Annotation:Run Johnny Run (1)

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X:1 T:Run, Boy, Run S:Eck Robertson (Texas) M:C| L:1/8 D: Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G [D2d2]-|[Dd]edB G3G|AGAc B2[D2d2]-|[Dd]edB G3G|BG A2 G2[D2d2]-|| [Dd]edB G3G|AGAc B2[D2d2]-|[Dd]edB G3G|1 BG A2 G2:|2 BG A2 G3B|| d2e2g2ga|b2b2g3a|bb a2g2d2|edBA B2d2| dde2g2ga|bb b2g3a|b2a2g2d2|edBA B2||

RUN, JOHNNY, RUN [1]. AKA - "Pateroller'll Catch You," "Run, N....r, Run," "Run Smoke Run," "Run Boy Run." American, Reel. USA; Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas. G Major (most versions): D Major (Mississippi fiddlers W.E. Claunch and Stephen Tucker). Standard tuning (fiddle). AA (Thede), AB (Brody, Silberberg): AABB (Christeson/1973, Ford): AA'BB (Phillips). AABBCCDD (Christeson, 1984). The tune has wide dissemination throughout the South, Mid-West and Southwest United States. It was described by Charles Wolfe (1997) as a “favorite from Georgia” that made its way southwest into Texas. "Run, Johnny, Run" (or one of the alternate titles) was one of the 'set tunes' a fiddler would be asked to play at some old fiddle contests, for comparative purposes, and prizes would be given for the best rendition. One structured contest of this type was recorded to have taken place in 1899 in Gallatin, Tenn. {Charles Wolfe, The Devil's Box, vol. 14, No. 4, 12/1/80}. Georgia’s Fiddlin’ John Carson played the tune in the April, 1913, Atlanta fiddler’s contest (as recorded by the Atlanta Journal of Wed. April, 2nd). "Run, Johnny, Run" (or AKA) was played at a contest in Verbena (central Alabama) in 1921, as described in the Union Banner of October 27, 1921.

The widespread early dissemination of the reel was demonstrated by early collectors. It was in the repertoire of the John Lusk Band, an African-American string band from the Cumberland Plateau region of Ky/Tenn. border (under the title "Pateroller'll Catch You"?). Folklorist Alan Lomax recorded folk versions from at least two different sources, one in 1933 from a prisoner named Moses Platt, and another in 1937 from a white fiddler named W. H. Stepp. The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's, and for the same institution in 1939 by Herbert Halpert from the playing of Mississippi fiddlers Stephen B. Tucker (Lauderdale County) and W.E. Claunch (Guntown). The title appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Kentucky fiddler Doc Roberts knew the tune by the title "Run N….r, Run," but his 78 RPM recorded version was released as "Run Smoke, Run," suggesting a more sensitive re-titling either by him or the recording company; the record sold a modest 9,000 copies when released.

"Run, Johnny, Run" is also has evocative lyrics, and can be considered in the category of song-tune, where both instrumental and sung strains are interspersed; some versions giving more weight to the words, others to the music, and others fairly evenly balanced. Versions of the words have been dated by some to pre-Civil War times when horse-mounted patrols were formed in nearly every Southern county with a sizable slave population to ensure the slaves stayed on the plantation and did not "wander". This was especially so after the scare of the slave insurrections of the 1820's and 1830's. Some version of the words emphasize the plight of escaping slaves, but others transfer the fears of discovery and capture to the makers of illicit liquor distillers. Bruce Hutton is of the opinion that the song goes back to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 when frontiersmen revolted against government regulation, tying it in with the anxiety of marginalized people subject to the repressive acts of those in power.

The words to the songs vary, but the theme is always similar. Charles Wolfe (1991) found the tune/song in older collections such as White's Serenaders' Songbook (1851, p. 66), Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus and His Friends: Old Plantation Stories, Songs and Ballads (200), and E.C. Perrow’s Songs and Rhymes of the South (1915, p. 138). The Whites Serenaders Song Book version is presented as a narrative in which a slave, known as Mr. Bones, recounts the tale of his escape, interspersed with cries from the audience of "What, Mr. Bones". In this version, the escapee is caught temporarily, but escapes at great speed after he "left my heel tied round de tree". The following lyric appears in African-American collector Thomas Talley’s Negro Folk Rhymes (reprinted in 1991, edited by Charles Wolfe):

Run, Nigger[1], run! De Patter-rollers’ll ketch you
Run, Nigger, run! It’s almos’ day.

Dat Nigger run’d, dat Nigger flew,
Dat Nigger tore his shu’t in two.

All over dem woods and frou de paster,
Dem Patter-rollers shot; but de Nigger git faster.

Oh, dat Nigger whir’d, dat Nigger wheel’d,
Dat Nigger tore up de whole co’n field.

Marion Thede collected this couplet sung with the tune in Oklahoma in the mid-1960's:

Jumped over the fence as slick as an eel,
White man grab nigger right by the heel;
Run, Nigger, Run the patteroler catch you,
Run, Nigger, Run you better get away.

Another set goes:

Johnny came down to the moonshine still in the bottom of the holler at the foot of the hill;
He woke up about the break of day and he thought he heard his grandpa say:

Run, Johnny, Run, the Federals'll get you,
Run, Johnny, Run, you'd better get away.

Johnny stopped at the top of the hill and he saw them Federals around his still;
They busted his coil and his boiler too, started drinking his mountain dew.

The Feds caught Johnny makin' a run and they took him up to Washington;
Set him to work for the government makin' moonshine for the President.

Johnny got rich at the government stills and he run away to his home in the hills;
Now the Federals are on his tracks, he still owes a dollar on the whiskey tax. ...... (Kuntz)

See also Melvin Wine's "Paddy/Patty O will Catch You."

Additional notes

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 238. R.P. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; p. 91. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 2), 1984; p. 50. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; p. 37. Kuntz (Ragged but Right), 1987; pp. 203-204. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 204. Ruth (Pioneer Western Folk Tunes), 1948; No. 54, p. 20. Silberberg (93 Fiddle Tunes I Didn’t Learn at the Tractor Tavern), 2004; p. 37. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 134 (appears as “Run Smoke Run”). Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 135 (as "Run Preacher Run"). Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; p. 63.

Recorded sources : - Brunswick 275 (78 RPM), Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters (1928. Nashville, Tenn.). Brunswick (78 RPM), Uncle Dave Macon, 1925. Cassette C-7625, Wilson Douglas - "Back Porch Symphony." County 412, Doc Roberts - "Fiddling Doc Roberts" (1983. Appears as "Run, Smoke, Run"). County 526, "The Skillet Lickers, vol. 2" (1973). County 750, Kenny Baker - "Grassy Fiddle Blues." Davis Unlimited 33015, Doc Roberts - "Classic Fiddle Tunes" (appears as "Run, Smoke, Run"). Folkways 2402, Bruce Hutton - "Old Time Music...It's All Around." Gennett 6689 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (1928). Okeh (78 RPM), Fiddlin' John Carson, 1924. Rounder 0037, J.P. and Annadeene Fraley - "Wild Rose of the Mountain." Rounder 1005, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers - "Hear These New Fiddle and Guitar Records" (appears as "Run, N….r, Run"). Rounder CD1518, Various Performers – “American Fiddle Tunes” (1971. Played by W.H. Stepp). Sonyatone 201, Eck Robertson - "Master Fiddler" (appears as "Run, Boy, Run"). Victor Records (78 RPM), Eck Robertson (1929. 2nd fiddler by Dr. J.B. Cranfill). Vocalion 15032 (78 RPM), Uncle Dave Macon (1925).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]

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