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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW (OT) 2/20/15: Rocky Mountain Goat

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:

Adam Kiesling - Posted - 02/20/2015:  10:02:59

This a good old-fashioned breakdown in the key of D. One of the primary sources for this tune is Fiddlin' Doc Roberts. He's one of my favorite old-time fiddlers--a real powerhouse of a fiddler, with a wide variety of tunes. I highly recommend looking into some of the various re-issues of his recordings (such as this one which has 14 of the tunes he recorded, or his complete discography spread over three volumes on Document Records if you happen to be a completist).

Here's the notation (it's a PDF file) if you're into that kind of thing. The PDF is from this page which has links to some more info about Doc, including transcriptions of his other tunes.

Here are some versions from other musicians found at the Digital Library of Appalachia.

Here's a link to a youtube video of Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman playing the tune (please note that I can't verify if it's the same tune since I'm not currently able to view youtube videos at work, but I'm assuming it is).

A version from another Kentucky fiddler, Ted Gosset, and one from Henry Reed (both links courtesy of Slippery Hill).

When searching around the web, I found an archived thread about the tune here on the Hangout. Our pal J-Walk also had a bit about it on his old blog.

I first heard the tune from my friend Meghan Dudle, who also happens to be a great fiddler. It's one that I wouldn't mind playing more often for dances or jams. Anyways, we recorded it a few years ago when working on Meghan's album, "You Are Always in My Dreams." The mp3 I've attached is from that. I'll see if I can get around to creating a tab sometime over the weekend, but don't hold your breath.

Edited by - Adam Kiesling on 02/20/2015 10:08:20

Rocky Mountain Goat


bjcole - Posted - 02/20/2015:  10:34:08

I have always enjoyed Tom Paley's version of Rocky Mountain Goat on his Hard Luck Papa LP from 1976.

vrteach - Posted - 02/20/2015:  10:51:42

Phil Frye, a fiddler from West-Central Illinois, played me a 3-part version that he learned at a Missouri contest. It was played AA-B-C, and the B&C parts were slight variants of each other. Unfortunately I didn't have my recorder.

The Illinois tune Straw Bonnet is pretty much the same tune as Rocky Mountain Goat. Dave Landreth has tablature for Straw Bonnet:

Here's my version of Straw Bonnet from a few years back, before I knew of Rocky Mountain Goat.

Edited by - vrteach on 02/20/2015 10:52:18

Straw Bonnet


ZEPP - Posted - 02/20/2015:  11:18:08

This is one of those tunes for which the A and B parts get reversed, depending on where you are!  here's the version I learned from the fiddling of Judy Hough, back in the late '70s.




hendrid - Posted - 02/20/2015:  14:00:53

There is a 2 part version in Fiddlers Fakebook page 233.  

From Fiddler Companion.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN GOAT. AKA and see "Railroad(ing) Through the Rocky Mountains," "Damon's Window/Winder," “Devil in Georgia [2],” "Drunken Billy Goat," “Grand Hornpipe [1],” "Mud Fence,” “Ride the Goat Over the Mountains,” and “Swiss Chalet." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USATexasMissouriVirginiaKentucky, West Virginia. D Major. Standard tuning. AABB. The first part of this piece resembles "The Jenny Lind Polka," while the second part is similar to the second of an untitled Pennsylvania‑collected reel in Bayard (1981; No. 356). At least one version is well‑known as a West Virginia tune, while Charles Wolfe (1983) states it was a popular Kentucky tune. It was in fact recorded by a number of Kentucky fiddlers, including Jilson Setters (AKA Blind Bill Day), Ted Gossett, Charlie Wilson. and Cliff Gross. It was recorded for Paramount in 1927 by Doc Roberts and his band the Kentucky Thoroughbreds ("Dick" Parman and "Ted" Chestnut), and later redone by him for Gennett (1929). Roberts claimed to have learned the tune from "an 80 year old fiddler named Dude Freeman from Beattieville on the Kentucky River. 'Daddy (says his son James Roberts) claimed Dude was one of the best hornpipe players he ever heard in his life‑‑Daddy ran into him at a fiddle contest when he was young'" (Charles Wolfe). Sources for notated versions: Ardell Christopher (El PasoTexas) [Christeson]: John Ashby (Virginia) [Brody]. R.P. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; pg. 66. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 233. 

Edited by - hendrid on 02/20/2015 14:03:45

Mtngoat - Posted - 02/20/2015:  19:13:17

Williams and Stepp can be heard here: .  

Rocky Mountain Goat is one of those tunes that I like to play at a slower tempo.  

banjered - Posted - 02/20/2015:  19:17:30

How do all these versions compare to the tab/recording of Perlman's in his Homespun series? Banjered

JanetB - Posted - 02/20/2015:  20:43:58

Adam, your choice this week brought back good memories for me.  Your string band version is definitely danceable!  I don't know about other versions, but I learned Rocky Mountain Goat in the 70's from John Burke's Book of Old-Time Fiddle Tunes for Banjo, published in 1968.  It was the first tabbed tune that really taught me about double-thumbing, hammer-ons, pull-offs and playing melody with clawhammer.  I didn't listen to Doc Roberts until tonight.  This is also the first TOTW in a long time that I don't have to work at to learn over the weekend -- I'm glad not to have forgotten it! 


Edited by - JanetB on 02/20/2015 20:49:28

VIDEO: Rocky Mountain Goat
(click to view)


carlb - Posted - 02/21/2015:  06:02:44

I first heard this tune from Burl Hammons back in about 1972 (I think at the Morris Brothers Festival).
Shaking Down the Acorns, Rounder 0018, LP (1973), trk #B.4 [1970-72] played by Burl's friend Mose Coffman

Don Borchelt - Posted - 02/23/2015:  08:48:16

A great ensemble performance by Adam, well played by all.  Erich does a very sweet bit of playing, delicate, but still lots of energy.  Zepp, does a super job on a super banjo, an Ome Silver Jubilee 12.  You're all going to miss Zepp Country Music something terrible.  Janet never disappoints, and gives us another great job of picking, as musical as the banjo can reach.  Her dedication to the TOTW (has she ever missed one?) is inspiring, and a little guilt-provoking, too.  

I play the Henry Reed version of this tune, which I first picked up from the gifted Boston area clawhammer picker Phil MacArthur, who plays a terrific version of it.  Jabbour made three different recordings of Reed playing Rocky Mountain Goat, oddly each slightly different.  In the first version, Reed consistently puts an extra beat at the end of the B part, and some, like Boston area clawhammer picker Tim Rowell, play it with that "crooked" time.  Reed's second and third versions , the third with guitar played by his son, Gene Reed, does not have the extra beat, nor does Doc Robert's original performance.  I have decided to leave it out, as it is usally not played that way around here.  Jabbour does not include it in his transcription.

In the second recording, Reed includes a third part that runs up to the high D, reminiscent of Quince Dillon's High D, another Reed tune.  Jabbour states that this extra "strain" is unique to Reed.  Rather than incorporate this third part entirely, I have borrowed the run up to the D to create a two-octave variation of the B part.    

I am playing my semi-fretless 1928 Tubaphone in open D tuning (aDF#AD). 

- Don Borchelt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 02/23/2015 08:53:21

VIDEO: Rocky Mountain Goat
(click to view)


JanetB - Posted - 02/23/2015:  18:08:39

I like the Henry Reed version very much -- it has that flowing syncopated style that marks his music. 

I did a little more research on Dock Roberts.  There's a chapter on him in Charles Wolfe's The Devil's Box and it says that a young Roberts learned Rocky Mountain Goat from an old-time Kentucky fiddler named Dude Freeman at a fiddle contest.  Roberts made 80 solo recordings and as many as an accompanist in the 20's and 30's, more than most of the Kentucky fiddlers who wished they could have done the same.  Rocky Mountain Goat sold 8,000 copies on the Gennett label and Roberts collected royalties.

In Jeff Titon's book of old-time Kentucky fiddle tunes it's claimed that Rocky Mountain Goat was recorded as Grand Hornpipe by Jilson Setters (James W. Day).  Here's what it sounds like:

LyleK - Posted - 02/28/2015:  13:06:39

Better late than never, I suppose.  Did this *.mp3 with my wife on autoharp a while ago.  Apparently never posted to BHO, or if I did I removed it at some point.

And to quote from Burke's book right after his tab:

"Doc Roberts is a little-known fiddler.  He seems to have come from Georgia or the West."

Remember folks, Burke's book was 1968 copyright, before BHO, FHO, fiddler's companion, wi-fi, smart phones, electronic tuners, wikipedia, the internet, DVDs, CDs, VHS, personal computers, etc.  We did have fire and the wheel.  So Burke had little way of knowing that Roberts was from Kentucky.

Rocky Mountain Goat


Don Borchelt - Posted - 03/02/2015:  08:15:49

Very fine picking, Lyle, a lovely duet.

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