Annotation:Hell and Scissors

Find traditional instrumental music

Back to Hell and Scissors

HELL AND SCISSORS. Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; Arkansas, Kentucky. A Major. ADae tuning. A 'hell' is a leather holster used by tailors to hold a pair of scissors. 'Hell and Scissors' was also, in English slang, "an ejaculation of surprise and ridicule" (see Farmer, 1905). However, 'Hell and Scissors' perhaps referred to a region of terrain in Kentucky that was particularly difficult to traverse. For example, in the the early 1800's when neighboring Illinois was first being settled there were no roads or bridges, necessitating a slow and laborious journey by pioneer wagons. One three mile stretch between Big and Little Ocho rivers at Vandalia, was known as the "Hell and Scissors," which it took three days to cross [see "Portrait and Biographical Album of Morgan and Scott Counties, Illinois", 1889, entry for Stephen Holland Reid [1]).

The tune is in the repertoire of fiddler Bruce Greene, who learned it from Day's 78 RPM recording. The title appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes and songs compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Library of Congress 1010B2, Jilson Setters {Kentucky fiddler J.W. "Blind Bill" Day} (recorded 1934 for John Lomax in Ashland Ky).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Hear Jilson Setters at the Digital Library of Appalachia [3]

Back to Hell and Scissors