Old Time Rocks

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X:1 T:Old Times Rocks C:Zeke Backus M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Sand Jig B:Coes Album of Jigs and Reels, something new, for professional and amateur violinists, B:leaders of orchestras, quadrille bands, and clog, reel and jig dancers; consisting of a B:Grand Collection of entirely New and Original Clog-Hornpipes, Reels, jigs, B:Scotch Reels, Irish Reels and Jigs, Waltzes, Walk-Arounds, etc. (1876, p. 36) N:Coes performed with the San Francisco Minstrels in California from 1852 to 1859. Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:D S(3e/f/g/|ab z/a/f/d/|z/g/f/d/ e/d/B/A/|z/f/ g f/d/e/c/|d/e/f/g/ af/g/| ab z/a/f/d/|z/g/f/d/ e/d/B/A/|z/f/ g f/d/e/c/|d/B/A/F/ E/D/F/A/:| z/G/c/d/ A/F/E/D/|z/A/B/G/ A/F/E/D/|z/A/c/d/ A/F/E/D/|1d/d/ (3d/d/d/ f/d/e/c/:|2 d/B/A/F/ E/D/F/A/||



OLD TIMES ROCKS. American, 'Sand Jig' (2/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The tune "Old Times Rocks" was attributed by George H. Coes to blackface minstrel fiddler Zeke Backus," who perhaps was Coes' source and not the composer. Old Times Rocks was a burlesque or walk-around performed by one of the most famous minstrel troupes, Bryant's Minstrels, throughout the Civil War years through 1869, and has been attributed to the famous minstrel performer and songwriter Dan Emmett. The attribution to Emmett may refer to the stage production of the 'walk-around' of that name in which each performer in the troupe was showcased in turn, often the conclusion of the show. Emmett (or Backus) may or may not have composed the music. Old Time's Rocks Songster was also the name of a minstrel era songbook, published around 1877.

Constance Rourke, in her book American Humor: A Study of the National Character (1959) gives this rationalization for cultural appropriation [Chapt. 3]:

Many minstrels had lived in the South and West and knew the Negro at first hand. One of them saw an old peddler of watermelons with a donkey cart in a Georgia town, followed him about until he had mastered his lingo, cries, snatches of song, as well as his odd manner. The portrayals, so freshly caught, were whole and rich. Emotion welled up in the small acts and through the olios in spite of crude stage contrivances. Forrest, who had long since become a tragic actor, declared that he knew no finer piece of tragic acting than the broadly comic impersonation of Dan Bryant as the hungry Negro in Old Times Rocks.

A 'sand jig' was a type of syncopated duple-time dance tune, usually played on the banjo (akin to a schottische or hornpipe).


Additional notes



Printed sources : - George H. Coes (Coes Album of Jigs and Reels, something new, for professional and amateur violinists, leaders of orchestras, quadrille bands, and clog, reel and jig dancers; consisting of a Grand Collection of entirely New and Original Clog-Hornpipes, Reels, jigs, Scotch Reels, Irish Reels and Jigs, Waltzes, Walk-Arounds, etc.), 1876; p. 36.






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