Shortenin’ Bread, Old Joe Clark Medley Part Three

As played by Clayton McMichen from the Georgia region

Reel or Breakdown in A

From the Clayton McMichen Collection

5 files for this tune:

Melody-Only Transcription (PDF)
Full Transcription (PDF)
Melody-Only Transcription of Entire Medley (PDF)
Full Transcription of Entire Medley (PDF)


78rpm Record


This transcription is sponsored by Dr. Fiddle contributor Patrick Towell.

The great Georgia fiddler Clayton McMichen recorded a medley of Old Joe Clark, Pretty Little Widder, and Shortenin’ Bread in 1939. His rendering of each one of these tunes is magnificent, especially Shortenin’ Bread, which clearly demonstrates his jazz influence and quite honestly sounds like something a modern Texas contest-style fiddler would play, complete with a passage of hokum bowing! Old Joe Clark and Pretty Little Widder, the first two tunes of the medley, are in A mixolydian (G#s as accidentals only) while Shortenin’ Bread, the third tune, is in A major (all Gs sharp unless otherwise marked). I strongly suspect that McMichen played the medley cross-tuned to AEAE, which would certainly simplify the fingering in several places.

McMichen’s rendition of Shortenin’ Bread does bear some similarity to other tunes by that name on this site, but it is fairly distinct. It isn’t the popular “mammy’s little baby” version. I rather like McMichen’s take; it clearly shows his jazz influences. In fact, it sounds more like something Benny Thomasson (the Texas fiddler who developed the modern contest fiddle style) would have played. Thomasson also acknowledged some jazz influence, so I guess he and McMichen both arrived at this sort of style independently (though Thomasson could possibly have had access to records of McMichen).

Look out for triplets and four single-measure passages of hokum bowing.

Cross-tune to AEAE.


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Shortening Bread/Shortenin' Bread

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