Appalachia Music

The Old Gray Cat

The Old Gray Cat by The Pressley Girls

I’m going to share a Pressley Girls video with you today-The Old Gray Cat. They learned the song at the John C. Campbell Folk School. It’s a tune that’s often used for contra dances-but beyond that tidbit I haven’t been able to find out much about it.

David Kaynor-who often teaches at the folk school-said he learned the tune from his cousins in the late 70s. David lives in the New England area of the US.

I hope you enjoyed the tune-and if you know anything about the history of The Old Gray Cat I’d love to hear about it!


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  • Reply
    September 12, 2014 at 7:13 am

    Jig or reel, from one land or another, it’s certainly a toe-tapper! Nice job, girls!

  • Reply
    Helena Antwhistle, Php.
    September 8, 2014 at 1:23 am

    In a previous correspondence concerning b.Ruth and “Wally I Fisher,” I failed to inform you that the name he used is possible but highly unlikely to be his real name. When he came here to stay with us, he was alone and couldn’t remember his name. He has been calling himself a variety of names. We are hoping that one of his recollections will awaken something in his brain so that he can have back his past. Then, is also the possibility that his past is what is causing the problems he is having. His mentioning fishing terms gives us hope of finding an avenue back toward normalcy.

  • Reply
    Helena Antwhistle, Php.
    September 7, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    As B.Ruth seemed to be annoyed with response of Wally I Fisher I felt the necessity to intervene at this point. As I am unable to contact him/her but by this conduit please convey this message to her/him at your convenience.
    Being personally acquainted with Mr. Fisher, I will speak in b.Ruth’s behalf and emplore him to cease and desist his uninvited shenanigans lest sterner measures be required.
    I hope b.Ruth can understand that Mr. Fisher is not in possession of the capabilities to discern the emotional state of those with whom he is allowed to correspond and does not realize the harm his statements may cause.
    Further, to protect the interests of Mr. Fisher and this institution, I am instructing Mr. Fishers caregivers to deny his use of any device that can be connected to the “internet” or any “intranet” until he can show he has mastered the skills to do so without causing emotional harm to another.
    I hope b.Ruth can understand the difficulties we have in maintaining the dignity of those we serve here, while still protecting the general public from their actions. In the future Mr. Fishers correspondence, if allowed, will be closely monitored and any addressed specifically to b.Ruth will be examined, redacted or obliterated if deemed necessary.
    Once again I apologize for the actions of our internee.

  • Reply
    José Luis
    September 7, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Beautiful Girls!!!, Hermoso tema, best regards for the all family, from Buenos Aires, José Luis.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    b. Ruth: A jig is 2/4 time; The Old Gray cat was writ in 4/4, reel time. You can give me a waltz any time…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 7, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Seems like in the back of my heid I was a’spectin an answer like that Wall I Fisher spoke!…So funny!
    Hope we find out about “The Old Gray Cat”. Also the difference between a jig, a reel and a hornpipe!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Mr. Wall I Fisher…In case you didn’t know, but I am sure you do,…A hornpipe is the dance I do on the shore, like “Popeye The Sailor Man”, when I catch a biggin’.

  • Reply
    Wally I Fisher
    September 7, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    A reel is up next to the handle. A jig is way out at the end of the line. The timing depends on how fast you move the end of the pole. If the jig is up, you ain’t gonna catch much though.

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    September 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm


  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 7, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I think the Jig is up…Can anyone definitely tell me the timing difference between a Jig and a Reel…I thought a reel was 4/4 time and a jig faster???
    Thanks Tipper,
    I don’t never try and play either on my larnin’ phase of my dulcimer and my piano has long gone to the big “upright piano graveyard” in the sky!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I ran into the same thing about The Old Gray Cat being American. Also some confusion to whether it be Scot or Irish?
    I definitely do not think the tune is of American origin!
    Check out The Fiddlers Companion…
    This is more confusing…
    Is the tune played in triple time an “Irish jig” and as your girls played somewhat slower, a Scottish Reel?
    Also I am finding it is also know as “The Smugglers Reel”, adding more conundrums.
    There seems to be no bagpipe music for it before 1800 but printed as Scottish music but called an Irish tune, WHAT?? lol
    So only the bygone really know where it originated, I suppose.
    Thanks Tipper and Howland,
    I wonder if I met you before, you speak like one of my relatives!
    Top of the afternoon to ya!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 7, 2014 at 11:58 am

    I swear if it ain’t about best I’ve heard yet from this pretty pair of precious Pressleys. I have no idea where the song came from originally but coming from your twins it is sufficient to satiate my auditory senses.
    This is the type of music they seem suited for and I hope they stay with it.
    “It is real mountain folk music from some real mountain young folks.”

  • Reply
    September 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

    G’d marnin’ Missus, an’ is it not a foine one?
    When I first heard th’ lasses playin’ tha’ tune I said t’ mesilf “Tis Irish, sure, an’ wouldn’t I wager the steel wheel av me best barrow on it”, given th’ Eminor-D format, which th’ Irish often do. This demanded some research, so research I did, an’ found tha’ indeed, tho it is sometimes credited as a ‘Murrican traditional song, or just traditional, it is played by many, famous and not, who live on the Auld Sod, and not often does music travel from hither to thither.
    I will admit that though I have heard, and still listen to Irish reels and jigs, I’ve not heard any group play that tune ’til this morning. And hasn’t the lass improved her fiddle-playin’ greatly?

  • Reply
    September 7, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Ah! Such a snappy tune, especially for the early morning start. Our cats prance around like little elfs. We adopted two recues – little guys – keeps us young and a little grayer. It’s like having two toddles running around.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 7, 2014 at 9:19 am

    The tune is perfect for imagining an old gray cat scampering, bouncing, pouncing through life. Made me wonder what its composer saw in his mind. He must have been thinking of a specific feline. I spotted guitarist daughter occasionally glance at her twin. Fascinates me to see the bond between them. Thank you for sharing their music and your life.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 7, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I listened to the girls play The Old Gray Cat…It sounded very Scottish to me. I found that it is a Scottish (reel) dance melody.
    You can find it my putting in
    your browser…Scottish melody The Old Gray Cat….
    There are several video’s, comments and even dance steps on one about Scottish country dancing.
    I am positive it is the same tune, of course always with a twist in the rendition!
    You may have already found it by this time…
    Have a good day,
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…The girls did a great job on their rendition…but please don’t rock on the old gray cats tail…eeeeoooowwww!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard it,, seems I’ve heard some of the licks on the fiddle used in other songs or other songs those licks, that’s how a lot of fiddle tunes got their versions, a lick from this song a lick from another song.. But good job the Girls have come a long way with their music and doing really well..

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 7, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Very nice! The girls sure do a nice job on that song.
    I like your new picture with the greenhouse in the background.

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