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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (BG) - "Leather Britches" - 8/10/14

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:

schlange - Posted - 08/08/2014:  12:17:54

Sir Alexander Macdonald (1744-1795)" />" height="300" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="300">Leather Britches by Eric Schlange on Grooveshark

This week's Scruggs-style tunetorial features an old and very popular fiddle tune, Leather Britches. It goes by other names as well, including "Leather Breeches" and "Old Leather Britches" (that's what Flatt & Scruggs called it).

Musicologists generally agree that Leather Britches is the American version of Lord Macdonald's Reel, a Scottish tune first published around 1790 and composed by Sir Alexander Macdonald.

According to the Fiddler Companion's massive writeup on Leather Britches, ​"the earliest version of “Leather Breeches” in print (under that title) appears in numerical tablature in Music for the Piano Dulcimer by R.J. Rudisill (of Missouri), published by Stedman (New York) & Milton (Kentucky) with a date of 1859, sold by L.S. & H. Wade. The volume, says Paul, was apparently written to accompany the dulcimers manufactured by the Wades in Chautaqua County, New York."

In Bell Wiley's book "The Life of Johnny Reb" he lists Leather Britches as one of the popular tunes played by the Confederate army.

Typically played in the key of G.

Learn the Tune:

  • Hear It using the GrooveShark playlist to the right.

  • Casey Henry has posted two lessons for this tune--one for the lead break, and one for backup. Lessons are only $6 thru the end of the week.​ Get them here >

  • Backing Tracks: Band in a Box tracks are included below at various speeds for your practicing pleasure. 

  • Tabs: there are several tabs posted on the BHO. If Jack Baker has one I'll post it here soon!


I (and others) would love to hear (and see!) you play your version of this tune--post it in a reply below!

VIDEO: Leather Britches
(click to view)

VIDEO: Bobby Hicks and JD Crowe: Leather Britches
(click to view)

VIDEO: The Grascals - Leather Britches
(click to view)

VIDEO: Leather Britches Backup - Custom Banjo Lesson from The Murphy Method
(click to view)

VIDEO: Leather Britches - The Murphy Method Custom Banjo Lesson
(click to view)

Leather Britches Backing Track (G) 70BPM

Leather Britches Backing Track (G) 90BPM

Leather Britches Backing Track (G) 110BPM

Leather Britches chord chart


Jack Baker - Posted - 08/08/2014:  13:10:56

Hi Eric,

I've never fooled with this one as it is pretty much just backup...Mick G has a very good tab of this one...Jack




Tim13 - Posted - 08/09/2014:  08:41:13

The Flatt & Scruggs Carnegie version is the answer to the question: "How do I back up a fiddle tune?"  You can hear everything Earl is doing, and, well, it's Earl.  'Nuff said.



dcnchair - Posted - 08/09/2014:  11:05:10

Great tune.

Miss Mcleod's Reel/Leather Britches


JanetB - Posted - 08/09/2014:  17:22:10

What a great pick, Eric, with amazing historic versions you've included.  I've been fascinated with this tune for a long while.  Here's my simple melodic take on it, but it takes more nimble fingers than mine to play as fast and smooth as Dave in the previous post!

Leather Britches


Jim Yates - Posted - 08/11/2014:  21:06:16

Both Earl and John Hartford did wonderful versions of this backing the fiddle.  One of the only tunes I tried to learn Earl's part note for note.  I love Earl's descending chromatic run and, while I was still a Scruggs style player, I probably over used it... stuck it in everywhere I could.  

The first two measures make a good "beginning of the end"; right before "Shave and a haircut."

Jim Yates - Posted - 08/12/2014:  05:56:05

Here's John Hartford backing Vassar Clements' fiddle playing.  For some reason the picture chosen shows John and Mark O'Connor, but we're listening to Vassar from the Steam Powered Aereoplane (or Aereoplain or Areoplane*) album.

*It's spelled a couple of different ways on the album cover.

Edited by - Jim Yates on 08/12/2014 05:59:34

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