Dill Pickle Rag

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DILL PICKLE RAG. AKA - "Dill Pickles." Texas Style, Old-Time; Country Rag. USA; Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri. G Major ('A' and 'B' parts) & C Major ('C' part): sometimes then goes to F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABC (Silberberg): AABBCCAA (Brody): AA'BB'AA'CAA'BB'AA'C'AA' (Phillips). A novelty rag composed in 1907 by Kansas City native and resident Charles L. Johnson [1] (1876-1950), a publisher and prolific composer (under his own name and aliases), especially of cakewalk and ragtime pieces for piano. Johnson also was an accomplished string player who joined several guitar and mandolin societies, and who started several string orchestras. See also his "Hen Cackle Rag."

Charles L. Johnson (1876-1950)

"Dill Pickles" is one of his most famous compositions (and a personal favorite of the composer), recorded over thirty times on 78 RPM recordings. The piece obtained its title when Johnson was working at Carl Hoffman Music Company. Johnson was polishing his newly composed piece at work, when the company's bookkeeper inquired as to its title. Noticing that the clerk was carrying a carton of pickles for his dinner, Johnson relied, "I'll call it Dill Pickles Rag" (Jasen and Tichenor, Rags and Ragtime: A Musical History, 1978, p. 39). It was fairly quickly absorbed into old-time tradition due to the many available recordings. The title appears in a list of "traditional" Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954.

"Dill Pickle" was learned by itinerant West Virginia fiddler John Johnson (1916-1996), originally from Clay County, from fiddler Dorvel Hill who lived in a coal-mining town called Pigtown, not far from the town of Clay, W.Va.

I was bashful back then and wouldn't go in anybody's house hardly. I'd sit on the railroad and listen to Dorvel play the fiddle at night. And I learned most all of Dorvel's tunes. I just set down there and listened to all his tunes and then go home and play them. (Michael Kline, Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed. 1999).

Source for notated version: Lewis Franklin (Texas) [Phillips].

Printed sources: Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 86. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; pp. 40-41. Silberberg (93 Fiddle Tunes I Didn't Learn at the Tractor Tavern), 2004; p. 12.

Recorded sources: Brunswick 243 (78 RPM) {1928}, Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters (Nashville, Tenn.). Brunswick Records (78 RPM), Kessinger Brothers (1929). Caney Mountain Records DEP 211 (privately issued extended play LP), Lonnie Robertson (Mo.), c. 1965-66. County 548, McLaughlin's Old Time Melody Makers - "Ridin' in an Old Model 'T'". County 707, Lewis Franklin- "Texas Fiddle Favorites." Fiddler FRLP 001, Tom Doucet (Nova Scotia/eastern Mass.) - "The Down East Star." Folkways FA 2337, Clark Kessinger- "Live At Union Grove." Folkways FA 2371, Roger Sprung- "Ragtime Bluegrass 2." June Appal 028, Wry Staw - "From Earth to Heaven" (1978). RBF 18, Kessinger Brothers- "Ragtime 2." Rounder 0002, Spark Gap Wonder Boys- "Cluck Old Hen." Rounder 0099, Dan Crary- "Lady's Fancy."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Hear the Kessinger Brother's recording at Juneberry 78's [3]
Hear Don Messer's recording at Ted McGraw's site [4] (followed by "Down Yonder").
Hear Ned Landry's recording at Ted McGraw's site [5] [6]




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