Annotation:Old Corn Liquor

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OLD CORN LIQUOR. USA, Piedmont area of Va., N.C. Old-Time, Breakdown. GDgd or AEae tuning (fiddle). "Old Corn Liquor" is a tune found in African-American fiddle and stringband tradition in the piedmont areas of Virginia and North Carolina. It was, for example, in the repertoire of African-American musicians Joe (1918-2012) and Odell Odell (1912-1994) Thompson. West Virginia fiddler Sherman Lawson, backed by Frank Hutchison, recorded the tune in 1928, but the side was unissued and whether it is the same as the Thompson's tune is not known. :Old Corn Liquor" was a favorite of Joe Thompson for calling for dances; "you kind of top the crowd off 'cause that's got a lot of spirit there" (Joe Thompson, quoted in the Old Time Herald, vol. 5, No. 7, Spring 1997). In liner notes to SF40079_111, Cece Conway and Scott Odell remark that Joe Thompson like to use the tune to accompany a set of "Hands up eight" dance calls. They point out the words (sung by Odell) "are the same as those recorded in Person County (N.C.) about 1923 by Kate S. Russell (Brown III 43, 1952: 74). The Thompson family lived and played music in Person County, when they worked as tenant farmers and earlier as slaves on the Walter Thompson plantation."

The Thompsons sang this ditty to the tune, which includes 'floating' couplets from a variety of songs:

Sung to the low strain:
Old corn liquor was the cause of that, ... [x4]

Sung to the high strain:
I got drunk and lost my hat,
Old corn liquor was the cause of that.

I got drunk and fell off the wagon,
Old corn liquor don't take no draggin'. ...[or, "got me draggin']

Who’s been here since I’ve been gone?
Yea, hey little pretty girl with a red dress on.

I got drunk and fell off the wagon,
I got drunk and fell off the wagon;
Old Corn Liquor don't take no draggin'.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources:

Recorded sources: Smithsonian Folkways SFW40079_111, Joe & Odell Thompson - "Old Time Music from the North Carolina Piedmont" (1998). Voyager Recordings VRCD-354, Hart & Blech - "Build Me a Boat" (2001).

See also listing at:
Hear the Thompson's recording on [1]
Hear Bob Carlin's version on [2]
Hear the Carolina Chocolate Drops version on [3]

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