Annotation:Bucking Mule (1)

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X:1 T:Bucking Mule [1] S:J. Dedrick Harris (c. 1868- Asheville, N.C.) M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:Fast N:Harris plays the first strain five or six times before moving N:on to the second strain. N:Harris was from Flag Pond, Tennessee, but lived around Asheville N:and Andrews, N.C., for part of his life. D:Broadway BWY A-1963, D.J. Harris (1924) F: Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G +slide+[G2B2][GB]A [G2B2]BA|BGAG EGGA|+slide+[G2B2][GB]A [G2B2]Bd|edBG AG2[G_B]-| [G2B2][GB]A [G2B2]BA|BGAG EGGA|+slide+[G2B2][GB]A [G2B2]Bd|edBG AG3|| g3g-g3a|gedc Bdd2|g4- gaba|gedB AG3| g3g- g2ba|bagd eg3|g2ed d2 BA|B2AG EG3| g3g- g2a|gedc Bd3|g4- gaba|gedB AG3| g6a2|bagd eg2a|g2 ed d2 BA|BGAG EG3||

BUCKING MULE. See "Cumberland Gap on a Bucking Mule." American, Reel (cut time). USA; north Georgia, western N.C., eastern Tenn., Ky., southwestern Pa. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AA'BB. Madison County, western North Carolina, fiddler Bill Hensley (1873-1960) said that he first heard "Buckin' Mule" when he was six years old, in 1880. "Lige Gray came through from Kentucky and played this and 'Cacklin' Hen'"[1]. He recorded it on acetate in 1939 along with more than a dozen other tunes for the Master's thesis of David Parker Bennett, a student at the University of North Carolina. Bennett recalled: "When this piece was being recorded Bill wanted to play it with the 'calls', or yells to the mule, 'Hey, Mule', 'Whoa, Mule', etc., but at the first lusty yell the microphone blew a fuse and we had to leave the highly colorful calls out. Bill informed me that there was no particular place in the music were the calls were supposed to come"[2].

"Bucking Mule" was the favorite contest tune of north Georgia fiddler A.A. Gray, who recalled in a 1934 interview:

I find the tune you play has a lot to do with winning prizes. A fellow just ahead of me used "Bully of the Town" and that's a mighty good piece. He won four prizes in a row. Finally, I happened to think of "Bucking Mule." It's a hard piece, but its snappy, and you do a lot of fancy work behind the bridge that makes the fiddle bray like a mule. I won so many prizes that the other follows got to calling my 'Mule' Gray. (Old Time Music, No. 41, Spring 1985)

Georgia duo Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett's version for Columbia Records in 1924 was the first string band record ever released. Further north, the piece was reportedly popular with Tennessee fiddlers. It was in the repertoire of Monticello, Ky., fiddler Dick Burnett and was one of two pieces he remembered getting the most applause for from audiences during his hey-day. "Bucking Mule" was also frequently played by "Natchez the Indian," a contest fiddler in the 1930's and 40's who may or may not have been a Native American; Natchez dressed in beaded buckskins and wore his hair in long braids, and when he fiddled this tune "the animation of his coiffure and the tassles on his buckskins was of greater interest than the quality of his music" (Mark Wilson & Guthrie Meade, 1976).

See also Jimmy McCarroll's (of the Roane County Ramblers) related "McCarroll's Breakdown" (1929) and "Whip the Devil around the Stump" (which North Carolina fiddler J.D. Harris also recorded in 1924, AKA "Boogerman).

Additional notes

Recorded sources : - Broadway A-1963 (78 RPM), 1924, J. Dedrick Harris (Harris was a legendary fiddler from Tennessee who played regularly with Bob Taylor when he ran for Governer of the state in the late 1800's. Harris moved to Western N.C. in the 1920's and influenced a generation of fiddlers there: Manco Sneed, Bill Hensley, Osey Helton, Marcus Martin. This was one of two songs only he recorded [see "Whip the Devil Round the Stump"]). Columbia 110-D (78 RPM), 1924, Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett. Rounder Records, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers (1934) – "The Kickapoo Medecine Show" (appears as "Cumberland Gap on a Buckin' Mule"). Vocalion 5432 (78 RPM), A.A. Gray (part of "A Fiddler's Tryout in Georgia").

See also listing at :
Hear J.Dedrick Harris's 1924 recording at Slippery Hill [1]

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  1. See David Parker Bennett's 1940 dissertation "A Study in Fiddle Tunes from Western North Carolina", UNC, Chapel Hill, p. 41 [2]
  2. ibid.