Music

Hollow Poplar

The Pressley Girls standing in a field of grass smiling with instruments

The girls learned the old-time fiddle tune “Hollow Poplar” during a class they took at John C. Campbell Folk. It’s a catchy little tune. I figured it was old and a quick google told me I was right.

Traditional Tune Archive

Source: Arthur Smith (1898-1971, Humphreys County, east Tennessee)Discography: Smithsonian Folkways CD FW02379, “Look! Who’s Here:Old Timers of the Grand Ole Opry” (1964)Transcription: Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz

HOLLOW POPLAR. AKA – “Hollow Poplar Log.” AKA and see “Old Hollow Poplar.” Old-Time, Bluegrass; Breakdown. USA, Nebraska, Missouri, Tenn. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Popularized by Tennessee’s Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith. Earnest Smith, the grandson of the famous Tennessee fiddler, told Susan Songer (1997) that this tune was his father’s favorite and that it was the first tune he played on the Grand Old Opry (WSM radio). Although Smith had played the tune since the 1930’s, he never recorded it until he made his ‘comeback’ with the McGee Brothers in the late 1950’s. It may have been picked up by Midwest fiddlers from Smith’s radio broadcasts, or may have been independently in circulation in the region. Related tunes are “Forks of Sandy (1)” or “Three Forks Sandy (1),” especially the fine strain. Drew Beisswenger (2008) points to similarities of the ‘B’ part of “Hollow Poplar” and the ‘A’ part of the “Green Corn” family of tunes.

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The neat thing about the text from Traditional Tune Archive is the mention of Susan Songer. She was one of the instructors in the class where the girls learned the song 🙂

Tipper

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Trent Wren
    August 12, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Those girls really need to get into a professional studio. Stated otherwise, a professional studio really needs to get those girls into a recording session.
    I can close my eyes and imagine Mike Snider introducing them at the Grand Ole Opry.

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    August 11, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    That’s a catchy little tune, and did a great job playing it…..now I’m gonna scroll back up and read the post about ”Herman Davenport A Champion Patter” , want to have a listen, and a learn about :).

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    August 11, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Great song and beautiful picture of the girls.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 11, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Holler logs are handy around a farmstead. You split them in half, nail a board on each end and you’ve got yourself a hog trough. Poplar ain’t the best wood to use because it rots faster but if it lasts just a couple of years it is more than worth the effort.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 11, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    That’s one of those tunes that sounds like an old friend and as always…Good Job!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 11, 2019 at 10:20 am

    There used to be a huge holler poplar standing near the road that goes to Grace and Jesse’s old place. It stood in a wet rocky area where nothing else but wild touch me nots and spring lizards could grow. It was at least six feet across and holler. The tree was leaning out toward the road. The whole side facing the road had rotted away revealing a cavity inviting little boys to take a peek inside.
    It took a long time to work up the courage to step inside that thing and to look up into the unknown. With unaided eyes I peered up into the utter blackness and what did I see? Pitch darkness! Nothing else! But I ran! I ran until I could not see the tree anymore.
    I’ve passed by that old holler poplar tree many times since then. It doesn’t look the same. It’s just an old tree whose heart as gone. I’ve met people who suffer the same condition.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 11, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Love that old time fiddling. When Dad was alive we would go to the old time fiddling in Renfroe Valley KY. and Elkins W.VA. They say you can’t learn to play fiddle after you get old but Dad didn’t try until he was in his late 70’s. He was doing good until his death at 85.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    August 11, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Good history. My Grandpa used to sing something that went, “Hawk and a buzzard went to a log, hawk come back with a broken jaw”.

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