Prettiest Girl in the County

Find traditional instrumental music
Jump to: navigation, search

X:1 T:Prettiest Little Girl in the County-o M:4/4 L:1/8 R:Reel S:Skillet Lickers (north Georgia, 1920’s) Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G gage dged|Bd2d d2 eg|gage dfed|BG2G G2| g2g2d2 ed|Bd2d d2ef|gage dfed|B[G2B2][GB] [G2B2]|| G2G2 GBAG|EG2G G3D|G2G2 GBAG|EDDE D2 DE| G2G2 GBAG|EG2G G3D|G2G2 GBAG|E2D2D D2||

PRETTIEST (LITTLE) GIRL IN THE COUNTY(-O). AKA - "Prettiest Little Girl in the Country-O," "Purtiest Gal in the Country." AKA and see “Old Aunt Jenny,” "Prosperity Breakdown." American, Reel with Vocals. USA, fairly common in the South. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). ABB (Titon): AABB (Rosenbaum). Mark Wilson (Rounder Records) finds this widely disseminated fiddle tune derivative of a song in minstrel songsters of the 1840's:

For my ole massa tole me so,
I was the best lookin' N_____ in the County O,
I look in de glass and I found it so,
Jus' what massa told me O.[1]

Wilson also notes the tune and lyrics can be found in play party context as well[2].

The tune is similar in its melodic countour to "What're We Gonna Do with the Baby-O" and to “Turkey Buzzard.” R.P. Christeson notes similarity to his “Sugar in the Coffee” (Old Time Fiddler’s Repertory, vol. II, No. 129). "A popular 19th century fiddle and play party tune well remembered by older informants across the South" (Charles Wolfe). Jeff Titon says the tune is generally well known in the South, but not frequently found in the repertoires of Kentucky fiddlers. Alan and Elizabeth Lomax recorded the tune for the Library of Congress from the playing of fiddler George C. Nicholson, and John Lomax collected it for the LOC in 1935 from the playing of Texas fiddler J.H. Hudson and banjo player J.D. Dillingham. See also African-American collector Thomas Tally’s No. 41. Verses are commonly sung to the last line of the 'B' part, such as:

Cornstalk fiddle and pea vine bow,
Gwine take Sal to the party.
Swing 'em like you love 'em,
The boys are not above 'em.
Little more sugar in the coffee-o,
Swing Sal to the party.
Prettiest little girl in the country-o,
Mommy and Daddy told me so. ... [Skillet Lickers]

Prettiest little girl in the country-o,
Papa and mama both said so.
All dressed up in calico,
I'm gonna take her to the party-o.
I can get her if I want her,
I can get her if I want her. .... [Gordon Tanner]

Prettiest little girl in the county oh
How do I know, cause she told me so. .... [Gene Goforth]


Cornstalk fiddle and a pea-vine bow,
Gonna take Sal to the party-o.

Although it is a different tune, "Prettiest Girl in the Country" has a similar melodic contour to “Miss Sally at the Party”, with shared rhythm in the word couplet and even shared words—“Sal(ly) to the party-o.” The North Georgia old-time band the Skillet Lickers renamed the reel "Prosperity Breakdown" in praise of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies, and played it once through on their 1934 skit-medley "Prosperity and Politics Part 1." See also note for "Cornstalk Fiddle."

Additional notes
Source for notated version : - Gordon Tanner (Dacula, Gwinnett County, Georgia) [Rosenbaum]; Jake Phelps and Street Butler (Pea Ridge, Todd County, Ky., 1965) [Titon].

Printed sources : - Rosenbaum (Folk Visions and Voices: Traditional Music and Song in North Georgia), 1989; p. 111. Titon (Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 129, p. 156.

Recorded sources : - Berea College Appalachian Center AC002, Clyde Davenport – “Puncheon Camps” (1992). Columbia 15315 (78 RPM), Clayton McMichen (1928). Davis Unlimited DU 32028, W.L. Gregory – “Homemade Stuff” (1978). Folkways FTS 31062, "Ship in the Clouds: Old Time Instrumental Music" (1978. Learned from the Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett recording). Library of Congress AFS 00539 B02, J.D. Dillingham & J.H. Hudson (1935). Rounder 1023, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers (North Ga.) - "The Kickapoo Medecine Show" (1980, originally recorded 1924). Rounder CD-0388, Gene Goforth – “Emminence Breakdown” (1997). Voyager VRLP 328-S, "Kenny Hall and the Long Haul String Band" (learned from the 1924 Skillet Lickers recording). Recorded for the Library of Congress by W.A. Bledsoe (Meridian, Mississippi), 1939.

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear the Skillet Lickers skit "Prosperity and Politics" on youtube [2]
Hear Texas fiddler J.H. Hudson and banjo player J.D. Dillingham's 1935 LOC recording at Slippery Hill [3]
Hear a field recording of Charley Kahana, made when he was 91 years old, at [4] (starting about 1:30). Hear Oklahoma fiddler Tom Fuller's 1973 field recording by Brad Leftwich at Slippery Hill [5]

Back to Prettiest Girl in the County

(0 votes)

  1. The lyrics can appear sinister, in view of the legacy of sexual exploitation and sexual aggression in the power disparity of slave/owner relations.
  2. Liner notes to Rounder 11661-0133-2, "Art Galbraith, James River Fiddler: Dixie Blossoms" (2007, extended reissue).