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Welcome to The Traditional Tune Archive
The Semantic Index of North American, British and Irish
traditional instrumental music with annotation, formerly known as
The Fiddler's Companion.

Featured tune:           MAD MOLL (aka The Peacock Followed The Hen)

Cripple Creek2.jpg

The tune had and still has wide currency throughout the South, although more popular in the Appalachians than in the Midwest. There have been several suggestions about the origin of the title and tune, with modern speculations that 'cripple' refers to a 'crooked' or meandering stream. The Oxford English Dictionary lists two relevant American meanings of 'cripple' current in the 19th century: a) a dense thicket in swampy or low-lying ground, and b) a lumberman's term for a rocky shallow in a stream. Folklorist Alan Jabbour, of the Library of Congress found that the oldest Appalachian fiddlers he collected from could recall the first time that they had heard "Cripple Creek," leading Jabbour to speculate that the title might have something to do with the Cripple Creek, Colorado, labor troubles. Gold had been discovered there in 1891 and the labor disputes date from 1903–1904.

Jabbour may be right, although not only was Cripple Creek an important mining town, but it also had a reputation-the town featured several brothels, including Ella Holden's The Library, Pearl Sevan's Old Faithful, and Hazel Vernon's Old Homestead. In 1897 Hazel sold her establishment, intent on a comfortable retirement in California, and Pearl DeVere took it over. Pearl, however, ran into financial problems, and one night, The Cripple Creek Times article of the time reported, "a gay party was in full swing when Pearl excused herself, saying that she felt indisposed. She refused to let anyone go with her to her room. She was in high spirits all evening, a woman said, and never seemed happier or more carefree." Pearl took an intentional overdose of morphine, and was found the next morning, fully clothed and sprawled across her bed. Her assets did not cover the cost of her burial, and an appeal was made for donations "to give the little girl a real sendoff", as one Bennett Ave. bartender was heard to remark. Indeed, it was reputed to have been Colorado's biggest funeral to that date, featuring contingents from the local fire companies, the Elk's band, and men from Union Hall. Women from the dance halls and brothels decked themselves out and rode behind in rented carriages. All heard the Reverend Franklin in the January cold deliver a short eulogy based on the parable, "let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

Many think the tune and title older than the turn of the 20th century labor disputes, and point out an equally likely candidate for the title's origins lie with the Cripple Creek that flows through Grayson and Carroll Counties in Virginia, emptying into the New River. Betty Vornbrock reports that there is a 'town' by the name of Cripple Creek south of Wytheville, in Wythe County adjacent to Grayson County, near Elk Creek and Bull Mountain (both in Grayson). The story she heard is that "hunters were on the trail of a large buck elk who led them over Buck Mountain, then along and across Elk Creek and on up north till they shot him, but only crippled him, at Cripple Creek." Mike Yates (2002) confirms that "most Virginia musicians believe that it relates to a location in Wythe County, Virginia." Still, the tune probably has no great antiquity. Glen Lyn, Virginia, fiddler Henry Reed (1884–1968), for example, told Alan Jabbour that he was sixteen years old when he first heard "Cripple Creek." Jabbour explains that Reed said the man who first played it for him was from Texas and was simply passing through the Tug River region (i.e. Tug Fork of Big Sandy River) of the West Virginia/Kentucky border, where Reed and his brother were employed as young men in the coal country region of southern West Virginia doing blacksmith work (which perhaps does argue for western origins for the tune). The English folk-song collector Cecil Sharp picked up a version (called "Gone to Cripple Creek") during his 1917 collecting trip in the Appalachians.

These ditty, or similar rhymes, were collected with the tune from various sources:

Cho: Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' on the run,
Goin' up Cripple Creek, have some/a little fun.

I've got a girl and she loves me, she's as sweet as she can be;
She's got eyes of baby blue, makes my gun shoot straight and true

Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' on the run
Goin' up Cripple Creek to have a little fun
Goin' up Cripple Creek, goin' in a whirl
Goin' up Cripple Creek to see my girl

I got a gal at the head of the creek,
Goin' up to see her 'bout the middle of the week;
Gals up Cripple Creek are only half grown, Jump on a man like a dog on a bone.
Cripple Creek's wide and Cripple Creek's deep,
I'll wade ol' Cripple Creek before I sleep;
Roll my britches to my knees,
I'll wade old Cripple Creek whenever I please.

I went down to Cripple Creek,
To see what them girls had to eat;
I got drunk and fell against the wall,
Old corn likker was the cause of it all. (this stanza is shared with the song "Old Corn Liquor"-see the Frank C. Brown Collection, North Carolina )
Well I married a wife in the month of June, married her up by the light of the moon.
We live down on Cripple Creek, we've been there about a week.

Kiss her on the mouth just as sweet as any wine,
Wraps herself around me like a sweet potato vine!
' Roads are rocky and the hillsides' muddy,
I'm so drunk that I can't stand steady. ......(A floating verse, see also "Sally Goodin.")

Regarding the last two stanzas, Paul Gifford remarks that Bill Bigford (of Portland, Michigan) knew the variant below (sung also to "Pigtown Fling/Stony Point/Old Dad"):

The night was dark and the river was muddy,
Got so damn drunk I couldn't keep steady;
I give a little whoop and I give a little yell,
The horse run away, throwed the buggy all to Hell.

North Carolina banjo player and singer Charlie Poole recorded the song with the North Carolina Ramblers, adding verses which referred to the Shooting Creek region of Franklin County, southwest Virginia, famous for many years as a center for distilling homemade whiskey (becoming notorious for the commodity during the Prohibition). Poole was a frequent visitor, according to Tom Carter and Blanton Owen (1978).

Oh gals, you'd better look sweet,
'Cause there's plenty a more liquor on Shootin' Creek.
Oh gals, you'd better keep still,
'Cause there's plenty a more liquor in them Ivory Hills. ...... (Charlie Poole)

See also Alan Lomax's Folk Songs of North America (1960, p. 232), Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1952, p. 358), and The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, vol. 5 (1952, p. 79) for more lyrics.

In the Mid-west it was recorded from Ozarks Mountains fiddlers in the early 1940's by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph for the Library of Congress. Early commercial recordings include Sam Jones (1924), Fiddlin' Powers (1924), Gid Tanner & Riley Puckett (1924), and Fiddlin' John Carson (1927). See also Virginia fiddler Norman Edmonds' cognate tune "New Jordan."

CRIPPLE CREEK full Score(s) and Annotations and Past Featured Tunes

X:1 T:Cripple Creek M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel K:A AB|c2 Ac BAFA|cBAF E2AB|c2 Ac BAFA|E2 FE A2AB| cBAc BAFA|cBAF E2AB|c2 Ac BAFA|E2 FA A|| (3efg|a2a2eced|d2[d2f2] e2(3efg|a2a2 cccc|B2c2A2(3efg| a2a2eced|d2[d2f2] e2(AB|c2)Ac BEFA|E2FA A2(3efg| abaf eced|d2[d2f2]e2(3efg|abaf e2c2|BA B2 A2(3efg| a2a2eced|d2[d2f2] e2(AB|c2)Ac BEFA|E2FA A2||

Why TTA Who builds the Archive

Although we are not trained musicologists and make no pretense to the profession, we have tried to apply such professional rigors to this Semantic Abc Web as we have internalized through our own formal and informal education.

This demands the gathering of as much information as possible about folk pieces to attempt to trace tune families, determine origins, influences and patterns of aural/oral transmittal, and to study individual and regional styles of performance.
Many musicians, like ourselves, are simply curious about titles, origins, sources and anecdotes regarding the music they play. Who, for example, can resist the urge to know where the title Blowzabella came from or what it means, or speculating on the motivations for naming a perfectly respectable tune Bloody Oul' Hag, is it Tay Ye Want?
Knowing the history of the melody we play, or at least to have a sense of its historical and social context, makes the tune 'present' in the here and now, and enhances our rendering of it.

Andrew Kuntz & Valerio Pelliccioni

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