Appalachia Music

Some Ragtime Annie and a Dose of Encouragement


Ragtime Annie is a fairly common fiddle tune-its catchy beat makes it easy to see why the tune has stood the test of time. Not to mention the fact that it’s rhythm is perfect for the feet on the dance floor.

The Fiddler’s Companion website has some interesting information about the song’s history:

  • The earliest appearance of “Ragtime Annie” that can be documented, in print or otherwise, is the recording by Texas fiddler Eck Robertson (along with Henry C. Gilliland) in 1923, and a few years later by the Texas duo Solomon and Hughes. Robertson’s release was backed with “Turkey in the Straw.” “Ragtime Annie” was later recorded for the Library of Congress by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph from Ozark Mountain fiddlers in the early 1940’s.
  • “Ragtime Annie” was the first tune learned by itinerant West Virginia fiddler John Johnson (1916-1996), originally from Clay County, from fiddler Dorvel Hill who lived in a coal-mining town called Pigtown, not far from Clay, W.Va. Left handed fiddler Walter Melton played all three parts at square dances around Dunbar, W.Va., in the 1930s.
    “I was bashful back then and wouldn’t go in anybody’s house hardly. I’d sit on the railroad and listen to Dorvel play the fiddle at night. And I learned most all of Dorvel’s tunes. I just set down there and listened to all his tunes and then go home and play them.” (Michael Kline, Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed. 1999).

The Fiddler’s Companion website also discusses all the various ways and parts to play the song-and let me tell you they are varied!

Chitter has been playing the song on and off for a few years now. She learned it at the JCCFS. I say she’s been playing it, and she has, but she often lets it get the best of her. I’ve told her more than once “The only thing wrong with it is you never play it through you just quit when you think you’ve messed up.”

We’re still doing our Sunday afternoon picking and grinning at Pap’s house. It’s easier for us all to go to him, instead of him meeting up with us at Paul’s. This video of Ragtime Annie was filmed at Pap’s. The girls weren’t having the best of days-you can see it on their faces.

Chitter was letting the song whip her. She couldn’t get her fiddle to sound the way she wanted it to and that always leaves her in frustrated mood. She had probably tried to play it at least 10 times before this video-and never made it all the way to the end.

Chatter on the other hand wasn’t having any trouble with the song-but she managed to give herself a black eye with the back of her guitar. It seems impossible but somehow she gave herself a pump knot with the strap hook on her guitar. So needless to say she wasn’t feeling up to snuff either.

If you listen close at the beginning you can hear Pap giving them some encouraging words.

I know this will go down as being one of my favorite Pressley Girl videos. Even with the sad faces and the bumps and bobbles through the music-hearing Pap tell them “That’s why you can’t say I can’t do it.” is priceless.


*Source: The Fiddlers Companion RAA-RAJ


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  • Reply
    August 22, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    What a treat!!!!Monday morning downunder 8/23. Waiting n watching is bittersweet.I watched those 2 precious Possums, and the looks on their faces!!, specially at the end!!May the Love n Laughter of the Lord always be with you, as I’m sure it will, you sure blessed me. I am proud of all of you, and wait eagerly to greet you soon. Miss Pippi:))

  • Reply
    August 18, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Just now getting around to listening, but I loved it!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 4, 2015 at 12:21 am

    Immediately when I was the first picture with “Chitter,” I said “that’s Granny in the picture with Grannie Gazzie.” Look at the way her head is tilted only tilt it to the right and you have her grandmother. Both ladies are strikingly beautiful as well as the one that came between.
    Thanks many times over for the opportunity to invade your home. I would reciprocate but I am sure you wouldn’t ever want to be here.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Just got to listen on this Monday morning. I loved the song…If there was a miss-Que I didn’t hear it. I enjoyed it very much. Just wish I could jump up and clog away with the song…
    Keep playing away girls…
    Thanks for this post Tipper

  • Reply
    José Luis
    August 3, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Dear twin;
    Loved this interpretation of Ragtime Annie, and especially the surrounding environment and these girls they show affection to his beloved grandfather, visiting him in his house, and cheering him on Sunday afternoon. (You’re getting better Pap ?, well I hope so !!)
    Last night I was at the International Airport of Buenos Aires, dismissing my good friend Eric Pfiffer, after having lived in Argentina for nearly eight years, he returns to live in USA, with his wife who is Argentina and young son Joshua 3 years old.
    With it, although we lived 400km away, we always met in my house or yours, to play bluegrass, violin him and I banjo.
    Eric is born in Kentucky, Louisville, and now live a while in Deltona near Orlando with the idea of ​​returning to his beloved KY. It is sad for me, but good for the future of my dear friend and his family.
    Just I ask God to protect them and give them the happiness they deserve, and can play a lot violin, banjo and mandolin, which he does very well.
    You can see, if you promise not to laugh a lot on youtube what we did when we got together, putting for example ,: “Argentucky bluegrass band- What a friend we Have in Jesus”.
    Yours very sincerely, and apologize for so many words, but I wanted to share this with the readers of Blind Pig who dare I consider to be my friends. A very cordial greeting to all and God Bless, José Luis.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    August 2, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Those girls do not look happy playing that song. LOL
    Bless Pap for encouraging them. How’s he doing by the way? Better I pray.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    August 2, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    I think Chitter and Chatter sounded just great! They are so cute. Sorry to hear about Chatters bump on the noggin.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    When I can only play something not very well, I console myself by thinking I’m using up some of the bad notes in my possession and so there won’t be so many next time. The drive to get better is wonderful, and being inspired by others is great, but comparing myself to those who just have more (or less) talent than me is a sure way to lose the whole reason for playing, I have found. Even though it’s hard not to!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    August 2, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    Sounded fine to me but the desire to keep improving is what leads to greatness no matter the field of endeavor.

  • Reply
    Lorraine Adams
    August 2, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    What a great tune.I have watched the girls playing and it seems that they get better at it every time. Loved it. Think I’ll listen to it again.My toes need some more tapping.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    That was just beautiful! Chitter
    and Chatter sure are pretty things.
    They both play and sing like they
    want to be heard, and folks like

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    I woke this morning to see it first on the Tube, I thought it went very well, the bobbles are worse on that side than on this side, I can relate to beating yourself up when you make a mistake, but we all do them, it’s just human..again good job Girls..I was watching Emmylou Harris and Robert Duvall sing I love to tell the Story, and he made a mistake in the song, but he didn’t miss a lick, just stayed with it and all came out well. So if he’s entitled to a mistake every once in a while, I quess we are too…

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Sounds like an orchid hitting yourself. Maybe a selfie would be good as a reminder to watch the strap hook. Hope pap is still mending and almost ready for a less injurious adventure.

  • Reply
    Evelyn Richardson
    August 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I loved the “Ragtime Annie music and history.”

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    My family was not one of music makers. Fortunately some friends and neighbors would often invite to to sit by and listen when they got together. Hope you can keep up your tradition alive for many years to come. I do have fond memories of family get togethers for canning and hog killing. Even the mundane, like all sitting around the table for supper and Sunday dinner(lunch) are precious.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    I’m with you Tipper, love this video! Pap gave the girls some great advice.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 2, 2015 at 11:47 am

    Well bless ’em! If I could play even half as good as either one, I’d hang a gold medal around my neck!

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    August 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

    This is one of my favorites,when I take it out my banjo, this is usually the first song I play. I learned it over time at a jam session by requesting it every week when it was my turn. I did have a little trouble keeping the name in my mind, and would ask for “That song with the key change.” After a few jams, the others knew what song I wanted, even if I couldn’t recall the name. They played the 3 part version, though the jam I get to now only plays 2 parts, leaving out the key change. Good playing, ladies!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Don’t never say “cain’t” if somebody else already has. Nicely done, girls, both of y’uns..

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 2, 2015 at 9:16 am

    great job! toe-tapper, for sure. I remember being “can’t never could” (probably more often than I care to admit).

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 2, 2015 at 9:06 am

    Well, I think that was great. Chitter did a good job. She doesn’t need to sing , she can make that fiddle sing for her.
    Yes, I love the encouragement. Pap is the sweetest gentlest man I have ever know.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 2, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Well, it may not be any help but every bit they do is 100% more than I can do. Could just say that every attempt to play the ‘official’ version ends with Chitter doing her own variation.
    Hope each of you all have a blessed Sunday.

  • Reply
    Glynn Harris
    August 2, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Great job ladies on an old tune I haven’t heard in years!!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    August 2, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Loved, loved the playing of “Ragtime Annie,” the history lesson on the tune, and especially the encouragement from Pap and the determination of the girls! Rich and memorable! Thanks ever so much for sharing this priceless post with us. All of the facets of it tie together like the streams that meander through our beloved Appalachians: clear, sparkling and robust–even sometimes flowing northward on their way to the sea!

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