Annotation:Sugar Hill

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X:1 T:Sugar Hill N:From the playing of fiddler Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985, Mt. Airy, western N.C.) M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel N:ADae tuning (fiddle) D: D:County 741, Jarrell, Cockerham & Jenkins - Stay all Night (1973) Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:D a2-|abag ffd2|edc2 d2a2-|abag f2d2|{A}B3c BA(ef| a2)a2 ab a2|ffed d2[df]d|edBA A2Bc|[D3d3]d [D2d2](ea-| a)bag fed2| ed ed(fa-|a)bag f<ed2|{A}B3c BA(ef| a2)a2 ab a2|fded d2[df]d|edBA A2 Bc|[D3d3]d [D2d2]|| P:"A version of this following part is played behind vocal for B1, then alone for B2." AB|ddd2 +slide+fdd2|fded BABd-|ddd2 [d=f]-[d^f]d2|{A}B3c BABd-| ddd2 +slide+fdd2|fded Bd[df][df]|fdBA A2Bc|(D[D2d2]) (D[D2d2])||

SUGAR HILL. AKA and see "Sailing on the Ocean." American, Reel and Song. USA; Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia. D Major. ADae tuning (fiddle). AABB. There are various thoughts about the origin of the title. Davidson (notes to Folkways 2477) thought it probably referred to drunken binges during “sugaring-off”, or the process of heating collected sap to make maple sugar. Another observation is that the song has African American roots and 'Sugar hill' is said to signify the 'wild part of town', the red-light district. Mike Yates (2002) reports that “Sugar Hill” is “believed to have been composed by George Washington Dixon some time prior to 1827,” a version of which was published in New York in 1855 in Christy’s Negro Songster, a mid-19th century collection of black-face minstrel songs. The title appears in a list of traditional Ozarks Mountains fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954, and the tune is sometimes found in that region under the title “Bunker Hill (4).” The tune has come to be identified with Galax, Va., style string bands and it has also been described as a classic Surrey County, North Carolina, number. The association with the area is probably due in part to the fact that the first commercial recordings of the tune were by Ballard Branch, Virginia, fiddler (Davey) Crockett Ward and His Boys (1928), and, on a Brunswick 78, by Dad Crockett (1929). Yates finds it related to a Kentucky tune called “Jenny Get Around.”

Five cents in my pocket change, two dollars in my bill;
If I had ten dollars more I'd climb old Sugar Hill.

Possum sittin' on a 'simmon tree, cider's in my mill,
And if I had ten dollars more I'd climb on Sugar Hill.

If I hadn't no horse to ride, I'd be found a walkin',
Up and down old Toenail Gap, you can hear my woman talkin'.

Jaybird and the sparrow hawk, they had a fight together,
They took all around the briar patch, went to it down to a feather. [all verses preceding from Jarrell/Cockerham/Jenkins]

Squirrel's got a bushy tail, Possum's tail is bare,
Rabbit ain't got no tail at all, just a little old piece of hair.

Possum up a simmon tree, raccoon on the ground,
Raccoon says, "Hey, Possum, won't you toss them simmons down.”

'I'm getting lonesome for my gal, I want a drink of rye.
I'm going on to Sugar Hill, or know the reason why!

If you want to get your eye knocked out, if you want to get your fill,
If you want to get your eye knocked out, go on to Sugar Hill.

The phrase ‘getting your eye knocked out’ in the last verse refers to copulation, according to fiddler Tom Paley. Banjo player Dan Tate, of Fancy Gap, Carroll County, Virginia, sang the following verses for Mike Yates in 1979:

Sugar Hill’s a big old hill, forty miles around;
Take my broad axe in my hand and hew the mountain down.

Run little Betty run, run little Betty run,
Run little Betty, poor girl, I’m bound to have some fun.

Missus had an old blue cow, I know the hour she was born,
Take a jaybird forty years to fly from horn to horn.

The Virginia Mountain Boomers (The Sweet Brothers with vocals by Ernest Stoneman) recorded a song called “Sugar Hill” (in G major), actually it is the song “Devilish Mary” with the chorus of “Sugar Hill” tacked on.

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - Fuzzy Mountain String Band (North Carolina) [Brody]; Tommy Jarrell (1901-1985, Toast, North Carolina), who learned it from his father, Ben Jarrell, fiddler with DaCosta Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters in the early 20th century [Jack Tuttle/Fiddler Magazine]; Emmett Lundy (southwestern Va.) [Jody Stecher's "Cross Tuning Workshop", Fiddler Magazine/Spring 2001].

Printed sources : - Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 269. Fiddler Magazine, Spring 1995; p. 28. Fiddler Magazine, vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 2001; p. 40. Kuntz (Ragged but Right), 1987; p. 303 304. Susan Songer with Clyde Curley (Portland Collection vol. 3), 2015; p. 204.

Recorded sources: -Biograph 6003, "The Original Bogtrotters." Copper Creek CCCD 0193, Bill and Libby Hicks – “South of Nowhere.” County 534, "Round the Heart of Old Galax, vol. II." County 2702, Tommy Jarrell & Fred Cockerham - "Tommy and Fred." Folkways 31109, Tommy Jarrell – “Been Riding with Old Mosby” (1986). Heritage 054, The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers "Brandywine '83: Music of French America" (1984). Heritage Records, “June Apple, Old Time Fiddling & Clawhammer Banjo, Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Audine Lineberry & Bobby Patterson” (1972). June Appal 0067, Roan Mountain Hilltoppers - "Seedtime on the Cumberland" (1992). Merimac 9000, Dan Gellert & Shoofly "Forked Deer" (1986. Learned from Fields Ward "and elsewhere," slightly different than Tommy Jarrell's version). Musical Traditions MTCD321-2, Dan Tate – “Far in the Mountains, vols. 1 & 2” (2002). Rounder 0035, Fuzzy Mountain String Band "Summer Oaks and Porch" (1973. Learned from Tommy Jarrell). Rounder CD 0371, Mac Benford and the Woodshed All-Stars - “Willow” (1996). Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40193, Tommy Jarrell – “Classic Old Time Fiddle” (2007. Reissue recordings). String (Topic) 802, “Emmett W. Lundy: Fiddle Tunes from Grayson County, Virginia; Recorded in Galax for the Library of Congress, 1941” (1977).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer’s Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Jarrell/Cockerham/Jenkins 1973 recording at Slippery Hill [2]
Hear Ernest East's 1981 recording at Slippery Hill [3]
Hear Arkansas fiddler Eugene Dodd's 1963 festival recording at Slippery Hill [4]

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