DEAR JERRY: I recently attended my first Fiddle Tunes Symposium, all of which turned out to be very helpful since I am still a novice with this instrument.
I heard most of the requisite fiddle classics that everyone plays, such as “Orange Blossom Special”; “Cotton-Eyed Joe”; “Soldier's Joy”; “Uncle Pen”; and “Jole Blon.”
But there is one I didn't know, titled “Back Up and Push.” It seems very popular, especially among Western Swing and Bluegrass fiddlers.
Funny thing is when I asked for some background on this tune, the only thing anyone could tell me is it has been around for ages.
Who had the original hit, and when? Tell me more.
Ralph Holden, Cypress Gardens, Fla.
DEAR RALPH: “Back Up and Push,” sometimes shown as “Backup and Push,” is one of those timeless standards recorded and performed by many, despite having never been much of a hit for any.
A 1975 single (Hi 2291) by the Bill Black Combo squeaked its way on to the Country charts, but only reached No. 84, and vanished after just five weeks.
First popularized in live early '40s performances by Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe and his band, “Back Up and Push” quickly became one of the tunes fans expected to hear during his shows.
Bill did record the song in 1941 (Bluebird 8988), though playing the 78 at home may not have compared to hearing “Back Up and Push” in concert. Regardless, its success is hard to gauge as C&W chart data would not exist for another three years.
You are right about this number being a fiddle classic; however, equally important on Monroe's rendering is Bill's remarkable mandolin solos.
Dozens more recordings of “Back Up and Push” came out, from the 1940s right into the 21st century.
One recent example is a CD album last year by the Buckaroos, of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos fame. Titled “Backup and Push” (Prime Masters 000SF2F3W), it features a multi-instrument approach to the title track, spotlighting fiddle, steel guitar, banjo, piano, electric guitar, and dobro solos.
You mention “Uncle Pen,” but you may not know that song is really a tribute to Pendelton Vandiver (1869-1932), the real-life uncle of Bill and Charlie Monroe.
Bill acknowledges Uncle Pen's influence thusly:
“Maybe if I hadn't heard him, I'd have never learned anything about music at all.”
DEAR JERRY: My silly little question regards “One Mint Julep,” by the Clovers. I found this song on the flip side of “Lovey,” one of their early '60s hits.
Not being a drinker, I have never known for certain whether the meaning of the song is ONE MINT julep or one MINT JULEP.
Do they identify a julep by the number of mints, or did the guy in the song have just one drink?
Tina Jenkins, Clinton, Iowa
DEAR TINA: And you think I would know because ... ?
Okay, it is the latter. As the story goes, “I took her home to get a few nips, but all I had was a mint julep [singular]. One mint julep was the cause of it all.”
Having just the one cocktail was probably wise, especially for anyone needing to drive that night.
Your Clovers “One Mint Julep” (United Artists 209), is actually a 1960 remake of their huge hit in 1952 (Atlantic 963).
This track, which reached No. 2, is among 20 consecutive Clovers' chart hits, from 1951 through '56. Of these, 19 made the Top 10, and 11 reached the Top 5, including “One Mint Julep.”
IZ ZAT SO? Knowing most readers would have no idea what, if anything, is meant by the title “Back Up and Push,” the answer may come as a surprise.
Primarily an instrumental, some vocal versions of the tune do exist. From these we find this to be a spiritual number, the message of which is to resist temptation and sin by backing up and pushing away from Satan.
One of many easily accessible “Back Up and Push” videos on YouTube.com features Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, with June doing the vocal.
Among their numerous other “Back Up and Push” videos is my favorite instrumental, starring award-winning fiddle virtuoso, Ricky Turpin (with Ginny Mac, Devon Dawson, and Todd Fisher).
To view this video just click here!