Raleigh and Spencer

From The Traditional Tune Archive
Jump to: navigation, search

Back to Raleigh and Spencer[edit]


RALEIGH AND SPENCER. AKA and see "Riley and Spencer," "Rylan(d) Spencer." Old-Time, Song Air. USA; western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia. D Major. Standard or DDad tunings. One part. This tune was learned in the early 1920's by source Tommy Jarrell from his brother-in-law, guitarist Jim Gardner, who learned it from a black guitarist named Jim Raleigh or Rawley, 1900-1982). The tune had some currency among white musicians, especially guitarists, in the Galax (Va.)/Mt. Airy (N.C.) region. There are two towns in North Carolina, Raleigh and Spencer, however, the tune may refer to a defunct rail line named Raleigh and Spencer that ran in central North Carolina, absorbed by the Southern Railway Company. In fact, the town of Spencer (incorporated 1905), North Carolina, was the location of a rail hub with extensive rail facilities (the Spencer Shops) and a large roundhouse, once the Southern Railway Company's largest steam locomotive facility. The Raleigh was also the name of one of the first steam locomotives in the region, built in 1836. The lyrics may refer to a barrel house (a make-shift bar fashioned of boards on top of barrels) or similar establishment along the line, perhaps in the town of Spencer.

So old Raleigh and Spencer's done and gone dry
Cause there ain't no more whiskey in this town
No, there ain't no whiskey in this town.

I can eat more chicken than a pretty girl can fry
And I'll tell her all them doggone lies
Yes, I'll tell her all them doggone lies.

You can tromp down them flowers all round my grave
But they'll rise and bloom again
Yes, they'll rise and bloom again. ..... (Tommy Jarrell)

Credible sources also attribute the song to Galax, Va., area musician Fields Ward who titled it "Riley and Spencer." Mike Seegera says Ward learned this piece from a black musician in West Virginia near the two small towns of Riley and Spencer in that state. Title for the tune also appear as "Rylan (or Ryland) Spencer." Tommy Jarrell corrected the spelling to "Raleigh and Spencer", towns named for two of the powerful families from Wessex, England, who settled the area), and Jarrell speculated that the name Rylan Spenser may have referred to a bootlegger. Cecilia Conway, in African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia (1995) writes that the song may have a banjo tradition, as a related variant called "Reno Factory," was learned by African-American Marvin Fodrell (Stuart, Patrick County, Virginia), who himself learned the tune from his banjo-playing father, Posey.

Source for notated version: Laurie Lewis [Fiddler Magazine].

Printed sources: Fiddler Magazine, Spring 1994; p. 32.

Recorded sources: Biograph 6002, Fields Ward (Galax, Va.). Chubby Dragon CD1008, Brad Leftwich, Bruce Molsky et al – “Mountairy.usa” (2001). Copper Creek CCCD 0199, James Leva – “Memory Theatre.” County 756, Tommy Jarrell (Mt. Airy, N.C.) - "Sail Away Ladies" (1976). Flying Fish 515, Laurie Lewis - "Singin' My Troubles Away" (1990). Heritage XXIV, Tommy Jarrell - "Music of North Carolina" (Brandywine 1978). Marimac 9000, Dan Gellert & Shoofly - "Forked Deer" (1986. Learned from Tommy Jarrell and Mike Seeger). Marimac 9038, Dan Gellert & Brad Leftwich - "A Moment in Time." Old Blue Records CD-705, Kirk Sutphin & Riley Baugus - "Old-Time Piedmont Pals" (2010). Rounder SS-0145, Fields Ward (Galax, Va.) - "Traditional Music on Rounder: A Sampler" (1981). CD2001, “The Rough Deal Stringband.” Tim O'Brien, Dirk Powell, John Herrmann - "Songs from the Mountain."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Mike Seegar's recording on youtube.com [2]
Hear Fields Ward's recording on youtube.com [3]
Hear the Hurricane Ridgerunner's recording at the Field Recorder's Collective [4]
Hear Tim O'Brien, Dirk Powell, John Herrmann's recording at youtube.com [5]




Back to Raleigh and Spencer[edit]