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9. Cluck Old Hen

The earliest text for this tune appeared in 1886 in an article entitled “South Texas Negro Work Songs.” (Kuntz) Some of the words to this tune speak of railroad men. The B&O laid its first track in 1829 and in two years ran from Baltimore to Harpers Ferry. Horses pulled the cars along the track until steam engines became standard in 1835. And Kentucky's first railroad ran 26 miles from Frankfort to Lexington in 1832. But many more verses have nothing to do with the railroad, indicating perhaps that the pre-existing tune picked up these verses well after its creation. The tune is common throughout the Upper South both on fiddle and banjo, each musician sculpting the basic melody to his or her own liking with many variations. No one can say how old it really is, but its wide circulation may hint of an early provenance. It was the last tune Fiddlin' Cowan Powers ever played, when on stage with the Stanley Brothers in Saltville, VA in 1953 he suffered a fatal heart attack. This setting is just my take on the tune within our chosen time setting played on a gourd banjo with gut strings and skin head tuned to double D tuning an octave below middle C.

Chris' gourd banjo (gDGDE)