Annotation:Ida Red

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X:0 T:Ida Red N:From the playing of fiddler James Cowan Powers (1877-1953, N:Scott County, southwestern Virginia), recorded with his family band N:in New York, August, 1924. The band consisted of Powers and his N:children, Charles, Orpha, Carrie and Ada. M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel N:AEae tuning (fiddle) D:Edison 51662-L (78 RPM), Fiddlin' Powers and Family (1924) D: D: Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:A V:1 clef=treble name="0." [V:1] AB|c2c2 B2cB| ABAA F3F |A2AA BAFF|E-AAA A2AB| c2cc B2BB|ABAA F3F|A2 AA BAFF|EE A2 A2|| A2|[ce]-[ee]-[ee][ee] [e3e3]e|c2c2 A2AA|B2 AB cBAA|F2A2A2(AB| c)c[e2e2] [e4e4]|Jc4 A2AA|BBAB cBAA|F2A2A2||

IDA RED. AKA – "Idy Red." American, Reel (2/4 or cut time). USA; West Virginia, southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, Kentucky, north Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas. A Major (Kuntz, Milliner/Koken, Phillips): G Major (Krassen, Milliner/Koken, Titon). AEae or Standard tuning (fiddle). AB: AABB (Krassen). "Ida Red" is a melody widespread throughout the South and Mid-West, in both purely instrumental versions and versions with words. The character 'Ida Red' is the subject of a somber song in Alan Lomax's collection American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934), in a section of 'Negro Bad Men', collected from an informant at a Texas prison farm. However, it has no relation to the Ida Red of the various fiddle tune couplets whose gender is feminine or androgynous and often disparagingly comic. Jeff Titon (2001) believes the lyrics suggest an African-American or minstrel origin, but no direct antecedents have surfaced to date.

The "Ida Red" tunes as a group vary widely in their melodic content even within geographic regions, although nearly all versions retain the distinctive cadence, with the majority played in 'A' major, often 'cross-tuned' (i.e. AEae fiddle tuning). It was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's. Riley Pucket's (north Georgia) version of the tune, released in 1926, became the second best-selling country music record for the year. Kentucky fiddler Jim Bowles, like many, plays a cross-tuned version. Titon records that the tune was included in the 1915 Berea College students' tune lists, but was not played in any of the Berea, Kentucky, fiddle contests of the era.

John Dykes' Magic City Trio
Various couplets are sung to the first strain. These words were sung by guitarist Hub Mahaffey on the Dykes Magic City Trio's 1927 recording:

Down the road, down the road;
Can't get a letter from down the road.

Down the road, across the creek,
Can't get a letter but once a week.

Ida Red and Ida Blue,
I got stuck on Ida too.

Scott County, southwestern Virginia, fiddler James Cowan Powers (1877-1953) recorded "Ida Red" in Camden, N.J., in August, 1924, for Edison Records, along with his family band, consisting of Powers and his children, Charles, Orpha, Carrie and Ada (his wife had died in 1914).
Fiddlin' Cowan Powers and family (front row, from left). Cowan Powers, daughters Orpha, Carrie, and Ada, and son Charlie. [Photograph courtesy of James Powers, Patty Powers, and Stephanie Collins]
It was the earliest recording of a family band in country music. James's son, Charlie, sang:

Ida Red, she lives in town,
She weighs three hundred and forty pounds.

Ida Red, she won't do right,
She won't do nothing but quarell and fight.

Down the road(?) a mile and half,
My little honey looks back and laughs.

Down the road and across the creek,
Can't get a letter but once a week.

Ida Red, she's workin' on the road,
Workin' on a Sunday for to buy her a Ford.

Other recorded couplets sung to the tune (sometimes 'floating' verses) go:

Ida Red, pearly blue,
My little honey don't I love you.

I don't know and I don't care,
know there's hard times everywhere,

Down the road hat in my hand,
hello sheriff I've killed my man,

Ida Red you're workin on the road,
work enough money to buy a load.

Ida Red, Ida Blue,
Ida bit a hoecake half in two,
If I'd a-listened to what Ida said,
I'd a-been sleepin' in Ida's bed.

I went down town one day in a lope,
Fool around till I stole a coat;
Then I come back and I do my best,
Fool Around till I got the vest.
O weep! O my Idy!
For over dat road I'm bound to go. . . . {Thede}

"Ida Red" verses floated to other tunes as well. North Carolina banjo player Charlie Poole and his band The North Carolina Ramblers issued their recorded of "Shooting Creek (3)" in 1928, containing the lines:

Ida Red, she's a darned old fool,
Tried to put a saddle on a hump-back mule.

or the variant:

Ida Red, she ain't a fool,
Bigger'n an elephant, stronger'n a mule.

Georgia fiddler Bill Shores, a native Alabamian who spent most of his life in the Rome, Georgia, area (according to Wayne Daniels), recorded the tune with guitarist Riley Puckett in Atlanta in 1926. Texas fiddler Bob Wills, the 'Father of Western Swing', used the melody for his recording of "Ida Red," but with different lyrics[1]. Later, in 1949, Wills and his band The Texas Playboys issued a boogie-woogie version of "Ida Red" called "Ida Red Likes The Boogie"[2], which made it into Billboard's top ten songs of 1950.

See also the related songs "Over the Road" (Gus Cannon) and two songs from Uncle Dave Macon, "Feather Bed" and "Over the Road I'm Bound To Go". See also the related "Down the Road."

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Double Decker String Band (Kuntz): Frank West (Murray County, Oklahoma) [Thede]; Bob Wills and Sleepy Johnson (Texas) [Phillips]; Tweedy Brothers (W.Va.) [Phillips]; Jake Phelps and Street Butler (Pea Ridge, Todd County, Ky., 1965) [Titon]; James Cowan Powers [Milliner & Koken]; Bill Hensley [Milliner & Koken]; Ed Haley [Milliner & Koken]; John Dykes [Milliner & Koken]; Jim Bowles [Milliner & Koken].

Printed sources : - The Devil's Box, vol. 9, no. 1, 1975, p. 75. Fiddler Magazine, vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998; pp. 37-39 (full transcription of Ed Hayl Kaufman (Beginning Old Time Fiddle), 1977; p. 37. Krassen (Appalachian Fiddle), 1973; p. 16. Kuntz (Ragged but Right), 1987; pp. 387–388. Milliner & Koken (Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes), 2011; pp. 311–314 (five versions). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 117 (two versions). Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; pp. 60–61. Titon (Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 65, p. 94.

Recorded sources : - Brunswick 125 (78 RPM), Dykes Magic City Trio (1927). County 791, Tommy Jarrell – "Rainbow Sign" (1986). Davis Unlimited DU 33032, Clayton McMichen – "McMichen: The Traditional Years" (1977). Fretless 144, Double Decker String Band – "Giddyap Napoleon." Bluebird 5488A (78 RPM), Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers (North Ga.) {1934}. Gennett 6604 (78 RPM), 1928, Tweedy Brothers (Wheeling, W.Va. brothers Harry, George, and Charles who played twin fiddles and piano). Marimac 9060, Jim Bowles – "Railroading Through the Rocky Mountains" (1994). Meriweather 1001-2, Jim Bowles – "I Kind of Believe it's a Gift: Field Recordings of Traditional Music from southcentral Kentucky" (1986). Old Homestead OHCS 0191, Dykes Magic City Trio (et al) – "Early String Band Classics, Vol. 1" (1987). Rounder 1008, Ernest V. Stoneman – "Ernest Stoneman and the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers" (1978). Rounder 11131/1132, Ed Haley – "Forked Deer" (1997). Rounder CD0364, The Red Mules – "The Marimac Anthology: Deep in Old-Time Music." Victor 19434 (78 RPM), Fiddlin' Cowan Powers (1877–1952?, Russell County, S.W. Virginia) & Family (1924). 5 String Productions 5SP05002, The Hoover Uprights – "Known by their Reputation" (2005. Based on the Cowan Powers' version).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Fiddlin' Powers' 1925 recording at Roots of American Fiddle Music [2]
Hear Ed Haley's recording at Slippery-Hill [3]
Hear Jim Bowles' recording at Slippery-Hill [4]
Hear Dykes' Magic City Trio's recording at Slippery-Hill [5]
Hear Bill Hensley's recording at Slippery-Hill [6]
Hear Fiddlin' Cowan Powers' recording at Slippery-Hill [7]
Hear Oklahoma fiddlers Lake Williamson [8] and Mack Cummings [9] mid-1970's field recordings at Slippery Hill.

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  1. Vocalion 05079 (78 RPM). Wills adapted some of the lyrics from the 1878 song "Sunday Night" by Frederick Root for his "Ida Red."
  2. MGM K10570