Old Hen Cackled (1) (The)
X:1 T:Old Hen Cackled N:From the playing of John Morgan Salyer (1882-1952, Salyersville, Magoffin County, eastern Ky.) N:recorded at home 1941/42 by his sons on a disc player M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Quick" N:AEae tuning (fiddle) D:Berea Sound Archives https://soundarchives.berea.edu/items/show/4228 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:A [A,2E2] Ac BAcB|AcBA c2c2|[A,2E2] Ac BAcB|AcBG A2A2| [A,2E2] Ac BAcB|AcBA c2cc| e2eg fecc|ecAG A2A2:|| |:[A,2E2]a2a2a2|fgaf edcd|e2 eg fecB|1AcBG A2A2:|2 AcBG A2|| Ac|e2eg fecd|efec B2cc|e2 eg fecB|AcBG A2A2||
OLD HEN CACKLE(D) , THE. AKA and see "Barnyard Serenade," "Cacklin' Hen (1)," "Christmas Calico," "Cluck Old Hen (1)," "Hen Cackle(d)," "Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going to Crow." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri. G Major (Gilmore/Christeson): A Major (Salyer/Titon). Standard or AEae (John Carson, John Salyer) tuning (fiddle). AABBCCDD. A popular and widespread reel among both black and white mid-South string bands, writes Charles Wolfe (1991), although it is "conspicuously absent from most standard collections of black folk songs." As evidence of the tune in black tradition, it was in the repertoire of African-American fiddler Cuje Bertram (of the Cumberland Plateau region, Kentucky), recorded by him on a 1970 home recording he made for his family. It also was recorded by African-American fiddlers Howard Armstrong and the string-band team of Joe Evans and Arthur McClain.
The tune was widely known in the South and Mid-West, with several regional and personal variants, often quite diverse in melody and rhythm. It was one of the first country music recordings ever made, in 1923, by north Georgia musician and entertainer Fiddlin' John Carson (1868-1949), who called it "Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going to Crow." A year later Chattanooga fiddler Jess Young added a part in the key of C in his recording of the same name (Taylors Kentucky Boys and the Short Creek Trio also released their versions of "Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going to Crow" on 78 RPM). The reel was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's. "Old Hen Cackle" is one of '100 essential Missouri tunes' listed by Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden. It was popular in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, notes Jeff Titon (2001) in a number of related tune and title variants, such as "Cacklin' Hen," "Hen Cackle," "Cluck Old Hen," etc. Kentucky fiddler Bill Hatton called it "Christmas Calico." Apart from numerous recordings in the 78 RPM era, evidence for its popularity comes from contemporary newspapers. It is listed in the Northwest Alabamian (Fayette) of August 19, 1929, as one of the tunes likely to be played at an upcoming fiddlers' convention. The Chilton County News (Alabama) of June 1, 1922, predicted it would be one of the tunes that would "vie with the latest jazz nerve wreckers for first place" at a Chilton County fiddlers' convention. That a fiddler's rendition "Old Hen Cackles" was often a benchmark of his skill is illustrated by John Carson's recorded exchange (on Okeh 45448) with a fiddler named 'Bully' Brewer:
Bully: ... I'm the best fiddler that ever wobbled a bow.
John: ... I don't give a durn, I'm the best fiddler that ever jerked the hairs of a horse's tail across the belly of a cat.
Bully: ... Well, I'll play Old Hen Cackle
John: ... Turn your dog loose.
Bully: ... Well, what're you going to play, John?
John: ... I'm going to play the fiddle...that's a durn sight more than you've done.
One set of lyrics, collected by African-American collector Thomas Talley, go:
De ole hen she cackled,
An' stayed down in de bo'n.
She git fat an' sassy,
A-eatin' up de co'n.
De ole hen she cackled,
Git great long yaller laigs,
She swaller down de oats,
But I don't git no aigs.
De ole hen she cackled,
She cackled in de lot,
De nex' time she cackled,
She cackled in de pot.
Not unlike the ones Fiddlin' John Carson sang:
Old hen cackled everybody knows,
The old hen cackled and the rooster's going to crow.
Old hen cackled, cackled mighty loud,
Ain't laid an egg, walked mighty proud.
Old hen cackled, cackled in the lot,
Last time she cackled, cackled in the pot.
[It was not always easy to decipher Carson's words. Irene Spain, charged with transcribing the record for sheet music sales, said: Poor John couldn't make a record unless he was a little more than half drunk and he always had to have a 'jaw-breaker'-a candy ball about half as bit as a golf ball-in his mouth and he would roll that around while singing. His words were so muddled up at times that we had to almost guess at what he was saying to get them on paper.]