Flop Eared Mule (1)

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FLOP-EARED MULE [1]. AKA and see "Karo," "Asheville" (western N.C. title), "Big Eared Mule (1)," "Long-Eared Mule" (Don Messer's {Canada} title), "Lop-Eared Mule" (Pennsylvania), "Bluebell Polka (The)," "College Schottische," "D & A Schottische," "Detroit Schottishe," "Ranger's Hornpipe (2)," "Monkey in the Barbershop," "Hell Over the Mountain," "Peach Tree Limb," "Comin' Over the Mountain," "Hell Amongst the Slavish," "D-A Quadrille" (N.Y.), "Wild Geese (2).". Old-Time, Bluegrass, Canadian, American; Schottische, Polka, Quadrille, Breakdown. USA, Widely known. G Major ('A' part) & D Major ('B' part) [G Major in Galax, Va., tradition]. Standard or ADae tunings (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AAB. Mark Wilson (1978) believes the tune is a polka of probable Central-European origin, while Ford (1940) says the tune is derived from the "College Schottische," which it closely resembles. Others point to origins in "Detroit Schottische." Actually, melodies from several traditions sound similar, as, for example, a Ukranian-American 78 RPM record from 1930 (Victor V-21034) called "Dowbush Kozak," the Scandinavian "Visslarepolska fran Ydre Harad" ("Whistler's Polska from Ydre County"), and the Irish tunes "Curlew Hills (The)" and "Little Pet Polka," as well as the English "Bluebell Polka (The)." Lovett (Good Morning...Ford, 1943, p. 100) gives it as "Military Schottische/Barn Dance." Bronner (1987) states that northern United States fiddlers often mentioned to him that the piece was an old-time tune for a schottische dance, also called "Barn Dance (The)," popular in New York state before World War II, though apparently that form of the tune was popular elsewhere in the country at the time (for example, Arizona fiddler Kenner C. Kartchner mentioned he played the melody in the early 1900's as a schottishe). Paul Gifford remarks that it seems reasonable to assume that Flop-eared Mule was derived from the "Detroit Schottische," a three-part melody written and published in 1854 by Adam Couse, a dancing master who owned a music store in Detroit. Other sources remark on the piece's popularity as a vehicle for the quadrille before the turn of the century. Bayard (1981 & 1944) believes "Flop-Eared Mule" to be a fairly modern tune, perhaps from the early 19th century, extremely popular in the South, and speculated that the tune spread north from there. It was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph in the early 1940's from Ozark Mountain fiddlers. Marion Thede, collecting in roughly the same area, gives "Monkey in the Barbershop" as an alternate title. R.P. Christeson gave untitled versions of the tune in his both volumes of Old Time Fiddler's Repertory (as a "Breakdown" in vol. 2, p. 74, and a "Schottische" in vol. 1, p. 159). An early recording of "Flop Eared Mule" by the St. Louis area quadrille band Judge Sturdy Orchestra, featuring fiddler Judge John O. Sturdy, was recorded on a 78 RPM in the mid-1920's-under the title "Old Dan Tucker" (the Judge was calling the figures for Old Dan Tucker on the recording). The tune was in the repertories of Buffalo Valley, Pa., dance fiddler Harry Daddario, and of Black fiddler Cuje Bertram {Ky.} (as "Big-Eared Mule").

The melody was often recorded in the 78 RPM era. Gus Meade (Country Music Sources, 2002) lists some 40 recordings, the earliest being by Kentucky-born William B. Houchens (1884-c.1955), followed by Uncle Jimmy Thompson (1926), Ernest Stoneman (1927), Fiddlin' John Powers (1927), Doc Roberts (1928), the Kessinger Brothers (1929), and the Skillet Lickers (1930). Arkansas "Arkie" Woodchopper recorded it in 1940. North Georgia fiddler Lowe Stokes played a tune called "Fatback" that uses the first strain of "Flop-Eared Mule (1)."

Additional notes

Source for notated version: - Charles Hagan (Oakland, California) [Thede]; John Dingler and Milo Kouf, 1977 (New York State) [Bronner]; Robert Crow, Claysville, Pennsylvania, September 13, 1943 (learned in that region) [Bayard]; Clark Kessinger (W.Va.) [Phillips]; Emanuel Wood (1900-1981, Taney County, Missouri) [Beisswenger & McCann].

Printed sources : -Adam (Old Time Fiddlers' Favorite Barn Dance Tunes), 1928; Nos. 25 & 34. Bayard (Hill Country Tunes), 1944; No. 56. Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 164A-S, pp. 101-107. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 163. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 108. Bronner (Old Time Music Makers of New York State), 1987; No. 42, p. 162. Christeson (Old Time Fiddler's Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; p. 110. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; pp. 121 & 157. Howe (Diamond School for the Violin), 1861; p. 56 (appears as "Detroit Schottische"). Messer (Anthology of Favorite Fiddle Tunes), 1980; p. 44 (appears as "Long-Eared Mule"). Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 89. Reiner (Anthology of Fiddle Styles), 1977; p. 22 (appears as a schottische). Ruth (Pioneer Western Folk Tunes), 1948; No. 24, p. 10. Sanella (Balance and Swing), 1982. Silberberg (Fiddle Tunes I Learned at the Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 45. Thede (The Fiddle Book), 1967; p. 129. Woodchopper (Square Dance Calls with Music and Instructions), 1940; p. 8.

Recorded sources: Bluebird 5658B (78 RPM), Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers (1934). Brunswick 346 (78 RPM), Lonnie Austin (1929). Cassette C-7625, Wilson Douglas – "Back Porch Symphony." County 733, Clark Kessinger – "The Legend of Clark Kessinger." County CO-CD-2711, Kirk Sutphin – "Old Roots and New Branches" (1994). Document Records 8055, "Grayson & Whitter, vol. 2" (Reissue. 1999). Elektra 217, Weisberg and Brickman – "Folk Banjo Styles." F&W Records 4, "The Canterbury Country Orchestra Meets the F&W String Band." Folkways 8826, Per's Four –"Jigs and Reels." Folkways FA 2336, Clark Kessinger – "Fiddler." King 787, Reno and Smiley – "Banjo Special." Living Folk LFR-104, Allan Block – "Alive and Well and Fiddling." MCA Records MCAD 4037, "The Very Best of Don Messer" (1994). Paramount 3171 (78 RPM), 1929, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers. Prize 498-02, Carl Jackson – "Bluegrass Festival." Recorded Anthology of American Music (1978) – "Traditional Southern Instrumental Styles." Rounder 0021, "Ola Belle Reed." Rounder Records, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers – "The Kickapoo Medecine Show" (appears as 1st tune of the Kickapoo Medecine Show skit). CD, Alan Jabbour, James Reed, Bertram Levy – "A Henry Reed Reunion" (2002).


See also listings at : - Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]



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