Tipper's Jig

Fiddle tunes by katie pressley

Over the years when the girls asked me what I want for my birthday, for mother's day, or for Christmas I always tell them to learn a song for me. For the past two years Chitter has written a fiddle tune for my birthday and presented it with Chatter's accompaniment as I came in the door from work. The tunes absolutely tickle me to death.

The first one she wrote, Two Old Chairs, has become a part of our regular performing line up. It is so fun to play. I shared the reason behind the name of the tune in a post with you-if you missed it you can go here to read about the name. The tune itself is very lively and fun. It makes you think of a room full of happy dancers or smiling children running in pure delight. 

She really flattered me by naming the second fiddle tune Tipper's Jig. While the first tune she wrote made me think of an exuberant happy gathering of people interacting with each other, Tipper's Jig makes me think of soaring mountain tops where the wind whips the clouds across a blue sky and deep valleys where the settlements are busy with people going to and fro as they maneuver through this thing we call life.

I hope you enjoyed my song.

Tipper

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The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

O Danny Boy

The song O Danny Boy is well known around the world sung by famous vocalists as well as around the family piano-or family guitar in the Blind Pig house. Folks are often reminded of the old ballad during the week of Saint Patrick's Day.

I researched O Danny Boy and discovered some interesting facts:

  • While the tune is indeed Irish-the words were written in England
  • There are varying opinions about the origin of the tune-some believe its as old as the 1600s
  • In about 1855 Jane Ross discovered the tune and passed it along to a collector of old Irish music, at that time the tune was called Londonderry Air
  • Many songwriters tried to add words to the music but nothing seemed to fit the mournful tune
  • In the 1800s the tune made it to America along with Irish immigrants
  • About 1912 a Mrs. Weatherly heard the song in Colorado, she sent the music back to England to her brother-n-law who was a songwriter
  • Mr. Weatherly had already penned the words to Danny Boy but had never found the right melody-now he had it
  • When Mr. Weatherly put the old Irish tune to his words a hit that would last through the ages was created
  • To read more about the fascinating story behind the song check out this page

I believe O Danny Boy appeals to the masses because the song evokes the strong emotion of longing for someone you love and miss-a truly common theme of mankind.

For me personally, the song transcends location. If I replace the word glen with holler I would swear the words were written about my mountains and the high graveyards that rest on many of them.

In the same way, you could substitute the descriptive words with hills, dunes, or whatever topography you live near and feel as though it was written just down the road from you.

For this Pickin' & Grinnin' In The Kitchen Spot O Danny Boy. I want to encourage you to watch the video. Paul sings the original 2nd verse which most performers leave out. No matter how many times I hear the 2nd verse I get chills...every last time. 

2nd verse:

But when you come and all the flowers are dying If I am dead as then I well may be You'll come and find the place where I am lying And kneel and say a prayer there for me And I will hear though soft you tread above me And all my grave will warmer sweeter be For you will bend and whisper that you love me And I shall rest in Peace until you come to me

Tipper

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I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

Pap - I'll be All Smiles Tonight

Pap 1970 something

I've been enjoying a video of Pap and Paul singing the old song I'll Be All Smiles Tonight for the last few months. Paul discovered the video on an old VHS film from 2002 and we uploaded it to Youtube back in September. The love song tells of the awkwardness and sorrow of being present while the object of your love appears with another suitor and you try to hide your feelings. 

The Traditional Tune Archive has this to say about the song:

I'LL BE ALL SMILES TONIGHT. American, Waltz. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. Popularized by the 1934 Carter Family recording, however, the tune is considerably older, with words and music written in 1879 by T.B. Ranson. Many recordings of the song predate the Carter Family as well, including Luther B. Clark and the Blue Ridge Highballers (1926); Mac and Bob (1927); Allen Brothers (1928); Reed Children (1928); Jenkins and Whitworth (1929); Bradley Kincaid (1929); and Linda Parker and The Cumberland Ridge Runners (1933)

The Louvin Brothers also recorded I'll Be All Smiles Tonight and I'm guessing that's where Pap and Paul learned it. 

The video became slightly distorted when we converted it from a VHS file to a digital one. It features a high lead by Pap and a harmony by Paul underneath. In the key of D, the song is high and difficult to sing, yet it sounds like a sweet lullaby to me.

 

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I do. The voices and guitars take me straight back to childhood and make me feel safe and loved. In fact I like the video so much that I took a clip of it and turned it into my phone's ringtone. Now every time someone calls me I get to hear Pap and Paul's lovely sweet harmony. 

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Friday March 10 at Ranger's Elementary's Gospel Bluegrass & Barbecue. Tickets are on sale now $7.00 prepaid at the door they will be $10.00. Starts at 5:00 p.m.

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Why Did I Leave The Plow In The Field?

The old homeplace by the pressley girls

The Old Homeplace

It's been ten long years since I left my home
In the hollow where I was born
Where the cool fall nights makes the wood smoke rise
And the fox hunter blows his horn.


I fell in love with a girl from the town
I thought that she would be true
I ran away to Charlottesville
And worked in a sawmill or two.


What have you done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the fields
And look for the job in the town.


Well the girl ran off with somebody else
The taverns took all my pay
And here I stand where the old home stood
Before they took it away.


Now the geese fly south and the cold wind blows
As I stand here and hang my head
I've lost my love I've lost my home
And now I wish that I was dead.

What have you done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the fields
And look for the job in the town.

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The song above was written by Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne. If you don't recognize their names-just let your mind drift back to the Andy Griffith Show-more specifically The Darlings...who were really The Dillards

I first fell in love with the song when I heard Tony Rice's version. I was just a kid-but from the instant the words breathed themselves through my ears and into my brain I knew it carried a powerful message of woe. 

As with many old songs, this one is written from the man's point of view, which can throw up an obstacle for female crooners. I've heard many female singers leave the point of view-preferring to stay true to the original writer. 

Chatter and Chitter have always been girls who walked to the beat of their own drum. The Pressley Girls never hesitate to change the gender of the song. Their reasoning: we all identify ourselves with the songs we love -no matter the gender point they are sung from. So if we're already "changing" the words in our head why not change them as they come out of our mouths as well? 

Although the girls slightly changed the words to the song-The Old Homeplace-it still packs a punch. 

First-you leave home and all you've ever known.

Second-you realize that home wasn't so bad after all.

Third-you meet someone who makes you feel a little better about your decision.

Fourth-that certain someone breaks your heart and leaves you at about the same time you realize home is where you need to be.

Fifth-you go home to find out it ain't there no more.

Sixth-you wish you were dead.

On some level, everyone can identify with the message the song sends. Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne sliding such a powerful story of life between less than 3 minutes of music is an amazing feat of songwriting.

Hope you enjoyed The Pressley Girls' version of The Old Homeplace

-------------------

I shared the post above with you back in 2014. I found myself thinking about the longing in the lyrics this week. Not because I've moved away from home looking for a job or a new love, but because I've once again been pondering the way we live our modern lives: scratching and scraping trying to get ahead and keep up with what society tells us we ought to have or own. Don't get me wrong I love and appreciate our modern day conveniences, but sometimes I wonder if things weren't easier and maybe even better when the most important thing was the plow in the field.  

Tipper

p.s. On Thursday March 2, 2017 6:30 p.m. Don Casada will be presenting a history of the Bryson City Cemetery and stories of some of those who are buried there. Many of these people as well as the cemetery itself have played a significant role in the history and development of WNC. Info about the preservation and maintenance of the cemetery by Friends of the Bryson City Cemetery will also be included—Swain County Business Education Center 45 East Ridge Drive, Bryson City 28713 Conversation and Refreshments Following. All are welcome—No admission charge

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Little Debbies and The Pressley Girls

Little Debbie Jolene Spoof by The Pressley Girls
Back a few years ago the girls learned the Dolly Parton classic Jolene. I shared the video of them doing the song in my weekly Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spot in April of 2015. 

As often happens when we're making music we all get to cracking jokes and being silly. Actually I believe on the occasion of learning Jolene it was Paul and the girls being silly. One thing led to another and they begin singing about Debbie instead of Jolene

If you're not familiar with Little Debbies you can find out all about them here

The snack cakes have always been popular in this area and Granny has always had a box or two in the cabinet by the frig. I don't eat Debbies much these days, but I went through a spell in high school where I ate a fudge round every day for lunch. One of my best friends from childhood loved Little Debbies so much that one Christmas someone wrapped up a box for her and put it under the tree at church.

For several years I bought Chitter a box of chocolate cream pies every week. That's how the spoof of the song came about. Someone was teasing her about her Little Debbie addiction. 

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

That snack cake is beyond compare, with filling that's so sweet and rare, with a wrapper that seals the freshness in. That little girl with crimson locks upon the corner of the box makes promise of the prize that waits within.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

I've seen you slipping round the house; yes you're as sneaky as a mouse, but remember that Debbie belongs to me. You ate the other eleven before, so you best not touch the cabinet door, for you don't know how crazy I can be.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

I hope my words are making sense because I need some nutrients to warn you, you can't say I haven't tried. I should have moved it somewhere else and not left it there upon the shelf, but I thought that you were satisfied.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

You talk about it in your sleep, but there's other things that you could eat, and I really need that Little Debbie. I had to have this talk with you; my hunger now depends on you and whatever you decide to do Katie. 

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. Please don't disappoint my belly.

Although the girls and Paul worked out the silly lyrics to the Little Debbie Jolene spoof they never truly learned them. 

If you've been a Blind Pig reader for a good long while you'll probably remember the girls made Pap a special dvd of songs he hadn't heard them do for Christmas each year. This year they made the surprise dvd for Paul and they finally recorded the spoof.

I hope you enjoyed the spoof. If you're a Little Debbie fan I bet you'll ever eat another one without thinking of Chatter and Chitter.

Tipper

p.s. If you missed the Blind Pig email yesterday-it's because I failed to send it out at the right time! Silly me...I chose p.m. instead of my usual a.m. If you missed the post for Saturday you can go here.

p.s.s. Typepad found an issue with my music player yesterday and I had to remove it...probably for good. But I made direct links to playlists full of our music on youtube. Look over in the right side-bar and you'll see a photo to click on and jump over and listen to Pap and Paul and one to jump over and listen to The Pressley Girls. 

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I'm Still In Love With You

Blind pig gang playing in blairsville ga back in the day

The Blind Pig Gang playing in Blairsville GA back in the day

With the day for celebrating the one you love coming up quick I've been thinking about the songs we do that could be considered love songs. Right at the top of the list is Red is the Rose and Maggie.

As I scrolled through our youtube channel I quickly realized most of the love songs we do hightlight the fact that love affairs don't always work out the way you want them to. 

Bluegrass and Country songs are said to be synonymous with heartache and sadness. There's even been songs written about the phenomenon related to both genres. In the country realm-David Allen Coe's hit song You Don't Even Call Me By My Name comes to mind. 

Mandolin Man used to tease Paul about the songs he had written saying "Ever last one of them is sad and depressing."

One time Paul thought he'd take a cue from David Allen Coe's hit and write the most depressing song he could come up with and In The Lonesome Woods Tonight was born. The song turned out to be one of my all time favorites.

Then there's those songs that make you tap your toes even though they're talking about love gone wrong. I love Paul and Pap's version of Roy Acuff's Write Me Sweetheart. The words surely talk about a broken heart, but I don't know how anyone could listen to Paul and Pap's version and not feel at least a little hopeful that things would work out after all. See what you think. 

Did you tap your toes? I did! Outstanding flat top picking and tight harmonies-you can't beat that.

Tipper

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Down Where the Dogwood Trees Grow

If You ever get South of Cincinnati

I started writing this post four years ago. Two different things inspired me to write it, well actually I guess it was three different things. Maybe I should start at the beginning.

When Paul and I were growing up we were huge music fans just as we are now. While we both had an abiding love and appreciation for the traditional music Pap had brought us up on, once we became teenagers we didn't always like the same genres nor the same musicians. I was much more likely to be jamming to one of the latest top 40 songs or even dare I say it one of the many hard rock bands that were popular in the 1980s. 

However there was one musician that was popular during those years that we both loved - Dwight Yoakam. 

Right from Yoakam's first album release we loved him. We loved his sound and we loved his songs. Knowing he wrote much of what he sung made us like him even more. A touch of Appalachia can be found throughout many of Yoakam's early songs. Paul and I both were crazy over South of Cincinnati which was released on his first album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.

  • The song tells a sad story-being teenagers we loved that
  • The chorus soars in a way that makes you want to sing along
  • We lived were the song called out from -south of the mason dixon where the dogwood trees grow

At one Sunday evening Pickin and Grinnin in the Kitchen session we got to thinking about songs the girls and Paul could sing as a trio with three-part harmony. I'm not sure if it was Paul or me who thought of South of Cincinnati, but having been raised on a healthy diet of Dwight Yoakam the girls were all up for giving it a try. After the first attempt Pap said "You need to keep on that one till you've got it perfect. It sounds good!" Hearing Paul and the girls do the song made me fall in love with it all over again. 

During the time we were giving the song a go, the girls were taking a US History class at school. One evening I heard them discussing a project they had to complete about the migration of people who left the southern states for the northern states and the steady jobs they offered. I went into the kitchen and told them "Your very family was part of that migration. There was Uncle George and Uncle Jr., Granny's brothers, who worked in the car factories; there was Aunt Geneaive; there was Mary and Bruce-you know Erin and Jillian's grandparents; there was Uncle Byers and Aunt Grace, you didn't know them, but you know Bernice, Ruth, and Kenneth-Byers and Grace were their parents. All of those people lived here. They grew up here just like Granny did, but they moved away to find jobs and ended up living up north the rest of their lives or most of their lives, some of them came back like Byers and Grace. And they all came back to visit when they could."

Over the following weeks I kept thinking on that migration to the north-more specifically about my family's migration to the north. All families have migration connections, they exist in Pap's family too. But somehow as I look at Granny's family tree it seems like it's straight out of the history book. Maybe it is easier to see because all of us down here got so excited when family from the north came home to Granny Gazzie's for a visit. Or maybe it's easier to see because Granny Gazzie and the children who stayed here never got over missing the ones that left. 

So now you can see I was inspired to write this post by Dwight Yoakam, the trio of harmony on South of Cincinnati, and the migration of Granny's family who moved north for better employment opportunities...it just took me four years to get that inspiration to form itself into a post.

The girls and Paul never did get the song down pat as Pap wanted them too. In fact, we haven't even done it in a few years. It's a hard song to sing, but its a mighty good song. One of Yoakam's best if you ask me.

Tipper

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Wilson Holler

David Kaynor

JCCFS Dance Musician's Week - David Kaynor standing at mike; Chitter and Chatter at far right of photo

It was during the month of December that I told you about the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra playing the song Chitter wrote for Pap-Spider Web Canyon. I was so very excited (still am) that the orchestra played Spider Web Canyon that I failed to mention David had written a song about Pap too; actually David's song is about all of us and the place where we live Wilson Holler

The girls and I met David in 2012 during the John C. Campbell Folk School's Summer Dance Musician's Week. That was the first year Chatter and Chitter got to take the class and we really had no idea what to expect. We all wondered if the girls would be able to keep up in class and wondered what the teachers would be like. 

Turns out all our wondering and worries were for nothing. The girls loved the class. They gained tons of musical knowledge, made life long friendships with the teachers and the other students, and had a ball of fun while doing it!

Due to the great generosity of some anonymous people and the folk school itself, the girls have gotten to attend every Summer Dance Musician's Week since that first one. Over those years they've been able to strengthen their friendship with David. 

The week is always a whirlwind of class, music, and dancing during the daytime with dancing every night of the week as well. All the busyness doesn't leave much time for venturing off the folk school's campus. 

Early last Spring, David was teaching a different music class at the folk school and he had some extra time one afternoon. He came over to the house and ate with us and then was able to ride over to the Martins Creek Community Center where we had a gig. We invited David up on the stage and he played some harmony fiddle with Chitter on a few of our songs. David also got to meet Pap that night.

A month or so later as David thought about Pap's passing and our sorrow he was inspired to compose the fiddle tune Wilson Holler about our family and our home.

I hope you enjoyed David's composition and the great performance by the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra. 

Tipper

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Job's God

Job's God is True

Granny and I were both with Pap when he died. He'd had a terrible rough night and had prayed aloud to God more than once for mercy. He also spoke of Job and his wife in the hours before his death. 

It was at one of the first music practices after Pap died that Paul played and sung Job's God for me. I was floored by the song's lyrics which show despair, longing, hope, and faith. I was also moved by the song's title since Pap had spoke of Job just before he died. 

After Pap's death and mention of Job, Paul found the complete lyrics online and learned the song. He said Pap had been trying to remember the words to the song for a good long while and could only sing a small portion of it. Pap thought he remembered Conway Twitty doing the song, but Paul said he later figured out the Conway Twitty song Pap was thinking about was a different one. 

I could not get the song out of my mind. The next time we practiced I made Paul let me record it just so I could listen to it anytime I wanted to...and listen to it I did. The song became my comfort for missing Pap. In those first miserable days and weeks of grieving I'd listen to Job's God on the way to work and remind myself how lucky I was that I could look about me and see God, and how I was even luckier that when I couldn't see him, He was still there watching over me. I told myself with that knowledge I could surely pull myself together and keep putting one foot in front of the other even though all I wanted to do was go sit in some dark holler up the creek and never come out. 

I researched the song for days and couldn't really find anything. I told Paul "If we ever do put Job's God up you'll get the most hits of anyone because there's hardly nobody that does the song." Hymnary.org credits the song to S. N. Greene but has no other information about Greene nor the song. I also found the song was listed in the Public Domain which usually means it's an old traditional song that no one knows the original author of. 

Here's what Paul had to say about it when he uploaded the song to the Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube Channel

This is a song that I heard my Dad try to sing once or twice over the years. He only knew part of the first verse. The first line always struck me and stirred my imagination. After he went on to be with God, I searched online and found the lyrics. I was motivated to learn the song because Dad mentioned Job in one of the last things he said here on earth. I could not verify who wrote the song. It may be very old. Dad may have heard it from the Taylor Brothers (Marvin and Minnis, a gospel brother duet who performed in the Detroit area). Dad owned a couple of their LP's on Heritage Records. Job's God is on the LP entitled "Touch Me." The Taylor Brothers listed no author for that song. When Dad sang the one verse as a solo, he sang it very high, in the key of A. I can come close to the that key if I start low and work my way up, hence all the key changes (from Eflat gradually rising to Aflat). This song has powerful lyrics.

Lyrics:

I can feel the hand of Satan as a tempter pressing sore.
He has been before the Father, asking leave to press me more.

Though God slay me, yet I'll trust Him.
I shall then come forth as Gold,
And I know the redeemer liveth.
I can feel Him in my soul.

I can hear the Father granting, saying, "You'll not touch his life.
Though you crush him, he'll not falter. He will rise above the strife."

Though God slay me, yet I'll trust Him.
I shall then come forth as Gold,
And I know the redeemer liveth.
I can feel Him in my soul.

Though I stumble, I'll not stagger. By His Grace, I'll make it through,
For His Grace is all sufficient, and I know that God is true.

Though I look all about me, and His face I cannot see,
Still I know that through the darkness, He beholdeth even me.

Though God slay me, yet I'll trust Him.
I shall soon come forth as Gold,
And I know my redeemer liveth.
I can feel Him in my soul.

I hope you enjoyed the song. It has been well received when we've performed it over the last several months. When we did the song at the Historic Union County Courthouse in Blairsville GA an elderly gentleman, whom we had never met before, approached Paul after the show to ask if he'd be willing to come to south Georgia and do the song at his funeral. Paul told him yes he'd try his best to do just that.

Tipper

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Whiskey Before Breakfast

Whiskey Before Breakfast - The Pressley Girls

The girls learned the fiddle tune Whiskey Before Breakfast from Lynn and Liz Shaw in the spring of last year. Well, I should say they were introduced to it by the Shaws. Its one of those tunes that's tricky to play until you get it-then you wonder why it was so hard in the first place.

The girls played it for Paul and he said he'd heard it before, but never really learned it. 

Throughout the summer the girls would bring the tune out at every practice and play around with it. Their hopes were that by the time they met up with Lynn and Liz again they'd be able to join right in on the tune. That isn't exactly what happened. 

It was September before we got to spend time with the Shaws again. There was a fairly large group of musicians jamming and when Whiskey Before Breakfast was mentioned as the next tune the girls got ready. Chitter said "They took off so fast I was left in the dust. I couldn't even pretend to keep up." Chatter agreed they better practice the song some more, so the girls continued to try and learn the song on their own.

Over Christmas we really solidified our version of the song and once we all got it down pat it was so much fun to play!

My nephew Mark aka mandolin man was here for Christmas and he got to play along with us. I was so proud of our accomplishment on Whiskey Before Breakfast that I shared a picture of my notes about the song on the Blind Pig and The Acorn Instagram page

One of my friends commented "Lord preserve us & protect us!" 

I thought "Oh my goodness she's worried about us! We don't drink whiskey before breakfast-heck we don't drink whiskey anytime of the day!"

Turns out there are lyrics to the song that we didn't know about and my friend was referring to them...not to our non-existent drinking problem.

Here's the lyrics:

Words from Mike Cross album "Live and Kickin"'

Early one day the sun wouldn't shine
I was walking down the street not feeling too fine
I saw two old men with a bottle between 'em
And this was the song that I heard them singing

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey'fore breakfast

Well I stopped by the steps where they was sitting
And I couldn't believe how drunk they were getting
I said "old men, have you been drinking long?"
They said 'Just long enough to be singing this song"

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey'fore breakfast

Well they passed me the bottle and I took a little sip
And it felt so good I just couldn't quit
I drank some more and next thing I knew
There were three of us sitting there singing this tune

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey'fore breakfast

One by one everybody in the town
They heard our ruckus and they came around
And pretty soon the streets were ringing
With the sound of the whole town laughing and singing

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey'fore breakfast

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey'fore breakfast

----------------

The song is most often played as an instrumental and that's how we'll continue to do it I'm sure. Give our version a listen and see what you think.

I hope you enjoyed the song! To read more about the history of the tune you can go here. From what I gather the tune is much older than the lyrics. 

Tipper

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