I didn’t like Down Yonder at first. It doesn’t have a lot of notes to it, and the chords aren’t really very interesting. But then I heard a twin fiddler recording of Buddy Spicher and Benny Martin playing it.
They were AWESOME! Buddy Spicher is a long time favorite of mine, and Benny Martin’s pretty great too. I didn’t work out anything nearly as fancy as they did on this tune, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Down Yonder according to Fiddler’s Companion
DOWN YONDER. Old‑Time. USA; Ga., Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania. C Major (Bayard): G Major (Phillips, Rosenbaum). Standard tuning. One part. One of the most popular old‑time songs ever recorded.
The tune was recorded in Atlanta by the Scottdale String Band, named in honor of the mill village of Scottdale, near Atlanta, and home to the band members (Wayne W. Daniel, Pickin’ on Peachtree, 1990). Their first recording was made for the OKeh studios on October 28, 1926, and between that date and 1932 the group recorded nearly thirty sides (all but two—released by Paramount—for OKeh). Bill Rattray wrote about the group in Old Time Music magazine (“Scottdale Boys,” OTM, Summer, 1971) and said the group’s records sold “well, or at least fairly well,” and that “their instrumentation was profoundly different from that of the other, more well-known Georgia bands like the Skillet-Lickers, and gave their music a more sophisticated sound that that of the ‘rough North Georgia’ school.” The group’s repertoire varied more than usual for string bands from the region, and included “a wider range of material including tunes used chiefly by the jazz bands…the more traditional breakdowns, songs and ballads are hardly featured at all.” [quoted by Daniel]. The Scottdale String Band’s recording was quickly followed by one by another north Georgia group, (Clayton) McMichen’s Melody Men, on Nov. 6, 1926 (Columbia 15130-D).
The 1934 Skillet Lickers recording was kept in print by RCA until 1960 and sold over a million copies all told; it was the third best-selling country music record in its initial release year (backed with “Back Up and Push”). Tony Russell writes that Gordon Tanner, Gid Tanner’s 17 year old son, played the un-credited fiddle lead at the session. Written by L. Wolfe Gilbert in 1921 (Gilbert also wrote the words to “Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee”), it was recorded by the Peerless Quartette that year. Rosenbaum speculates this may have been the source for Clayton McMichen’s 1926 version. “Fiddle tunes by this name have been collected in Ligonier, Pa., and in Iuka, Miss.: see ‘Check‑list of recorded songs in the English language in the Archive of American Folk Song to July, 1940′ (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress Mucis Division, 1942), I, 86″ (Bayard). Art Rosenbaum (1989) relates a story about the name of the tune from Georgian Uncle John Patterson. Patterson was unaware that the song was popular before it was known as a fiddle tune. It seems that at a Fiddlers’ Convention held in Atlanta in the 1920′s Patterson was with Gid Tanner, Fate Norris, Lowe Stokes and others of the Skillet Lickers hangers on: “I was there with the banjo, and I was very small. I just wanted to be around, play with ‘em. They’d say, ‘Come on in, Uncle John.’ I’d be sort of timid, and set down, and you talk about banjo, fiddle, and guitar, we’d tear it apart! So I broke a string. They’d been workin’ on this fune for a long time, and nobody knew what was playin’. And I broke a string, and I says, ‘I got to go down younder and get a string.’ And they said, ‘That’s it, “Down Yonder”! And I went down on Decatur Street and got a string to go on the banjo.” It was recorded by Herbert Halpert for the Library of Congress from the playing of Tishomingo County, Mississippi, fiddler John Hatcher in 1939. Commercial 78 RPM recordings include Shore’s Southern Trio, Hershal Brown and His Washboard Band, McMichen’s Melody Men, Doc Roberts, The Scottdale String Band, the latter-formation (1934) Skillet Lickers.
Down Yonder Lyrics
The following lyrics were sung by the Peerless Quartette:
Railroad train, railroad train, hurry some more,
Put a little steam on just like never before;
Hustle on, bustle on, I’ve got the blues,
Yearning for my Swanee shore,
Brother if you only knew
You’d want to hurry up too.
Summer night, fields of white, bright cotton moon,
My, but I feel glad, I’m gonna’ see you all soon.
‘Lasses’ cakes, mammy bakes, I taste them now.
I can hear the darkies croon,
I’ll see my sweetie once more,
There’s lots of kissing in store.
Down yonder someone beckons to me,
I seem to see a race in memory,
Between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee,
Swanee shore I miss you more and more
Ev’ry day, my mammy land, you’re simply grand.
Down yonder when the folks get the news,
Don’t wonder at the hullabaloos.
There’s daddy and mammy, there’s Ephraim and Sammy,
Waitin’ down yonder for me.