The Old Grey Cat
We used to play this tune at our session, a favorite of one of our whistle players who travelled 70 miles one way to make our session. He’s been busy lately and not making the trip, so the tune fell off our radar. Just last month, another whistler showed up, and this was in his bag of tunes, so we’ve resurrected it.
Works well slow or up tempo. On fiddle, I hold both the high b and the e of the opening bar with my fourth finger, making it easier to get across the strings to the low E. It’s also nice to double up the high e in the last bar of each part with the open e string and fourth finger on the 2nd string e for a fuller sound.
Background info on the tune would be much appreciated.
Scottish - Kerr’s Merry Melodies?
If my brain isn’t misfiring. It is a popular contra dance tune all across North America, where they do that sort of dancin’…
Yep, it really starts on that high b. I’ve heard other versions that start on the e, but I like the prickly, annoyed-cat feel the high b gives….
Can I recommend Leggat’s Reel as a partner for the old grey cat. I remember George Faux playing this set on an excellent cassette.
Never heard of Leggat’s…how’s it go?
Sorry - I should have said legget’s reel not leggat’s reel - also known as The Boys of Ballycastle which is in the database
there’s a well established accordian set that goes from this into flowers of edinburgh and back again. great for the dancers.
A.k.a. The Smuggler’s reel
The transcription below is the version we play at the Cape Town session. It’s nearly like the version recorded by Mary Custy, who plays it a semi-tone up in F dorian.
T:Smuggler’s Reel, The
e2e2 E3F|GFGA BABc|d2d2 D3E|ADFA dA (3Bcd|
e2e2 E3F|GFGA BABc|dBcA BAFG|~E3D E4:|
|:Beed ~e3f|geaf gfed|Bddc d3e|fdaf gfed|
eB~B2 gB~B2|aB~B2 bB~B2|gfed BA (3Bcd|egfd e4:|
3 X “The Flowers of Edinburgh” || 3 X “The Old Grey Cat” ||
W.F. Cameron recorded this set, referred to previously by ‘Dont’, sometime in 1910, London, the track/recording merely called "Flowers of Edinburgh". Topic records did a compilation, also available in CD, TSCD601, called "Melodeon Greats: A Collection of Melodeon Masterpieces", recommended, and this particular recording is track 2 of that compilation, with "The Old Grey Cat" beginning:
|: e2 e2 E3 F | ~
“The Old Grey Cat” ~ scratchin’ up the furniture
|: B^d |
"Em" e2 e2 E3 F | GFGA B^ABc | "D" d2 d2 D3 E | FAdB AFE^D |
"Em" E2 e2 E3 F | G3 A B^ABc | "D" dcBA BAGF | "Em" G2 E2 E2 :|
|: (3FGA |
"Em" B2 e2 e3 d | (3Bcd ef gfed | "D" A d3 d2 B2 | ABde fedB |
"Em" e2 B2 "G" g2 B2 | "A" a2 B2 "B7" b3 a | "Em" gfed "B7" B^AB^d | "Em" e4 e2 :|
I remember a man called Tammy Blackhall who lived in or near Falkirk, a melodeon player, and I associate him somehow with this tune though I can’t precisely remember him playing it. As I was a beginner on box at the time I didn’t play the tune, which is difficult - certainly in the "Kerr’s Merry Melodies" setting, one that is different from the sheet music. I’ll have to look out my Kerr tunebooks and find and try this one again.
Is this right?
I’ve seen this with a C# and a Cnatural.. which way is right? Its definitely easier to play with a C#.
Re: Old Grey Cat
Re origin, have heard it described as Scottish-American and a smugglers’ tune. Sounds feline somehow.
Re: Old Grey Cat
I play in 2 ceilidh bands: in one we play it as a reel in an Eightsome Reel set, in the other, more in dotted hornpipe timing for a Canadian Barn Dance: love the latter version, real bounce to it!