Posts tagged ‘Joe Turner’

April 5, 2019

Week 281 – King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O

In my previous post I related how, around 35 years ago, I discovered Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music in Newcastle Poly library. Now there are certain tracks on those 6 LPs which I consider to be as fine as anything ever committed to shellac, vinyl, or whatever it is they make CDs out of. I’m thinking especially of Buell Kazee’s ‘Butcher’s Boy’, Dock Boggs’ ‘Country Blues’, and Clarence Ashley’s ‘House Carpenter’. I’ve never learned any of those. In fact I think I’ve only ever learned three songs from the whole Anthology, and I’ve not posted any of them here till now.

This song doesn’t reach classic status, but it stuck in my mind and, like Old John Braddalum, I made a point of learning it when I became a parent. Both were a staple part of the Turner family singalong repertoire on long car journeys, so it’s very pleasing that Joe is now able to provide the banjo accompaniment the song really needs.

The version on the Anthology was recorded by Chubby Parker for Columbia Records in New York, August 1928. Parker was a hugely popular entertainer on the National Barn Dance radio show, broadcast on Chicago radio station WLS, between 1925 and 1931.

Chubby Parker - from the My Old Weird America blog.

Chubby Parker – from the My Old Weird America blog.

The song itself dates back to Elizabethan time. According to Wikipedia

Its first known appearance is in Wedderburn’s Complaynt of Scotland (1548) under the name “The Frog cam to the Myl dur”, though this is in Scots rather than English. There is a reference in the London Company of Stationers’ Register of 1580 to “A Moste Strange Weddinge of the Frogge and the Mouse.” There are many texts of the ballad; however the oldest known musical version is in Thomas Ravenscroft‘s Melismata in 1611.

 

 

The Marriage of the Frogge and the Mouse, from Thomas Ravenscroft's Melismata (1611)

The Marriage of the Frogge and the Mouse, from Thomas Ravenscroft’s Melismata (1611)

There are several nineteenth century broadside printings of ‘The frog in the cock’d hat’ in the Bodleian Broadside collection, and numerous versions have been collected from oral tradition in Britain and North America.

 

King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O

Andy Turner – vocal
Joe Turner – 5-string banjo, vocal

March 25, 2019

Week 280 – I saw the light

As a teenager – based on very little exposure to either genre – I had no time for Reggae or Country music. By the time I left university, however, I’d become a Reggae fan. This conversion was largely thanks to my friends Mike Eaton and Chris Taylor, and to certain specific records: Bob Marley and the Wailers ‘Lively up yourself’ (the Live at the Lyceum version), Desmond Dekker ‘The Israelites’, Capital Letters ‘Smoking my Ganja’ and, above all, Chris’ white-label 12 inch of ‘Give me’ by Earth and Fire.

Country music had to wait a little longer. Up until about 1983, if you’d asked me if I liked country music my answer would probably have been “No – of course not”. But slowly I came to realise that the folk = good / country = bad dichotomy was really not sustainable, particularly as in American music the line between folk and country was in no way clearly defined. I discovered Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music in the Newcastle Polytechnic library in 1983 or 84. One of the 6 discs was missing, and at least one of the remaining sides was so scratched as to be unplayable. But what I could listen to provided a wonderful introduction to the variety and interconnectedness of American vernacular music: the Carter Family (folk or country?), Blind Lemon Jefferson, Buell Kazee, Dock Boggs, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Patton, and Henry Thomas, to name just a few.

Listening to John Peel and Radio 1 new boy Andy Kershaw also helped to open my ears. Peel was playing a lot of “cowpoke” bands such as the Boothill Foot-tappers (whose ‘Get your feet out of my shoes’ remains a perennial favourite) while much of what Kershaw played wasn’t folk, but was clearly influenced to some degree by American roots music.

It was a review by Maggie Holland that prompted me to seek out and listen to some Hank Williams. At least, that’s what I thought, but a little while ago I did some digging around on the fRoots website, and in my back copies of Southern RagFolk RootsfRoots, and it seems that the way I remember it is not how it actually happened. But what one remembers is often more important than what really happened…

My recollection is that Maggie reviewed this cheap and cheerful Hank Williams compilation, in Southern Rag or Folk Roots, along with a similar release featuring either Jimmie Rodgers or the Carter Family. And that the review started along these lines: “Many people say they don’t like Hank Williams or Jimmie Rodgers, yet they’ve never listened to either of them”. I’d never specifically dissed either performer, but in all other particulars this described me, and I determined to do something about it.

Having now looked at the fRoots reviews indexes, I see that this particular album has never been reviewed in the magazine. Although a different Hank LP was reviewed in FR30. And compilations by both Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were reviewed in SR22. I suspect I may have conflated the two reviews. I’ve just read the one from SR22 – yes it was written by Maggie Holland – and it says something not entirely dissimilar to what I remembered. Annoyingly I can’t find the first couple of dozen Folk Roots – they must be in an as yet undiscovered box in the garage – so I can’t check the Hank Williams review.

Anyway, from the summer of 1984 I was working for Kent County Libraries – at an exciting time when the holdings of all the county’s major libraries were searchable via the new computerised catalogue. This enabled me to sit at my desk pretending to work, while seeking out and ordering up records from all over the county. I think I’d already checked out and really enjoyed Emmylou Harris’ LP Pieces of the Sky (I remembered the final track, ‘Queen of the Silver Dollar’ from my Radio Caroline listening days). But it was Hank that made the greatest impression. It was curiously familiar, yet at the same time like nothing I’d ever heard before. I suppose the Anthology of American Folk Music had started to accustom me to those desperate emotional voices of “the old weird America” and Hank’s singing was in a direct line from those earlier singers. Incredible to think that one man carried so much pain, and brought happiness to so many, in such a short life.

This song, first recorded in 1948, is an original Hank composition, but it fits seamlessly into the American country/folk gospel tradition.

Hank Williams publicity photo for WSM in 1951. From Wikipedia.

Hank Williams publicity photo for WSM in 1951. From Wikipedia.

Joe and I recorded it at the end of a rehearsal last night. We were practising for a performance this coming Friday at Eclectic Cabaret, at Wootton near Oxford. It’s a free gig featuring, as the name suggests, performers from a variety of acoustic-ish musical styles. These days Joe can most often be found playing at Oxford’s various rock venues, with bands such as Junk Whale and Worry. However, of my three children, Joe is also the only one who spent their first wage packet on an old-timey 5-string banjo.

 

I saw the light

Andy Turner – vocal
Joe Turner – 5-string banjo, vocal

December 24, 2011

Week 18 – The Sussex Carol

Not, of course, specifically a Sussex carol: the Roud Index lists versions collected from oral tradition in counties including Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Herefordshire and Hampshire; while the Bodleian has copies of early nineteenth centuryballad sheets printed in London and Birmingham. Indeed, according to Wikipedia the words were first published by Luke Wadding, a 17th-century Irish bishop, in a work called Small Garland of Pious and Godly Songs (1684).

But Vaughan Williams collected this version from Mrs Verrall, of Monk’s Gate, Horsham in Sussex, in 1904, and his arrangement of the carol was included in the Oxford Book of Carols, first published in 1928 (he had also incorporated it into his Fantasia on Christmas Carols, first performed in 1912).

I’ve always enjoyed singing this carol, but these days it has a particular significance for me as it’s almost invariably the song which closes our Magpie Lane Christmas concerts in Oxford. As such it brings a mixture of emotion: exhilaration at the completion of a successful concert in front of a supportive home crowd, and a general feeling of goodwill-to-all-men-it’s-almost-Christmas; mixed with a tinge of sadness because this year’s concerts are over, and we won’t be dusting off this repertoire again for another twelve months.

Here the lead vocals are taken by my wife Carol, with my eldest son Joe on fiddle. A very happy Christmas from all of us.

Christmas ballad sheet from the Bodleian Library collection

Christmas ballad sheet from the Bodleian Library collection

The Sussex Carol

Carol Turner: vocal
Andy Turner: vocal, G/D anglo-concertina
Joe Turner: fiddle

December 18, 2011

Week 17 – The Holly and the Ivy / Christmas now is drawing near at hand

Last week it was Shropshire, this week we have two carols collected in Herefordshire.

In quires and places where they sing, if you hear ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ it will invariably be sung to the tune which Cecil Sharp collected in 1909 from Mrs Mary Clayton at Chipping Camden in Gloucestershire, and which was included in the Oxford Book of Carols. On the folk scene, this tune exercises a similar hegemony. It was recorded in the 1950s from Peter Jones of Bromsash in Herefordshire, and that recording was included on the LP Songs of Ceremony (part of the Caedmon / Topic Folk Songs of Britain series). I first heard it in 1976 or 77, at a mass door-to-door carol-singing event in the village of Warehorne in Kent, where the singing was led by John Jones and Cathy Lesurf of the Oyster Ceilidh Band. It was an absolute revelation to me a) that carols like ‘Angels from the Realms of Glory’ sounded really good when accompanied by melodeons and guitars, and b) that there was more than one tune to some carols – notably this one, and ‘While Shepherds Watched’ (little did I know at that stage just how many different tunes ‘While Shepherds’ could be sung to).

I’m joined on this recording by my son, Joe, on fiddle. He said he’d never actually played the tune before, but it was lodged in his brain after “years of exposure to Magpie Lane at Christmas”.  Well, it doesn’t seem to have done him any permanent harm…

In the Journal of the Folk-Song Society for 1914 you will find a number of versions of ‘Christmas now is drawing near at hand’, collected by Vaughan Williams and Sharp in various locations, but particularly in the West Midlands and counties adjoining Wales. You can find transcriptions of some of the versions which appeared in early volumes of the Journal at http://folkopedia.efdss.org/wiki/Christmas_now_is_drawing_near_at_hand

I, like almost everyone else on the folk scene, learned this fine carol from the singing of the late, great Lal Waterson, on the seminal Watersons LP Frost and Fire.

A.L. Lloyd’s sleeve notes for that LP say:

This moralising carol was much used by beggars and others towards Christmas time. Its tune turns up over and again attached to such carols as The Fountain of Christ’s BloodHave You Not Heard of our Dear Saviour’s Love, and The Black Decree, also to the favourite old dialogue-ballad of Death and the Lady, traceable to the sixteenth century. Here it is sung by Elaine Waterson in a form common among gipsies habitually drifting through the West Midlands half a century ago.

It looks to me that Lal based her tune on that collected by Vaughan Williams in September 1913: “Sung by a Waggoner (name unknown), Pool-End, near Hereford, Herefordshire”, and one of those printed in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society Vol V, No. 18 (1914).

'Christmas now is drawing near at hand'  Sung by a Waggoner (name unknown), Pool-End, near Hereford, Herefordshire; noted by R. Vaughan Williams, Sept 1913. Journal of the Folk-Song Society Vol V, No. 18 (1914) p11

Sometimes I think I’ll relearn the tune the way Vaughan Williams wrote it down – not in a vain attempt to be more “authentic”, but because it has some rather nice subtle twists. But after singing it like this for well over 30 years, I suspect that’s not going to happen.

The Holly and the Ivy

Andy Turner: vocal, G/D anglo-concertina
Joe Turner: fiddle

Christmas is now drawing near at hand