Photograph of James William "Jim" Day of Rowan County

(From the photographic collection of Jean Thomas, University of Louisville)

The real name of the balladeer and fiddler known as "Jilson Setters" was James William "Jim" Day. A Rowan County native, he died in Ashland, Kentucky on May 6, 1942 at the age 67. In 1926, Day had changed his name to Jilson Setters at the urging of his manager, Jean Thomas. Folk festival organizer and entrepreneur Jean "The Traipsin' Woman" Thomas, who ran the American Folk Song Festival, presented Day (Setters) to the public as an old mountain fiddler who had lived in total isolation for many years and was still in possesion of the traditions of his English ancestry, including a repertoire of ancient British ballads.

Later, after regaining his eyesight, he recorded successfully in New York with studio musician and pop songwriter, Carson J. Robison, while being promoted as the "modern survival of the ancient minstrel." Day recorded several sides for RCA Victor and the Library of Congress, and appeared around the world including New York society functions and in front of England's King George V.

WAY UP ON CLINCH MOUNTAIN
by James William Day

(Recorded on February 27, 1928 in New York City. This tune is a fiddle tune that is also known as "Drunken Hiccups" and has been traced to even older variations in the British Isles.)

I tune up my fiddle, I rosin my bow
I make myself welcome wherever I go

Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel
Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel

I eat when I’m hungry, I’ll drink when I’m dry
If hard times don’t kill me, I’ll live ‘til I die

Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel
Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel

I’ll buy my own whiskey, I’ll make my own gin
If I get drunk, madam, it’s nothing to you

Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel
Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel

Oh whiskey, oh brandy, you’re an old friend of mine
You killed my old father and you trouble my mind

Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel
Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel

Way up on Clinch Mountain, I wandered alone
I’m drunk as the devil and a long ways from home

Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel
Hiccup, oh lordy, how lazy I feel

Day with Jean Thomas (center) and unknown woman
Day at the grave of his wife Mary E. Day, location unknown.
Day with a young girl.

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