Monday, January 14, 2019

Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill

This was the #1 song in the USA December 1891.

"Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill" is an American folk song first published in 1888 and attributed to Thomas Casey (words) and much later Charles Connolly (music). The song is a work song, and makes references to the construction of the American railroads in the mid-19th century. The tarriers of the title refers to Irish workers, drilling holes in rock to blast out railroad tunnels. It may mean either to tarry as in delay, or to terrier dogs which dig their quarry out of the ground.

George J. Gaskin (1863--1920) was an Irish Tenor based in the United States.

Every morning about seven o'clock
There's twenty tarriers a workin' at the rock
The boss comes along and he says, "Keep still
And come down heavy on the cast iron drill."

And drill, ye tarriers, drill
Drill, ye tarriers, drill
For it's work all day for the sugar in your tay
Down beyond the railway
And drill, ye tarriers, drill
And blast, and fire.

(Unintelligible yelling and crashing noise)

The boss was a fine man down to the ground
And he married a lady six feet 'round
She baked good bread and she baked it well
But she baked it harder than the hobs of Hell.

The foreman's name was John McCann
By God, he was a blamed mean man
Last week a premature blast went off
And a mile in the air went big Jim Goff.

And when next payday came around
Jim Goff a dollar short was found
When he asked, "What for?" came this reply
"You were docked for the time you were up in the sky."

Tarriers live on work and sweat
There ain't no tarrier got rich yet
Sleep and work, then work some more
And we'll drill right through to the devil's door.

PLEASE NOTE. I wish I could find out more about this song, especially if it's spelled "tarriers" or "terriers", which DOES after all make a big difference.

What I love most about the recording is the (I assume) sound of explosions made by the piano. Like most early recordings, the speed is variable, which is another feature I love. Some early cylinder players were literally hand-cranked throughout the recording, before windup belt drives came into being. Though it's hard to make out anything approximating words, I think this version only covers a couple of verses. The limit for a song back then, whether on a disc or a cylinder, was just under two minutes. It was not uncommon for the song to suddenly speed up in the last couple of seconds, before the wax ran out.

I have barely gotten into my deep love for old, old recordings. Anything after 1900 is "too recent", too new to qualify. I love the way someone SHOUTS the title at the beginning of these, apparently as a way of labelling a cylinder recording which might otherwise become detached from its casing. But the same thing was done with the early Berliner discs, which were usually only recorded on one side. The title was often etched into the material by hand. I have seen only one of these, an awful old thing called A Cornfield Medley, in which the n-word is used several times.

I really thought "tarrier" was a specific name, like "farrier" (someone who shoes and otherwise looks after the feet of horses). This word is still in operation in the horse world. As per usual, the Irish were looked down upon, although I am still trying to figure out why. The fact that this was at the top  of the hit parade in 1891 is interesting.

Even more intriguing (to me) is that the folk trio named The Tarriers included a young and very dishy Alan Arkin. I've always been able to get behind him. I did a previous post about a compelling song he  co-wrote with his father, about the KKK and its chilling evil sweeping across America:

"Mother, I feel a stabbing pain,
Blood pours down like summer rain."

My brother Walt used to sing that one, along with a lot of others he didn't write. It was what you did, back then. Arkin went on to greater things, but I don't know if he wrote any more songs. Richie Havens recorded it, the only surviving recording I know about.