“Old-Time Grey Eagle” is a fun C tune with a crooked, but glorious, third part that always gets people’s attention. I’ve probably been asked about it at sessions more often than any other tune I play. Here’s how I played it in 2005 with my old band Uncle Wiggily, featuring Bill Martin on cello, Martha Thompson on guitar, Maggie Lind on banjo, and Charlie Hartness on ukelele (from An Old-Time Portland Potluck, now out of print). I’m really fond of this recording, because it reminds me of all the fun I had with those wonderful people. But my version there isn’t really very accurate. So if you want to learn it “right,” use the video.
The problem with the tune is that the source recording is very poor quality, so until now I’ve always felt like my version was just a shot in the dark. Joseph Decosimo puts it perfectly in the video I link to below: he says it requires “reconstructive surgery.” That’s what this post is about. I’ll start with this strange little video where I try to interpret the source. It’s a first attempt at something I’ve been puzzling over how to do ever since I started the blog—to actually show the process of working with a source recording. Hope you like it!