Hangman's Reel

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HANGMAN'S REEL [1]. Old-Time, Breakdown. USA, southwestern Va. A Major. AEae or AEac# tunings (fiddle). AABB: ABCD (Silberberg): AABCCDD (Songer): AABBCCDD (Kuntz): AABBCC'DD (Phillips). The origins of the tune are somewhat obscure. It was in the repertoire of Albert Hash, a traditional fiddler of Whitetop or Rugby, Va. and identified by him as originally a British Isles tune, though stylistically that provenance is doubtful. Susan Songer and Clyde Curley (1997) report that New York fiddler Judy Hyman (of the Horseflies) believes it originally derived from the Québecois tune "Reel du Pendu" (Hanged Man's Reel) and that it was rendered in a Southern old-time style by younger upstate New York fiddlers. According to Hash's nephew, Albert learned "Hangman's Reel" (and "Old Sport (2)") from a 1968 recording by Texas fiddler Bill Northcutt (1935-1992), still remembered as a top-notch musician. Whether the tune was a Southern traditional tune or a "revival" processing, it has since become a very popular "festival tune" among younger old-time fiddlers and frequently heard at square dances. See the related melody "Rattlesnake."

Bill Northcutt

Albert Hash

Source for notated version: Albert Hash via Liz Slade (Yorktown, New York) [Kuntz]; Tim O'Brien [Phillips].

Printed sources: Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; p. 108. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 58 (appears as "Hanged Man's Reel"). Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 92.

Recorded sources: County CO-CD-2711, Kirk Sutphin - "Old Roots and New Branches" (1994). June Appal 014, John McCutcheon - "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" (1977. Learned from Albert Hash). Marimac 9040, The Heartbeats - "Living in Black and White" (1990). Stoneway STY 103; Bill Northcutt, Bill Clemmons, Doc Hamilton - "Old Time Hoedown" (1968).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]

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