X:1 T:Fortune  S:fiddler & banjo player John Rector (1889-1985, Galax, Virginia) M:C| L:1/8 N:See an elderly John Rector play the tune N:on youtube.com  N:From a 1926 field recording by John Lomax F:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/fortune-0 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:D +slide+a2-|abaf fede|fded d2a2-|abaf fed2|A3B A2a2-| abaf fedf|[dg][dg][dg]a b2a2-|abag ed-c2|[d3f3][df][d2f2]a2-| abag fedf|edce d2a2-|abag fded|A3A A2a2-| abag f[df]fd |[d3g3]a b2a2-|abag ed-c2|[d3f3][df][d2f2]|| +slide+f2-|fgfe defd|edce dded| defd |A3A A3e-| fgfe de[d2f2]|[d2g3]a g2 A2-|ABA2 AB c2|d6f2-| fefg fedf|edce ddef-|fgfd edcB|A3AA3e-| fgfe de[d2f2]|[d2g3]a g2 A2-|ABA2 AB c2|d6|]
FORTUNE . AKA- "Once I Had a Fortune." Old-Time, Song and Breakdown. USA, "most popular around Galax, Va." (Krassen, 1973). D Major. Standard or ADae tunings (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (Brody, Krassen, Kuntz, Phillips). Called a "Blue-Ridge Mountain standard," it is found in western North Carolina and southwest Virginia, but has become particularly identified with Galax/Hillsville, southwestern Virginia area, style bands. It was, for example, one of the few tunes recorded by legendary Galax, Va., fiddler Emmett Lundy, and Galax, Va., storekeeper, banjo and fiddle player John Rector was recorded playing "Fortune" in 1926 by collector John Lomax. Mt. Airy, North Carolina, fiddler Tommy Jarrell (1901-1986) said of the melody: "I can recollect hearing my daddy play it as far back as I can recollect. I don't know where that started from...it was more just an old, well, a flat foot dance tune I'd say."
Once I had a fortune, I put it in my trunk,
I lost it all a-gambling one night when I was drunk.
Wish I had a pretty little hog/horse, corn to feed him on,
And a pretty little wife around the farm to feed him when I'm gone. .... [Jarrell]
Oh once I had a fortune, I put it in my trunk,
I lost it all a-gamblin' one night when I was drunk.
Fortune I had it, fortune I lost it,
Fortune I lost it one night when I was drunk.
Once I had a fortune but now I've lost it all,
Drinkin' and a gambling and playin' at the ball.
I'm packin' up my suitcase and now I say goodbye,
I'm gonna live a gamblin' man until the day I die. ... [The Backwoods Band]
Galax, Virginia, storekeeper, banjo and fiddle player John Rector sang the song for Library of Congress collector John Lomax in 1926. His first verse went:
Once I had a fortune, locked it in my trunk,
I lost it all a-gambling one night when I got drunk.
This is very similar to a song called "I'll never get drunk anymore" collected from black singers in East Tennessee in 1905:
My father give me a fortune,
I locked it in my trunk;
I spent it one night in gamblin',
The night that I got drunk.
Oh, I'll never get drunk any more;
I'll lay my head in the bar-room door,
But I'll never get drunk any more.
See also the related "Sugar Hill" tune family.
- E.C. Perrow, "Songs and Rhymes from the South," Journal of American Folk-lore, vol. XXVIII, 1915-16, p. 131.