This morning I was playing the banjo before Ruby’s vet appointment. The tune I was playing is called Nixon’s Farewell. I first heard this tune at the Rockbridge festival down in Virginia last September. I was wandering around the park listening to jams with a new friend I made at the festival. When we heard this tune, he said, “oh yeah, this one is a hippy old time tune. I had never heard that expression before. Some old time tunes go way back to the American Civil War, but in the last 3 or 4 decades of the the 20th Century quite a few new old time tunes were written and that’s what my friend was referring to when he called Nixon’s Farewell a hippy old time tune.
Nixon’s Farewell came up 2 or 3 times at the festival. I got to jam along with it some, and when I got home I learned it a little better. It’s written by scholar, musician and instrument maker Curt Bouterse. He had this to say about the tune:
Some time ago on the Banjo Hangout I gave some historical background on the origins of Nixon’s Farewell. Right after the resignation in 1974 I figured something that monumental ought to be recognized in music. My initial reaction was the situation resembled the old “Somebody on the Gallows” or “What’s-his-name’s Farewell,” and I played around with various Lonesome and Lone melodies without success. Then I imagined a song with the refrain, “And you won’t have Old Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” [Those too young to get the reference will have to ask their elders.] It was played so much in the late 1970s some tired of it and I was afraid it might better be called Nixon’s Revenge, but it’s still popular with contra-dancers.
Here’s a nice stringband version of Nixon’s Farewell by Amanda Morrison, fiddle Stephen Rapp, banjo Paul Kirk & Bill Braun, guitar.
And here’s me having a go at it on clawhammer banjo a few months ago.