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The man can definitely eef.
January 6, 2007 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Before you do anything else, just listen to this. That's eefing, a 100-plus-year-old vocal technique from rural Tennessee that's, well, the original hillbilly beatboxing. The undisputed master of the art was Jimmie Riddle. His unique skill landed him recording* and TV (youtube) work. Want more weird sounds from the deep south? Try Hollerin & Whoopin and Ringing the Pig. *[warning: on the "Little Eefin Annie" page, avoid the "click here to hear Rolf Harris Eeefin'!" link: it's a pesky popup.
posted by flapjax at midnite (51 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
The "Hollerin" and "Ringing" links are from this Music For Maniacs page.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:16 AM on January 6, 2007


Great post, thanks
posted by Mick at 5:53 AM on January 6, 2007


I remember hearing 'Little Eefin' Annie' on a K-tel record called 'Looney Tunes'. I thought the song was about a girl with a stutter (felt bad for her, I did!). I had no idea there was a whole style to that sound. Thanks for the post!
posted by spoobnooble at 6:20 AM on January 6, 2007


What's that I hear?

I do believe that's the sound of a million basement producers powering up their samplers.
posted by sourwookie at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Thats the exact sound my car has been making. I'll play the first link when I call CarTalk his morning.
posted by hal9k at 6:23 AM on January 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do believe that's the sound of a million basement producers powering up their samplers.

"Was that noise, Dre?"

"That's some Tennessee Hillbilly folkmusic shit, Snoop."

"White people? Fo Shizzle. Got to rip that."
posted by three blind mice at 6:43 AM on January 6, 2007


Fantastick post. Thank you!
posted by dobbs at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2007


Good post, but I've never cared for that eefing stuff. When I was a kid those guys who did it on Hee Haw actually scared me a little bit.
posted by JanetLand at 7:34 AM on January 6, 2007


those guys who did it on Hee Haw actually scared me a little bit.

Yes, great art can often frighten or intimidate people. It's just that powerful.

But how did I let that nice little capsule bio of Jimmie pass me by? Damn, I thought I'd found just about everything worthwhile on the net. So, thanks for the link!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 AM on January 6, 2007


Excellent - the sound of eefing even brought a delighted girlfriend running in to see what the hell it was.
posted by Abiezer at 8:28 AM on January 6, 2007


Crikey, I thought this was unique to Rolf. (And Mr. Riddle has an unfortunate name, in terms of Cockney rhyming slang.)
posted by jack_mo at 8:35 AM on January 6, 2007


Janetland, Hee Haw was my first thought when I heard this too.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:40 AM on January 6, 2007


I was wondering if he might be the origin of the Cockney, jack_mo
posted by Abiezer at 8:41 AM on January 6, 2007


jack_mo: Rolf Harris' name popped up once or twice in my net-scouring for eef-ers, but I've been unable to find any online examples of his eefing. I'm interested in how it compares to the Tennessee variety popularized by Riddle. I reckon Harris copped it off of Riddle's Hee Haw appearances?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2007


I recommend listening to the story if you haven't (the LISTEN button at the top of the NPR story)
Also if any of you are interested enough, I rented the first Hee Haw DVD off of Netflix and it has them guys doing some amazing stuff.

There's also this thread on the Hillbilly message group, which has comments from Deke Dickerson, the guy Jennifer Sharpe used as her primary source in her NPR piece.

This should really catch on like the Twist so we can have songs like "The Eef", "Let's Eef Again" and "Eef and Shout". Then a movie can be made, Eefin' and the sequel, Eefin' II Acoustic Kookookagoo.
posted by DonnieSticks at 9:11 AM on January 6, 2007


That Ringing the Pig recording freaked out my cat. Oh, and, excellent eefing post!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2007


Oh man, that first link is something I've been looking for for a long time. I heard that track on a comp years ago (along with Almeda Riddle singing "Chick-a-la-lee-o," which isn't eefin, but is fantastic in its own right and can be found on this Folkways album) and foolishly lost the tape I made of it. Thanks for the post.
posted by sleepy pete at 9:39 AM on January 6, 2007


FanTAStic post. This is Greil Marcus' old weird America, for sure.

God, I just love small odd random regional traditions like this. And then hearing it turned over and plowed into the pop music of various past musical eras (and, undoubtedly, on the samplers of today) is a great, discrete example of the endless musical cross-fertilization and hybridization that makes American music so rich, deep, and abundant. Our culture's a thousand times richer than we imagine.
posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on January 6, 2007


I heard that track on a comp years ago

At first I thought you probably meant this (which was originally an LP), but looking over the track list I see Almeda Riddle isn't on this one. Must've been something else you heard way back when. Anyway, I'm glad the Jimmie Riddle recording found its way back to you via my post. :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:49 AM on January 6, 2007


I recommend listening to the story if you haven't (the LISTEN button at the top of the NPR story)

I have to endorse what DonnieSticks says; the NPR piece is great, and its suggestions of connections to hip-hop are awesome. Also, if you don't listen, you aren't going to hear the Chipmunks' rendition of Eefin' Alvin. Need I say more?
posted by Miko at 10:00 AM on January 6, 2007


Great post! This is why I paid $5 way back when.
posted by photoslob at 10:15 AM on January 6, 2007


awesome.
posted by fungible at 10:34 AM on January 6, 2007


Thanks for the enlightening post flapjax (and everyone else contributing to the thread).

You're helping renew my faith in the blue.
posted by numlok at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2007


Ukulele Ike (AKA Cliff Edwards) also called his scatting "eefing."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:52 AM on January 6, 2007


Fantastic post, thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 12:02 PM on January 6, 2007


Great post. Thank you on behalf of my people, as well as my other people. This is roots!

My only question now, how will it play off planet?
posted by mongonikol at 1:11 PM on January 6, 2007


Very good, thank you. Amazing what the human voice is capable of.
posted by Tube at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2007


I remember doing this as a wee lad*, always wondered where I had picked it up from. Great post!

*Well, attempting to, at least. Ere long my sister would beat me up and justify it to our parents by saying I was making "unnecessary noises". Who knows how far I could've gone if not for their meddling?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:44 PM on January 6, 2007


effing great eefing post flapjax.

As for hillbilly music, I like yodeling and whistling too. This is a fun clip of a Heidi-meets-Pippi-Longstockings, with a voice that rocks. For interesting vocalisations there's always Tuvan throat singing.
posted by nickyskye at 5:43 PM on January 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hey nickyskye, just got around to checking that little girl with the "voice that rocks". Damn! Brought a huge smile to my face! Watched it with my daughter (6 year-old) who was entranced. She said: "She's really cute to do that, but her hair is not good." Now she's trying it herself. Yo-do-lo-ee-heeeee!!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:42 PM on January 6, 2007


Pleased you and your little rascal liked that yodeling. :) Here's a second clip of Taylor Ware's amazing singing. At point 1:13 in her song her voice breaks into what I can only think of as a couple of chords at the same time. Incredible. And beautiful. Wow.

/derail
While looking at Taylor's video I clicked on another little girl from that same talent show, Bianca Ryan. My God, what a staggering voice from an 11 year old. A staggering voice from anybody.
posted by nickyskye at 6:20 AM on January 7, 2007


Abiezer writes 'I was wondering if he might be the origin of the Cockney, jack_mo'

Me too, but probably not. According to this page, 'Jimmy Riddle' for 'piddle' dates to the 19th Century, and 'Jimmy' in Cockney rhyming slang tends to be a generic name, rather than a reference to a specific person.

flapjax at midnite writes 'Rolf Harris" name popped up once or twice in my net-scouring for eef-ers, but I've been unable to find any online examples of his eefing.'

I can't find any either, except this promo clip for Rolf's Cartoon Club, where you can hear eefing on the backing track - he did it as a sort of vocal tic while drawing , as well as while singing, which is why I thought it was a personal eccentricity of his.

I did find, however, this mind-blowing footage of Rolf rapping about seal clubbing. Seriously, it's mind-blowing.
posted by jack_mo at 7:01 AM on January 7, 2007


Wow.

Wow.

jack_mo, that deserves an FPP of its own. It's just so... damn, I don't quite know what to say. Amazing. And with its own FPP on MeFi, well, with the way animal cruelty threads usually go here on this site... it'd be interesting, to say the least.

Thanks for that. Seems to be a rather interesting fellow, that Rolf.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:16 AM on January 7, 2007


Heh, I thought about it for a minute, but decided it would proabably be more at home on MetaChat, so posted it there.
posted by jack_mo at 7:31 AM on January 7, 2007


29 MeFites favorited this? Mefi has lost it's mind.
posted by dr_dank at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2007


Mefi has lost it's mind.

Nah, MeFi has re-asserted its capacity for simple and sincere delight in the curious.
posted by Miko at 6:01 PM on January 7, 2007


Point taken, Miko. I guess this Mefite has become too jaded when even I fail to be amused by somebody having an asthma attack on HeeHaw.
posted by dr_dank at 7:33 PM on January 7, 2007


I guess this Mefite has become too jaded when even I fail to be amused by somebody having an asthma attack on HeeHaw.

Well there's your problem right there. You're not supposed to be amused by this phenomenally sophisticated vocal technique, you're supposed to listen, absorbed in awe and bathed in that cathartic freeing of the human soul that only great art of this caliber can provide.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:13 PM on January 7, 2007


Great post Flapjax! Some of those noises remind me of Spike Jones and (I think,) Doodles Weaver. Let me get on YouTube and see if I can find some...
posted by Jofus at 12:15 AM on January 8, 2007


Wow. Hot eefin' sidebar action.
posted by DonnieSticks at 7:20 AM on January 8, 2007


Neat post flapjax. As a lifelong resident of Tennessee I've heard this in person many times at community events and jamborees/festivals.

It's very neat, but to me becomes tiresome/repetitive quickly. It's much like fiddle competitions where every 3rd contestant plays Orange Blossom Special or every 2nd banjo contestant plays Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

Variety is something most "mountain music" suffers a distinct lack of. As my friend Doug says, all bluegrass is basically "Blue Moon of Kentucky". While this statement is meant in jest, there really is a hint of unintentional wisdom in it.

Mountain music is a great art form, and one I'm proud of, but an afternoon of it should do just about anyone for a while. I mean, a little dulcimer goes a long, long way.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:41 PM on January 8, 2007


Hey, a genuine Tennessean comments! I'm so happy! (I was born and raised in Alabama, myself. So close and yet so far away...) Anyway, yeah, I know what you're saying about mountain music and especially bluegrass: it can get pretty samey. Still, there's no denying the power of a lot of that stuff. Mostly, though, I just dig old recordings: I listen to a lot of Roscoe Holcomb, Dock Boggs, stuff off the American Anthology of Folk Music... but endless modern-day rehashes of Soldier's Joy and whatnot don't do a whole lot for me either, I'm afraid. Years ago, in my teens, I used to go to an annual bluegrass festival at a place called Horsepens 40 in Alabama, and like you say, after a solid day of it, well, you wanted to go listen to Purple Haze, or at least, you know, drop some yourself... (Which, of course, we did, but that's a whole other topic.)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:26 AM on January 9, 2007


I hear Little Eeffin' Annie a million years ago on the (late? lamented?) Dr. Demento show. It was a staple. I also thought it was about a girl with a stutter.
posted by The Bellman at 7:11 AM on January 9, 2007


Aaargh . . . "heard" not "hear".
posted by The Bellman at 7:12 AM on January 9, 2007


Well, when done sincerely, mountain music of all kinds can be almost religious in nature (ignoring the obvious spirituals). Some of the vocal stylings are downright haunting, and the technical proficiency of some of the string players is breathtaking, especially considering most of them are not professional musicians.

Really, it's that sincerity that endears most forms of primitive/folk music to me. And it offends me when that sincerity is faked.

Last year, fellow Tennessean and MeFite nola and I rode our motorcycles up to Bristol, VA for the Rhythm and Roots Festival. While not all artists were bluegrass, there was one prominent group there, Chatam County Line, who are beyond proficient as far as the style goes, and are really quite impressive technically.

But, it was painfully obvious the lead singer was faking it/hamming it up. It was exactly what you'd think a geeky nerdy upper class 25 year old music major trying to pretend he was an old timer would look like and act like.

That, for me, ruined the entire performance.

I'd rather have a level lower technical proficiency and a level higher sincerity, at least when it comes to this kind of style.

Now for jazz, classical, or most other forms, I'm all about the virtuoso factor. I could care less if someone sits on a stool and stares at the floor all performance as long as he's a wizard on his instrument.

Not sure how often you come back to the states flapjax but there's still a wealth of these festivals all over the southeast every summer/fall. I've been to these in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. Of course, especially at the Tennessee venues, you have to look out for that omnipresent spectre, Clogging/Buck Dancing.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:42 AM on January 9, 2007


That was horrifying. Now I know what beatboxing sounds like to white people. The white people who are scared to go into "those neighborhoods."
posted by Eideteker at 1:23 PM on January 9, 2007


Variety is something most "mountain music" suffers a distinct lack of.

I can see how one might think that with only a passing acquaintance, but really, when you get into it -- particularly the playing of it -- it's intensely varied, even challengingly so, though the variations are subtle and within a definite vocabulary. In fact, it's the variations that are exhilarating. Musicians who are adept in other forms (pop, bluegrass, rock) are often stymied by the expectations of traditional tunes and jam sessions.

As my friend Doug says, all bluegrass is basically "Blue Moon of Kentucky".

There's a distinction -- what I said about traditional "mountain" tunes above I wouldn't say of bluegrass. Bluegrass is fundamentally different from the strange, spooky mountain fiddle tunes. It was born in a desire for commercial radio success, and so it's far more flat and simplistic, though the musicians tend to show off flashier chops. Bluegrass brought the first idea of a musician's 'solo' into the string band -- which of course later translated to rock. It features a lot less stylistic variety and creativity than the broad category of "mountain" [traditional fiddle and banjo and vocal] music.
posted by Miko at 7:39 PM on January 9, 2007


Howdy eef fans! Now that this crazy post has actually been sidebarred (wow!), all are encouraged to keep those eefing (and related) links coming in, for what may well become the web's biggest compendium of eefing links! What the eef! Here's a little sound clip I came across, courtesy of Smithsonian, featuring a South African cousin of eefing (and they actually refer to the "rhythmic wordless vocalizations " as, you guessed it: eefing).
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:57 PM on January 9, 2007


Congrats on the sidebar flapjax! :)

Hey, the horse can eef. (click on each one for a different sound)

Tried to find additional eef links but came up bone dry: Beat box. Psychedelic jew's harp?
posted by nickyskye at 9:33 PM on January 13, 2007


Hey nickyskye, thanks for the human, er, excuse me, equine beatbox. And the Kid Beyond clip is most interesting. He's good! And I see you dug deep into the ancient MeFi history and pulled up the J.M. Nasim jew's harp link. Thanks for that as well. You're one of the Fearless Linking Machines 'round here at MeFi, and let me say again, much obliged!

"I wanna get up and do my thing... you know, like a... like a link machine? Can I count it off?"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:33 PM on January 13, 2007


Yeah, you're right, the horse wasn't eefing, it was beatboxing. Git up...git on up... like a link machine.
posted by nickyskye at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2007


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