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Folk-Songs of America: The Robert Winslow Gordon Collection, 1922-1932

Band A6

This version of "Old Granny Hare" was performed by Professor W. E. Bird of Cullowhee State Normal School at Cullowhee, Jackson County, North Carolina, in the mountains to the southwest of Asheville. Gordon's interest in the song had a number of dimensions. Like the fiddle tunes he recorded, it was an example of a "fiddle song" which went with dance music. Versions appear in Ford (pp. 30, 193-94), Lomaxes (pp.283-84), and the NLCR (pp. 124-25). Gordon recorded a performance of the song by Lunsford (A104, NC154). An early commercial recording of the song was made by the Powers family of Virginia. Brown (III, pp. 211-213) prints a number of versions under the title "Old Molly Hare," and the editors indicate that the earliest collected versions came from Afro-American singers. Many of Brown's North Carolina texts combine the song with another Afro-American folksong, "Mr. Rabbit," which suggests that originally the song may have been concerned with the familiar "Brer Rabbit" trickster figure from Negro folktales.

Another facet of this particular version, which no doubt added to it's interest for Gordon, was that it combined the verses and tune of "Old Granny Hare/Molly Hare" with the chorus and one verse of another, probably older song, "The Old Sow." Although he did not comment on this connection in his writings, Gordon did print a cowboy version, "The Old Cow," in his article on "Cowboy Songs" (Gordon, pp. 105-6). Brown (III, p. 218) collected this song separately in North Carolina. Randolph, who collected versions in the Ozarks (III, pp. 149-50), notes early versions of the song under the title "The Red Herring," published by Newell as a game song (B, p.238) and by Sharp in a version from Somerset. Sharp (B, pp. 283-86), believed it had magical or ritualistic origins. But, typically, American versions substitute a comical refrain: "The old sow died with the measles in the spring." In any event, this text appears to be unique in its combination of this song with the "Old Molly/Granny Hare" song, representing a fascinating mixture of British, African, and American traditions.

OLD GRANNY HARE [MP3 file]
Gordon cyl. A71, Item NC108
W. E. Bird
Cullowhee, North Carolina
October 28, 1925

Old Granny Hare, a-what you doin' there?
Runnin' through the cotton patch as hard as I can tear

Chorus:
Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

Old Granny Hare, a-what yer doin' there?
Sittin' in the corner smokin' a cigar.

Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

The old sow's leg or the old sow's tail,
I'll make as good a hammer as ever drove a nail.

Wheat bread or corn bread or any such a thing,
The old sow died with the measles in the spring.

 

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