Martha Campbell (1)

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X:1 T:Martha Campbell [1] L:1/8 M:2/2 S:From a transcription of Buddy Thomas by Jeff Titon K:D DEFA BFAF|DEFA BFAF|DEFA B2A2|[C2A2][B,2G2][A,4E4]| DEFA BFAF|DEFA BdBd|ABde fgfe|dBAG F(D D2):| |:Bcdd fdfd|efde fdfd|ABde f2d2|fedf edBd| ABde fdfd|efde fdfg|abag fgfe|dBAG F(D D2):|



MARTHA CAMPBELL [1]. American, Reel (cut time). USA; eastern Kentucky, Indiana. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): ABB (Brody): AABB (Krassen, Phillips): AA'BB' (Phillips, Reiner & Anick). Known as a Kentucky tune, once regionally associated with the northeastern and central part of the state, but now wide-spread.

"Martha Campbell" was of the first tunes recorded by Kentucky fiddler Doc Roberts (1897–1978), in 1925, who remastered the tune in 1929 in an electrically recorded version for the Sears label. Music historian Charles Wolfe (1983) believed the tune related to Roberts' "<incipit title="load:joe" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Brickyard Joe (1)">Brickyard Joe (1)</incipit>," and stated the Kentucky fiddler probably learned the tune from African-American fiddler Owen Walker of Madison County, Ky., a mentor, around 1915. Jeff Titon (2001) is also of the opinion that "Martha Campbell" may have had an African-American provenance, and the process of aural transmittal of the tune from source fiddlers appears to be from black to white. He reports that Ky. fiddler Darley Fulks spoke of hearing the melody for the first time in the 1920's, from "colored fiddlers" and notes that Fulk's version, unique to him, included a bass part that Fulks maintained African-American fiddlers included in their renditions. "Martha Campbell" was also recorded in the field by the Lomax's from the playing of white Virginia fiddler Emmett Lundy in 1941, when he was 80 years old. Refer also to Billy Stamper's recorded version, from the Irvine, Kentucky, region, that Mark Wilson describes as an "amiable" style of playing and that features a lower ("coarse") part "with an unexpected melodic kick in the middle of the strain." Titon says that his source Buddy Thomas's (northeast Ky.) version is "reminiscent" of Doc Roberts Gennett 78 RPM recording. The tune was also in the repertoire of Portsmouth, Ohio, fiddler and instrument repairer Jimmy Wheeler (1917-1987), who learned it either from his father or Acey "Aaa" Neal. Jeff Goehring says it was one of the "not-strictly Kentucky" tunes "popular among Portsmouth area fiddlers of an earlier era" [1]. The tune has been reworked as a bluegrass and contest standard and was popularized among Texas fiddlers by Orville Burns (see "<incipit title="load:martha" width=850 link="https://tunearch.org/wiki/Martha Campbell (2)">Martha Campbell (2)</incipit>")

Curiously, "Martha Campbell" is missing from the Berea College tune lists compiled as a student project in 1915, although this may be an artifact of the regionalism noted in the first paragraph (since the Berea lists were largely compiled from the more southern counties of the state). A Missouri cousin is "Politic."

Doc Roberts



Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - James W. Day (AKA Jilson Setters, eastern Kentucky) [Krassen]; Buddy Thomas (Emerson, Lewis County, northeastern Ky.) [Brody, Reiner & Anick, Titon]; Doc Roberts (Ky.) [Phillips/1994]; Stephanie Prausnitz [Silberberg].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 184. Krassen (Masters of Old-Time Fiddling), 1983; p. 25. Phillips (Fiddle Case Tunebook: Old Time Southern), 1989; p. 29. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 150. Reiner & Anick (Old Time Fiddling Across America), 1989; p. 101. Silberberg (Fiddle Tunes I Learned at the Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 97. Titon (Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 100, p. 129.

Recorded sources: -Berea College Appalachian Center AC003, "John M. Salyer: Home Recordings 1940-41, Vol. 2" (1993). Berea College Appalachian Center AC005, Walter McNew – "Black Jack Grove" (1993). County 412, "Fiddling Doc Roberts" (1983). County 779, Art Stamper – "The Lost Fiddler" (1982). County CD2712, Art Stamper (Ky.) – "The Lost Fiddler" (reissue). Gennett 3152 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (1925). Heritage XXXIII, Fiddling Doc Roberts – "Visits" (1981). Marimac 9009, Bill Christophersen – "Old Time Friends" (1987). Rounder 0032, Buddy Thomas – "Kitty Puss: Old Time Fiddle Tunes From Ky." (1974. Learned from Bob Prater, a fiddler from Foxport, Ky., and Doc Roberts). Rounder Heritage Series 1166-11592-2, Billy Stamper (et al) – "The Art of Traditional Fiddle" (2001). Supertone 9397 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (1929). Victor 21353 (78 RPM), Blind Bill Day (a pseudonym for Jilson Setters, b. 1860 – recorded in 1926 or 1928 as "Marthie Campbell"). Voyager 319-S, Ace Sewell – "Southwest Fiddlin.'"

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear John Salyer's 1940-41 home recording at Berea Sound Archives [2]
Hear a wonderful version on plucked fiddle by Travis Wells (Clark County, Ky.), recorded in the field by John Harrod, at Berea Digital Archives [3]
Hear Doc Roberts play the tune on a 1954 recording made in Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky [4]
Hear Bill Hatton's (Bourbon County, Ky.) field recording, made in 1979 by John Harrod, at Berea Digital Archives [5]
Hear Clarence Skirvin's (Gallatin County, Ky.) field recording, made in the 1970's by John Harrod [6]



Back to Martha Campbell (1)

X:1 M:C| L:1/8 K:G DEGA BGBG|ABGA BGBG|DEGA BGAG|BAGB AGEG|

X:1 M:C| L:1/8 |:DE|FABd AFDE|FABB AFDE|FABA [FA]BAc|AF [E2A2] [EA][EA]DE|


  1. Jeff Goehring, "First Recording Session with Jimmy Wheeler" [7]