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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 10 August 2017 My Long Journey Home

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RG - Posted - 08/11/2017:  00:04:34

Well, here goes...

The distance between old-time and early BG isn't very far...some of the best old-time was early BG and some early BG was the best old-time in my opinion, so without further ado, I present "My Long Journey Home" as this weeks TOTW.

I've always liked this song, it was a favorite of my papa Hocutt who was born in 1899 and passed away in 1970.  He was a great grandpa who had lived a hard life, having lost a leg below the knee when it was crushed in a railroad coupling while working for the Frisco RR in 1918.  I spent a lot of time with him as a kid, and since he had been born in rural Alabama just outside of Birmingham, he was a big old-time music fan...Carter Family, Delmore Brothers, Blue Sky Boys, Jimmie Rodgers and The Monroe Brothers, Charlie and Bill, and he used to play and sing these songs a lot when I was little...I'm thankful that he did and I cherish those memories.

Charlie and Bill recorded this song for RCA/Bluebird in Charlotte NC on February 17, 1936, at the height of the Great Depression, and then the Stanley Brothers kind of made it their song and it became a BG standard...but it's one of those great songs that fits both genres to a tee...

Not much else to say, it's in G and easy as heck to play, I do it in 2 finger thumb lead, but it fits right into CH as well...sing it out and have fun...

Monroe Brothers

Doc Watson & Bill Monroe

Stanley Brothers


Edited by - RG on 08/11/2017 00:05:19

cbcarlisle - Posted - 08/11/2017:  08:30:53

I can never get enough Charlie and Bill.

janolov - Posted - 08/12/2017:  08:33:05

I think it is a nice old time tune, and you playing and singing is wonderful. My Long Journey Home seems to be related to "Worried Man Blues" and also "I Gotta Travel On" (other songs that were popular in the 30's).

That Monroe guy could have been a good old time mandolin player if he haven't converted to the dark side - and then mandolin may have been a more popular old time instrument than it is today.

I find a good CH version by Josh Turknet, here you can watch a video clip and study the tab:

For the beginner there is also an easy CH tab in the BHO tab archive:

JanetB - Posted - 08/12/2017:  12:00:04

That's great picking and singing, RG.  My husband and I used to sing this one -- we should revive it --  and our band also sang Gotta Travel On regularly.  Wayne Erbsen, on page 121 in his book called Rural Roots of Bluegrass wrote:  "Originating back as far as 1890, 'Long Journey Home' was earlier known as 'High Sheriff' and 'Deadheads and Suckers.'  The Prairie Ramblers recorded it in July of 1935 as 'Big Ball in Texas,' and that may be the source of the Monroe Brothers' version.  In their very first recording session of February 27, 1936, the Monroe Brothers chose 'My Long Journey Home' as the first song they ever recorded.  The Delmore Brothers recorded it in July of 1938 under the title 'Big Ball of Texas.'"

Bill Monroe said of this song, "That comes from Kentucky.  Everybody back there in my early days, they all knew that old song."

Here's a clawhammer arrangement in double c tuning.  Get ready for some high notes that went all the way up my small-scale Docs' Banjo neck.

RG - Posted - 08/13/2017:  12:40:32

Thanks Jan and Janet, appreciate the kind words.  Janet, really nice version, I enjoyed that!

Beardog - Posted - 08/13/2017:  13:42:06

I'm still working on both "Davey Come Back" and "Chinquapin Hunting", since the mechanics of clawhammer is still a work in progress for me. I hope to get to this one soon though, as it is a tune that I won't have to learn. Most of the old time tunes that never got popular among the bluegrass crowd are all new to me!

Edited by - Beardog on 08/13/2017 13:43:21

Don Huber - Posted - 08/17/2017:  00:36:17

Great performance, RG! You're a far better singer than you give yourself credit for. And your bluesy banjo licks gave the instrumental portion a "Boggs-like" feel.

Here is version from the original NLCR lineup. No banjo. I have the album at home, but my impression is that it's a duet with Paley and Seeger only. Paley's guitar playing is spellbinding.

One more thing. I so appreciate your comment concerning early BG being some of the best OT music. I'd like to fine tune that by adding that so much of my favorite banjo playing is represented by musicians who's picking has one foot on either side of the OT/BG fence. Traditional pickers such as George Pegram, Snuffy Jenkins, Ola Belle Reed come to mind.

You're playing and singing is also right there!

RG - Posted - 08/17/2017:  11:21:44

Thanks Don!


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