Ten Cent Cotton

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X:1 T:Ten Cent Cotton N:From the playing of Eck Robertson (1887-1975, Borger, Texas) N:A version of "East Tennessee Blues" M:C L:1/8 R:Country Rag Q:"Moderately Quick" D:Rounder CO 3515, "Eck Robertson: Old Time Texas Fiddler" (1998) D:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAORrPadF9Q D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/sally-johnson-0 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:C ef|gage gage|ga2g e2d2|cdcA cdcA|cd2c A2G2| gage gage|ga2g e2 Bc|ddg2 d2g2|ddge g2ef| gage gage|ga2g e2d2|cdcA cdcA|cd2c A2G2| GGAc B2d2|e-g2g agec|cd2c d2 e2|[c4e4]- [c2e2]:| |:ef|gage ga2g|+slide+[e4e4]- [e2e2]ed|cdcA cd2c|+slide+[A4A4]-[A2A2]g-e| gage ga2g|+slide+[e4e4]- [e2e2](Bc|d2)g2d2g2|dggd g2ef| gage ga2g|+slide+[e4e4]- [e2e2]ed|cdcA cd2c|+slide+[A4A4]-[A2A2](EF| G2)Ac B2d2|e-g2g agec|cd2c d2 e2|[c4e4]- [c2e2]:|

TEN CENT COTTON. AKA and see "East Tennessee Blues." American, Country Rag (cut time). C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "Ten Cent Cotton" is a rather inferior setting of "East Tennessee Blues", from the usually reliable Texas fiddler Eck Robertson (1887-1975). The last four measures of the stains (repeated in both parts) are awkward compared with the smooth delivery of The Hill Billies 1926 recording of "East Tennessee Blues."

Prices for cotton at the turn of the 20th century were quite good. The World's Work, a 1905 publication, proudly boasted:

The cotton crop in the last two years [1902-1903] has brought the South more than enough money to pay off the national debt, That was the year of the second great emancipation. It meant financial independence for more than eleven million people. The proclamation was just the three words, "ten cent cotton" [1].

This seems to indicate the phrase "ten cent cotton" was in familiar usage in the early 20th century. Illustrating that things are relative, however, thirty years later the same three-word statement had come to mean the opposite of prosperity. The "Ten Cent Cotton" title mirrors piano player Bob Miller's song, copyrighted under the title "'Leven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat" (also called "Seven Cent Cotton Forty Cent Meat" in folk versions), which refersto the Depression-era low price per pound paid for picking cotton and the relatively high price paid for meat. The song was absorbed into folk tradition, sung by field workers themselves, and picked up by folksingers such as Pete Seegar. Miller's song, however, uses a different tune. Similarly, Son House complained "Pork chops forty-five cents a pound, cotton is only ten" [2] and Bo Carter and Walter Jacobs lamented, "ten cent cotton and twenty cent meat, how in the world can a poor man eat?" [3]. Uncle Dave Macon helped to popularize the theme, singing Miller's words at the Grand Old Opry, again with a different melody.

Additional notes

See also listing at :
Hear Eck Robertson's recording at youtube.com [1] and at Slippery Hill [2]

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  1. Walter & Arthur Page, "The Cotton Growers," The World's Work: A History of Our Time, Volume 11, 1905, p. 7052.
  2. Son House, "Dry Spell Blues", Paramound 12990, 1930).
  3. Bo Carter & Walter Jacobs, "Times is Tight Like That", OKeh 8858, 1930).