Sally Johnson (1)

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X:1 T:Sally Johnson [1] N:From the playing of Eck Robertson (1887-1975, Borger, Texas) M:C L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Fast" D:Victor 19372 (78 RPM), Eck Robertson (1924) D:Rounder CO 3515, "Eck Robertson: Old Time Texas Fiddler" (1998) D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/sally-johnson-0 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G [GA]-[G2B2]B AGEF|GABd ef[d2g2]|[GA]-[G2B2]B AGE2|DEGB A(G[G2B2])| ([GB]A)[GB][GB] AGEF|GABd efga|gedc BGAG|DEGB A(G[G2B2]):| |:[B3g3]a b-ab-a|gbag efge|dgga b-ab-a|gbag e2e2| dgga b-ab-a|g-bag e2e2|dgga b-ab-a|gbag efga| gedc BGAG|EFGB A(G[G2B2]):||



Old time fiddler Eck Robertson; Victor publicity photo or another early take from Robertson, dating back before 1923

SALLY JOHNSON [1]. AKA and see "Katy Hill (1)." American, Reel (cut time). USA; Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Iowa. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (Brody, Phillips, Thede). The title is often confused with "Sally Ann Johnson," a different tune altogether in the same key. “Sally Johnson,” however is almost identical with the tune “Katy Hill (1),” at least in modern versions. Mark Wilson (in liner notes to Dwight Lamb’s 2005 Rounder album “Hell Agin the Barn Door”) says that older versions of both tunes only had a rough affinity in the high (second) strain, and “originally possessed completely different identities.” Wilson thinks the simplification of the melody stemmed from fiddlers on the Grand Ole Opry, who used “Sally Johnson” as vehicle to demonstrate performance skills at ever-faster tempos, as the ‘hoedown’ genre became increasingly distanced from its original function as an accompaniment to dancing. Occasionally fiddlers will play the tune in four parts, as does Iowa fiddler Lamb and the late Jim Herd, originally from Missouri, whose playing Wilson believes reflects both the older and newer versions of the tune. There is no doubt it was a popular and widespread melody of some age. Marion Thede (1967), who collected in the Midwest, says: "One of the fiddlers learned the strains of ‘Sally Johnson’ in 1884 from a man of seventy who first learned it as a child of ten. It was a well-known tune during his childhood, and today nearly all fiddlers still play this tune." Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner identified it as an "old Texas tune. Buddy Durham, Ft. Worth (Texas) plays it best of all" (Shumway, Frontier Fiddler, 1990). Indeed, it was recorded by many fiddlers from Texas in the 78 RPM era, including Eck Robertson (in 1923, who played it in a medley with “Billy in the Lowground (1),” backed with “Done Gone (1)”), Solomon and Hughes (Bluebird), The Lewis Brothers (Victor 40172), and Oscar Harper’s Texas String Band--it is still a frequently heard tune at Texas fiddler’s contests. "Sally Johnson" was recorded for the Library of Congress by folklorist/musicologist Vance Randolph from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's. Although associated in more recent times with Midwest and Southwest fiddlers, it was not exclusive to those regions for Georgia fiddler Lowe Stokes recorded it in 1930, and the Kentucky/Tennessee duo of fiddler Leonard Rutherford and guitarist John Foster recorded it for Gennett Records in 1929 (however, although the record was issued a copy has never been found). Other early recordings include The Cartwright Brothers (1927) and the West Virginia's Kessinger Brothers (1929). Drew Beisswenger points to similarities with “Lady on a Steamboat.”


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 57. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 248. Stephen F. Davis (The Devil's Box), vol. 33, No. 3, Fall 1999; p. 26. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 211. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 138. Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; p. 92.

Recorded sources : - Columbia 15620 (78 RPM), 1930, Lowe Stokes (north Ga.). County 202, "Eck Robertson: Famous Cowboy Fiddler." County 517, The Lewis Brothers - "Texas Farewell." County 517, Solomon, Solomon, and Hughes - "Texas Farewell." County 544, Lowe Stokes - "Georgia Fiddle Bands." County 733, Clark Kessinger - "The Legend of Clark Kessinger" (appears as "Sally Ann Johnson"). Document DOCD8045, Lowe Stokes in Chronological Order, vol. 1: 1927-1930 (reissue, 1999). Document Records DOCD-8038, Soloman and Hughes – “Texas Fiddle Bands” (1998. Reissue recording). Elektra EKS 7285, The Dillards with Byron Berline - "Pickin' and Fiddlin.'" Folkways FW31007_211, The McGee Brothers and Arthur Smith – “Milk ‘Em in the Evening Blues” (1968). Front Hall FHR-017, Michael & McCreesh - "Dance, Like a Wave of the Sea" (1978). Gennett 6913 (78 RPM), Burnett and Rutherford (1929). Global Village C-302, Lazy Aces - "New York City's 1st Annual String Band Contest - November 1984". Marimac 9008, The Lazy Aces - "Still Lazy after all These Years" (1986). Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers' Association, Pete McMahon - "Kansas City Rag." Rounder 0046, Mark O'Connor - "National Junior Fiddle Champion." Rounder Records CD 0529, Dwight Lamb – “Hell Agin the Barn Door” (2005). Rounder Records CD 0437, Jim Herd – “Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks, vol. 3” (2000. Various artists). Sonyatone 201, Eck Robertson - "Master Fiddler." Victor 19372 (78 RPM), Eck Robertson (Texas) {1924} [as "Sallie Johnson"]. Victor Vi V-40244 (78 RPM), {Ervin} Solomon & {Joe} Hughes (1929. A twin fiddle version). Voyager 309, Benny & Jerry Thomasson - "The Weiser Reunion" (1993).

See also listing at :
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
See/hear Vi Wickham and Tony Ludicker play the tune [2]
Hear Eck Robertson's recording at Slippery Hill [3]
Hear the Lewis Brothers' recording at Slippery Hill [4]
Hear J.D. Dillingham's recording at Slippery Hill [5]
Hear J.C. Foster's L.o.C. recording at Slippery Hill [6]



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