Tag Archives: gDGCD tuning

Bright Sunny South

20 Oct

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[gDGCD tuning]

Also known as Sweet Sunny South, this one was first collected from a “Mrs. Lucy Cannady at Endicott, VA. Aug 23 1918” by Cecil Sharp – although there have been accounts that this one goes back even before the Civil War (1850s). The first recordings of it were done in 1927 by Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers, DaCosta Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters, and a certain Jackson Young, which is apparently a pseudonym for fiddler Ben Jarrell. Since then, dozens of people have recorded it in various settings, with different regional/individual characteristics – some major sounding & some in a minor key. I personally enjoy the minor ones so the above tab is based on the lonesome sounds of Jake Owen (son of the late Blanton Owen) and his banjo. Also worth noting is the version done by Dock Boggs in the 1960s. Dang good. Do a quick Youtube search for more.

For a great discussion about lyrics and origins, check out the threads on Mudcat Cafe: I & II


Little Sadie

14 Apr

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[gDGCD tuning]

This classic “murder ballad” goes by many names: Bad Lee Brown, Penitentiary Blues, Bad Man Blues, Out Last Night, and Chain Gang Blues to name but a few. A fella by the name of Lyle Lofgren has written more than I could even begin to on his site, so I’ll dispense with the formalities and get to it.

My arrangement is taken directly from the playing of the late, great Gaither Carlton (1901-1972) as recorded by John Cohen and included on his High Atmosphere album (one of the best ever). Mr. Carlton was Doc Watson’s father-in-law and a long-time friend and band mate of Clarence “Tom” Ashley. Mr. Carlton’s playing of Little Sadie was done 3-finger style, but I’ve found it works in the 2-finger style just as well. Enjoy!

Cluck Old Hen

12 Apr

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[gDGCD tuning]

This classic chicken song was first recorded in 1925 by Fiddlin’ Powers and Family (hear it is). Since then it has been recorded countless times and has countless verses (here’r lots of ’em).

As for its origins, the earliest occurrence of anything remotely related to what we know as Cluck Old Hen in print can be found in Negro Folk Rhymes: Wise and Otherwise (pp. 50-1, last verse) compiled by Thomas W. Talley and published in 1922. The song was discussed in-depth on the Banjo Hangout in February of 2010.  Click here in case you missed it or need a refresher.

My arrangement is pretty straight-forward.  Hope you like it.


The Coo-Coo Bird

29 Mar

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[gDGCD tuning; aka “Sawmill” or “Mountain Minor” tuning]

This popular banjo song was first recorded in 1929 by Tom Clarence Ashley for Columbia Records, and remained his signature song until his death in 1967. It was his 1929 recording which was included on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (Vol. 5, track 1), thus insuring its place as the “seminal” version known to folk and Old-Time enthusiasts everywhere.

Other stand-out versions of the song are from multi-instrumentalist Hobart Smith (recorded for Alan Lomax in 1942), banjo players John Snipes, Dink Roberts, and Rufus Kasey (on the must-have Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia album), and Dan Gellert on his out-of-print cassette Forked Deer [Marimac Recordings, 1986] .

My arrangement is the result of having all of these mixed around in my head for years…probably closer to Hobart Smith and Dan Gellert than Clarence Ashley.