Ida Red

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IDA RED. AKA – "Idy Red." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; West Virginia, southwest Virginia, Kentucky, north Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas. A Major (Kuntz, Phillips): G Major (Krassen, Titon). AEae or Standard tuning (fiddle). AB: AABB (Krassen). Ida Red was originally supposed to have been an African-American bad man, but the gender of the character in most versions is feminine or androgynous. Jeff Titon (2001) believes the lyrics suggest an African-American or minstrel origin. The tune, which varies widely in its melodic content although retains distinctive cadences, was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain 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 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.

Ida Red who lives uptown, weighs three hundred and forty pounds,
Down the road and 'cross the creek, don't get a letter but once a week.

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,
Ida Red you won't do right, won't do nothin' but quarrel and fight.

Down the road hat in my hand, hello sheriff I've killed my man,
Ida Red you won't do right, won't do nothin' but quarrel and fight.

Down the road a mile and a half, my little honey looks back and laughs,
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. . . . {Kuntz}

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}

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.

Sources for notated versions: 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. 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. 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: Davis Unlimited DU 33032, Clayton McMichen – "McMichen: The Traditional Years" (1977). County 791, Tommy Jarrell – "Rainbow Sign" (1986). 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, recorded 1925), Fiddlin' Cowan Powers 1877–1952? (Russell County, S.W. Virginia). 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]

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