul 8, 2020 - 5:46:07 PM
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1268 posts since 7/26/2015

Can we hear the recording?
quote:
Originally posted by bsed

I was listening to a recording made of Tommy, maybe in his own parlor. Somebody (off mic) must have asked him if he knew/played a certain tune. Tommy replied that "I only know 2 or 3 tunes."

Got me wondering. How many tunes did Tommy know? (I know for a fact he knew more than three.)


Jul 8, 2020 - 6:45:48 PM
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154 posts since 6/11/2019

Interesting that any discussion about Tommy Jarrell seems shrouded in mystery like he was Gandalf or something. He died only 35 years ago, not a Civil War veteran from Cold Mountain. He was just one of us. I'm sure one could just call up his kids and ask anything.

I'm not trying to be contrary, but he was simply another good Appalachian fiddler and a good man. Worked on the road crew, which for me, living down 3 miles of dirt road, I have a double appreciation for him. It's not hard to know 200 songs/tunes. It's harder, though, to operate a road grader and play a fiddle at the same time. I know cause I've tried to do it in by buddy's county road grader.

Jul 8, 2020 - 7:05:56 PM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

This article from the National Heritage award says Tommy knew 50 tunes. arts.gov/honors/heritage/fello...y-jarrell I think he was known more for his style and energy than for having a huge repertoire, but I played with him some and we never ran out of tunes.
As far as that quote, I'd have to hear the recording to know the context, but he must have been joking. I also can't imagine anyone asking him any of the questions Peggy has imagined.

Jul 8, 2020 - 7:15:39 PM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

What I mean by that last sentence is: Tommy was from Round Peak, NC - why would he know any "coal miner's tunes?" AFAIK he never played in F, and he didn't play tunes other people were famous for - he played ones that he was famous for!

Jul 8, 2020 - 8:31:41 PM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Extra PS - Even though the NEA says 50 tunes I'd say Brad's book is closer to the mark. Tommy made quite a few records, and you could count the tunes and come up with a total that way.
Here is Pragufrank's discography: countrydiscography.blogspot.co...y+Jarrell

Edited by - DougD on 07/08/2020 20:44:07

Jul 8, 2020 - 8:58:07 PM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

There are also a couple albums at the Field Recorders Collective, and a solo recording of "Old Jimmy Sutton" I made for a Flying Fish record that's still available, plus whatever might be on YouTube.

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:25:43 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

Jimbeau said "He was definitely kidding."

Oh, goes w/o saying. We all have that modesty. Thanks for weighing in.

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:29:54 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Can we hear the recording?
quote:
Originally posted by bsed

I was listening to a recording made of Tommy, maybe in his own parlor. Somebody (off mic) must have asked him if he knew/played a certain tune. Tommy replied that "I only know 2 or 3 tunes."

Got me wondering. How many tunes did Tommy know? (I know for a fact he knew more than three.)


 


I think I must've downloaded it off an internet site. So I can't say much about the origin of the recording. But I'll try to post it here from my itunes library.

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:33:49 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

DougD wrote " but he must have been joking."

Yes, I knew from the context he wasn't serious. And having listened to Tommy's tunes for 30 years, I'm sure he knew north of 100, minimum.

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:35:46 AM
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bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

There are also a couple albums at the Field Recorders Collective, and a solo recording of "Old Jimmy Sutton" I made for a Flying Fish record that's still available, plus whatever might be on YouTube.


I have both FRC recordings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Jul 9, 2020 - 9:49:58 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

file:///Users/bsedloff/Desktop/Jarrell%202.mp3

He was asked to play Polly Put the Kettle On.

Just copy and paste. Sorry I couldn't hyperlink it.

Edited by - bsed on 07/09/2020 09:55:00

Jul 9, 2020 - 10:16:27 AM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

I don't think that's a URL Bruce. Can you try again?

Jul 9, 2020 - 10:48:59 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

No, it's not a URL, but it connects to my Hangout page where I uploaded it to. I tested it before I posted. Copy & paste the link to your browser (it works in Safari for sure) and you'll get the audio file.

If you still can't get at it, let me know & I'll see what the next step might be.

Edited by - bsed on 07/09/2020 10:58:06

Jul 9, 2020 - 10:54:47 AM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Definitely doesn't work for me. Looks like its the address for the file on your computer, so you can access it from that same computer, but I don't think anyone else can.

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:04:41 AM

DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

What did you call it when you uploaded it to your page here? I don't see anyyhing that looks likely.

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:05:11 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

Working on it.

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:05:58 AM

8405 posts since 3/19/2009

I'll bet that after Tommy made that statement about only knowing 2 or 3 tunes, he gave a big WINK...wink

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:07:17 AM
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bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:13:56 AM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

Yeah, that worked for me. Sorry for the confusion. It's been probably more than a year since I needed to supply a link, and I had to refresh myself with it.

Jul 9, 2020 - 11:47:08 AM
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DougD

USA

9675 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Yeah, that worked. Thanks. The easiest way to link to media on your page is just to attach it to a post. Pretty much automatic.
Tommy is talking to Blanton Owen of the Fuzzy Mtn. crew and of course is just joking. There are a number of black and white videos on YouTube with Blanton too. Nice version of "My Dear Sweetheart" there too.

Jul 9, 2020 - 1:58:36 PM

bsed

USA

4071 posts since 6/23/2007

I have 2 other similar sound files, if there is interest. One of them is labeled as with Blanton's name. Also one of the descriptors mentions Seattle. I don't think Fiddle Tunes was going on in the mid 1970s. Maybe they were visiting/performing in the area.

Jul 9, 2020 - 4:01:30 PM
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WyoBob

USA

110 posts since 5/16/2019

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

This article from the National Heritage award says Tommy knew 50 tunes. arts.gov/honors/heritage/fello...y-jarrell I think he was known more for his style and energy than for having a huge repertoire, but I played with him some and we never ran out of tunes.
 


Doug,   So, you played along with Tommy and he probably played tunes you didn't know and Tommy played along with you even though he didn't know the tunes, right?

I suspect that both of your brains knew exactly where your fingers should go to "mesh" without thinking about it.  If another player was with you who knew tunes that neither of you knew, I'd bet that any observer would have thought that everyone knew the tunes (after a short time of listening).

A couple of years ago, after playing my banjo with our local, outstanding, old time group (Lynn Young's group), I found that I could play along with these really good players on tunes that I didn't know without thinking about it.   That was a watershed moment for me.   That is to say, "mind blowing".  I'd only been playing music for 6 years at the time.

One night, we played all "C" tunes.   Young miss Tessa leaned over to me after we'd played over an hour or so and asked me what my favorite C tune was.  (BTW, Tessa is 15 years old and can play the fiddle, banjo and guitar and sing!)   I said, "Tessa, I don't know any C tunes" and she gave me the funniest look.   As long as the tunes used only 1, 4 and 5 chords and weren't crooked, I could generally listen a bit and then play along.   I've recorded many sessions from that group for several years, partly to see if I was fouling up with my playing.  Now, I play my fiddle along with some of the tunes from that jam that I know on my banjo (in my basement) with my fiddle, up to speed.   Another mind blowing experience for me.

I haven't played my fiddle with Lynn's group yet but hope to, some day.  

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