Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 6/3/2011 - Sandy Boys

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

blanham - Posted - 06/02/2011:  21:41:44

This week's selection is another tune associated with Edden Hammon's:  Sandy Boys.  Last week's TOTW included a nice, short bio of Mr. Hammons.

The best way to hear the "must have" version is to order the album "The Edden Hammons Collection, Vol. 1" available at Elderly, County Sales, and other sellers.  Here is a review of the album:

Speaking of the Hammons, Burl Hammons plays a nice rendition on the banjo on "The Hammons Family" LP:

According to the Fiddler's Companion, "The original, however, appears to be in the American minstrel show repertoire, for a similar version (though different in the ‘B’ part from Hammons’ tune) can be found in Phil Rice’s Correct Method for the Banjo (1857), a period tutor, and also appears an 1844 minstrel songbook."  Perhaps they are 2 separate tunes; who knows?

A tune with a different name, "Quail Is a Pretty Bird," has pretty much the same melody as "Sandy Boys", and is associated with fiddler Gene Goforth.  Clawhammer Mike features it on his Clawhammer Tune of the Day Blog:


He writes: "Gene learned this tune from his father Dink and then passed it on to John Hartford. An Ozark variation of the tune Sandy Boys."

Actually, the John Hartford recording is the first version I ever heard, and I still think it's my favorite tune on Hamilton Ironworks, except for maybe Wolves A' Howling.;sr=1-1

Other Recordings

There are probably too many recordings of "Sandy Boys" for me to add links to them all, so I'll just mention two I have in my collection.  My all-time favorite and most awesome one is from the album "A Moment in Time," by Leftwich and Gellert.  Also, an excellent banjo solo version is found on Dwight Diller's "Jericho Road" CD.


Banjo Hangout Links

Sandy Boys has been discussed in the Hangout forums before, such as "What is a Sandy Boy Anyway?"

It even appeared as a hated tune (tongue-in-cheek I hope!) in "Songs You Hate".  Apparently there is a festival/revival/hippie version that is really disgusting tongue, but I haven't heard it myself.

Chuck Levy posted a great-sounding MP3 from his "Banjourneys" studio album:

LyleK's version is really cool, played on 4 different fretless banjos!

There are 20 matches in the Banjo Hangout music search, so I'll leave it up to you to add your own recordings to your replies.

I made my own recording for this TOTW.  Banjo master Mac Benford got me started on Sandy Boys, with a workshop at the 2011 Suwannee Banjo Camp, where he taught the tune note-for-note in the style of Edden Hammons.

I hope you enjoyed this Tune Of The Week! smiley



Sandy Boys


Couchie - Posted - 06/03/2011:  04:44:17

Excellent tune and equally excellent rendition.

LyleK - Posted - 06/03/2011:  06:11:23

"banjosnapper" (Tim Twiss) has a video of the original Phil Rice minstrel version at youtube.  Also see his video of Phil Rice tunes, where Sandy Boy is at 2:38-3:40.  And see the archived thread for lyrics, which thankfully are no longer used.

Thanks for the link to my quad fretless *.mp3.  I made that some time ago just to compare the sound of four fretless banjos (Dobson Silver Bell, Gatcomb Student, Dayton, and Prust tackhead).  Given its minstrel background, Sandy Boys seemed like a "go to" fretless tune.  But it is also a great tune for fretted banjo, as evidenced in the versions in the original post for this thread.

hendrid - Posted - 06/03/2011:  06:21:50

If anyone is interested there are several sheet music, ABC, midi versions at  Just hit search and type in Sandy Boys.  Don

Edited by - hendrid on 06/03/2011 06:22:30

LyleK - Posted - 06/03/2011:  07:11:12


Originally posted by





the archived thread for lyrics, which thankfully are no longer used.

LyleK should learn to read!  I see that the link was in the original post (darn this 15 minute rule).

General note on abc: is another option for searching and it can get you to a *.pdf PDQ.

Edited by - LyleK on 06/03/2011 07:16:13

Califiddler - Posted - 06/03/2011:  07:44:49

That is a lovely and haunting tune.  The ABC site shows A and E chords, but 2 sharps in the key signature, so I assume that this is an A mixolydian tune?  Is it played in open G/A, or G/A modal, or what tuning?

banjoak - Posted - 06/03/2011:  10:00:53

I generally like to do many mixolydian tunes, including Sandy boys, in A modal; aEADE, but many folks do it in regular A.

Califiddler - Posted - 06/03/2011:  11:42:14

Blanham, what tuning are you in on this tune?

majikgator - Posted - 06/03/2011:  14:14:34

Great choice and when i have more time i will check out all your sources and revisit the tune, right now i plan on being kneed deep or higher in a single tune, Boatsman or Boatman, inspired by your recording of the Miles Krassen tabe the look at Mac Benford's etc. i have been playing Sandy Boys strictly based but not adhering to Frank Lee's tab from his video, parts of Chuck Levy's recording are similar to this, it's real Kick A@@ tune and really grabs at the listener/dancer, nice choice for sure, i will definitely give it a remodeling.

ramjo - Posted - 06/03/2011:  15:05:40

Thank you, blanham. I love this tune.

In line with the posts about tuning, I think it's fun to hear how the different voicings come out of the SAME tuning. R.D. Lunceford's (on "Drop Thumb") recording is in standard A, and it sounds to my ear quite Ionian (albeit wonderfully bluesy). Dan Gellert's is also in standard tuning (but in G) and it sounds much more mixolydian. I wish Dan had a clip of "Sandy Boys" from his "Waitin' on the Break of Day"  album somewhere on the web. (If you don't already own it, buy it here: As much as I love that duo with Brad L. on the "Moment in Time" album cited in the OP, the solo banjo on Dan's album-that-takes-its-name-from-a-line-in-Sandy-Boys is unbelievably captivating, imo.

[aside] Thanks also, blanham, for your recordings of the Krassen settings.

ramjo - Posted - 06/03/2011:  15:24:58

I just listened to Dan Gellert's solo recording, and I think what I said about its mixolydian-ness is pretty much nonsense. (Oh to have the Edit function back!)  I think my memory was colored by the several in-between notes he plays in the B part. Sorry for talking about music theory when I don't really have the qualifications.

blanham - Posted - 06/03/2011:  16:11:13


Originally posted by Califiddler

Blanham, what tuning are you in on this tune?

I do it in standard G capo'ed up to A.

blanham - Posted - 06/03/2011:  16:23:48


Originally posted by LyleK

"banjosnapper" (Tim Twiss) has a video of the original Phil Rice minstrel version at youtube.  Also see his video of Phil Rice tunes, where Sandy Boy is at 2:38-3:40.  And see the archived thread for lyrics, which thankfully are no longer used.

That's REALLY interesting, watching Tim Twiss play the minstrel version!  I guess I'll have to take back my speculation that it could have been a completely different tune from the Hammons version, with the A part having the same melody.  Thanks for the YouTube links.

majikgator - Posted - 06/03/2011:  18:00:42

OK went ahead and took a listen to all, great stuff and diverse, i had told Chuck L. sometime ago that, that was my favorite cut on that album and it's my favorite one of these as it's closer to the direction i had in mind for this tune. i never thought of it as being a very melodic piece more a fast dance tune. Can't believe you're getting that great tone capoed up Bob, incredibly good and articulately played, very nice job.

blanham - Posted - 06/03/2011:  19:18:44

Ramjo - Thanks for pointing out Dan Gellert's "Waitin' on the Break of Day" album.  I listened to the samples on (but no Sandy Boys sample), and am definitely gonna put that CD on my shopping list.

Michael Coleman - Posted - 06/03/2011:  19:34:42

Dirk Powell  does a nice job on Sandy Boys, playing a 13'' Romero banjo. The link is from Jason Romero's web page, under ''Sounds''.
CTRL + Click to follow link">



Bisbonian - Posted - 06/03/2011:  20:09:06

One of my current favorites, fretted, fretless, Open G/A or Sawmill, fast or slow...I've been having a lot of fun with it.

blanham - Posted - 06/04/2011:  02:39:18

Agreed, MC, that Dirk Powell recording is fine indeed!

Here's another one I forgot to include, as played by Ken Perlman and Alan Jabbour. From “Southern Summits.”  It's a partial sample from the Banjo Newsletter site:

docham - Posted - 06/04/2011:  07:24:43

Great version of Jody Stecher singing some lyrics. Audio is somewhat muddled so it's difficult to make out the lyrics.

RG - Posted - 06/04/2011:  13:11:48

Great tune, love playing it on the banjo but it's tough on fiddle!!  Really liked Tim's "minstrel" version of the tune...awesome...and Dan Gellert just rips up any tune he chooses to play, one of my favorite players...again, a great TOTW choice! 

R.D. Lunceford - Posted - 06/04/2011:  20:03:51


Originally posted by ramjo

Thank you, blanham. I love this tune.

In line with the posts about tuning, I think it's fun to hear how the different voicings come out of the SAME tuning. R.D. Lunceford's (on "Drop Thumb") recording is in standard A, and it sounds to my ear quite Ionian (albeit wonderfully bluesy).

 And if you have my "Cotton Blossom" CD laying around, a clawhammerized version  based on Sandy Boy from the 1858 Phil Rice banjo manual is included.  Interesting to compare the Appalachian versions to the Rice setting.  I wonder which one came first..... i.e., did the minstrels pick up the tune from tradition or did the minstrel tune get assimilated by the tradition?

ceemonster - Posted - 06/04/2011:  21:41:50

i really like the dirk powell "sb" on the romero banjos sound page, sorry if i missed someone citing it already:

ceemonster - Posted - 06/04/2011:  21:45:45

i believe zepp does a sweet one as well, come ta mention it.....

drybones - Posted - 06/05/2011:  04:21:57

I love this tune and it's really interesting how different many of the versions are.  I'm partial to Ron  Mullennex's version -- which I believe is hard to find at this point.  Thank you Blanham!

Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/05/2011:  07:58:03

Nice tune choice.  Chuck Levy’s version is great, perfect interplay between banjo and fiddle, and a great, gut grabbing low break.  Lyle shows that he is a connisseur of fine sounding banjos, and knows how to pick them all.  A fine job, great picking.  Tom's minstrel version was really cool, very interesting to hear where it's close, and where it isn't.  The OP, blanham, picks a version that is hauntingly elegant.  I love all of the tunes on Southern Summits, Ken and Alan sound like they grew up under the same roof.  Their Sandy Boys is especially nice.

I learned this tune quite awhile ago from Ed Britt.  I hope my three finger rendition isn’t the “disgusting festival version,” but if it is, hey, that’s life!  I do have a tab of this arrangement posted on my website, for anyone who is interested. 

Tab of Sandy Boys, three finger style


Edited by - Don Borchelt on 06/05/2011 08:09:58

VIDEO: Sandy Boys
(click to view)


blanham - Posted - 06/05/2011:  17:07:35


Originally posted by Don Borchelt

...  Chuck Levy’s version is great, perfect interplay between banjo and fiddle, and a great, gut grabbing low break. ...

Yes, Chuck's low break is great.  Having 6 strings really comes in perfect for this particular tune.  (I'm tempted to say that having 6 strings is cheating wink but that string didn't exactly play itself!)

Also, that's fine playing on your 3-finger version ... nice beat and had my toes tapping.

Edited by - blanham on 06/05/2011 17:11:29

J-Walk - Posted - 06/05/2011:  17:53:54

We interrupt this TOTW for a special announcement...

This is an urgent plea for Tune Of The Week volunteers. The next open date is June 24, and lots of opening after that. Please contact me to volunteer for a slot.  Note: You don't have to be able to play the tune you select. Just tell us about it. Some of the best TOTW's are by novice players.

Thank you for your attention. Now we return to our regularly scheduled TOTW.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 06/07/2011:  03:53:53

Sandy Boys is such a cool tune, and it goes really nicely with June Apple as a medley.  In fact, there are times when the two tunes sound very similar to my ear. 

My banjo tunings are usually stuck in D, but this week, they've migrated to being stuck in A.

Thanks for presenting this one as a Tune of the Week.

vrteach - Posted - 06/07/2011:  04:53:01

For me, Sandy Boys is enough like Clinch Mt Backstep that I have trouble playing one instead of the other. This in spite of preferring standard A for Sandy Boys and A-Modal for Clinch Mt Backstep. I'll attach the way I play Sandy Boys when I'm alone (I think I'm non-capoed in G); I tend to have to modify my B part when playing with others.

When playing alone, I often think of singing the lyrics that Dan Gellert does, as well as playing like him. It's the thought that counts, right?

Edited by - vrteach on 06/07/2011 04:57:58

Sandy Boys


Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Privacy Consent
Copyright 2024 Banjo Hangout. All Rights Reserved.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories