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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Fiddling George Barnes, Last of the Copper Haulers

Today's guest post was written by Ethelene Dyer Jones.

TCC teamsters @ 1912 Polk County News 

Photo provided by Polk County News


Fiddling George Barnes, Last of the Copper Haulers 

By Ethelene Dyer Jones

A considerable amount of romance (meaning legend, mystery, adventure) is tied to the days of early mining and copper exchange in the Copper Basin. This is especially true of the men who were known as the copper haulers along the Old Copper Road. Perhaps none of them were as well known or had as many admirers as George B. Barnes.

We have perhaps heard stories of him, and if we have visited the Ducktown Basin Museum, we have seen displayed there the fine old fiddle that once belonged to this copper hauler, citizen and fiddle-player, George Barnes.

James Barnes (June 13, 1811-August 9, 1859) and his wife, Susan (maiden name unknown – September 23, 1813 – October 14, 1886) had five known children. Daughter Emaline (August, 1836 – July 9, 1885) married first, Enoch Farmer about 1854, and after he was killed in the Civil War, she married, second, John W. Headrick. George B. Barnes (March 20, 1840 – November 5, 1919) married Sarah Gassaway about 1860. They had a daughter, Amanda, who married William Leander Dalton. Nancy was born about 1842, but whether she lived to adulthood is not known. Martha Ann was born about 1844 and married Samuel J. Moore, Jr. in 1869. William C. Barnes, known as Billy, was born January 21, 1872. This younger brother worked with George in the copper mines and as a hauler.

Captain Julius Raht, who had a great influence on the economic growth of the Ducktown Basin area, purchased a fine violin on his travels to Cincinnati or elsewhere and made a gift of the violin to George B. Barnes. Endowed with a natural talent with music, and with the mountain gift of making the strings sing, George was much in demand as an entertainer and a fiddler at various parties throughout the Basin area.

Copper haulers wagon3 polk county news
Photo provided by Polk County News 

The copper haulers would often stop off at what was known as the Halfway House, about mid-way between Ducktown and Cleveland, Tennessee on their journey along the Old Copper Road. Mr. Roy G. Lillard, historian, in his book, Polk County, Tennessee, 1839-1999, gives a list of the men employed as copper haulers. There may have been more, but these were documented: George Barnes, I. A. Gassaway, James Rymer, W. C. Barnes (George’s brother), R. Boyd, W. P. Barker, A. J. Cloud, J. H. Williams, R. M. Cole, James Lingerfelt, John Lowry, William Center and W. A. Center. From time to time others joined in the hauls:  Major J. C. Duff, Taylor Duff, Parker Duff, Pen Jones, Jim Ingram, Asbury Blankenship, Joe Dunn, Joe Hasking, Reuben Carver, Samp Orr, Ephraim Woody, Jim Hughes, Jay Fry, Tom Bates, William Williamson, Quint Gilliland, John Hutchins, Posey Parker, Rev. W. H. Rymer, John Moody, Joe Cain and a Greer boy who lost his life along the route. (See Lillard, page 166).  These surnames read like a roster of present-day citizens still in the Copper Basin.

The load limit, strictly enforced, was no more than 500 pounds of copper per draft animal in the team. If a hauler had two mules, his cargo could weigh at 1,000 pounds. But four, six and eight mule teams were not uncommon, and give an idea of the weight of copper these haulers moved. The road was through rough terrain and of poor quality. It was not unusual for the wagon to sink into a rut, and with the grade difficult anyway, the poor mules would stall.

Some of the copper haulers, not as gentle and humane as George Barnes, would use a black snake whip to coerce the mules to move. Mr. Barnes was noted for getting out his violin to play music to soothe the mules. Legend holds that his method for getting the stalled team to pull the load out of the ditch and to get back onto the road worked every time.

At the Halfway House, guests never seemed too tired to hear George Barnes play his fiddle.  A little hoe-down never hurt anyone, and especially the copper haulers. Their spirits were lifted and the music made their stop-over more enjoyable. Captain Julius Raht himself purchased the Halfway House after the Civil War in 1866. He made it into a fashionable place to stop for overnight stays, to eat and to be entertained. Who knows but that it was during his period of ownership of this boarding house along the Copper Road that he gave the violin to Fiddler George Barnes.

The Greer boy who assisted the copper haulers, probably as a groomsman for the mules or a general helper, met his death while he was working as a hauler’s helper. He requested that he be buried along the road so he could see and hear the haulers as they passed by. Is it any wonder that legends evolved about this lad whose likeness could sometimes be seen at twilight, keeping his vigil along the mile-long stretch where his grave overlooked the Copper Road?

During or immediately after the Civil War, George B. Barnes met misfortune at the hands of the notorious John Gatewood, leader of the infamous gang of bushwhackers. Gatewood shot at Uncle George Barnes, hitting him in the eye area and permanently damaging his sight.  But Mr. Barnes was not killed by the blast. In fact, he was able to live for several more years, dying in 1919.

I recently had a delightful call from Mr. Pat Terry, former citizen of the Copper Basin and now a resident of Atlanta. He commented about Captain Julius Raht, and we went from that to talking about Fiddler George Barnes, his wife’s uncle. He knew the violin came as a gift from Captain Raht. Mr. Terry told me that the violin was damaged, its neck broken badly. Mr. Barnes got cherry wood and carved a new neck to attach to the old violin. The workmanship was so perfect and the mend so flawless that the violin looked as though it had never been damaged.

Fiddling George Barnes had the distinction of taking the last load of copper from Ducktown to Cleveland just prior to the change from mule-drawn freight to railroad shipping.

I wonder, during the cold December hauls, did Fiddling George Barnes play Christmas carols to soothe his mules stranded in the ruts of the Old Copper Road? Were the evenings near Christmas at Halfway House filled with strains of “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”?  I like to think so. I can almost hear him now, making that violin talk.

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

I hope you enjoyed Ethelene's post as much as I did. A fiddle player that could sooth the mules-pretty neat uh? Wonder if Chitter's playing could calm them?

Fun fact- Copper Hill is the small town which surrounds the copper mine and that's where I was born.

Tipper

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Oh Little Momma your Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues

Deep Elem Blues Deep Ellum Blues

After Pap passed away I couldn't bear to watch any of the videos we've filmed over the years. I guess I was afraid it would be like pouring salt into an open wound. Right from the start Granny and Paul both drew great strength from watching the videos and listening to the cds. 

Once I got passed that initial feeling of not wanting to see or hear Pap, I became slightly obsessed with watching all the videos we've made. Hard to believe but we've uploaded 255 videos to my Blind Pig and The Acorn Youtube channel

Although I'm a huge fan of our music, my favorite thing about the videos has nothing to do with the music.

I love the...well I love the love caught by the camera. Whether it's Paul and Pap, the girls, or a mixture of all you can see them nod at each other, smile at each other, and sometimes even frown at each other if they don't think the song is going so well. Sometimes you can hear the phone ring or someone knocking at the door. Often there is a piece of conversation at the beginning or end of the song. 

For today's Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spot I'm going to share a video we did way back in 2012 Deep Elem Blues (also Deep Elm/Deep Ellum). The song has been around since the 1930s and has been recorded by various artists over the years including The Grateful Dead. Deep Elm was a red light district in Dallas Texas you can go here to read more about the history of the song.

As is the case with many old songs, the lyrics vary depending on the person performing it. Here's the ones Paul sings:

Well I went down to the bottoms to see my Mary Lou She was dancing with a stranger she had taken off her shoes Oh sweet Momma your Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues Oh sweet Momma Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues

Well I told that trifling woman Told her what I was going to do If she don't quit her rambling I'm going ramble too Oh Little Momma your Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues Oh Little Momma Big Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues

Well I once knew a Preacher preached the Bible through and through till he went down to Deep Elem Now his preaching days are through Oh Little Momma your Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues I said oh now Momma Poppas got the Deep Elem Blues

Well I wish I was an apple hanging on the tree Every time Mary Lou came by she could take a bite of me Oh now Momma your Daddys got the Deep Elem Blues I said oh now Mommason Daddyson got the Deep Elem Blues

Paul's flat-top picking is outstanding in this video and his vocals are top notch too. But the reason I love it is because of the little smile Paul throws towards Pap as he says Mommason Daddyson got the Deep Elem Blues.

 

Mommason was one of Pap's terms of endearment for Granny and that's the reason behind Paul's smile. Hope you enjoyed the video!

Tipper

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Breaking up Christmas with The Pressley Girls

Breaking Up Christmas with The Pressley Girls

The Pressley Girls - Morning Song at the JCCFS

In the early 1900s, folks living in the mountains of North Carolina lengthened the holiday season by celebrating the two weeks following Christmas. They called it Breaking Up Christmas

Residents in the community would host a series of house parties. Each night the party would be held in a different home and the musicians and party goers would follow the route merry making until the wee hours of the morning.

Folks hosting the party would clear the rooms of their house to make room for dancing. Sometimes the only space left for the musicians to play was standing in the door way. The days following Christmas can feel empty which makes it easy to see why breaking up Christmas became a popular tradition in certain areas. 

I had never heard of the celebration until I stumbled upon it as I was researching Christmas traditions in Appalachia back when I first started the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Since traditional music and dance have played a huge role in my life I was immediately drawn to the idea of breaking up Christmas. 

The Christmas holiday always offers up more opportunities than usual for music making around the Blind Pig house. While we haven't been traveling the party-route we have been enjoying some mighty fine music sessions.

Now that the nephews live a far piece away we always try to gang up and play whenever they come home. Mandolin man was the only one that got to come home for Christmas this year. We had a great day of music making with him and wished his brother could have been there as well.

The girls have also made real progress on their first cd. The tracks for two more songs have been laid down this week and we are very excited about that music. 

My dream Breaking up Christmas Party would be to travel around to each of your homes and make music till you threw us out shouting out the location of the next party on the route as we packed up the car. Since I can't make that happen-I'll share a video from The Pressley Girls that was filmed the day before Christmas.

 

I hope you enjoyed the song! It's another original composed by Chitter titled Ruby in the Kitchen. She wrote it about our dog Ruby Sue who searches through the kitchen floor looking for crumbs in a very amusing manner.

Tipper

p.s. I'll be doing some more breaking up Christmas over on the Blind Pig and The Acorn Facebook page today-sharing some of my favorite videos from the blog.

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From Brasstown to Vermont and Back

Spider Web Canyon composed by Katie Pressley in honor of her Grandfather Jerry 'Pap' Wilson

Pap helping Chitter tune before a show

My favorite Christmas gift arrived way back in October...but no one noticed it was here. The gift just sat quietly waiting for the right time to announce itself.

Like lots of folks Pap had a chair he claimed for his own and as his medical problems became more serious he sat in it more and more. Whenever you walked into the living-room you'd expect him to be sitting there in the green plaid recliner. The day he died Paul slept in his chair.

In the weeks and month's afterward I think we all looked at the chair and thought about Pap not being in it. Sometimes I gave it a pat when I'd walk behind it to go to the bathroom or get something for Granny from one of the back rooms. More than once I saw the girls give it a good sniff trying to catch a whiff of Pap's unique smell which was a mixture of Listerine, Vitalis, and coffee. 

One day when I came in from work Chitter told me she'd been inspired to compose a song about Pap. She said she was sitting in his chair and the tune just came to her. 

I love to read and after Pap's death I went through a spell of reading pioneer stories about the folks who packed up everything they owned and headed out west for a new start. After Chitter played her song for me I said "Now it might just be because I've been reading about the pioneers heading west but I swear that song makes me think of a western town in the 1800s." Chitter smiled and said "Well I was thinking about mine and Pap's favorite western when I wrote it."

I couldn't wait for her to play it for Paul. He liked the song as much as I did and advised Chitter to really think about what to name it-to let it sit for a while and then name it something she'd always find meaningful to her and maybe even be symbolic for Pap since she said he inspired it. 

A few weeks later Chitter said she'd come up with a name Spider Web Canyon. Pap and Chitter had a common love of westerns. Often they talked about the books Chitter was reading and about Pap's favorites that he'd read over the years. One of the last books they talked about was Zane Grey's Lost Wagon Train and Spider Web Canyon played an important role in the story.

Chitter taught Spider Web Canyon to David Kaynor who is one of her music mentors. If you think his name sounds familiar, I've written about him teaching the girls at John C. Campbell Folk School's Dance Musicians Class.

David lives in Massachusetts where he teaches music, calls dances, conducts the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra, and many other things. Over the years David has become a special friend to our family and has a strong bond of friendship with us. David got to meet Pap back in the Spring of the year and even joined us onstage at the Martins Creek Community Center.

David took Chitter's song and the story of Pap inspiring her back up north and taught it to the Vermont Fiddle Orchestra. They played it at a performance and David sent us a recording of the event, but Chitter failed to notice he had sent it. Between finals, her senior capstone project, and life she never saw the message that David had sent her back in October. 

I'm sort of glad Chitter didn't find the recording until December, hearing an amazing orchestra play the song that Chitter composed while sitting in Pap's chair was the best Christmas present ever.

Knowing I wanted everyone to experience the song I made a slide-show of photos from Pap's life to go along with the music for Granny and Paul. They just loved it. I'm not sure who's watched it more Paul or me, but we've about wore it out. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about my favorite Christmas present and I hope you enjoyed the video-if you did please share it with your friends.

Tipper

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