Martha Campbell (1)
X:1 T:Martha Campbell  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 . 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" . 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."
- Jeff Goehring, "First Recording Session with Jimmy Wheeler"