Eighth of January (1)
X:1 T:Eighth of January  M:2/4 L:1/8 B:Stephen F. Davis - Devil's Box, vol. 22, No. 1, Spring 1988 (p. 21) N:Transcribed by Frank Maloy, based on the version by Warren Smith, c. 1940's Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:D e/a/|"D"f/e/f/a/ f/e/d/f/|"G"e/f/e/d/ BB/d/|"A7"ee/f/ e/d/B/A/|"D"d/B/A/[F/A/] [DA]e/a/| "D"f/e/f/a/ f/e/d/f/|"G"e/f/e/d/ B/d/e/f/|"A7"a/f/e/a/ f/e/c/A/|"D"d/B/A/F/ D:| |:"D"A/A/|AA/B/ AA/A/|A/d/B/A/ F/E/D/F/|AA/B/ AA/d/|"A7"B/A/F/E/ "D"D[D/A/][F/A/]| "D"AA/B/ AA/A/|A/d/B/A/ F/E/D/F/|AA/A/ A/d/f/e/|"A7"d/B/A/F/ "D"D:| |:e/a/|"D"fa f[df]|"G"e/f/e/[d/e/] [Be][B/e/][d/e/]|"A7"[ee]e/f/ e/d/B/A/|"D"d/B/A/[F/A/] [DA]e/a/| "D"fa f[df]|"G"e/f/e/d/ B/d/e/f/|"A7"aA Bc|"D"d/B/A/F/ D:| |:f/g/|"D"a/f/b/f/ a/f/d/f/|a/f/b/f/ af/g/|a/f/b/f/ a/f/g/a/|"A7"f/d/e/c/ "D"df/g/| "D"a/f/b/f/ a/f/b/f/|a/f/b/f/ af/g/|a/f/b/f/ a/f/g/a/|"A7"f/d/e/c/ "D"d:|]
EIGHTH OF JANUARY . AKA and see "Jackson's Victory, "Go See the Widow." ." American, Reel. USA, Widely known. D Major. Standard or ADae (Molsky) (fiddle). AABB (Brody, Christeson, Phillips, Ruth, Sing Out, Sweet): AABB' (Krassen). One of the most popular and widespread of Southern fiddle tunes, with a large number of variants albeit with the consistent "Eighth of January" title. Parts are often reversed from version to version, and sometimes extra parts are added.
The melody was originally named "Jackson's Victory" after Andrew Jackson's famous rout of the British at New Orleans on January, 8th, 1815. This victory, by a small, poorly equiped American army against eight thousand front-line British troops (some veterans of the Napoleonic Wars on the Continent), came after the peace treaty was signed and the War of 1812 ended, unbeknownst to the combatants. The victory made Jackson a national hero, and the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans was widely celebrated with parties and dances during the nineteenth century, especially in the South. Around the time of the Civil War, some time after Jackson's Presidency, his popular reputation suffered and "Jackson's Victory" was renamed to delete mention of him by name, thus commemorating the battle and not the man. Despite its wide dissemination, Tom Carter (1975) says that some regard it as a relatively modern piece refashioned from an older tune named "Jake Gilly" (sometimes "Old Jake Gilly"). Not all agree--Tom Rankin (1985) suggests the fiddle tune may be older than the battle it commemorates, and that it seems American in origin, not having an obvious British antecedent as do several older popular fiddle tunes in the United States. A related tune (though the 'B' part is developed differently") is Bayard's (1981) Pennsylvania collected "Chase the Squirrel" (the title is a floater). Most older fiddlers, however, appear to have retained the tune's association in lore with Jackson's battle.
Some variants stray quite far from the core melody that is more-or-less familiar to many modern fiddlers (c.f. Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters); some sets feature the second strain played an octave higher for variation. It is on Charlie Walden's list of '100 essential Missouri fiddle tunes'. The "Eighth of January" was recorded for the Library of Congress from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, and from Mississippi fiddlers (John Hatcher, W.E. Claunch, Enos Canoy, Hardy Sharp) in 1939 by collector Herbert Halpert. The reel was in the repertoire of Cuje Bertram, an African-American fiddler from the Cumberland Plateau region of Kentucky who recorded it on a home tape in 1970, made for his family. In 1936 James Morris (Jimmy Driftwood), while teaching scholl in Timbo, Arkansas, famously refashioned the old traditional tune with new lyrics into "The Battle of New Orleans" (recorded on "Jimmie Driftwood Sings Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs", Victor RPM 1635), supposedly to make the event more interesting to his students (see Streeter, The Jimmy Driftwood Primer, p. 20). In 1959 singer Johnny Horton recorded a version of Driftwood's song, which rose to the top of the hit parade that year (recorded on "Johnny Horton Makes History", Columbia 1478).
Missouri fiddler Glenn Rickman, born in 1901, was featured in an article in Bittersweet magazine and played "The Eighth of January" as part of his core repertoire. He had a seemingly curious habit:
I play the 'Eighth of January' over the telephone to a department store here. Every eighth of January I call up the department store and they put in on their loud speaker. This time I had it taped. I played 'Carroll County Blues,...Sally Goodin',...Forked Deer' and 'Eighth of January.' I'm glad to get to do this. The 'Eighth of January,' that was known way back before my grandpa was born...
Rickman's playing over the phone for a department store audience is less curious when one considers that playing over the phone was at one time not unusual:
When the party line came in, telephones were used sort of like the radio was later. Ten to fifteen families on a line could all listen in. On lines like Slim Wilson's line, the neighbors would get a treat. The Wilson family that lived near Nixa, Missouri, were all good musicians, and when they were ready to play, they'd signal over the telephone line. Everyone would take down the receivers and listen to the Wilson family fiddling. Some would let the receiver hang down in a bucket to help amplify the sound. (Allen Gage, Bittersweet, Volume IX, No. 3, Spring 1982)
Drew Beisswenger (2008) cites Rohrbough (Handy Play Party Book, p. 52, 71) and points out the melody of "Eighth of January" resembles a few singing games such as "Old Dan Tucker" and "Girl's A-Fooling." Early sound recordings of the tune are by the Arkansas Barefoot Boys (1928, with Cyrus Futrell on fiddle), Dr. Humphrey Bate (1928), and the Texas Cowboy Trio (Kentucky Woodchoppers, 1930).