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A 'Kid' Ory story

Will Fly 20 Mar 09 - 10:28 AM
The Sandman 20 Mar 09 - 10:31 AM
Stringsinger 20 Mar 09 - 05:41 PM
The Sandman 20 Mar 09 - 08:02 PM
M.Ted 21 Mar 09 - 12:00 AM
meself 21 Mar 09 - 12:13 AM
Will Fly 21 Mar 09 - 05:29 AM
Stringsinger 21 Mar 09 - 11:51 AM
bobad 21 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM
The Sandman 21 Mar 09 - 12:29 PM
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Subject: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: Will Fly
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 10:28 AM

I'd posted a very ordinary version of Kid Ory's "Muskrat Ramble" a week or three ago on YouTube for a bit of fun, and mentioned in passing that the tune had obviously been adapted by Country Joe McDonald for his "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag".

Well, I got a comment yesterday which said,

Merci Will, My dad's first instruments were Guitar/Banjo in 1896 and by 13 he had his first not handmade Banjo. Peace. Babette Ory

Well, I suspected a bit of a hoax here because Kid Ory was born in 1886 and died in 1973 but, after some more investigation, it turns out that Babette Ory is indeed Kid Ory's daughter and that she sued Joe MacDonald in 2001 for plagiarising "Muskrat Ramble". She lost both case and the appeal - mainly because she'd left a too-long gap before pursuing the issue. She also lost the contents of a storage unit containing memorabilia because, through some oversight, the rent hadn't been paid and the stuff was sold to pay the back rent. An unlucky lady... Anyway, she runs a catering company in LA now.

The internet, eh? How could any of us have made that sort of connection even a few years ago? In spite of constant use of the 'net for various purposes, it never ceases to surprise...

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 10:31 AM

thanks,Will.joe macdonald should have paid up.

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 05:41 PM

The Rooftop Singers collected royalties on Hughie "Gus" Cannon's "Walk Right In".
Lou Gottleib of the Limelighters collected some royalties on Uncle Dave Macon's "Rock About My Saro Jane".
The melody to Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" is Jean Ritchie's song "Nottamun Town".
Of course both Dylan and Woody used other available melodies for their songs. I don't recall either of them being sued.

The point is that there is a difficulty in determining what is an original source for a folk-type song. Now show and jazz songs are different. These can be quite unique. If you rewrite an Irving Berlin or Jerome Kern song, you will hear about it from the publisher.

By the way, Malvina Reynolds wrote "Little Boxes" to the tune of a popular song of the Forties called "There's A Pawnshop on the Corner In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania".

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 09 - 08:02 PM

did Jean Ritchie write Nottamun Town?I thought it was traditional.
Bob Dylan also nicked the tune of Lord Franklin/Croppy boy,but what is the relevance.
if Ory wrote Muskrat Ramble,it is a completely different scenario.

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: M.Ted
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 12:00 AM

And "Puff, the Magic Dragon" sounds exactly like "It's Almost Tomorrow"--

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: meself
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 12:13 AM

Anyway - that's pretty cool, Will.

Of course, we've had a number of relatives, descendants, claimants, and pretenders show up right here on Mudcat ...

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 05:29 AM

The original post was really about how the internet can still surprise with the links it makes. Given the period in which Kid Ory lived, and his influence on, and relation with, early jazz (which I love), he always appeared to me to be part of the legend of a long-gone era. To hear from his daughter - out of the blue - suddenly seemed to bring it up close and in my face.

I'm not really interested in the old "who really wrote what" question - that was just the circumstance in which the connection was made.

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: Stringsinger
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 11:51 AM

There is a flaw in the copyright law. There are few original tunes.

The point is this,
in order to show legally that a song was stolen, the plaintiff has to show "access", that is the song was lifted. Muskrat (Muscat) Ramble is not that original. It's a good tune and very playable but it starts off with just two chords, a tonic and a dominant seventh. It is not a song like Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" which is uniquely original. Any lifting of that tune would certainly generate a lawsuit.

The progression in Muskrat is traceable to other tunes. Still, Kid Ory was a great jazz influence and a wonderful musician. His work in the Hot Five and Seven attributes to his lasting contribution and he played well with Teddy Buckner at the Beverly Caverns in Los Angeles through to a ripe old age. It would have been nice for him to receive some royalties for Muskrat just because he was such an important trombone player.

I understand that he raised chickens in California prior to his being rediscovered by Orson Welles, another early jazz fan. His Creole influence in jazz is early jazz notable.

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: bobad
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 12:15 PM

"did Jean Ritchie write Nottamun Town?I thought it was traditional."

Jean Ritchie writes:

Dear Roger McGuinn,

This is Jean Ritchie here; I loved listening to your music on the web, and
appreciate your interest in folk music. Your singing of 'Fair Nottamun Town'
was especially fine and I felt I must write to give you my history with the
song. The version you perform is the Ritchie Family (Kentucky) version. I
have never heard JJ Niles sing it, nor has anyone else I know- I knew him
quite well; he visited and got songs from the family in his early days, and
it was there he saw his first dulcimer, but to my knowledge he never
performed, 'Nottamun Town.' The time you heard him must have been the only
one, and he certainly learned it from the Ritchies.

The song has been in our family back many generations, and was collected at
the Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, KY by Cecil Sharp around 1917
from the singing of my sister Una who was a student there (Una was 4th in our
family of 14; I'm 'the baby one,' and am 77 now). Our family ancestors came
over from England, Scotland, Ireland, the earliest ones we know of arrived in
1768. Our family still cherishes and sings the songs they brought with them.

If you will check in Sharp's book of Appalachian songs he collected, you will
find the Ritchie version- the one you sing- as notated from the singing of
Una and Sabrina Ritchie (Sabrina was our cousin). I added the 'mule roany
mare' phrase, instead of 'that was called a grey mare.' Also, it always
bothered me that one-half of one of the verses was missing- just filled in
with dots…. then the last two lines are the ones beginning, 'I bought me
a quart…' For years, I sang, 'la,la,la,' for those missing lines, but
finally just put in two of my own, 'They laughed and they smiled, not a soul
did look gay; they talked all the while, not a word did they say…'

In the sixties, when the Kingston Trio and others began performing and
copywriting (as writers) our family songs, I applied for several copyrights
for the family. A copyright for 'Fair Nottamun Town' was approved in 1964,
based on the changes I had made in the lyrics. I have contributed much of
the royalties (from Bob Dylan and others) to Kentucky charities over the

Your suggestion that the song may have been inspired by the English Civil
Wars of 1642-51 is most interesting. I had heard another suggestion of it's
possible origins, years ago, saying that it may have been composed during
the Great Plague! When I did my Fulbright year, searching for sources of
our family songs,in 1952, I spent time researching in Nottingham, and could
find not a mention of it in the libraries, nor could any scholar tell me
anything. Douglas Kennedy said that it was most likely the 'magic song'
used in an early Nottingham mummrs' play. This could not be confirmed,
because I couldn't find in any historical account any news of mummers' plays
in that city. Douglas said that even though it was not now remembered, that
of course there HAD been a mummers' play, as every city had one… This
seemed to me to be the most likely explanation, as the words do go along
with the 'topsy-turvy' nature of the plays (clothing exchanged & turned
inside out to hide identities, etc). One old mummer in Marshfield, when I
asked him what the song might mean,
said, '…why, lass, if the meaning's found out- the magic is lost!'

Another interesting thing is that there is not another similar variant of
'Nottamun Town' in this country, or in England. An English group recorded it
years ago, but they had learned it from me, at Newport I think. Can't
remember the group's name, but it had Martin Carthy in it, and maybe Peter
Bellamy. Many folk scholars have noticed and commended our family on our
unique preservation of several old and rare ballads- one is our, 'Fair Annie
of the Lochroyan,' a mixing-up of the words, 'The Lass of Roch Royal.'

All the best,

Jean Ritchie

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Subject: RE: A 'Kid' Ory story
From: The Sandman
Date: 21 Mar 09 - 12:29 PM

thanks,thats inreresting.

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