I first learned Temperence Reel, because my mom was learning it on the hammered dulcimer, and I had to learn it so that I could help her learn it. I had heard it many times before, and I’ve always thought it was a cool tune. I like the way it goes back and forth between major and minor. Considering the title, I think that the minor parts might be the booze talking, and in the major parts, it’s the sobriety.
Temperance Reel according to the Fiddler’s Companion
TEMPERANCE REEL. AKA and see “Devil in Georgia ” (Doc Roberts title), “Teetotaler(‘s Reel),” “Oh My Foot,” “Old Tiddley-Toe,” “Kingsport,” “Rocky Road to Denver,” “Six Hand Reel,” “Where is My Other Foot?” Irish, American; Reel. USA; New England, Michigan, West Virginia. G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. The tune, a North American version of the Irish “Teetotaler,” dates from the 19th century. Ken Perlman (1979) is of the opinion the tune is related to a Co. Kerry polka entitled “Pigtown” (which also goes by several other names including “Pigtown Fling”, “Ston(e)y Point ” and others). Ford prints a version under the title “Six Hand Reel,” presumably collected in Missouri, as were most of his tunes, however, other Missouri titles include “Rocky Road to Denver” (Roy Wooliver/Gene Goforth) and “Where is My Other Foot?” (Lonnie Robertson). The earliest American recording of the tune is by Joseph Samuels in 1919 (Meade).
TEETOTALER(‘S REEL). AKA and see “Temperance Reel,” “The Bowl of Coffee,” “O’Connell’s Welcome to Clare,” “Kingsport,” “Oh My Foot,” “Old Tiddley-Toe,” “Rocky Road to Denver,” “Where is My Other Foot?” Also called “The Devil in Georgia ” by Doc Roberts (Ky.). AKA – “Teetotaler’s Fancy.” Irish, Old‑Time, New England; Breakdown or Reel. G Major (‘A’ part) & E Minor (‘B’ part). Standard tuning. AB (O’Neill): AABB (most versions). The word “teetotaler” has nothing to do with any meaning built around “total” and “tea” to mean temperance, but rather is said to come about from the stammered pronunciation of “total” by a Richard Turner of Preston, England, in 1832. In that year a society in the town was formed, pledged to abstain from intoxicating liquors. There were many who urged that temperance did not mean total abstinence, when an emotional Turner piped up that half-and-half measures were of no use, and that “nothing but te-te-total would do.”
Taylor (1992) thinks the version in Roche (No. 80) uses “curious notation which suggests perhaps a Scottish origin.” See also the great Kerry fiddler Padraig O’Keeffe’s version of the tune called “Road to Newbridge.” The melody appears as “The Peeler’s Jacket ” in the American collections of White and Robbins and Bayard’s Dance to the Fiddle, although the “Peeler’s” title is usually given for another tune in Irish tradition. Other American titles include “Oh My Foot,” “Where is my Other Foot” and “Rocky Road to Denver.”