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Thread: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

  1. #1

    Default Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    I learned Baby Ben on my mandolin from James Bryant, fiddle, on YouTube. There's a notated version that is exactly what he plays. I think I got that from the Celtic forum -- I can't remember the name of that forum. I hope someone can remember, as it is an excellent source of audio, ABC notation and music notation of a zillion tunes. Anyway, how do I find out if Baby Ben is traditional or composed? If it's composed, then presumably it's copyrighted, and I only play public domain tunes in the jam sessions which I occasionally host in coffeehouses.
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  2. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    It is on this site run by a friend of mine. I am not sure what site you found it on.

    Also on this site.

    Here is James Bryan playing it:

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    It is on this site run by a friend of mine. I am not sure what site you found it on.

    Also on this site.

    Here is James Bryan playing it:

    Thanks, Jim. So far, nobody has responded as to whether Baby Ben is traditional/public domain or not. Thanks for the James Bryan video. He is such a smoooooootth player, isn't he? Beautiful indeed. I don't play it on the mandolin quite as fast as he does. And I don't have the notation or play the variations he has in the second time through. I'll need to work on those!

    Stringalong

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    Thanks, Jim. So far, nobody has responded as to whether Baby Ben is traditional/public domain or not. Thanks for the James Bryan video. He is such a smoooooootth player, isn't he? Beautiful indeed. I don't play it on the mandolin quite as fast as he does. And I don't have the notation or play the variations he has in the second time through. I'll need to work on those!

    Stringalong
    Yes, he is a beautiful player. Source from my friend Andy Kuntz says, :"American, Schottische. G Major. Standard tuning. AABB. From the repertoire of Alabama fiddler James Bryan." Bryan plays many tunes from Alabama. I don't know if it is traditional or not but he does have quite a few tunes in his repertoire from his region.
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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    I think you should ask James if you want to be certain, and if he actually wrote it, he'll probably give his permission for use. James may be tough to reach via internet, he's old school and as far as I know he doesn't have a website. If I wanted to speak with him, I'd use his son-in-law's contact form here: http://mattcombs.com/

    Matt Combs is married to his daughter Rachel, who often plays guitar for her dad in performance. Matt could help you get in touch with James, perhaps.
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    I play in an old-time fiddle group in Pittsburgh and we just started playing one of James Bryan’s tunes, “Farewell Trion”.

    If you like Baby Ben, you’ll probably like Farewell Trion as well...

    I had never heard of Baby Ben before this thread, but I’m going to introduce it to my fiddle group next week..
    Thanks for all of the links, Jim!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    Anyway, how do I find out if Baby Ben is traditional or composed? If it's composed, then presumably it's copyrighted, and I only play public domain tunes in the jam sessions which I occasionally host in coffeehouses.
    I am just curious. Do you only play public domain tunes by choice or are you asked to by the venue which hosts your jam sessions? I know that for recordings, radio or TV broadcasts or even formal concerts that musicians need to be wary of copyrighted material. I never heard that that applies to jam sessions, too.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is Baby Ben a traditional tune?

    OK, I think this is about the best answer I can find to your question on the tune "Baby Ben". Here are liner notes from a recording called Sweet Bama by an Alabama OT band called "The Red Mountain White Trash." I know one of the members or at least played with her many years ago.

    On that page I linked to track 19:

    Baby Ben: This tune was in the repertoires of many older fiddlers in the Sand and Lookout Mountain areas of northeast Alabama. Our version of it comes from Noah Lacy (1908-1993) of Ider.
    So, I don't think James Bryan composed it and more than likely no one copyrighted it and even if they did it would probably be done pre-1923 which means it reverts to public domain.

    Great tune and thanks for introducing it to us. I plan to play it a bunch. I don't even know if James Bryan recorded it on a CD. I don't have it on any of the CDs of his I own.

    Oh, and you can download that version on CD-Baby.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Feb-02-2020 at 2:07pm.
    Jim

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