Christmas Eve (4)

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CHRISTMAS EVE [4]. AKA and see "Weavily Wheat," "Weevily Wheat," "Willy and Evil." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA, Kentucky. D Major. Standard or ADae tuning (fiddle) . AABB (Monday/Titon): ABBCC' (Bowles/Titon): AABB'CC' (Bowles/Phillips). The tune, played slower than a normal breakdown, was learned by Monroe County, south-central Kentucky, fiddler Jim Bowles (b. 1903) from local musicians--it was not widely known outside the area. Researcher and fiddler Bruce Greene believes that "Christmas Eve" may date to pre-Civil War era. An a local influence on Bowles' playing was fiddler Gilbert Maxey, whom Bowles recalled hearing his mother talk about.

He was an old colored man, and they had him playing for those old dances. ‘What’s that, Uncle Gilbert?’ ‘Christmas Eve," he’d say. ‘Well, by God, can’t you play nothing but ‘Christmas Eve’?’ So he’d start on the same tune. And she said he’d play the same tune every time. It was the only one he knew. ‘Christmas Eve’ was the best dancing tune in the world, and he could play it, she said. That’s been ninety years ago.

Phillips transcribes the 'A' part as 'crooked', i.e. with an irregular rhythm, with a measure of 3/4 and a measure of 2/4 time in an otherwise cut-time piece. Titon notates Bowles' version entirely in 2/2, with no irregular measure. The melody was also in the repertoire of Kentucky fiddler Isham Monday, who like Bowles played it in ADae, although he tuned his fiddle low, sounding below standard 'C'. Titon (2001) finds variants of "Christmas Eve" in "Weevily Wheat" and "Willy and Evil." The melody was also in the repertoire of African-American fiddler John Lusk (Ky.), who recorded the melody (along with musicians Murph Gribble and Albert York) for the Library of Congress (AFS 8511).

Sources for notated versions: Jim Bowles (Rockbridge, Monroe County, Ky., 1959) [Phillips, Titon]; Isham Monday (Tompkinsveille, Monroe County, Ky., 1959) [Titon].

Printed sources: Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 31. Titon (Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 24A & B, p. 59.

Recorded sources: Cartunes 105, Bruce Molsky and Bob Carlin - "Take Me as I Am" (2004. Sourced to Isham Monday and Murph Gribble, John Lusk and Albert York). County 2730, Rafe Stefanini - "Glory on the Big String." Marimac 9060, Jim Bowles - "Railroading Through the Rocky Mountains" (1993). Marimac 9023, Bruce Molsky & Bob Carlin - "Take Me as I Am." Meriweather Records, Isham Monday - "I Kind of Believe it's a Gift."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index [1]
Hear Jim Bowles's 1993 recording at Slippery Hill [2]
Hear Jim Bowles's 1959 field recording by D.K. Wilgus at Berea Sound Archives [3]
Hear Isham Monday's 1959 recording by John Newport at Slippery Hill [4]




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