A 1927 newspaper cartoon lampooned Henry Ford’s championing of “old-time” music and dance
A spectacularly successful tune in American fiddle tradition. Bayard (1981) suggests that a Scottish tune called "(Bonny) The Black Eagle" (also called "Way to Edinburgh (The)" by Oswald) resembles "Turkey in the Straw" in in both parts. Besides Samuel Bayard, Alan Jabbour, Winston Wilkinson, George Pullen Jackson and others think that a tune with an even stronger resemblance in the first part to the first part of Turkey is "The Rose Tree (1)" (Maureen ni Cullenaun). Their apparent conclusion is that the Turkey tune is a composite of two older Scottish tunes, the 'A' part of "The Rose Tree" and the 'B' part of "The (Bonny) Black Eagle." There are other speculations: Nathan ("Dan Emmett," pg. 168) gives an Irish reel which seems to bear close resemblance to the 'A' part of Turkey, while Dreamer (in the Oxford Book of Carols, pg. 252) gives a "little known Scottish melody" with a second section equivlent to that of Turkey (Bayard wonders if this particular strain has long been a floater). According to Linscott (1939) the tune is based on the old song "My Grandmother Loved on Yonder Little Green." Michael Cooney lists a number of fiddle tunes to which "Turkey in the Straw" is supposed to have been related, including "Glasgow Hornpipe" (Irish), "Haymaker's Dance" (English), "The Post Office" (Irish), "Lady Shaftsbury's Reel" (Scottish), "Rose Tree in Full Bearing" (Irish), "Old Mother Oxford" (a morris dance tune known in England and Scotland), and "Kinnegad Slashers" (Irish). Captain Francis O’Neill, in Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody suggested the latter was the original source of “Turkey,” although most reviewers dismiss this as an incidental resemblance only based on some similarities in the first part.
Whatever its origins, it was "undoubtedly in American folk tradition before the 19th century," says Bronner (1987), and that popular theater and minstrel groups during the 19th century helped consolidate and spread its popularity (it was often called "Old Zip Coon" in minstrel tradition). Fuld reports the title "Turkey in de Straw" appeared in 1861 attached to the tune through new song lyrics, copyrighted by one Dan Bryant, the melody labelled only an "old melody," presumably referring to “Old Zip Coon.”
Lyrics set to the tune usually go something like the following:
As I went down the new cut road,
I met Miss Possum and I met Mr. Toad.
And every time the toad would sing,
The possum cut the pigeon wing.
Turkey in the straw, haw! haw! haw!
Turkey in the hay, hey! hey! hey!
The bull frog danced with his mother in law,
And they played 'em up a tune called turkey in the straw. .....[Ford]
...more at Turkey in the straw - full Score(s) and Annotations
Past Featured Tunes
T:Turkeys in the Straw
B:O'Neill's Music of Ireland. 1850 Melodies, 1903, p. 281, no. 1520
Z:François-Emmanuel de Wasseige
(BA)|GE2F EDB,C|DEDB, DEGA|(TBA)Bc dBGA|BA2G AcBA|
GE2F EDB,C|DEDB, DEGA|Bd2e dBGA|BGAF G2||
GA|Bd2e dBGA|Bdde dcBA|Bdef gfed|BA (3Bcd e2 ef|
Tgfge dged|BdAG E2 GA|BdAG EDB,D|EG2A G2|]
Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.
This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.
Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni
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