The Way I Am

2016 The Pressley Girls Festival on the Square 3

Just before Pap died, I videoed the girls doing a song made famous by Merle Haggard- The Way I Am written by Sonny Throckmorton. I never got to show Pap the video but I know he would have liked it.

The Deer Hunter and I listened to lots of Merle Haggard during our courting days. While I have many favorite Haggard songs, The Way I Am is right up there near the top. 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you feel like a fish out of water? The song makes me think of those times where I find myself somewhere that I wished I wasn't. I'm not good at pretending to like something that I don't like.

When I was a teenager Pap would tell me "Be your ownself. Don't worry about what everybody else is doing or not doing."

Teaching me to be my ownself is one of the best things Pap and Granny did for me. I'm thankful the girls have learned to be happy with their ownselves too. 

Knowing the way you are makes it easier to live in this world and do the things you need to do even when you don't want to do them.

Tipper

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Working on a Building - Take 3

Working on a Building by The Pressley Girls

Over the years many people have covered the song I'm Working on a Building. The list includes: The Carter Family, Bill Monroe, Marty Stuart, Jimmie Davis, Old & in the Way, and too many local performers to name. 

The song is generally said to be a traditional song-meaning no one knows who actually penned it. It is often listed as a Negro Spiritual. And as with many traditional songs, the actual lyrics vary depending on who's singing it...or in our case what day we're singing it.

To add to the confusion there is another song with a similar title and a similar tune: Working on the Building written by Lillian M Bowles. You can hear a version of the Bowles song performed by none other than Elvis here.  

Its easy to see why the song we do-Working on a Building has continued to be popular in southern gospel and bluegrass gospel circles after so many years. The words are repetitive and catchy with the tune being a real toe tapper. 

I've actually posted videos of us doing the song 2 other times here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn. 

Our first arrangement of the song was with Pap, Chatter, and Paul doing the singing. The song is always a crowd pleaser and with shows already booked right after Pap broke his hip in May of 2015 Chitter took over his part so that was our 2nd video

We're still doing the same arrangement as we were in the 2nd video and the audience and I are still loving the song. And Chatter and Chitter are still entertaining themselves by making up their own verses to the song. Things like if I was a crystal meth cooker I'd tell you what I'd do I'd quit my cooking and I'd work on a building too. Life is never dull with them two.

Hope you enjoyed hearing the song again!

Tipper

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Precious Memories

Precious Memories Song

Grief is a funny thing. Some days I feel so distant from Pap that I wonder if he was really real. Other days I find myself thinking he's just gone a big trip-you know like a world tour vacation...even though as far as I know Pap never went on any vacation. The only trips we ever took when I was a kid was to go see family who didn't live here. 

Then there are the days when I cry all the way to work, trying to hurriedly dry my tears in the parking lot and pretend I wasn't crying when I walk inside the building. Then I spend my day smiling when I'm supposed to and pretending to listen to people talk when I'm actually miles away remembering Pap or thinking on all the things I wish I could tell him. 

Yesterday Chatter needed a recent picture of herself and was looking through the photos on my computer. She wasn't having much luck finding one so I went to show her the photo folder on my desktop. As she scrolled down I saw all the photos of Pap in the collage above, sat down in the floor, and erupted into tears. In only a few seconds I got ahold of myself and looked back up to the screen to see if she found something. By then she was crying too. I smiled through my tears and said "We're a pretty pitiful bunch ain't we?" Chatter laughed through her tears and agreed. 

For well over a year before Pap died we'd been fooling around with the song Precious Memories. We tried all sorts of arrangements and I liked every one of them. What a song!

From the first time we did it I think we all knew it needed to be Pap's song-it needed to be about him. I honestly don't know if we felt that way because we knew his days were passing swiftly by or if we heard the full meaning of the words every time he sung them because he clearly believed them. Maybe it was a combination of both. 

Pap especially liked the song. I'm positive he liked it for the same reason most people do: the words literally bring precious memories to mind and evoke a longing for those who have long since gone on. 

 

 

I am beyond grateful that I can sing the words of Precious Memories and mean every last one of them, I'm thankful Pap could do the same exact thing. 

A few tangible precious memories I'm thankful for:

  • The pictures of Pap and the memories that go with them. Like: Pap picking his guitar in the living-room and showing the girls how to play something, Pap being patriotic at a 9-11 Ceremony, Pap laughing at Chitter and her new hipster shoes, Pap in the garden-working and teaching the rest of us the way.  
  • We were so picky about what videos we put on youtube. We never used the video above because we thought we could do it better, but now I think it's pretty good if I do say so myself. No telling what songs we've rejected over the years since I started the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2008. And no telling what little back and forth the camera caught-like it did in the video above. We have a whole boot box full of dvds of music we've taped-that box =s lots of precious memories.
  • There are old tapes and reel to reels of Pap's music too. The other day Paul found one of Pap and Granny trying to sing in the back bedroom away from all the racket of us kids. A little bitty Tipper kept running in to tell them the wind was blowing and she was worried. 
  • There's a set of videos of Pap teaching a series at church back in the 90s. 
  • There's recordings of Pap telling stories over the last year. One I recorded a few days before he died. 

Pap and Paul's recent cd Shepherd of My Soul is now available on CD Baby. You can download the entire cd or pick and choose-only purchasing the track(s) you prefer. Go here if you're interested. You can also find the cd on Itunes and you can listen to it on Spotify. 

Tipper

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Watching You

Watching you all seeing eyes is watching you

I grew up singing about the all seeing eye in church and after I discovered how old it is, I'm betting Pap grew up singing about it as well.

The name of the old song I'm talking about is Watching You. It was written by John Melvin Henson and was copyrighted in 1915. Henson, who was born in 1887 in Curryville, GA, also penned Anywhere Is Home, I'll Live In Glory, and Happy Am I all of which are familiar hymns from my growing up years.

When I was researching the song, I was surprised to see more than a few folks thought it was intimidating. I was reminded of the time, Vicki Lane, one of my favorite writers, pointed out the fear in a different old gospel song-He Will Set Your Fields On Fire. When I first read her description I thought "Now that's one of the peppiest songs I know-it's not scary."

I popped in one of Pap's old cds and gave the song another listen, and decided that it could indeed cause fear, after all the song does have a strong warning of what will happen if one doesn't from sin retire-he will set your fields on fire.

I've struggled on more than one occasion to try to describe or explain the strange correlation between fear, religion, comfort, and Appalachia. 

In the same way the people of Appalachia were drawn to the old murder ballads that came along with them over the big pond I believe many of them were (and are) drawn to the gospel songs of dire warnings and consequences.

We filmed the video of Watching You way back in 2010. You'll notice both nephews are in the video. In those days they were picking and grinning with us every Sunday afternoon. (Mark is centered between Pap and Paul and Ben is the arm you see at the very beginning of the video)

 

Watching You is track 15 on Pap and Paul's recent cd Shepherd of My Soul. The cd contains 13 original songs written by Pap, 1 written by Paul, 3 gospel standards (one is Watching You), and one Instrumental Reprise of the first song on the cd. The cd is now available on CD Baby. You can download the entire cd or pick and choose-only purchasing the track(s) you prefer. Go here if you're interested. 

Tipper

p.s. The winner of the Songs of Christmas cd is Sheila Bergeron who said: This will be one of my favorite posts. I especially like when you talk about Granny and Pap. They're some good folks.

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Oh When I See That Southern Moon

Paulpapblackwhitelarge_2

Paul and Pap's repertoire included many songs written by the The Delmore Brothers. The talented brothers were among Pap's all time favorite groups. He enjoyed their playing and thier harmony singing, but as a songwriter himself he was totally blown away by their song writing skills.

The Delmore Brothers were farm boys from Alabama. Their heyday was in the 1930s and 40s but their songs are still popular today, especially in bluegrass/old time circles.

The brothers played radio shows, were members of the Grand Ole Opry, and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Even though I've been familiar with The Delmore Brothers my entire life as I began to research their songs I was amazed at how many famous standards they wrote.

A few I have on the radio player; Blow Your Whistle, When It's Time For The Whipporwill, Southern Moon Shine Down Again, Weary Lonesome Blues, Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar.

Others that come to mind include: Browns Ferry Blues, Midnight Special,  I Won't Be Worried Long, Sandmountain Blues, She Left Me Standing On The Mountain, Happy On The Mississippi Shore, Put Me On The Trail To Carolina, I've Got The Big River Blues, and tons more!

Paul and Pap's harmony on The Delmore Brothers song Southern Moon Shine Down Again is outstanding. 

Southern Moon written by Alton Delmore

Blue and lonesome 
Lonesome and sad
Longing for that south land
And the best times I have had

Oh when I see that southern moon
I want to croon a lonely tune
I want to meet my sweetheart there in the lane
Hear those fellows lonely refrain 
Oh southern moon shine down again

There I was happy
Nothing worried me
Southern moon was shining
Shining down on me 

Oh when I see that southern moon
I want to croon a lonely tune
I want to meet my sweetheart there in the lane
Hear those fellows lonely refrain 
Oh southern moon shine down again

Steamboat move me down the river 
Stop and wait for me
I will help you load your cargo
If you'll ride me free

Oh when I see that southern moon
I want to croon a lonely tune
I want to meet my sweetheart there in the lane
Hear those fellows lonely refrain 
Oh southern moon shine down again

 

I hope you enjoyed the video! Jump over to The Delmore Brother's website to read more about the song.

Tipper

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The Woods are Greener Over Yonder

There Is A Time

There is a time for love and laughter
The days will pass like summer storms
The winter wind will follow after
But there is love and love is warm

There is a time for us to wander 
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new the world is free 

There is a time when leaves are falling
The woods are grey the paths are old
The snow will come when geese are calling
We need a fire against the cold

There is a time for us to wander 
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new the world is free 

There is a time for us to wander 
When time is young and so are we
The woods are greener over yonder
The path is new the world is free 
The path is new the world is free

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

The words above are to an old Dillard's song, There Is A Time. I tried to figure out if one of them wrote it or if it was a traditional song, but I had no luck finding the answer to my question. The song is most often associated with The Andy Griffith Show. The Dillards played the Darlings who were known for their music making among other things.

The girls have been doing There Is A Time since they first started singing. They've done the song for so long that there have been numerous versions and arrangements over the years.

When they first started singing they both sang lead, once they learned the art of harmony from Pap and Paul I fell in love with the song anew. A few years later Chitter learned to play it on the mandolin and that impressed me. A year or so after that she mastered it on the fiddle. Soon after I got over the fiddle sawing I fell in love with how they said the word greener. Next it was Chitter saying We need a fire against the cold.

 

Today my favorite part of the song is a little guitar lick that Paul has added. Give me another year and I'm sure my favorite part of the song will change once again.

Tipper

p.s. Up coming performances for The Pressley Girls 

  • TODAY - July 10,  2016 @ 2:30 p.m. Festival on the Square Hayesville NC

  • August 5, 2016 @ 7:00 p.m. Union County Historical Court House Blairsville, GA

  • August 26, 2016 @ 6:00 p.m. Crane Creek Vineyards Young Harris, GA

  • September 3, 2016 @ 8:00 p.m. Vogel State Park Blairsville, GA

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The Red, White, and Blue

  July 4th history of the over the mountain men

 

Thank God for the U.S.A. written by Albert E. Brumley

In a world that is drifting and changing
When the faith of the people is torn
There's a nation of hope and of freedom
Where the sons of courage are born
It’s the land of the Star Spangle Banner
Tis a nation as fair as the day
Thank God for the land born of freedom
Thank God for the U.S.A.

Thank God for the U.S.A.
Land of the brave and true
Thank God for the true American way
For the stars and the red white and blue

Thank God for the land we love
Life and our liberty
Thank God for the right to be an American
Thank God for the U.S.A.

To our almighty father in heaven
To the One who ranks higher than all
May He lead may He guide us and keep us
By His grace we never shall fall
For the stars and the stripes of Old Glory
Let us humbly earnestly pray
Thank God for the land born of freedom
Thank God for the U.S.A.

Thank God for the U.S.A.
Land of the brave and true
Thank God for the true American way
For the stars and the red white and blue

Thank God for the land we love
Life and our liberty
Thank God for the right to be an American
Thank God for the U.S.A.

-------

 

I believe Pap and Paul learned this song from Jim and Jesse, who had quite a hit with their cut of it. I assumed one of the duo wrote it-I was wrong.

Albert E. Brumley aka Gospel Songwriter Extraordinaire penned the song in the early 1940s. 

Tipper

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Down in a Little Green Valley

As I spent time outside over the last few days I was reminded of this post I wrote back in 2013. With summer's bright green coat shining brightly this time of the year always makes me feel like I'm living in a little green valley.

Carson Robison

On August 4, 1890, Carson Robison was born in Oswego, KS. Robison had many occupations over his lifetime, most of them centered around life on the prairie. He was a farmer, a cow puncher, and an oilfield worker. Robison was also a song writing musician who had a unique whistling talent-he was able to whistle in 2 part harmony at the same time. Robison was nicknamed The Kansas Jaybird.

In 1904 he penned his first song Anthem. By 1924 he made his first recordings with Victor Records laying down the tracks Songbirds in Georgia and Whistling the Blues Away

Throughout the coming years, Robison formed his own band, Carson Robison and His Pioneers. The band traveled throughout the US and abroad even performing for King George and Queen Elizabeth. 

In 1971 Robison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

To see a discography of Robison you can go here: Nashville Song Writers Hall of Fame. A quote shared on the same website gives us a glimpse into Robison's mind:

"Nature and tradition have been my best sources for material. I've learned plenty of things from her and I reckon most people could write songs about the odd characters, odd happenings right in their own backyard. I'm not aimin' to hand out any advice on how to write songs. I don't think there's a set formula for the work. My heritage and tradition has come down to me from the covered wagon days and I suppose there couldn't have been a better background for my efforts. I just hope they keep that tradition alive long after I'm gone and I hope my son carries on after me."  

Paul and Pap learned one of Robison's songs from Granny's uncle, Henry Truett. Other than Uncle Henry, Marty Robbins, Doc Watson, and Fret Killer (of Youtube fame)-they've never heard anyone else sing it. The title of the song is Little Green Valley-its a great song take a listen and see if you don't agree. (Pap-my father, Paul-my brother, and Mark-my nephew, can be seen playing in this video-off camera Ben-my nephew is hitting some licks on the guitar too)

I hope you enjoyed the old song-it's got a catchy tune. And who wouldn't like to live in a Little Green Valley like the song describes?

Tipper

*Source: Nashville Songwriters Foundation

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Chitter and Ray Price

The Pressley Girls Crazy Arms

The girls have been singing the song Crazy Arms since about 2012.  It was great with just the girls, but once Paul added a third harmony part somewhere along the way it has become one of the most requested songs we perform.

The song was written by Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals. Ray Price had a super hit with the song in 1956.

Years ago, before I was even married, I bought Paul a VHS tape of old Louisiana Hayride performances for Christmas. We watched that thing until we about wore it out. So many good performers were included on the tape. Lonzo and Oscar were two of Pap's favorites. He'd laugh at their jokes and then point out how super talented they were as musicians and vocalists. 

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite from the tape, but I especially liked Ray Price doing Crazy Arms. I swooned every time I watched Van Howard step into the frame and add his layer of harmony to the song. 

Chitter is a funny girl, if you've ever seen us perform or met her in person you're well aware of that already. The girl was funny from the day she was born. When she was about 3 years old she started telling anyone who'd listen that she had a pet frog that lived in her throat, then she'd try to prove it was true by making a frog sound. 

We never know what Chitter will say at a show, I swear sometimes I think she surprises herself by the things she tells the audience. At our show Friday night they asked us to make a few announcements during our set. Chitter turned those announcements into a comedy act.  One group of folks actually asked her to make the announcements again.

A year or so ago we were playing at a festival and before we played Crazy Arms she told the crowd how much she loved Ray Price and his music. As she held two fingers crossed in the air she went on to tell them if she'd lived back when he was making all those hit records she had no doubt her and Ray would have been close-as in best buddies. Chitter can be pretty charming so I don't doubt Ray Price would have liked her if they'd ever met.

Here's a video of Crazy Arms from our concert at the John C. Campbell Folk School a few weeks ago.

I hope you enjoyed the song. I may share other songs from the concert in future posts, but if you'd like to see the whole concert now go here. The Deer Hunter filmed it for us. I wish he'd gotten Chitter's talking between the songs too, because her comedic flare was really going strong that night. 

Tipper

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He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me

Chatter, Pap, Tipper, Chitter - Jan 2016
Chatter, Pap, Tipper, Chitter - January 2016

It's only been about a year since I posted the song He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me

On August 24, 1872 Will R. Ramsey was born in Texas. During Ramsey's early childhood, his family relocated to Arkansas. Once Ramsey was old enough, he was musically trained and eventually became the owner of Central Music Company. Ramsey is a noted songwriter and published song books for close to 30 years. The most famous song penned by Ramsey is He Whispers Sweet Peace to Me.

In the video I shared of us doing the song back in January of 2015 Pap and Paul handled all the vocals on the song. Sometime after we videoed the song Pap suggested we try a trio of harmony much like we did on Where No One Stands Alone

Wow the trio sounded good! We'd get the song down pat and then someone would come up with a new idea for it. First Paul sung all the verses, then each of them sung a verse, then we switched to Paul singing 2 verses and Pap singing one with a trio of harmony on the last 2 choruses. And then just for good measure we threw in a key change!

Every time we played our new version of He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me Granny would say "That is good!" 

Part of our inspiration for the song came from a group of men Paul found singing the song on Youtube. They are the Silver Trumpets and man can they sing.

 

 

The Silver Trumpets have fantastic harmonies, but I think what makes their singing so special is that their happiness shines brightly right through the words. Pap said "Now they're singing it like they mean it."

The first line of the song: Sometimes when misgivings darken my day and faith's light I cannot see I ask the Dear Lord to brighten the way 

Unless you've heard me talk about the blog in person, you've never heard me say that the Blind Pig and The Acorn was born out of a rough, rocky, dark patch of life, but it was. So dark that just like the song says I could not see.

The Blind Pig and The Acorn gives me great pleasure. I've fully known and understood that for many years. But since Pap died Paul has pointed out the Blind Pig and The Acorn, something so good and lasting, came from great heartache and sorrow.

Indeed, my journey was brightened in a way that I could never explain because of this blog and Pap's family has been blessed in the process. 

With the help of Blind Pig and The Acorn readers I have:

  • Achieved measuable success in my endeavor to celebrate and preserve my rich vibrant Appalachian Culture and Heritage
  • Had my days enriched by the comments you leave
  • Made friends from all around the world
  • Documented my life for my daughters and anyone else who might be interested
  • Recorded 100s of songs by Pap, Paul, my nephews, my daughters, and myself 
  • Documented many of the stories Pap told me
  • Gained tangible wealth in the form of: seeds, vinegar, onions, squash, black walnuts, a walnut cracker, artwork, seeds, vinegar, onions, squash, a walnut saw, artwork, ground cherries, books, beloved books, photos of their family, photos of my family, apples, baskets, antiques, craft supplies, foxfire magazines, cookie cutters-pig and acorn, rings, stone ground cornmeal and grits, a hammer, old jars, old bottles, music, information, writings, cast iron pots, soap, honey, woven treasures, cds, hand forged crosses, poems, quilted pigs and acorns, jellies, jams, pickles, recipes, and on and on and on. Blind Pig readers are a generous bunch of folks

Thank you for reading what I write, for listening to what we sing, for helping me with my Appalachian endeavor. Without you there'd have been no reason to film all those videos like the one above, there'd have been no reason to ask Pap and Granny a million questions about the old ways and their lives.

I am rich beyond measure.

Tipper

*Source: GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame

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