Notes on the Tunes

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3. Three Forks of Cumberland

Three forks are Martin’s Fork, running east along the Kentucky side of Cumberland Mountain, turning north at Smith; the Clover Fork, flowing west also along the mountain; and the Poor Fork, coming from the northeast. (see map) They all meet about a mile north of present day Harlan, Kentucky near Clovertown. The Hamblen Collection begins with this tune, introducing it as one played by David R “never published except as they were passed by ear from one local player to another and were composed by some local musician of that region.” David R’s grand nephew, John Gillaspy* (1877-1952) wrote in a letter to A Porter, “This tune was my favorite of all dear [great] Uncle David’s library and I believe it is the hardest tune to put on paper I have ever tackled. This haunting melody will come to you as you play it. Tune your violin with D and G strings up (to E & A). David called it [the] ‘Italian Key’...You know it has been a long time since I sat at his knee to record it and he pronounced it perfectly. Let us hope nothing has slipped.” I assume “record” means “transcribe” and “pronounced” means “played.” *John Gillespy notated several of David R’s tunes, the others being translated by A Porter.

Chris’ Hopf F#C#F#C# (GDGD) : Whitt’s Dobson c#F#C#FG#