Sourwood Mountain

14 Apr

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[gDGBD tuning]

Sourwood Mountain is another one of those old songs that stretch back to an unknown source and was one of the earliest song/dance pieces collected in the beginning of the last century. The location of the Sourwood Mountain in the song is disputed, but there appear to be a peak in Jefferson County, TN and a ridge in Russel County, VA of the same name. Most people who keep track of this stuff note that it’s possible that the tune (and attached song) come from Sourwood Mountain, Massachusetts. Either way, the earliest recording comes from Tennessee fiddler Uncle Am Stuart (1853-1927), who at the age of 71 put it down for Vocalion Records during their frantic attempts to get a slice of the hillbilly pie after the huge success of Fiddlin’ John Carson’s recordings for Okeh a year earlier. The tune was also recorded by Dave Macon, The Skillet Lickers, The Hill Billies, Wade Mainer, Melvin Wine, Tommy Jarrell and a few dozen other notable characters from the Ozarks to the Blue Ridge.

From the Bluegrass Picker’s Songbook: “The tune was mentioned by William Byrne who described a chance encounter with West Virginia fiddler ‘Old Sol’ Nelson during a fishing trip on the Elk River. The year was around 1880, and Sol, whom Byrne said was famous for his playing ‘throughout the Eld Valley from Clay Courthouse to Sutton as…the Fiddler of the Wilderness,’ had brought out his fiddle after supper to entertain.”


Cripple Creek (v2.0)

27 Feb

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another, easier arrangement of Cripple Creek that I threw together for a friend of mine a little while back. As it stands, I don’t have an .mp3 version to share, but I’ll get on it as soon as I’m able. Check the .pdf section for a printable tab.

For the heck of it, here’s a link to the “original” post of Cripple Creek from March, 2010 in case you missed it.

Jack Wilson

27 Feb

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another guest contribution to the site; this time from a fella by the name of Clay Black. I like his arrangement quite a bit and I think folks looking to get into the 2ftl style will find this one to be very friendly. I have say it’s thanks to generous folks like Clay and our previous contributors that this site is able to stay afloat when I get bogged down with my graduate studies (one more month!). Once again, I’ll let the arranger do the talking (thanks again, Clay):


I did some thumb picking workshops at the Florida Folk Festival a while back.   Here is one of the tabs I passed out.   Jack Wilson is a Kentucky tune normally played in D with the banjo tuned aDADE but it just sort of falls into place in thumb picking as an open G (gDGBD) or A (aEAC#E) piece.  Nothing fancy here but beginners can learn this version in about 5 minutes so it’s great workshop material.  It’s easy enough on the fiddle in these keys too.

This tune is usually credited to fiddler John Salyer and banjoist Claude Helton based on their 1941 home recording but it appears to have been relatively common in the Magoffin County, Kentucky area.  J.M. Mullins recorded a banjo tune of the same name for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress in 1937, four years before the Salyer/Helton recording, and I’ve heard that early recording artist Buell Kazee, also a Magoffin County native, played it on banjo and sang verses. ”

Red Rocking Chair [Sugar Babe]

24 Jan

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[eEABD tuning]

It can hardly get more “traditional” than this one folks, and trying to ascribe authorship to any one person is a lost cause. The earliest known mention of anything related to the song is found in volume 28 (April-June, 1915) of the Journal of American Folklore in an article entitled Songs From the South written by University of Louisville professor E.C. Perrow.  Perrow includes lyrics for a certain song he calls Done All I Can Do (p.189) which he collected “From negroes; Mississippi; Ms. of W.G. Pitts; 1909.”  Outside of that reference, folklorists seems to agree that the song has a close lyrical connection with an old Child ballad known as The Lass of Roch-Royal [#76] (youtube example). As for recorded examples, Dock Boggs recorded a variation of the tune under the title “Sugar Baby” [Brunswick 118] back in 1927 and numerous others have recorded it under names like Red Apple Juice, Honey Baby, and I Ain’t Got No Honey Baby Now over the years.

Here’r a couple pages to check out if you’d like more info: Bluegrass Messengers &

I’ve arranged this in a pretty odd tuning, but I think it does the trick. Hope you enjoy playing it as much as I do.

More videos!

19 Jan

Frankie Revell playing & singing When it’s Time for the Whippoorwill to Sing:


Brian Scott playing Lost Gander (aka Wild Goose Chase):


Marc Nerenberg’s funky, syncopated take on My Creole Belle:


Delia’s Gone:


That’s Where My Money Goes

6 Jan

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[gDGBD tuning]

Here’s another guest-post from Sam Rubera (thanks, Sam!). For the strict thumb-lead player, you’ll notice that there are a few instances in Sam’s arrangement when the index finger picks melody notes on the 3rd string. Great exercise, in my opinion. I’ll let Sam do the rest of the talking:

Here’s one for you:

The song is “That’s Where My Money Goes”, stolen from the Supremest of the Supreme Beings (or “pretty top shit”, as we say in Australia), Uncle Dave Macon (Who once described himself [likely due to the influence of George Hay] as “banjoist and songster, liking religion and meeting, farming and thanking God for all the bountiful gifts he has bestowed upon us.”), from the 1951 recordings entitled “Uncle Dave: At Home”. This song was also recorded by Earl Johnson, Frank Stokes, Mississippi John Hurt, and John Jackson.

The tune is rather straight forward, it uses a different arrangement of the scale Boggs uses for his “Wild Bill Jones”. My arrangement is also rather straightforward, as usual, ask if’n you’ve got any questions.

You should probably play it loudly and quickly with lots of of strumming and yelping:

“That’s where my money goes
To buy silk camisoles
Nobody’s business
But my own

My girl, she’s nearly four
She works in a grocery store
Nobody’s business
But my own

She runs a weenie stand
Way down in No Man’s Land
Nobody’s business
But my own

We are the Jubilee
We drink good whiskey
Nobody’s business
But my own

It’s nobody’s business
Nobody’s business
Nobody’s business
If I do

Sometimes I ramble
Get drunk and gamble
Nobody’s business
But mine

One of these mornings, I’ll wake up crazy
Kill my wife and eat my baby
Nobody’s business
If I do

Morphine’s gonna run me crazy
Cocaine’s gonna kill my baby
Pretty girls gonna cause me to
Lose my mind”

– et cetera

“The Baker’s Dozen Christmas Songbook (Merry Christmas!)”

17 Dec

It is my pleasure to turn your attention to an excellent collection of traditional Christmas songs arranged by Nathan A. Wendte for 2 finger thumb lead banjo! Nathan has been doing some very creative things with the 2ftl style, and this collection is nothing short of fantastic. Check out his Youtube account for a handful of videos of Nathan playing arrangements from the book. Here’s a message Nathan posted to the Banjo Hangout which includes a link to the file:


Hello friends,

My present to all of you! 13 TABs for two finger thumb-lead banjo arrangements of popular holiday tunes and carols available for download at the site below:

I’m always humbled by the kindness I see from members in these forums. I hope this small contribution may help some of you in the same way that your many and varied contributions have helped me.

Merry Christmas!


P.S. I’ve also attached the file itself for your convenience.

The Baker’s Dozen Christmas Songbook