There are two variants of this tune. One version was popularized by Fred Cockerham from volume two of the famed Clawhammer Banjo series from County Records. A second is taken from Cilff Endress’ 1970 recording of Josh Thomas, from Hollins VA.
Clawhammer Banjo, Vol. 2 – Fred Cockerham Label: County Records
Black Banjo #8232;Songsters Of North #8232;Carolina & #8232;Virginia – Dink Roberts Smithsonian Folkways
Banjo Gathering – Bruce Molsky (a-DAC#E) Rounder Records
Old Time Banjo – Allen Hart Voyager Records Notes : [Key of C: banjo - gDGBD] with bones. I was given a set of CDs recorded by Cliff Edress in 1970, in Hollins, Virginia by my friend Kerry Blech. What a treasure set of recordings by African American player Josh Thomas there three hours of recordings are and I want to thank Cliff for making them available. Josh's clawhammer style on Roustabout is unique and creates a wonderful drone by alternating back and forth on the fifth and third strings. Clif Ervin is accompanying me on the bones and I'm playing the Okie Adams 20-pounder on this tune.
gCGA#D Zepp, who categorizes it as a G minor variant. Taken from Mike Seeger, “who gives his source as "Josh Thomas of Hollins, VA, an exceptional blind black banjo picker and singer", who was recorded in 1970 by Cliff Endress.” zeppmusic.com/banjo/aktuning.htm
a-DAC#E Bruce Molsky on Banjo Gathering
gDGBD Allen Hart on Old Time Banjo
Bob Carlin, Banjo Newsletter 419, Sept. 2008.
Phil Sparks, Nashville Old-Time Sting Band Association, May 2009 I have a PDF of this newsletter and will send it to anyone who emails me at firstname.lastname@example.org
"For this version see also: oldtimebanjofestival.com/mp3s/...about.mp3
Old Time Banjo – Allen Hart Voyager Records Notes : [Key of C: banjo - gDGBD] with bones. I was given a set of CDs recorded by Cliff Edress in 1970, in Hollins, Virginia by my friend Kerry Blech. What a treasure set of recordings by African American player Josh Thomas there three hours of recordings are and I want to thank Cliff for making them available. Josh's clawhammer style on Roustabout is unique and creates a wonderful drone by alternating back and forth on the fifth and third strings. Clif Ervin is accompanying me on the bones and I'm playing the Okie Adams 20-pounder on this tune."
EDIT: Never mind. I did a bit of searching, I thought you were referring to the recording above I had in the quote. Cool, people play bones, whoda thunk
I prefer Cockerhams version, such a flow to it. I'd like to attempt it in standard tuning.
i was just playing this tonight, trying Cockerham's version, but doesn't he have the D tuned down to a C (gCGBD) ? i love his version - it's advanced and primitive at the same time, and just blows me away.
Just about to ask the same question, Richard. Is Cockerhams version of Roustabout standard tuning with D dropped lower? Reading about, I see that his Long steel rail is gGGbd . the 4 string is an octave lower then the third. Similar tunes..same tuning?
gCGBD "Standard-C", "Single-C", "Drop-C","C-tuning" Used to be one of the most widely used banjo tunings, and is a "standard" in bluegrass as well as old-time music. C-tuning was the basis for most of the 19th century banjo methods and the written banjo literature. Nowadays, many old-time pickers use "Double-C" for tunes that were formerly more often heard in "Standard-C" (e.g. Mississippi Sawyer, Soldier's Joy, Arkansas Traveler, Turkey in the Straw, to name a few in the canon). Tuned up to D, this becomes aDAC#E. Just a few examples: Wade Reedy, Old Jimmy Sutton ("High Atmosphere"). Buell Kazee, Black Jack Davy ("Buell Kazee"). Hobart Smith, Cindy; John Greer's Tune; Soldier's Joy ("Hobart Smith of Saltville, Va."). Fred Cockerham, Roustabout ("Clawhammer Banjo vol 2"). Dock Boggs, Turkey in the Straw ("Dock Boggs Vol 3"). Pete Seeger, Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase; Hard, Ain't It Hard ( "How to Play...").
Thanks un5trung, and awesome take Joe. Man oh man. More I explore this tune, it seems a feller needs to be proficient at drop thumb to make a decent go at it....that i'm not. Gona have to get serious with some drop thumb exercises..i love this tune.
Talking about banjos and Roustabout, Mike Seeger plays Josh Thomas Roustabout on a gut strings gourd (?) banjo, but he told on the Southern Banjo Sound DVD that Josh Thomas used steel strings on a resonator banjo.
Maybe not that successful, but it was fun to try. I sent it to Mike (who had generously allowed me to record JTR without having to pay royalties, provided I credited my source). I'm not sure if it was due to that or not, but he started playing Roustabout more akin to Dink Roberts (esp. the break) shortly after:
Those of you interested in tabs for this tune should check out a new book by Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson titled: Kyle Creed Clawhammer Banjo Master
On full page layout Carlin's transcription of the Creed version is on the left and Levenson's interpretation of the tune is on the right. A roster of more tabs in the book is listed at the bottom of the message.
Please note that I am not an employee of any of the above institutions and have no financial relationship with either author.
Other tunes covered in the book:
1. Big Liza Jane 2. Black Eyed Susie 3. Breaking Up Christmas 4. Buffalo Gals 5. Cluck Old Hen 6. Cumberland Gap 7. Darling Nellie Gray 8. Fall on My Knees 9. Fortune 10. Jimmy Sutton 11. John Brown’s Dream 12. John Henry 13. Katy Kline 14. Little Liza Jane 15. Lost Indian 16. Mississippi Sawyer 17. Old Molly Hare 18. Polly Put the Kettle On 19. Pretty Little Girl 20. Rockingham Cindy 21. Roustabout 22. Sail Away Ladies 23. Sally Ann - Version 1 24. Sally Ann - Version 2 25. Step Back Cindy 26. Stillhouse 27. Sugar Hill 28. Western Country