Smoke behind the Clouds
X:1 T:Smoke behind the Clouds N:From the playing of fiddler Jess Young (southeast Tenn.) M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Quick" D:Silvertone 4011 (78 RPM), Homer Davenport & the Young Brothers (1925) D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/smoke-behind-clouds Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:G g2g2g3B|g2g2gaga|g2d2 B2G2|[A3a3][Aa] [A2a2] D2-| Daa-b a2g2|f2d2f2d2 |fgfe dcBA|G2G6:| b4g4|dedc +slide+B3G|A2G2E2G2|c4 [E4c4]| a3b a2g2|f3g f2[d2f2] |fgfe dcBA|G2 G4|| |:D2-|D2G2 GA G2|GGG2 G3D-|D-G2AG2G2|A3A A2D2-| DFAF A2A2| ABAF A2Dd |fgfe dcBA|G2G4:|
SMOKE BEHIND THE CLOUDS. AKA and see "Smoke above the Clouds." American, Reel (cut time). USA; Ky., Tenn. A "genuine regional favorite of southeastern Tenn. fiddlers, showing up in the repertoires of Lowe Stokes' band The Georgia Organ Grinders, Bob Douglas, and even a black string band from the north end of the (Tenn./Ky. Cumberland) valley headed by John Lusk" (Charles Wolfe, The Devil's Box, Dec. 1981, vol. 15, No. 4, p. 55). Lusk's string band included Murph Gribble on banjo and Albert York on guitar, and was recorded in Campaign, Warren County, Tenn., in Sept., 1946, for the Library of Congress by Margaret Mayo, Stu Jamieson and Simon. Chattanooga, Tenn., area coal miner and fiddler Jess Young recorded the tune in 1925 with his brother Alvin on guitar and Homer Davenport on banjo. The Ozarks collected "Sam Taylor's Tune" has similarities, as does "Julianne Flanagan."
The tune, or, at least, the title for a fiddle tune, predates its early 20th century popularity, for it is mentioned in a book by George Morgan called John Littlejohn of J.: Being in Particular an Account of His Remarkable Entanglement with the King's Intrigues against George Washington (1896), which purports to be a memoir of a burly American soldier during the Revolutionary War. It was written a decade or so after the Centennial of that conflict. The book is written with considerable hyperbole, and one breathless battle passage mentions the tune title:
''The ladies [i.e. British soldiers] had gathered about the fire, and, naturally, the thing for me to do was to lose myself behind their skirts. As I dashed into the huddle I gave the old hoe-down cry of the dancers to the fiddler: "Smoke Behind the Clouds!" How they screamed! How they scattered!' ... [p. 97].
This would seem to indicate that it was either a favorite tune that people would demand the fiddler play, or it was a phrase urging the fiddler to play.
The Skillet Lickers circle of musicians, which variously included fiddlers Lowe Stokes, Bert Layne and Clayton McMichen as well as Gid Tanner, played the tune. It was recorded in 1929 by Stokes group the Georgia Organ grinders (Layne & McMichen on fiddles, while Stokes played a portable organ). By this time there were words set to the tune, sung on the recording by vocalist Dan Hornsby:
I went to see my Betsy,
And boy she's struttin' proud;
She lives out on the mountain,
Where there's smoke behind the clouds.
Oh, ho, pretty little gal,
All dressed up so fine;
I took her to Chattanooga,
And a preacher made her mine.
My little gal on the mountain,
As happy as can be;
She lives on Lookout Mountain,
Way down in Tennessee.
I went to see my gal last night,
She said she loved me some,
I throwed my arms around her neck,
I thought my time had come.
I went to see my gal last night,
Pleasure I was seekin';
I went to kiss and missed her mouth,
And found her nose a-tweakin'.