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Rye Straw

About this Item


  • Rye Straw


  • Jabbour, Alan (Transcriber)
  • Jabbour, Alan (Collector)
  • Reed, Henry, 1884-1968 (Performer)

Created / Published

  • Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, May 6, 1967


  • -  Instrumental music
  • -  Fiddle tunes
  • -  Folk music--Appalachian Region
  • -  Breakdowns
  • -  Reels
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  Music
  • -  Field recordings
  • -  United States -- Virginia -- Giles County -- Glen Lyn


  • Ethnography
  • Music
  • Field recordings


  • -  Meter: 4/4
  • -  Key: A
  • -  Strains: 3 (low-high-high octave, 4-4-4)
  • -  Rendition: 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1
  • -  Phrase Structure: ABAC QRQ'S UVUV (abac abad qrqs qr'td uvud uvud)
  • -  Compass: 13
  • -  The title "Rye Straw" is a shortened form of "Dog in the Rye Straw," which in turn is bowdlerized, for it refers to a cycle of vulgar jingles that conjure up a dog excreting fantastical things. The piece appears in at least one nineteenth-century collection, George H. Coes' Album of Music, p. 51, entitled "A Whoop from Arkansas." Part of the humor seems to reside in coy titles that allude to the true meaning while appearing innocent enough to the uninitiated. Henry Reed himself gave an alternative title in this vein, "The Dog in Difficulty." Hence Morris, Old Time Violin Melodies, #28 "Acrobat"; Thede, The Fiddle Book, p. 98 "Preacher's Favorite," or "Ladies Fancy"; Archive of Folk Culture AFS 3047b3 "The Joke on the Puppet," played by Stephen B. Tucker, Meridian, Mississippi (probably an error for "Puppy"); AFS 3044a2 "Alabama Waltz," played by Charles Long with Sam Neal beating on straw, near Quitman, Mississippi; AFS 2634a2 "Unfortunate Puppy," played by Elmo Newcomer, Bandera County, Texas. Published recorded sets include "Run Boy Run!" on North Carolina Boys, played by Gray Craig, Kinney Rorer, and Doug Rorer (Leader LEA 4040).A characteristic oddity of the tune is the way it usually oscillates between keys, usually A and D, so that one is often uncertain which key is the true tonal center. In this respect, though it has the A-D oscillation, Henry Reed stays more closely anchored in A than some sets. Versions of the tune often have three strains, and Henry Reed's third strain is a recasting in the upper octave of the first strain. His set has an interesting detail not found in most sets: it reaches ("squeals," perhaps) up to the high C-sharp on the E-string.
  • -  Performed by Henry Reed, fiddle.
  • -  Spoken: ALAN JABBOUR: Do you want to play on your own fiddle? Maybe it would be easier for you./HENRY REED: No, it don't make any difference./HENRY REED: What do you want me to try to play?/ALAN JABBOUR: "Rye Straw." Want to do the "Rye Straw"?/HENRY REED: Didn't
  • -  Recording chronology: 101
  • -  Duration: 1 minute, 40 seconds


  • Audio tape

Call Number/Physical Location

  • AFC 1969/008: AFS 13703B01

Source Collection

  • Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 2


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • audio

Rights & Access

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The Center asks that researchers approach the materials in this collection with respect for the culture and sensibilities of the people whose lives, ideas, and creativity are documented here. Researchers are also reminded that privacy and publicity rights may pertain to certain uses of this material.

Photographs in this collection produced by Carl Fleischhauer, Karen Singer Jabbour, and Kit Olson are reproduced here with their permission. Mr. Fleischhauer does not object to additional use of the photos he created provided he is credited as the photographer. Persons contemplating other kinds of uses or use of the other photographers' work should contact the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Credit line

Please cite the source collection title, collection number, and repository, for example:

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 1 (AFC 1967/007), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 2 (AFC 1969/008), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Fiddle tunes of the old frontier: the Henry Reed collection online presentation (AFC 1999/016), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Jabbour, Alan, Alan Jabbour, and Henry Reed. Rye Straw. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, May 6, 1967. Audio.

APA citation style:

Jabbour, A., Jabbour, A. & Reed, H. (1967) Rye Straw. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, May 6. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Jabbour, Alan, Alan Jabbour, and Henry Reed. Rye Straw. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, May 6, 1967. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.