My Wife Died on Saturday Night

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MY WIFE DIED ON SATURDAY NIGHT. Old-Time, Breakdown and Song. Old-Time, Breakdown and Song. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABB. Dr. Humphrey Bate [1] (1875-1936), a bona-fide physician with a medical degree from Vanderbilt, recorded this song with his band The Possum Hunters in Atlanta in December, 1928. Bate lived in Castillian Springs, Tennessee, and sang and played harmonica along with some guitar, and his was one of the most popular bands in the Nashville area for many years. Oscar Stone and Bill Barret played the fiddle with the group. They were the first string band to air on Nashville radio and the first to tour from the Grand Ole Opry. The good Dr. led the Possum Hunters until his death in the 1940's, and the band continued in various forms until the 1960's. The harmonica was not an uncommon instrument in early American string bands.

Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters

My wife died on Saturday night, and Sunday she was buried,
Monday was my courtin' day and Tuesday I was married.

Round and round, up and down, every day I wander,
Round and round, up and down, lookin' for my honey.

The first couplet is a "floater" and appears in several songs, including Dave Macon's "Down the Old Plank Road." It can be found in blackface minstrel song-sheets and songsters under titles "Old Grey Goose (2)" and "Grey/Gray Goose and Gander" published as early as 1844. A variant song version was collected in the first decade of the 20th century by Cecil Sharpe in his Appalachian collecting trip. See also the related melody "Johnny Don't Get Drunk."

Although the Possum Hunter's recording is the one most frequently anthologized, the song had been recorded several months earlier in 1928 in Nashville by The Crook Brothers (brothers Matthew and Herman Crook both played the harmonica). However, it was not released until the next year by Victor Records.

Source for notated version: Dr. Humphrey Bate and the Possum Hunters (Tenn.) [Kuntz].

Printed sources: Kuntz (Ragged but Right), 1987; pp. 307-308.

Recorded sources: Brunswick Br 271 (78 RPM), Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters (1928). County 541, Dr. Humphrey Bate and the Possum Hunters - "Nashville; the Early String Bands." Folkways 2492, New Lost City Ramblers - "String Band Instrumentals" (1964). Victor 40020 (78 RPM), The Crook Brothers (1929).

See also listing at: Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [2]
Hear the Possum Hunter's recording at the Bluegrass Messengers site [3]




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