Grasshopper Sitting on a Sweet Potato Vine
GRASSHOPPER SITTING ON A SWEET POTATO VINE. Old-Time, Breakdown. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions). Galax, Grayson County, Virginia, area fiddler Luther Davis (1887-1986) is usually credited as the source for most versions of this tune. African-American collector Thomas Talley printed a song by this title in his 1922 work Negro Folk Rhymes (reprinted in 1991, edited by Charles Wolfe). His lyric (which seems to scan with the abc tune below) goes:
Grasshopper a settin' on a sweet tater vine,
'Long come a Blackbird an' nab him up behind.
Blackbird a-settin' in a sour apple tree,
Hawk grab him up behind; he "Chee! Chee! Chee!"
Big hawk a-settin' in de top of dat oak,
Start to eat dat Blackbird an' he git choke.
Some see similarities to the Irish melody "Comhra Donn (An)" (The Brown Box/Casket/Coffin). Also melodic similarities in parts of some versions to the song "Battle Hymn of the Republic (The)/John Brown's Body" and its derivative "Pass around the Bottle."
Source for notated version: Luther Davis (Galax, Va.) via Liz Slade (Yorktown, New York) [Kuntz]; Jere Canote [Phillips]; Greg Canote (Seattle) [Songer]; Stephanie Prausnitz [Silberberg].
Printed sources: Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 2: Occasional Collection of Old-Timey Fiddle Tunes for Hammer Dulcimer, Fiddle, etc.), 1982 (revised 1988 & 2003); p. 14. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 102. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 55. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 88.
Recorded sources: Dean Street Music 101, Grand Picnic - "Grand Picnic." Marimac 9009, Liz Slade - "Old Time Friends" (1987).
See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources