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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tune of the Week 8/12/11 Darlin' Cora

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:

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/12/2011:  21:10:07

It´s time for the tune of the week!  I thought that after three years, I would have a hard time finding one that I was familiar with, that hadn´t been done yet.  But was was pleasantly surprised to find that, when I went looking through the list for Darling Corey, it hadn't been featured.  To me, it is one of the most intriguing, haunting songs I have heard on the banjo.  It was one of the first songs I tried to learn from Pete Seeger´s book, but still haven't gotten the hang of two-finger thumb-lead.

That's the way that B.F.Shelton played it, when he recorded in "Darlin' Cora" in 1927:  It wasn't the first, but to me, it sets the standard.  Buell Kazee actually recorded it earlier the same year, as Darling Cora, in his inimitable ASPO, drop-thumb, rake-back-with-the-thumb, style...playing a mile a minute and singing at four miles an hour.

Pete Seeger says he learned it from Shelton, but played it (and published it in his book) in Graveyard tuning (f#DF#AD).  Shelton played it in C, but the recording comes out sounding closer to D, so Seeger must have worked it out in a D tuning to get it close to what he heard.  BHO member Hunter Robertson has made a video explaining how Shelton most likely played it out of eCGCC, and give a short">http:// ; He also has put together a longer, instructional video on how to play it:

It seems like dozens of the Old Time musicians recorded it, Roscoe Holcomb, the Monroe Brothers, Doc Watson, all the way through John Hartford and Bruce Hornsby to Crooked Still.  Joel Mabus has recorded my favorite modern version, on his album Flatpick and Clawhammer, and plays it in a wonderfully different E minor (g#EADE).  They all play it better than I do, but I made my own stab at it.  I recorded it, clawhammer, with some APSOs, in gCGCC, though I generally like to play it in eCGCC now.  I used it for the soundtrack of a tongue-in-cheek banjo building video I made in response to seeing some of Frailin's awesome banjo maker interviews:

Every version seems to have a slightly different take on the lyrics (except mine!), but basically, Cora was a little rough around the edges, and eventually it caught up with her.  Variations on the song seem to be the inspiration for related songs, like "Little Maggie" and Dock Bogg's "Country Blues".  Mudcat has B.F. Shelton's version:


Oh go dig a hole in the meadow

Oh go dig a hole in the ground

Go dig a hole in the meadow

Let me lay pretty Corey down

Oh the last time I saw darlin' Corey

She was sittin' on the bank of the sea

With a forty-four around her

And a banjo on her knee.

Wake up, wake up, darling Corey

How can you sleep so sound

Highway robbers are comin'

Gonna tear your still-house down.

Go away, go away, darlin' Corey

And bring to me my gun

I ain't no man for trouble

But trouble just now begun.

The last time I saw darling Corey

(She) had a forty-five in her hand

Kill them revenue officers

If they leave here with my man. 

Go away, go away, darling Corey

Quit your hangin' around my bed

Whisky has ruined my body

Pretty women will kill me stone dead.

Across the deep blue ocean

Across the deep blue sea

Go bring to me darlin' Corey

Wherever she may be.

Wake up, wake up, darlin' Corey

Go do the best you can

I have got me another woman

You can notch you another man

Oh yes, oh yes, my darlin'

I'll do the best I can

But I'll never give my pleasure

For another gamblin' man.

Notes: Transcription of B.F. Shelton 'Darling Cora' recorded on July 29, 1927 in Bristol, Tenn, and issued as Vi 35838. Transcribed by Stewie corrections by Richie

I'm still working on my own, abbreviated version...something I just might remember the words to while I sing.  There are some really nice versions here at the BHO though, by Clifton Hicks, folkdog, Elwood (as Darlin Cora Jane), Mr Pederson (Darling Cory), darryl k. (My Darling Corey is Gone), and several others.  Sorry, I couldn't figure out how to link to them without massive, multi-line urls.  I know there are more, what have you got?


P.S., Thanks, Marc, for the help with the links.


Edited by - Bisbonian on 08/13/2011 16:50:27

janolov - Posted - 08/13/2011:  00:43:10

That is my favorite tune! I first learned it from Pete Seeger, but later when I read that Shelton used a tripple C/D tuning I worked out that version. Technically there is a big difference between playing i f#DF#AD and eCGCC /f#DADD): in the D tuning you have to move the left hand a lot fretting from first fret up to 9th fret. In the triple C/D you only fret at the 4th and 5 fret and can keep your left hand in the same position all the time.

Another interesting version is by Mike Seeger who plays a clawhammer version in triple C tuning on one of his Southern Banjo Style DVDs. He plays all melody notes with slides which gives a special sound.

cookge - Posted - 08/13/2011:  01:11:59

Great stuff! The B F Shelton version of this tune is also one of my favourite pieces of banjo music. I'm looking forward to doing some work on it. Thanks for your post.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/13/2011:  05:06:48

This is a terrific tune of the week. I too am surprised it hasn't been done before now.


In the panel of icons above the message composition box, near the right end of the sequence of icons (5th one from the right end on my screen), there is a "link" icon that looks like a little football helmet (I think it's supposed to be 2 links of a chain at the bottom, connecting stuff above - but it looks more like a blue football helmet to me).

To post a link, first copy the link, then click on that icon, then paste the link into the URL slot that will be in the dialogue box that appears. (I don't remember the next step because I don't have the dialogue box open, but it should be intuitive.)

You might want to go back and edit your original post, transforming all your dead links into live ones, using this technique. I would think the way to do that would be to "cut" and paste each link, rather than "copy" and paste.

Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 08/13/2011 05:09:35

blanham - Posted - 08/13/2011:  05:06:58

Bisbonian, love your sense of humor, and your Darlin' Cora soundtrack to your video is perfect.  I've always wanted to learn to play it, so this is my opportunity to finally get to work on it.

Here are some embedded versions of the videos in your original post.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/13/2011:  05:14:18

NOTE: Embedding is a different process than linking (which I explained above). To embed, you click on the "Source" icon, and paste the embed link right into the message.


On another note: In triple C tuning are the 1st and 2nd strings the same pitch (in the same octave)?


majikgator - Posted - 08/13/2011:  06:19:41

Wow you are right not Having Darling Corey before as TOTW was a gaping hole, as Mike Seeger noted (in my words) Darling Corey is the quintessential mountain tune, i suppose it is possible to come up with a version of it i don't like but i haven't heard it yet. Excellent choice. 

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/13/2011:  07:46:04

I'm glad everybody else seems to like it as much as I do. Marc, thank you so much for the help with posting...I really haven't figured out this "new" format, and having been doing much posting...too busy! I'll go back and edit, and make them links, since blanham so graciously embedded them. We'll have "both kinds of music".

And yes, Marc, the first two strings are both the same C. It gives all sorts of magical droning tone, and lots of fun possibilities. When I tune to play Darlin Cora, I usually have some fun with some other D tunes while I am there. Can't get the same melody notes on the first string, obviously, so I usually just let it ring and find them somewhere else, an octave lower maybe.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/13/2011:  12:38:18

Hey Bisbonian,

That's a really cute title to the thread (Toon of the VÍk) and I like it - but I bet a lot more people would notice the thread if you gave it a more usual title, such as: "T.o.t.W. 8/13/2011 Darling Corey".

You can edit the title by clicking the edit icon on the first post (only the OP can do this.)

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/13/2011:  20:33:03

So here I was, with a backlog of songs to record, and not a lot of time to record them - planning to spend a couple of hours this evening getting at least one of them down, when along comes this TOTW with one of my favourite songs that I've noodled with from time to time, but never learned, or developed a version of.

I found myself working on this one tonight, instead of any of my songs that are essentially ready - and have been for a while. Based on the tuning information in this thread, I found my 6 string banjo to be in a compatible tuning (though, in the key of G instead of D, and with the 1st string being tuned like one of the 5th string variants cited). So I took the advice of using the 4th and 5th frets - and found myself wandering up above there on the 1st and 2nd strings for a few notes - but not many.

The words I use are my vague memory of some lines here and there, combined with my tendency of turning everything I do into a semi-coherent story. (It's both a blessing and a curse - I manage to find a clear story line in most everything I work on, but I think I lose some of the mystery of being ambiguous when telling a story filled with holes.)

Here are the words to this version (or something like them, if I didn't actually sing these):


Wake up, wake up, darlin' Cory. What makes you sleep so sound.

The revenue offcer's a-coming, just to tear your still house down.


The last time I seen darlin' Cory, she had a dram glass in her hand.

She had a 44 strapped across her bosom. She could shoot that like a man.


The last time I heard darlin' Cory, it was the firing of that gun,

There was just one shot that amswered - Cory never had no chance to run.


Dig a hole, dig a hole in the meadow; dig a hole in the cold, cold  ground.

Where I can lay my darlin', where I can lay darlin' Cory down.


Anyway - here's my first take on this really terrific tune of the week. I may come back with a more fully realized version in the coming days, weeks or months - or maybe not.

(It's on my Hangout page, in the video section, and here's the same video, embedded from YouTube):


Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 08/13/2011 20:42:37

Miguel MC Dowell - Posted - 08/13/2011:  20:43:12

Hi Mark, What a great job you did, I loved the way you played it. I really wished I could sing on video like you do, great job. I heard Darling Cory for the first time back in 98 when my teacher at the time played it for me, and have loved it ever since.

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/13/2011:  22:37:57

Wow, I really love that, Marc. I am surprised you hadn't done this before...but you sure stepped up to the plate.

Like you, I have to make it tell a story, (and, like you, I feel like it loses some mystery, but have to do it anyway.)

I've been seeing (and hearing) a lot of that six string banjo lately...I think I may have to add one to my shop "to do" list.

TOTW - Posted - 08/13/2011:  22:57:11

a few versions

B.F. Shelton -

Bill Monroe -

Buell Kazee -

Burl Ives -

Charlie Louvin -

Elizabeth LaPrelle -

Greg Hooven -

Mike Seeger -

Monroe Brothers -

Pete Seeger -

Roscoe Holcomb -

Shorty Ralph Reynolds -

The Doc Watson Family -

The New Lost City Ramblers -

The Seldom Scene -

Tom, Brad & Alice -

Virgil Anderson -



Julian44_4 - Posted - 08/14/2011:  00:24:36

From the playing of Dianne Jones

Tabbed by Dave Dry / Bob Little Foaotmad Resources;v=18324


Bisbonian - Posted - 08/14/2011:  08:23:09

Whoa! I didn't even think to look for that. Thanks for pointing that out, Julian.

hendrid - Posted - 08/14/2011:  09:56:51

Nice selection Bisb. Couple of melody sheet music and lyrics. Don

Edited by - hendrid on 08/14/2011 09:57:47

staronjeff - Posted - 08/14/2011:  10:20:38

sweet i love this song, i finally can contribute to TOTW i posted this a while back it's mostly a the Mike Seeger version 

VIDEO: Darlen Cory
(click to view)


blanham - Posted - 08/14/2011:  13:43:28

My recording starts with the Pete Seeger tab, and then I add in some chokes and twisting of the Keith tuners.  Actually, the Darling Corey tab was the reason I bought the book a few months ago, so thanks for this TOTW.

Darlin' Cora


banjered - Posted - 08/14/2011:  15:46:41

Great Blanham! Yours is my favorite so far. A little weak in the vocals though (HA!). Banjered

RG - Posted - 08/14/2011:  16:59:49

Bisbonian-great Tune of the Vik choice and some great versions of this tune posted, wow, every one of them sounded great!!  Thanks for putting this one back on the map for me, haven't played it in years but that's gonna change real quick...

Edited by - RG on 08/14/2011 17:00:49

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/14/2011:  19:32:48


Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/14/2011:  20:00:30


Originally posted by Bisbonian


As they say in the old (but not old-time) song: I second the emotion!

blanham - Posted - 08/15/2011:  04:47:22

Hey, y'all are giving me a big head with those "wows!"  I am actually pretty proud of the way it turned out, and the idea to use the Keith tuners.  I can see how 2-finger style can become an obsession; it's really fun!

ramjo - Posted - 08/15/2011:  05:11:27

I've been away for a few days. What a treat it is to come back to this! One of the best TOTWs ever. Bisb. I have some rasping that needs to be done....what are your rates? cool Blanham: SUPERB rendition! Those Keith tuners sure do make a fine twang!

bordertownbrown - Posted - 08/15/2011:  07:11:17

Here is a great video of Dock Boggs doing his "Country Blues", a song closely related to "Darlin' Cora" and most like the B. F. Shelton version. Boggs first recorded this song on march 10th, 1927, B. F. Shelton made his recording July 20th of the same year.


<iframe width="425" height="349" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> 






Bisbonian - Posted - 08/15/2011:  07:34:03

That link didn't work out, exactly, but this one should:

rinemb - Posted - 08/15/2011:  08:01:35

after you kill her off, like a good old time tune, you gotta close it.  here is my final verse:

Don't you hear them bluebirds singin'

Don't you hear that mournful sound

They're preachin' Cory's funeral

In the lonesome graveyard ground.

I hope to do this as our bluesy tune with the band.  I just play it in C, with a change to a C7 chord.  And sing it with a lot of sustained notes, gives the rythm section a lot of anxiety.  Brad


cbcarlisle - Posted - 08/15/2011:  08:21:06

I've played it for at least 40 years on my Frank Proffitt in the triple C tuning (1-5-8-8) with that M3 5th string chiming in. I got it from an old Pete Seeger recording which clearly used that droney tuning. I also use it for Little Birdie (along with Glory in the Meetin' House) which is on my latest CD. [I always thought that whoever said, "Now this is Little Birdie tuning; there ain't no other tune in this 'cept Little Birdie," probably could've sneaked in Darlin' Corey too.]

I particularly love the verse:

Don't you hear my banjer ringin'

Don't you hear that lonesome sound

Don't you see them pretty girls laughin'

Dancin' on that cold, cold ground?

(Makes me shiver.)

ELWOOD - Posted - 08/15/2011:  08:26:31

That is all new and amazing to me. I thought I knew this tune and here it is as a two finger really quick tune. I loved the vocals when included. So here it is as I know it and nothing like the examples so far...........Very interesting . ELWOOD.

Darlin Cora Jane

cbcarlisle - Posted - 08/15/2011:  12:11:59

Lawsy mercy, I must be gettin' senior. I was distracted by rinemb's verse. The verse about pretty girls dancin' is from "I ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," which I Do love. In fact, it's another of those Carter Family reworkings: essentially the same tune as Darlin' Corey. Like "they" say, there are only three tunes all told.

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 08/15/2011:  13:27:28


Originally posted by cbcarlisle

Lawsy mercy, I must be gettin' senior. I was distracted by rinemb's verse. The verse about pretty girls dancin' is from "I ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," which I Do love. In fact, it's another of those Carter Family reworkings: essentially the same tune as Darlin' Corey. Like "they" say, there are only three tunes all told.

And here I've added my slight reworking of that verse as a final verse to my version - and I was about to thank you for posting it!

Ha! Well, I'm gonna keep it there - I like it a lot. Oh, and I do thank you for posting it - and rinemb, too!

(My variant: Can't you hear that banjo ringing, / Hear that lonesome sound, / And see them pretty girls a-laughing, / Dancing on that cold, cold ground.)

Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 08/15/2011 13:31:31

Kitt - Posted - 08/15/2011:  21:01:11

There was a link to a tablature of Darling Cora posted on this thread by Julian. I posted it again below. The tab is supposed to be a markup of Dianne Jones' playing of the tune. I haven't heard her play it so that's unfortunate for trying to make best use of the tab, but I have a question about the tab. Has anyone else here looked at or worked with it? I ask because it's a fine tab and I'm hearing the tune come along for me fairly well, but I think there is an error in the tab. I don't mean a choice of how it could be done this way or it could be done that way, I mean an error. There are a number of 3-to-5 slides on the 3rd string. Some of them are immediately followed by 3-to-5 pull off. I think most if not all of those slides should be 3-to-5 hammer-ons. Not just because they'd sound fine, but because they'd make sense and be much easier to do as hammer-ons since they're followed by the 3-to-5 pull-off.

I'm not talking about how one doesn't have to follow a tab exact. I know that so that's not relevant to my question. I'm just wondering if anyone else has looked at that tab and, if so, what do you make of what I've suggested and observed?;v=18324

RG - Posted - 08/15/2011:  23:22:30

Kitt-from what you describe that would be tough to pull off unless you slide down with the pinkie and then pull off (I do this on "Last Chance" and a couple of other tunes), how about a slide down (3-5) followed by a slide back (5-3), that would sound lonesome & cool which would fit this tune (but not as cool as Blanham's Keith tuners version!)...

Kitt - Posted - 08/16/2011:  04:06:19

Correction on my first description: The pull off is 5-3, no 3-5. Sorry for any confusion. But my suspicion of that being an error, and the rest of what I wrote about it, is still my question.

stevel - Posted - 08/16/2011:  06:33:07

i love this song. you can play it two different ways to get two different feels.

one way is to use frets 3 and 5 on the third as noted.

another is to use frets 4 and 5 on the third string to give it a brighter feel.... (i usually change/sharpen a few of the notes on strings 2 and 4 as well when doing this)

its cool how such a simple change can create a whole different atmosphere.

RG - Posted - 08/16/2011:  11:06:32

Kitt-to reiterate, don't think it's an error, slide down to the 5th with your pinkie and then grab the 3rd fret with your pointer and pull-off.  Are there easier ways to play it?  Sure, like using a back and forth slide...

Edited by - RG on 08/16/2011 11:10:12

Randy Adams - Posted - 08/16/2011:  19:28:47

Lots of cool versions of this tune huh? I've enjoyed listening to most of 'em. One night I was messing around with slides and started playing DC...decided to record it before I forgot it & came up with this. Little overboard with the slides but fun while it lasted... : )....

Edited by - Randy Adams on 08/16/2011 19:30:36

Kitt - Posted - 08/16/2011:  19:52:54


Originally posted by RG

Kitt-to reiterate, don't think it's an error, slide down to the 5th with your pinkie and then grab the 3rd fret with your pointer and pull-off.  Are there easier ways to play it?  Sure, like using a back and forth slide...

I don't know if you're looking at the tab, but I hope so because this is tough to explain without you seeing it. Bad enough that I botched it at least once already.

What you're suggesting would maybe work for me, but you know that the 3-5 slide is preceded by a pull off at the fifth fret of the same (3rd) string and then a hammer on at the 3rd fret of the same (3rd) string. So I guess, in order to do all of that as comfortably as I could I'd be using the pinky for the 5 pull off, then jump back to the 3 hammer with the pinky in order to then slide to the 5 from there in order to pull off with the pinky on the 5-3.. Or at least that is one of the sequences involving the 3-5 slide. I just tried that, and it seemed to work okay. There might be a better way to do that but that, so far, that seems about as coordinated as I can feel my way through it.

Anyway, thanks for your input, and I think it's beginning to smooth out. I'm going to go with the slides because, assuming that they're correct, Dianne knows more about this than I do, that's for sure. I sure wish I could hear her play it. It must be on that DVD of hers where she plays some number of her favorite tunes. Anyone know for sure where she has recorded Darling Cora?

RG - Posted - 08/16/2011:  21:59:59

Hey Kitt-yes I did look at the tab and played it out, it should work, one just has to get that pinky moving.  I had some injuries to my left arm, so my use of the pinky was fairly limited until I started playing fiddle a couple of years ago and it really got back into shape, use it a lot for drones and it's gotten a lot stronger, so keep at it, you'll figure out how to get it to sound right on this tune I'm sure...I still like sliding down and then sliding back, but I use this all the time in my playing so I'm probably used to that could hammer on and then pull off, that would work as well, I just like the use of slides in this particular song...but then Dianne might play it completely different...that's why I love this music so much...

Edited by - RG on 08/16/2011 22:12:10

cookge - Posted - 08/17/2011:  07:02:58

So, what type of instrument would Mr. shelton have played and recorded this tune with ?

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/17/2011:  14:44:58

This is the only image of B.F. Shelton that I could find:


Apparently, he played a fish.  Everyone knows you can tuna fish.

Edited by - Bisbonian on 08/17/2011 14:45:24

cbcarlisle - Posted - 08/17/2011:  17:20:24

 Everyone knows you can tuna fish.  

Groan. Croaker.

Bisbonian - Posted - 08/17/2011:  19:00:43

Sorry, it's a tuna the weak joke.

cookge - Posted - 08/18/2011:  00:17:48

Brilliant !! :-)

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 09/18/2011:  14:55:30

Here's another cool version of this song, posted yesterday by banjo hangout member rockb59, in this SOUND OFF thread :

Edited by - Marc Nerenberg on 09/18/2011 15:01:21

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