Songs of the Session

In an effort to recreate and honor a tradition that was begun back in 1957, when Frank Hamilton would teach the same song to different levels of players, we proudly present The Songs of The Session.

Each session two songs are chosen, one from the songbook and one from the general repertoire. All classes are encouraged to learn these tunes and apply the skills they are working on at their individual levels.

As we are in the middle of the second decade of the century, our songs of this session exhibit the diversity that is so much a part of the Old Town School experience. These songs are rich in tradition and there is simply no reason why they can't be approached by any of the instruments we teach here at The Old Town School.

August - October 2015

"Take This Hammer"

Both songs this session have been handed down from Leadbelly. From the songbook on page 115, "Take This Hammer." This prison/work chant has been offered in many forms over the years. Leadbelly's version adds the exclamation "Haah" after each phase to accompany the sound of the hammer. The song morphed into a classic country song known as "Nine Pound Hammer" when Merle Travis adapted it in 1946.

Chart for "Take This Hammer"

"Black Betty"

"Black Betty" originated as a marching song in the 18th century referring to a musket but the nickname was given to other objects as well i.e.. a whip, a bottle of whiskey, and a penitentiary transfer wagon. And who knows? Maybe someone named Elizabeth. Of course the general public knows this song from the group Ram Jam and other covers by the likes of Tom Jones, Sheryl Crow, Ministry, and others. Particularly relavent to us is the fact the tune was often sampled by DJs in the early days of House Music. This session, the Chicago House Institute will present an exhibit of photos and artifacts celebrating House Music at Old Town School including a kick-off dance party October 2nd.

Chart for "Black Betty"

The Old Town School of Folk Music, Inc.
4544 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625  •  773.728.6000