Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Round Robin


round robin noun
1995 Adams Come Go Home 81 [Granny] would call up and order me to her house to haul the backwoods singers to some backwoods community center or the basement in some little church so far off the road that you had to drive as far as you could, then get out and walk a mile. These gatherings were called Round-Robins. The room would usually be empty except for a huge circle of chairs in the middle of the room . . . A little before seven o’clock, every chair would be occupied by an ancient (ancient to me then meant over forty) male or female; and before long the room would swell with the sounds of the old love songs as one after the other of these singers took their turn. I attended many a Round Robin.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I’ve never been to a Round Robin, but I’d sure like to go to one.


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  • Reply
    Mart Lou McKillip
    February 13, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Tipper my mistake of calling a round Robin a Red Robin just wanting spring to roll around soon I guess. That sure a beat story round Robin

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 13, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Tipper this prick my interest I sang in a round circle group of musician and singer we in Missouri took turns doing our best best but never heard it called Red Robin the refreshment were served which house held the sessions I am sorry to say many if the musicians took cancer and died and we came back to NC untill our trip to Texas which landed a home here we go tonight for dinner meal at the community center but sorry to say no musicians around. They have a music band in Roxton Texas near our home. We went on a Friday night got an invite to yodel and I got up on the stage and yodeled and sang. I got a standing ovation Yodeling is somewhat a thing of the past

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    February 13, 2019 at 8:59 am

    What a beautiful custom! My family wrote Round Robin letters, but no one ever sang or played an instrument. Tipper, you are now the center of a large circle of folks who love you and send you comments each day. Isn’t that a sort of Round Robin, too???

  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Ancient…over forty…Gee….with that as the measure… I must be pre-historic…!!

  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 12:51 pm

    This post brought several memories to mind:
    1) My mother and her high school friends kept a “Round Robin” letter going from the time they graduated high school in 1940 until Mom’s last friend died in 2007 (I think – Mom was last to go in 2014): they each wrote a one page message on “air mail paper” and added it to the other messages which had been sent while taking out the message they had previously written. This way they shared their stories with all 5 in the group and saved money by sending all the messages in a single envelope to the next person in the sequence. They did send special birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards and such, but their Round Robin letters kept them all up to date on each other even though they lived all across the country.
    2) The musical version you mentioned in your post happens around her in various country cafes, bier gartens, and good guy bars. Folks show up with their instruments and just start taking turns playing. No cover charge, no special entrance fees, folks just come in and enjoy whether they are playing or singing or not.
    3) My daughter was quite a tap dancer in her high school and young adult years and she loved to go to “tap offs” . She’d get a call from someone saying where they were gathering and the tappers would get in a circle and just start tappin’. Then someone would call out “challenge” and they’d tap a rif and each person in the circle would try to duplicate it or extend it or “top” it. (A little like you musical Round Robin) These folks definitely had rhythm in their bones!

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    February 12, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    We do this all the time except we call them jam sessions. Players and/or singers sit in a tight circle and each in turn calls the song and is the lead singer or picker for that song. Everyone else plays or harmonizes behind that leader. 5 or 6 singers and players in the circle works very well. Much more than that and one side of the circle can’t hear the other side well and staying in time tends to become a problem. Also, sometimes there are those who won’t know the song but are determined to learn it while it’s being played, causing a lot of problems. But it’s all in fun and enjoyment, and the players, as well as listeners, have kept coming to these jam sessions for 25 years or more.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 12, 2019 at 10:33 am

    I’ve never heard of a “Round Robin” in reference to a musical event but I have heard of “Round Robin” sporting events many times where an athlete or team competes with all other athletes or teams in a winner take all event.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Years ago my husband and I were coming back from down South and had stopped for the night at the Ramada Inn near Pigeon Forge which was right next to Country Tonight show. We went out for supper and when we came back there were a lot of musicians setting in the breakfast area playing music. Never saw that before. Inquiring at the desk we found out there was a talent contest going on at Country Tonight actually that night and was free to the public. The young musicians were from Maine and were taking turns playing their guitars, banjos and singing as they sat around. I suppose this was their practice session. We found some chairs and sat down just to listen to the good music. I have a good girlfriend that plays the piano by ear and goes to a Round Robin in a town not too far from me where a church has an evening for musicians to go set up and take turns playing and singing. I think now a days they may call that a Jam Session.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 12, 2019 at 9:03 am

    We live in a little community outside Brevard, NC called Dunn’s Rock and occasionally we will gather at the community center and have what sounds like a round robin, but I haven’t heard them refer to it by that name. There will be about 10 musicians gather in a circle with guitars, mandolins, banjos, etc. and they will each take a turn singing while the others play their instruments. Community residents gather for a dinner and then rearrange the furniture to accommodate the “show”.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 12, 2019 at 8:26 am

    Never heard of a singing round robin, just talking to an agenda. But I reckon even a casual get-together fits as long as folks wait on one another.

  • Reply
    Emily in Austin
    February 12, 2019 at 8:19 am

    You practically have a Round Robin in your kitchen.

    • Reply
      February 12, 2019 at 7:22 pm

      Emily-you’re right I do 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 12, 2019 at 8:04 am

    I’ve never heard Round Robin used in this way but it totally fits!
    Ancient, well, some days I feel that way, but I rarely admit it!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 12, 2019 at 7:57 am

    I remember going to round robins where 4 or 5 musicians would get together. Each would pick a song and were allowed to shine for that number while the others played softly along. I don’t remember anyone singing. It was always a joy to hear good musicians spend an evening together.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2019 at 6:13 am

    I learn 2 things from this post : 1. What a Round Robin is
    2. Over 40 is considered ancient

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