Old Mother Flanagan

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OLD MOTHER FLANAGAN. AKA - "Old Mother Finnegan," "Old Granny Flanagan." AKA and see "Greenfields of America (1)," "(Pretty, Charming) Molly (Judy, Miss) Brallaghan (Brannigan)," "Miss Wedderburn's Reel (1)," "Sooka Flanagan." Old-Time, Breakdown. USA; southwestern Pa., West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina. A Major (Brody, Phillips, Silberberg): G Major (Bayard, Kaufman, Phillips, Songer). AEae or Standard tunings. AB (Bayard): AB (Silberberg): AABB (Phillips/Gardella, Songer): AA'BB' (Kaufman): AABBCC (Brody). In Phillips/Sears version all the parts are irregular. "Old Mother Flanagan" is a derivative of the Irish reel that goes variously by the names of "Molly Brannigan/Brallighan" (often with an accompanying adjective--'charming', 'pretty', etc.); see note for "Greenfields of America (1)." Clay County, West Virginia, fiddler Wilson Douglas remarked that he didn't know where it originated; "its a Clay County tune and French (Carpenter, his mentor) said he never did know. Said the first time he ever heard it played, his dad played it. And he learned it from him and he said he never did know where it came from." Another West Virginia fiddler, Emory Bailey, also played a version. Bayard (1981) collected this rhyme to the first part in Pennsylvania:

Old Mother Flanagan, never be a man again,
Hole in her stockin', heel kept a-rockin'.

See also the related tune "Old Flanagan" and the Kentucky variant "Sooka Flanagan," as well as the second strain of the Missouri melody "'A' and 'E' Rag." Though the Fuzzy Mountain String band recorded the tune in A Major, their source, Lee Triplett, played it is G Major, and versions in general are fairly evenly split between both keys. Kenton Sears' "Mother Flanagan" is a different melody, although "Old Mother Flanagan" must also have been occasionally shortened to "Mother Flanagan" as well. The title (as "Old Mother Finnegan") appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954.

An "Old Mother Flanagan" was recorded in the field by Alan Lomax (1915-2002) for the Library of Congress (AFS 02410 A03 ) from the playing of fiddler Fred Fuco (Grandville, Kent County, Michigan, near Baraga) in 1938.

Sources for notated versions: Fuzzy Mountain String Band (Chapel Hill, N. C.) who had it from Lee Triplett (Clay County, Va.) who played it in G Major [Brody]; I. Morris (Pa., 1930's) [Bayard]; Danny Gardella [Phillips]; banjo and concertina player Bertram Levy (Port Townsend, Washington) [Songer].

Printed sources: Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 312C, p. 265. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 208. Kaufman (Beginning Old Time Fiddle), 1977; pp. 53 & 90-91. Krassen (Clawhammer Banjo), 1974; p. 62. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; p. 173. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 112. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; p. 151.

Recorded sources: Bay 727, "Kenny Hall and the Sweet Mills String Band." Ghe Records GR1001, Mike Cross - "Child Prodigy" (1979). Marimac AHS #3, Glen Smith - "Say Old Man" (1990. Learned from Wilson Douglas). Rounder 0010, "Fuzzy Mountain String Band" (1972). Rounder 0047, Wilson Douglas- "The Right Hand Fork of Rush's Creek" (1975). Rounder 0058, Haywood Blevins (Va.) - "Old Originals, Vol. 2" (1978). Rounder C-11565, Malcolm Owen & Bill Hicks - "Rounder Fiddle" (1990).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear/see the tune played on youtube.com [2]
Hear the Fuzzy Mountain String Band recording at the Old Town School of Folk Music site [3]
Hear Paul Tyler's slow [4] and fast [5] versions at the Old Town School of Folk Music site.
Hear/see Lester McCumbers play the tune on youtube.com [6]




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