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Tune History

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The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Nail That Catfish To The Tree

By Steve Rosen From The Volo Bogtrotters

Lots of people have inquired about the history of the popular jam tune “Nail That Catfish To The Tree,” also known as “Nail That Catfish,” or just simply “Catfish.” In the key of G, this tune is a modern (circa 1985) composition by Volo Bogtrotters member Steve Rosen. Steve is an avid fisherman, and one possible story of the origin of the tune (the title at least) is based on advice Steve received from an old man in Florida on how to clean a catfish, known to be a difficult task due to their tough skin. The man is reported to have said “…nail its head to a tree and pull the skin off with pliers”. We talked to Steve and he confirmed, "That's pretty much the story". He also said, "Any other questions, bring 'em on." Steve lives in Evanston, IL and when not playing, teaches at The Old Town School Of Folk Music in Chicago.

Steve says on his website: “‘Nail That Catfish To The Tree’ is a fiddle tune I wrote a long time ago and people seem to like to play it. The first recording of it was by the band the Volo Bogtrotters, on our first release.  Since then, many bands have recorded it, and I have made tens of dollars on royalties.” For the source recording, Steve plays it for us in the mp3 file below. Two versions of his tune (studio & live band) are also on Steve’s 2014 album “Old - Timey Music”

Just for the record, nailing a catfish to a tree and pulling its skin off with pliers really is a technique for skinning the fish. There is a video below that shows it being done. And don’t forget your catfish skinning pliers, which are also a real thing, available wherever fine fishing gear is sold. Hammer and nail sold separately.

Nail That Catfish To The Tree

Steve Rosen, Chirps Smith and Fred Campeau

How To Clean A Catfish

Nail That Catfish To The TreeSteve Rosen
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