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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW The Devil Eat the Groundhog

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:

JanetB - Posted - 07/19/2013:  06:57:26

I always find the history of a tune interesting, as well as information about the musicians.  The Devil Eat the Groundhog comes from Kentuckian Owen “Snake” Chapman (1919 - 2002), who learned it from his elderly father, Doc Chapman, born in 1850.  BHO member Jim Reed brought the tune to us a couple of years ago with a video of his friend, Kentuckian fiddler and banjo picker Paul David Smith (1933 – 2011).   Paul had learned it from Snake and they’d recorded it together on Snake’s Up in Chapman's Hollow CD.   Additionally Paul came out with a CD whose title name is Devil Eat the Groundhog.  Snake plays the fiddle on this and Jim’s brother, John Reed, plays the guitar.


The tune is catchy and upbeat, but actually the song is about a hound dog who stole the groundhog meal after the hunter had dressed it.  The lyrics are:

         God almighty d____d dog (3X)

         The devil eat the groundhog!

Jim Reed had been mentored by Snake and Paul when they used to visit his childhood home in Pike County, Kentucky.  If you want to learn more about Jim's experiences with Snake and Paul, go to Paul Roberts’ interview on his website and see the Interview with Jim ReedHere’a a part of it: 

 Paul Roberts: Can you remember any musical experiences as a child that helped you as you were learning to play?

Jim: I know one thing for sure. Paul David Smith and Owen “Snake” Chapman had more to do with my playing than anyone. ..I’ve listened to them all night long. Not once did they play the same song twice.

At the time I was about 12 years they started coming to my dad’s house to pick with my dad and my brothers. Of course, I wasn’t really that good, but they heard some sounds that I was playing that fit into their fiddling. They’d mostly played with clawhammer players and hadn’t been around too many 3-finger style pickers. So you can say they took me under their wings and started telling me, ‘we will play this slow, and when we nod our head, you take a break.’  From there, I started playing fiddle tunes on the banjo.  They taught me to be smooth and play notes you don’t hardly hear on a banjo.  I think that it may be that some of my playing is just because of their experience and patience.

Here is lots of information about Snake:  bio of Owen Snake Chapman  and a couple of interesting  facts:

Doc Chapman’s father is said to have helped Abe Lincoln build fences.

Snake got his nickname from an Italian worker who visited the family home, giving Owen cookies and affectionaly calling him "Blacksnake," the name of his pony.


This link to the Slippery Hill website has an MP3 from Up in Chapman's Hollow, #1083.  I'll be able to get a better link later on a different computer:


Video of Paul David Smith playing Devil Eat the Groundhog


BHO member frfiddle plays Devil Ate a Groundhog


BHO member TheBanjoPrince's video


Good simple tab from Stewart Tyler May site


 Don Borchelt's tab page   I learned The Devil Eat the Groundhog from Don Borchelt’s beautiful 3-finger picking and worked to get my clawhammer version up and down the neck similar to Don’s playing.

I hope you give it a try and share your picking here, too.


Edited by - JanetB on 07/19/2013 07:31:36

The Devil Eat the Groundhog

The Devil Eat the Groundhog tab

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/19/2013:  09:59:23

I found the stewart tyler may tab here at this link:

I've attempted to attach the pdf version. 


Edited by - Brooklynbanjoboy on 07/19/2013 10:02:05

TOTW devil


J-Walk - Posted - 07/19/2013:  16:46:12

Great tune, and great write-up, Janet. That's one of my all-time favorites. When it comes up at a jam, there are usually people who don't know it. But they invariable want to know it.

This post inspired me to figure it out in (low-tuned) Double G tuning -- which works very well, I think. Unless I get sidetracked, I'll try to post a recording. 

RG - Posted - 07/19/2013:  20:54:27

Great pick playing that tune on the fiddle...!

bhniko - Posted - 07/20/2013:  09:06:51

Love being in your history class with their posts. I will bestow upon you the ceremonial title of 'banjorian'.

aeroweenie - Posted - 07/20/2013:  18:01:01


Originally posted by J-Walk

When it comes up at a jam, there are usually people who don't know it. But they invariable want to know it.


Too true, I've heard this tune but didn't know what it was called.

I was surprised that it is a G tune, which I need to learn more of.  I really like it and will put it on my to-learn list.

Janet, good write up and examples.  Your version is excellent and will help me learn the tune.

Jay K - Posted - 07/21/2013:  21:23:21

Wow, love this tune! Looking forward to digging in! Thanks!

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 07/22/2013:  07:41:19

Great tune choice, Janet.

And nicely played by you.

Here's my crack at it.

Have a great day,


JanetB - Posted - 07/22/2013:  08:14:51

What a great tune, Lew.  You've made it your own!

Paul Roberts - Posted - 07/22/2013:  15:24:45

Wow, what a masterful presentation! (who needs college?)



Jay K - Posted - 07/22/2013:  21:10:43

Yes Lew, that was really beautiful, thanks!

SCclawman - Posted - 07/23/2013:  07:24:38


You provide some of the best TOTW's and best mp3's on a regular basis. This community is incredibly thankful for your contribution!!!!

Lovely song, and I enjoyed your playing. I need to add this to my bag of tricks. I've loved all of the Snake Chapman tunes that you've posted over the last few months.

Side note - I hope I have a chance to meet Jim Reed one day. And I hope to make it out to California one day too and pick a few tunes with you Janet!

JanetB - Posted - 07/23/2013:  20:26:58

Banjo Hangout friends say the nicest things.  Sharing our old-time tunes is much fun, even with the hunter's cursing in The Devil Eat the Groundhog.  I've been meaning to put a link here to some groundhog recipes, though you might have to bring one to California in case you do visit.

bhniko - Posted - 07/24/2013:  12:39:26

And now a five star Michelan chef!!!!!!
Not to keen on the woodchuck but sure gonna do the scallops.

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