Appalachia Music

Old Yellow Dog Come Trotting Through The Meeting House

The Pressley Girls and Paul and Tipper

Photo by Ron Priest

Back sometime last spring the girls learned an old fiddle tune from David Kaynor when he was visiting Brasstown. The name of the tune is: “Old Yellow Dog Come Trotting Through the Meeting House”.

It’s a peppy tune and we’ve been playing it at most of our recent concerts. The girls enjoy telling the audience the name of the song because its funny. We all picture a dog accidentally getting into church and trotting down the aisle as the congregation looks on. Turns out there’s more to the song name than that imagery.

Here’s what the Traditional Tune Archive has to say about the song:

OLD YELLER DOG (COME TROTTIN’ THROUGH THE MEETING HOUSE). AKA and see “Old Grey Mare,” “Old Blind Dog.” AKA – “Old Yeller Dog Went A-trotting Through the Meeting Room.” Old-Time, Breakdown. G Major (usually): F Major. Standard or FCfc (Rayna Gellert) tuning (fiddle). AABB. Rayna Gellert plays this tune in F, cross-tuned, although she notes that it is normally played in standard tuning in the key of G. Source Charlie Acuff had the tune from his grandfather, also named Charlie Acuff, from whom the young Charlie learned to fiddle. The tune/song is a variant of an old blackface minstrel song called “Down in Alabam” or “Aint I Glad I Got Out De Wilderness,” more familiar nowadays as “The Old Grey Mare (She Ain’t what She Used to Be). One version of the song was used as a campaign song for Abraham Lincoln (“Old Abe Lincoln came tearing out the wildnerness”), and fiddler Earl Johnson recorded a version in the 78 RPM ear as “Old Grey Mare Kicking Out of the Wilderness.”

The presence of dogs in a house of worship may seem incongruous to many, but the practice was not rare at one time, particularly in the South. South Carolina minister Charles Woodmason found it necessary to bar his congregation from bringing their animals with them to church in the late 18th century. Not only were they troublesome, he explained, they were also “an affront to the Divine Presence…to mix unclean things with our service.” Yet, the population was only imitating longstanding practice in Britain. This passage is from James Hall’s Travels in Scotland, by an Unusual Route: With a Trip to the Orkneys and Hebrides (London, 1807, p. 428):

I was amazed to see how much the minister in the interior of the Highlands are plagued with dogs in their churches. As almost every family has a dog, and some two, and as these dogs generally go with the people to church; so many dogs being collected often fight, and make such a noise during public worship, as not only disturbs the congregation, but endangers the limbs of many. I have seen more than twenty men plying with good cudgels, yet unable to separate a number of dogs fighting in a church. Nay, so much trouble do dogs give in some churches, that there is one appointed to go through the church-yard with a kind of longhandled forceps, which he holds out before him, and with which he wounds the tails, legs, and ears, &c. of the dogs, and thereby keeps the church and church-yard clear of these useful, but totally unnecessary animals in a place of public worship. Indeed, as these long-handled forceps have been found so useful in the Highlands, perhaps they might be of use in some other places; for ladies in too many places bring their lap-dogs to church, both on the north and south side of the Tweed. It often happens that a lady’s lap-dog, running out and into her muff at church, and playing other antic tricks, draws more attention than the parson…”

Dogs attending church! How do you like that 🙂

Here’s a video of us playing the great old fiddle tune a few weeks back.

Hope you enjoyed the history and the song!

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

9 Comments

  • Reply
    Nancy Poling
    June 10, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Even the Episcopalians? Fascinating.

  • Reply
    Rob Simbeck
    June 7, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Stellar!

  • Reply
    Susieq
    September 30, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Sure did enjoy the song , and it was neat to know the history ,and about the archive ,gonna check that out some more…We’ve never had a dog in any church I’ve been to or visited. Had a few hanging around trying to come in the door. We have a little dog,”Molly-Hopper”… she will stay on your lap still as long as you rub her belly, but if we took her to church she’d be all over the place and on everybody’s lap, and right in their face…..and we’d be all sermon long and past it trying to catch up with her as she ran and hid under every spot she could, 🙂 what a funny sight that would be. It doesn’t surprise me though that in different places and times or reasons, dogs would be in a church meeting… now that would be pretty rowdy if everyone had their dog there .

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 30, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Enjoyed. Really good!!

    I think I’ve seen dogs come in the church house and know I’ve seen them in the school house. This was before air conditioning and doors were left open.
    When I was a boy at the country churches there was always a group of people that came to the church but stayed outside. There weren’t many places to go on a Saturday night, so they would gather there for their carousing and whatever they could get into. Sometimes drinking and fighting.
    I’m not sure where I heard this but think Dad told me this. The preacher’s dog had been let in the church house and had moved up close to the stove for warmth. A drunk in the house thought it would be funny to put the preacher’s dog in the stove. He got hold of the dog and went to put him in. The preacher came down from the pulpit and layed the drunk out.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    September 30, 2018 at 9:51 am

    We have a lady at church like Tim mentions. She grabbed my granddaughter out of my arms then walked about the church with her as well as with her own 3 grandkids in tow during Passing of the Peace. She seems to feel she is the only one who can handle kids! And yet, she lets her grandkids run wild during the service often breaking equipment used to amplify or record the service. We love kids in the worship service but they also need to have some adult control/management as they learn to participate in & benefit from the worship service.
    I’d love to hear the words to the political version for Lincoln.
    And speaking of politics, in our part of the woods, references to yellow dogs usually include “yellow dog” democrats who would vote for a Yellow Dog on the democratic ticket before they’d vote for a Republican. You might even hear the phrase “Oh, he’s a ‘yellow dog’.” Just think what a different meaning that could give to the tune.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 30, 2018 at 8:38 am

    I do not get sound on my Kindle so I can’t hear the tune. Wish I could.

    Dogs at church are odd enough but dogs in church. That is really strange. The Bible is not complementary about dogs. Yet I expect some of those folks who brought dogs back in the day would take a dim view of some of the commonplace things seen in churches today.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 30, 2018 at 7:46 am

    I recognize Part of the tune in that song from The Old Grey Mare song from many years ago. I find it very interesting the way the way both old songs and tunes evolve over time. They also evolve from one country to another.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    September 30, 2018 at 6:51 am

    Perhaps the girls could work a little clogging or flatfooting into the act. This is a great flatfooting
    number.

  • Reply
    Tmc
    September 30, 2018 at 5:38 am

    Very nicely done, kinda catchy tune. I can see your dog following you to Church, but deliberately bringing your dog to Church that’s a little over board, kinda like we use to have a lady that had a small tote with toys in it hoping somebodies kid would set with her so she wouldn’t have to listen to the Preacher I assume, I can’t figure any other reason, if no one sit with her, she’d go get somebodies kid, if the parents didn’t mind. Once she came and got our Daughter right before Church started and didn’t bring her back when all got started and my Wife marched up and took her out of her arms, and she looked kinda funny, but it didn’t happen again.

  • Leave a Reply