Notes on the Tunes

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4. Sugar in the Gourd

Edden Hammons recorded this setting for Lewis Chappelle in 1947, six years after John Salyer’s kitchen recording’s began. Salyer called his tune “Give the Fiddler a Dram” and though obviously related, it is quite crooked. The phrase “sugar in the gourd” has several meanings. One is derived from the custom of hanging sugar-filled gourds about the dance floor, so when the dancers on the old, rough-cut puncheon floors needed “to smoothen the floor,” they would “throw a little sugar” down. (Jean Ritchie) The second is a euphemism for sex, i.e. the man depositing his “sugar” into her “gourd.” (Kuntz) Kerry Blech mentions “white lightning (sugar) being sipped from a ladle-like hollowed-out gourd” as a possible reference, as well as the “freedom” (sugar) attainable if escaped slaves would “Follow the Drinking Gourd/Big Dipper/North Star” to Canada. This tune has a flexible structure common to many Hammons’ settings; it is played differently each time.

Chris’ fiddle GDAE : Joe - Guitar