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Tune History

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Hy Patillion

Chattanooga Fiddler Jess Young

This tune came from the playing of Chattanooga area fiddler Jess Young, who recorded it for Gennett Records in 1925 under the band name Homer Davenport and Young Brothers. The next year, the band was known as Jess Young’s Tennessee Band. They recorded 10 numbers for Gennett, with the best known being a waltz called “Sweet Bunch Of Daisies”. "Hy Patillion" is also known as “Hy Patittiam/Patitian” and “The Allen Brothers Rag”. The Allen Brothers were another Chattanooga area group, who recorded the re-named tune in 1936. They were also known as The Chattanooga Boys. 

Multiple sources refer to Hy Patillion originally being a Hawaiian number, but I couldn't find any information on it by that name on the early Hawaiian recordings websites. Recall that Hawaiian music took the US by storm in the 1900’s and by 1915 was outselling every other genre of recorded music. It is very likely that the Hawaiian song name was something else, and it is also unknown, but possible, that Hy Patillion/Patitian is a person's name. Ed Note: Maybe the person Jess Young got it from? "Hy Patillion" could also just as easily have been a typo by Gennett Records, just as when Young's 1925 recording listed as "Sequethic (Hornpipe)" was probably supposed to be "Sequatchie Valley". Mysteries abound in the origin of lots of Old Time tunes!

I reached out to Joe DeCosimo, who has studied and written about Jess Young and his music to ask him about Hy Patillion. Joe said, "The origins of the tune are a bit of a mystery to me. I believe most of what I know about it comes from an article in The Devil's Box (magazine) from decades ago. It is a similar melody to a tune that the Allen Bros. called "The Allen Brothers' Rag." I have no idea if it is connected to a person's name. Young was trying to work as a professional musician in Chattanooga and developed an eclectic repertoire that likely reflected the tastes of his audience in the growing, bustling city. His recorded output draws on older fiddle pieces, some learned from Black musicians, to rag and pop pieces. It wouldn't be surprising if he came across Hy Patillion and just decided to work it into his repertoire. I wish I knew more." 

Thanks again to Mike Searcy for the tune inquiry. Mike also shared an excellent live recording of Hy Patillion from the Davis camp at this year's Clifftop festival.  When Joe Decosimo recorded it for his 2012 album "Sequatchie Valley", he wrote in the liner notes for the album, " It’s a fine example of what can happen when the billies get a hold of some Hawaiian music."  The Allen Brothers’ version features a kazoo! 

Learn more about Jess Young in the MUSIC section.

Homer Davenport & Young Brothers

Hy Patillion

Allen Brothers Rag

Allen Brothers

Hy PatillionThe Davis Camp
00:00 / 04:31
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