Annotation:Jimmy Sutton

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X:1 T:Old Jimmy Sutton N:From the playing of fiddler G.B. Grayson (1887-1930) M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel N:On the recording the first strain is played numerous times before going on N:to the second strain, which is played one time. N:Vocals and dance calls on the first strain. D:Gennett Ge 6436 (78 RPM), Grayson & Whitter (1928) D:County CO CD 3517, "The Recordings of Grayson & Whitter" (1928) D: D: Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:D d2 f-ed2f-e |d2[df]f ecec|ddf-ed2f-e|ddfd Acec| d2 f-ed2f-e|ddfd Acec|d2 f-e dd[df]d|[d2g2][d2f2] ecec:| f-a-aa- a2(fg|a2) af ec e2|((3e/f/g/a-a)a- a2ef| Jg2Jf2 ece[ce]| ea-ae a2((3efg|a2)e[Ae] c2e2|[A4a4] Jc'4|a4 f-g2fe||

JIMMY SUTTON. AKA - "Old Buck Ram," "Old Jimmy Sutton," "Sheep and Cows Walking through the Pasture." American, Reel (cut time). D Major. AEae or ADae tuning (fiddle). AB. The song/tune was collected from both Black and White sources, but the 'old-time' fiddle tune is closely associated with Blue Ridge regional musicians such as G.B Grayson (1887-1930), Fred Cockerham (1805-1980) and Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985). It was also in the repertoire of Grayson County, Virginia, clawhammer banjo player Vester Jones, and, in a closely related version, as "Sheep and Cows Walkin' through the Pasture"[1]. as played by Roscoe Parish (1897-1904) of Coal Creek, southwestern Virginia, near Galax.

As "Old Jimmy Sutton" the song/tune was in the repertoire of guitar/fiddle duo of G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter, who recorded it for Gennett Records in New York in the cold of February, 1928. The have been several verses sung to the tune, often 'floating' verses, but the main comic gist is that of a hapless hunter who finds his quarry is a sheep rather than the hoped-for buck. These verses have been collected (sometimes a bleat or 'Baaa' is vocalized at the end of the line):

'Get out a rock as big as a button', or, 'Picked up a rock the size of a button'
Kill Jimmy Sutton as dead as mutton.

I like Sal and she likes chicken.
I'll keep Sal, all the time pickin'.

Sheep met a billy-goat going to pasture.
Sheep said "Goat, can't you go a little faster?"

Sheep fell down and skinned his chin
And, great God almighty, how the billy-goat grinned.

I like Sal and she likes mutton
And I hate to lose to old Jimmy Sutton.

You take the sheep and I’ll go quicker,
And that'll be the last of old Jimmie picker.

If you can't dance that, you can't dance nothin'
And I wouldn't give a chaw to the old Jimmie Sutton (sometimes used as a chorus)

Bill took the gun, Bill went a huntin
BAM! went the gun and down fell a mutton.

Stacy Phillips pointed out that the lines-

Sheep met a billy-goat going to pasture.
Sheep said "Goat, can't you go a little faster?

were sung by Tommy Duncan on Texas fiddler Bob Wills' version of "Sally Goodin'," and were followed by--

Sheep fell down, goat rolled over,
Goat got up with a mouth full of clover.

North Carolina fiddler Tommy Jarrell sang:

Sheep, sheep, sheep and mutton,
If you can't dance that you can't dance nothing.
And a baa!
Baa! Old Jimmy Sutton.

We'll kill us a sheep and eat the mutton,
Save the tail for old Jimmy Sutton.
And a baa!
Baa! Old Jimmy Sutton.

Wade Ward also had a version that he sang on the LP "The Music of Roscoe Holcomb and Wade Ward" (Folkways FA 2363):

I love Sue, Sue loves a button,
And Sue's got a toe as round as a button.
And I can't dance that-- you can't dance--
Sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep,
Harrrrrup sheep, harrrrrup sheep, harrrrup sheet, whoa.

Call for the sheep, and I call for the mutton,
And I call for the ram and he'll come buttin',
And a sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep,
Harrrrrup sheep, harrrrrup sheep, harrrrup sheet, whoa.

Picked up a rock as round as a button,
Tired old Jimmie Settleton,
I can't dance that-- you can't dance--
Sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep,
Harrrrrup sheep, harrrrrup sheep, harrrrup sheet, whoa.

A version of the song was collected by Thomas Talley and was printed in his Negro Folk Rhymes (1922) under the title "Sheep and Goat":

Sheep an' goat gwine to de paster;
Say de goat to de sheep: "Cain't you walk a liddle faster?"

De sheep says: "I cain't, I'se a liddle too full."
Den de goat say: "You can wid my ho'ns in yo wool."

But de goat fall down an' skin 'is shin
An' de sheep spli 'is lip wid a big broad grin.

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Highwoods String Band (Ithaca, New York) [Brody]; Judy Hyman (Ithaca, N.Y.) [Phillips].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 206 ("Old Jimmy Sutton"). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), 1994; p. 125.

Recorded sources : - Biograph 6003, "The Original Bogtrotters" (1968). County 534, Ballard Branch Bogtrotters - "Round the Heart of Old Galax, Vol 2" (1980). Folk Legacy FSA 024, "The Carolina Tar Heels" (1965). Folkways FS-3811, Vester Jones - "Traditional Music From Grayson & Carrol Counties" (1962). Folkways FA 2363, "Roscoe Holcomb and Wade Ward" (1962). Rounder 0045, Highwoods String Band- "Dance All Night." Gennett Ge 6436 (78 RPM), G.B. Grayson & Henry Whitter (1928). Tennvale 003, Pete Parish- "Clawhammer Banjo." Vester Ward - "Traditional Music From Grayson & Carrol Counties."

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear the tune played by Thorton and Emily Spencer (Mouth of Wilson, Virginia) at the Digital Library of Appalachia [2] [3]
Hear the tune by the Ballard Branch Bogtrotters on [4]
Hear G.B. Grayson's 78 RPM recording [5]
Hear a slow learning version from the Old Town School of Folk Music [6]

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  1. There are a few similar titles attached to unrelated tunes. Roscoe Parish's "Sheep and Cows Walkin' through the Pasture" is a variant of "(Old) Jimmy Sutton," however, Buddy Thomas's "Sheep and Hogs Walking through the Pasture" is an unrelated melody (related to "Wolves a Howling"), and Burl Hammond's "Hogs and Sheep Going to the Pasture" is yet another tune unrelated to the previous ones.