Back Side of Albany

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X:1 T:Back Side of Albany M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Minstrel tune B:Elias Howe – Second Part of the Musician’s Companion (1843, p. 56) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D EB/B/ B/c/d/B/|A/G/F/E/ DE/F/|GF/E/ B/A/G/F/|E2 Ee| EB B/c/d/B/|A/G/F/E/ DE/F/|GE B/A/G/F/|E>E E2:| |:B>c de|dB A>A|(Be)(ef)|(ed)B>c| d/c/d/e/ dB|A/G/F/E/ DE/F/|GE B/A/G/F/|E>F E2:|



BACK SIDE OF ALBANY. AKA - "Backside Albany." AKA and see "Boyne Water [1]," "The Seige of Plattsburg." American; Air, March or Reel. E Dorian. Standard tuning. AABB. The melody, one of numerous adaptations of the air used for a 17th century Irish ballad about the Battle of the Boyne Water (1690) {see note for "Boyne Water"}, was used for a dialect song written by an American, Micah Hawkins (1777-1825). Hawkins included it as a part of a play called The Battle of Lake Champlain, performed in Albany, New York, in 1815, a patriotic work that described a military event in the recently concluded War of 1812. Hans Nathan, in his Dan Emmett and Negro Minstrelsy (Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1962, pg. 35), says: "The comedian (who sang the song) was a 'Black Sailor' espousing the American cause. Here, for the first time, the Negro spoke no longer as a mouthpiece of the white man." "Backside Albany" was widely popular until at least the 1840's (according to William J. Mahar, American Music, vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 1988). It was first published in The Columbian Harmonist (Albany, 1815), and begins:

Back side Albany stan' Lake Champlain,
One little pond, half full a' water,
Platebug dare too, close pon de main,
Town small-he grow bigger do here-a-ter.
On Lake Champlain Uncle Sam set he boat,
And Massa M'Donough he sail 'em;
While Gen'ral M'Comb
Make Plat-te-bug he home,
Wid de army, who courage nebber fail 'em.

Micah Hawkins played piano, flute and violin, and was the uncle of Long Island painter William Sydney Mount. Mount was musically influenced by his uncle and was himself a fiddler who often depicted fiddlers in his paintings. "Backside Albany" was learned by 'revival' musician John McCutcheon from fiddler Lotus Dickey (Paoli, Indiana), who learned it from a brother who in turn claimed to have gotten it through a book from a Sears and Roebuck catalogue. The city of Albany, by the way, was originally settled as Willemstadt by the Dutch and renamed Albany by the English when they gained control of the Hudson, in honor of James, Duke of York and Albany.


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Elias Howe (Second Part of the Musician’s Companion), 1843; p. 56. Howe (1000 Jigs and Reels), c. 1867; p. 47.

Recorded sources : - Greenhays GR 710, John McCutcheon - "Fine Times at Our House" (1982).




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