Turkey in the Straw | Bowing Down Home
About this tune
Turkey in the Straw is one of several tunes associated with southern US fiddling that are in widespread circulation on PEI: some others are Arkansas Traveler, Mississippi Sawyer, and Ragtime Annie. The tune has been in circulation long enough to acquire a distinctive Island character, particularly in the certain turns of phrase in the high turn.
Of particular interest is the contrast between the Harry Lecky and Sid Baglole versions. Lecky’s individualistic approach to syncopation makes his rendition sound as if it had been recorded directly from a 1930s-era Southern US radio broadcast. Baglole, on the other hand, applies sawstroke syncopation to the tune, giving it a distinctive West Prince character.
Natchez Under the Hill was probably the oldest title for this quintissential American fiddle tune. During the era of American Minstrelsy (roughly 1840-60), it became known as Old Zip Coon, the title under which it is published in Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, aka 1000 Fiddle Tunes (1882). It’s first appearance in print as Turkey in the Straw seems to have been about 1860; it appears as Turkeys in the Straw in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903). Two very early recorded versions were cut by Eck Robertson of Texas (1923), and by the famous north Georgia band, The Skillet Lickers (1926).
Notation for Johnny Morrissey’s version of Turkey in the Straw appears in Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island.