Old Bell Ewe and a Little Speckled Wether

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X:1 T:Old Bell Ewe and Little Speckled Wether N:From fiddler C.S. Strong (Warren County, south-central Kentucky, though N:originally from Lee County), recorded in the field by Bruce Greene, Jan., 1975. M:C| L:1/8 R:Air Q:"Moderate" N:GDgd tuning (fiddle) D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/old-belle-yew-and-little-speck-weather D:https://soundarchives.berea.edu/items/show/1140 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G B-d3 d2dd|eA-B2 d2de|=fA-B4G2|AGE-G GGGA| B2d4[D2d2]|eA-B2 d2de|d2{A}[D4B4]G2|AGEG GG G2|| [D2A2]{F}G2G2GG|AGE-G GGGE|D-GG2G2 E-D|D-GEG [GB]G G2| [D2A2]{F}G2- GG GE|D-GE-G [GB]GG2|[D2A2]G2 [G2B2]E-D|D-GE-(G [GB])GGG| [D2A2]G2- GGGE|D-GE-G [GB]GGE|D-G[D2B2]d2 BGAG|E-G[GB]G GA| B2d2-d2 d2 |eA-B2d2de|e2A-B- B2G2|AGE-G [GB]GG-A| [D2B2][D4d4][D2d2]|eA-B2 d2de|d2{A}[D4B4]G2|AGEG GG G2||



OLD BELL EWE AND A LITTLE SPECKLED WETHER. AKA - "Old Belle Yew and a Little Speck of Weather." G Major. DGdg tuning (fiddle). AB. The title "Old Belle Yew and a Speck of Weather" is a mishearing or misinterpretation of the the title "Old Bell Ewe and Little Speckled Wether." A 'bell ewe' was the leader of the flock; farmers would tie a bell around her neck to aid in herding, as the flock would follow the sound of the bell and the bell ewe. A 'speckled wether' is a breed of lamb.

One source for the tune, Warren County, Kentucky, fiddler C.W. Strong, remarked to folklorist and musician Bruce Greene about the resemblance of "Old Belle Yew and a Speck of Weather" to the better-known "Sally Goodin." He remembered a line sung to the tune:


Old bell ewe and little speckled weather,
Devil of a gang, when they all get together.

Library of Congress collectors Alan and Elizabeth Lomax collected "Old Bell Ewe and the Little Speckled Wether" in Hyden, Kentucky, in 1937, when it was sung and played on the fiddle by Theophilus G. Hoskins (AFS 1463 B2). The notes for the session record the title as "Old bell owe and the little speckled wet her, The." Hoskins sang:: Old bell ewe and little speckled wether,
Run down the hill, heels tied together.

Oh, the old copper,
Give five dollars, opera.

Old bell ewe and little speckled wether,
The fence fell down, but the sheeps still together.

A melody called "My old belled Ewe" is contained in the tune list of Harvey Smith (Ansel, Pulaski Co., Ky.), one of Prof. John Smith's Berea College tune lists of 1915 (a class assignment to collect titles of fiddle tunes). It is perhaps the same tune as "Old Bell Ewe and a Little Speckled Wether," as is John Sizemore's (Middlefork, Ky.) "The Little Speckled Wether."


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Clare Milliner & Walk Koken (Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes), 2011; p. 455.



See also listing at :
Hear C.W. Strong's 1975 field recording by Bruce Greene at Slippery Hill [1], the Internet Archive [2] and Berea Sound Archives [3]
Hear T.G. Hoskins' 1937 field recording by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax at the Internet Archive [4]



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