Hell Amongst the Yearlings (1)

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X:1 T:Hell among the Yearlings [1] M:C| L:1/8 Q:"Fast" S:Arthur Smith (1898-1971, Humphreys County, east Tennessee) D:Folkways FW 02379, Arthur Smith - "Look! Who's Here: Old Timers of D:the Grand Ole Opry" (1964). F:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/indian-creek-0 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:D Ac|defd efde|fdeg fdBc| defd efdA | cBcB A2Ac| dcde fded|BG[GB][GA][G4B4]|FG A2a3b|afed cBAG | FDDD D2:|| |:[GA]-|[A2A2]BA [F2A2][F2A2]|ABAF D4|+slide+A,2EE C2EE|A,2E2C2E2| FA A2 BABc|dBAG FAFD|A,G,A,B, CDEC|D2D4:|]



HELL AMONG(ST) THE YEARLINGS [1]. AKA - "Trouble among the Yearlings," "Hell After the Yearlings," "Devil Among the Yearlings," "Round Up the Yearlings," "Hell Among the Indians." Old-Time, Breakdowwn. USA; Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska. G Major (Thede): D Major (Bayard, Brody, Christeson, Fiddler Magazine, John Hatcher, Phillips): C Major (Christeson/1984, Songer). Standard tuning. AB (Christeson, 1984): AA'B (Bayard): AABB (Thede): AA'BB (Phillips): AA'BB' (Fiddler Magazine): AABBCCDD (Songer). Several unrelated tunes in various parts of the United States carry the name "Hell Among(st) the Yearlings," so obviously a memorable title in rural communities. The title has itself aroused some speculation. It is thought by some to represent 'trouble with the cattle'-yearlings being young cattle that are bred for the first time and quite rambunctious. Another interpretation hinges on 'hell' as a term for dense underbrush and thicketed country, with the title meaning that the yearlings are in the underbrush, thus making it quite a chore to round them up. Chicago musician Paul Tyler made the following comments (Fiddle-L, 5/10/04).

In 1939, Edgar Lee Masters (of Spoon River fame) published in Esquire an account of a visit he made with Theodore Dreiser to the home fiddler John Armstrong in Oakford, Illinois. The account reappeared in Masters' book The Sangamon in the Rivers of America series. Masters grew in Menard County where Armstrong lived. The visit was made in 1916, two decades before the account was published, so you have to allow for the author's creativity to have been at work on the memories. Here's Masters' words of what John Armstrong had to say about Hell:

We asked for "Turkey in the Straw" again, and John played it with spirit. Then he played "Hell Amongst the Yearlings." "This here is called 'Hell Amongst the Yearlings.' I don't ricollect what it was furst called; but they had a dance over at Ben Sutton's oncet, and while they was a-dancin' the cattle broke into his corn. So ever since they have called it 'Hell Amongst the Yearlings.'" John furnished us with evidence of the manner in which tales and sayings grow up, and by that token how myths originate and flourish.

The 'A' part generally has nine measures instead of the usual eight. What is the 'B' part for most of the versions is usually quite a bit different than some other versions, and is very seldom similar from region to region or collection to collection. However, the title (or variations on it) is often a floater and appears for totally unrelated tunes. The most influential version historically was recorded by Kanawha County, West Virginia, fiddler Clark Kessinger (1896-1975) who recorded it (backed with "Turkey in the Straw") in 1928 for the Brunswick label (#235), his second recording for the company. It was the first commercial recording of the tune and featured Kessinger's much imitated technique of brushing the stings of the fiddle with his forefinger, creating a pizzicato effect (Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed., 1999, pg. 28. Alan Jabbour (Fiddle-L, 5/08/04) says that most modern versions seem to stem from the Kessinger recording, and that the extra beats in the fourth phrase of the high part of the tune have become standard in many bluegrass and old-time renditions. He interprets these extra beats as 'dwelling' notes, "that tendency of Appalachian fiddlers, especially in WV and KY, to linger on a note mid-phrase for a couple of beats before resuming the course of the tune. The note is often the fifth of the tune's scale, and that's the case here," he says. The exceptions to the Kessinger variant group are a few Appalachian fiddlers like Henry Reed and Doc White (who played an alternate low strain from Reed) who played the tune in square, or regular, strains of 8 bars. White's playing of the tune can be heard on AFS 12,704 (June, 1967).

The title is mentioned in reports (1926-31) of the De Kalb County, Alabama, Annual (Fiddlers') Convention, finds Cauthen (1990). The piece was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940's, and, by Herbert Halpert, in 1939 from the playing of Lauderdale County, Mississippi, fiddler Frank Kittrell. Today it is especially common among Midwest fiddlers. It is on Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden's list of '100 essential Missouri fiddle tunes'. Jabbour finds references (in WPA interviews, for one) to at least the 1930's in Texas fiddling, and suspects it may have had older currency in the state. See also related "Streak of Fat Steak of Lean."

Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - Claude Keenan (Oklahoma County, Oklahoma) [Thede]; Clark Kessinger (West Virginia) [Brody, Phillips]; Bob Walters (Burt County, Nebraska) and George Helton (Maries County, Missouri) are referenced by Christeson {1973}; Cyril Stinnett (Oregon, Missouri) [Christeson {1984}]; Laurie Lewis [Fiddler Magazine/1994]; Hollis Taylor [Fiddler Magazine/2007].

Printed sources : - Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 277, pp. 232. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 133. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; p. 67. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 2), 1984; p. 44. Fiddler Magazine, Spring 1994; p. 31. Fiddler Magazine, Spring 2007, vol. 14, No. 1; pp. 40-41 (a contest setting with numerous variations). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 109. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 94. Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; p. 130.

Recorded sources: - Augusta Heritage Records AHR-012, Ernie Carpenter - "Old Time Fiddling from Braxton County" (1992). Augusta Heritage Records AHR-023, Ernie Carpenter - "Old Time Fiddle Tunes from the Elk River Country" (2001). Brunswick 235 (78 RPM), The Kessinger Brothers (1928). County 202, Eck Robertson. County 733, "The Legend of Clark Kessinger." Flying Fish 515, Laurie Lewis - "Singin' My Troubles Away" (1990). Folkways FA2379, Arthur Smith. Folkways FA 2336, Clark Kessinger (W.Va.) - "Fiddler." June Appal 0056, Ralph Blizard and the New Southern Ramblers - "Blizard Train." Marimac 9110, Dilly and His Dill Pickles (1930) - "It'll Never Happen Again: Old Time String Bands, Vol. 1." MSOTFA 007, Charlie Walden - "Draggin' the Bow" (1985). Northeastern Records 5011, American Cafe Orchestra - "Egyptian Dominoes" (1991). Rounder 0006, Country Cooking- "Fourteen Bluegrass Instrumentals." Vetco 506, Fiddlin' Van Kidwell- "Midnight Ride." Vocalion 5446 (78 RPM), 1930, Dilly and His Dill Pickles (AKA John Dilleshaw, No. Ga.). Voyager 301, Bill Mitchell- "Fiddle Jam Session." Voyager VRCD 344, Howard Marshall & John Williams - "Fiddling Missouri" (1999. Learned from Pete McMahan & Charlie Walden).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Ernie Carpenter's recording at Slippery Hill [2]



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