Free and Easy (1)

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FREE AND EASY [1]. AKA and see "Kiss My Wife and Welcome." Irish, Jig. A Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABC. The title may be a phrase meaning 'leisure', but was also an old slang term (in the United States and Britain) for a saloon or speakeasy. Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (7th Edition, 1970) says that a 'free-and-easy' was "a social gathering (gen. at a public-house) where smoking, drinking and singing are allowed...from 1796...a ribald club or society, fl. 1810-11, was known as the Free-and-Easy Johns." There was a New York City concert saloon called McHugh's Free and Easy at 65 West Houston Street in the mid-19th century. Such establishments could be fined if they provided entertainment (which encouraged drinkers to linger and thus increased trade) without a license from the city, and McHugh apparently ran afoul of the law. According to a note in the files of the watchdog Society for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, one of their investigators sampled the establishment and witnessed entertainment-"As disponent is informed and believes all of said minstrels are professionals and as such are employed by and receive compensation from said defendant McHugh." (McNamara, The New York Concert Saloon: The Devil's Own Nights, 2002, p. 49).

McHugh gave what seems to be a rather unconvincing deposition, claiming that, in fact, all of the entertainers were amateurs. He said that the Society's investigator had met some patrons whom he knew in the saloon, and that these patrons were induced to sing, reluctantly and "without the hope or expectation of compensation." What is more, "that such singing was not accompanied by any recitations or dialogue or any gestures, movement or action, representing any character or expressing any emotion or passion." And further that McHugh's Free and Easy was not fitted up for any kind of theatrical performance. (p. 50)

Under the title "Kiss My Wife and Welcome" (set in E dorian in 12/8 time), the melody appears in the music manuscript collection of ship's fiddler William Litten.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Kerr (Merry Melodies), vol. 1; No. 32, p. 38.

Recorded sources:




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