Old Time Billy in the Lowground

 

A great tune that deserves to be more widely known, this quirkily crooked melody was played in Franklin County, Kentucky, in the 19th century, and predates the better-known bluegrass tune that most people know as Billy In The Lowground*. The tag ‘Old Time’ was added to this version to avoid confusion with the later 20th century tune which had ‘borrowed’ the title. The origins of the title are widely debated online, with some relating it to William of Orange, others to Bonaparte or the Devil.

523px-Map_of_Kentucke_(1784)_color

I’m posting two videos by the irrepressible Canote brothers Jere and Greg: a full-on concert performance at speed, followed by a slightly slower version where Greg’s amazing fingering is more visible. Then there’s an old recording of Franklin County, Kentucky fiddler Kelly Gilbert (1895-1991), who learnt the tune from his local mentor Lewis Goins. And to finish off, a slower teaching session audio from the Canotes’ Seattle string band class to help tunecatchers nail the tune.

Played in G, in standard fiddle tuning GDAE. Dots to this version are available on the great website Old Time Fiddle Tunes, and there’s a banjo tab here.

(*For the more common version of the tune, played Old Time style, see my very first Fiddletails post in May 2015 – Anna & Elizabeth’s great video here)

 

Greg Canote (fiddle), Jere Canote (guitar), Brendan Doyle (banjo)

The Canotes take the stage with banjo player Brendan Doyle at a Fiddle Tunes Showcase Concert in 2009.

 

(‘Fiddle Tunes 2009 The Canotes playing “Old Time Billy in the Low Ground”’ YouTube video, 2.29. Posted by Randi Leach, 6 Jul 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBdWeXXzj8Q)

 

Greg Canote (fiddle), Jere Canote (guitar)

Filmed during a teaching workshop at the American Banjo Camp 2009, Fort Flagler, Washington state.

 

(‘Greg & Jere Canote at the American Banjo Camp, 2009’ YouTube video 1.23. Posted by Peter Langston, 30 Sep 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SutKB9NO3i4)

 

Kelly Gilbert (fiddle)

Recorded by John Harrod in June 1978.

Kelly Gilbert

 

(From the Appalachian Center Collection, Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives, John Harrod Collection.)

Hear the full Kelly Gilbert recordings here)

 

Greg (fiddle), Jere (guitar), Candy Goldman (banjo)

Slower teaching audio file of the Canotes and Candy Goldman playing, made for their Seattle stringband class.

 

 

 

For more tunes taught at the Canotes’ Seattle class, see Maya Whitmont’s astonishing archive of audio files and banjo tabs here

 Greg and Jere Canote: find out more about the Canote Brothers, including albums, gigs, and the Seattle stringband class, on their website

 For even more great tunes, see Peter Langston’s American Banjo Camp and other music videos on his YouTube channel

American Banjo Camp: 9-11 September 2016, near Seattle, Washington State. ‘87 classes, 23 scheduled jams, 2 concerts, 6 meals, 2 late-night snacks, and 2 optional sleep periods, all compressed into 50 hours!’ And it’s not just for banjos!

 

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Filed under American old-time, American traditional, Uncategorized

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