Tom and Jerry is one of the great fiddle breakdowns. It isn’t in my top 5 favorite hoedowns, but it’s definitely a good one.
I really hadn’t worked up any parts to it before tonight, but I think that if I hadn’t recorded this tune as part of fiddle tune a day, it wouldn’t be complete.
Tom and Jerry according to Fiddler’s Companion
TOM AND JERRY . Old‑Time, Texas Style; Breakdown. USA; Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona. A Major. AEae or Standard tunings. AABB. The title has several associations. A ‘Tom and Jerry’ was a concoction whose ingredients are whiskey, hot water, sugar, nutmeg, and whipped whites of eggs; it is sometimes known as a seasonal (New Year’s) drink, served in a special bowl (Thede, 1967). Present-day fiddlers probably remember Tom and Jerry as the cat and mouse antagonists of Saturday morning cartoons. However, the first famous association of the two names together was in the early years of the 19th century in a book called Life in London (1820-1821), by Pierce Egan (1772-1849). It features the characters of a young country squire, Jerry Hawthorne who is shown about town by his elegant cousin, Corinthian Tom, and Bob Logic, as rakes in Regency England who mis-adventured among upper-class society, especially at one of the most exclusive establishments of the fashionable Regency world: Almack’s Assembly Rooms in King Street, London. The book (which also had illustrations by George and Robert Cruikshank) was written in thick period slang and was enormously popular with the younger set of the era, although frowned upon by their elders. Due to the influence of the book, a ‘Tom and Jerry’ came to refer to a low drinking house in the Regency Period in England, and, further derived, referred to fighting, drinking and causing trouble (as in “we had a real Tom and Jerry that night”). Arizona fiddler Kenner Kartchner said the tune was from the South, and difficult to play in standard tuning. However, it is known as a Missouri piece and, in fact, “appears to be associated more with states west of the Mississippi River than with the Appalachians and deep South, although it can be heard throughout the South” (Beisswenger & McCann). The tune was played at a fiddlers’ convention at the Pike County (Alabama) Fairgrounds, according to an account in the Troy Heraldof July 6, 1926. The tune was recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from the playing of Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940’s (including Lon Jordan in 1941), and by Herbert Halpert in 1939 from the playing ofMississippi fiddlers Stephen B. Tucker and John Hatcher. Missouri fiddler Pete McMahan said (to Gordon McCann) that part of the tune was derived from “Once Upon a Cheek,” and that part of the tune sounds like “Bull at the Wagon Tongue.” Meade (2002) lists early recordings by Uncle Dave Macon (1927) and the Log Cabin Fiddlers (1929). The melody has become a flashy and elaborate standard at fiddle contests in modern times (Drew Beisswenger points to the difference between Ozark fiddlers Roger Fountain’s version and Lon Jordon’s AEae achaic-sounding version, for example).