Claw Hammer Banjo Tabs

Claw Hammer Banjo Tabs

Postby mutant_dan » Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:29 am

I play a version of Clarence Ashley's Coo-coo Bird on the guitar and mandolin, (you might know this song from its more popular cowboy name Jack of Diamonds).

Regardless, I was looking for the banjo tab and it led me to this site with a vast collection of tab:

http://www.bluesageband.com/Tabs.html


Additional info for you musicologists:

For those who don't know this, Clarence "Tom" Ashley was mainly responsible for guitar great Doc Watson's "discovery" in the early 60s.

Ashley plays in a style of banjo which was very prevalent at that time in the Southern mountains, called by various names such as: "clawhammer", "frailing" "rapping", and the like.
The technique is to hit some banjer strings with a fingernail and hit the head at the same time.

Mr. Ashley's singing style is though, what a lot of oldtime banjer pickers like me would call "the high lonesome sound".

Ashley’s most popular song was “The Coo-Coo Bird” which has perhaps the most interesting history of any of his songs. He was much more particular with “The Coo-Coo Bird” than any of his other songs. He had recorded it earlier; but when he was asked to play it in the 1960’s, he refused to play it before it was polished to perfection. When he did play it, he often prefaced the song with “I don’t know if other people sing it the way I do or not – and I don’t care.” Fritz Plous gave an account of seeing Ashley perform at The University of Chicago Folk Festival of 1962, in which the audience was deeply moved by the almost oriental sound of the Tennessee farmer playing a centuries-old song on a modal-tuned five-string banjo. The other members of the band suddenly faded into the shadows as Ashley at seventy years of age picked up his banjo, sat down in a chair, and spoke to the crowd:


I set this old bird a-flyin’ back in the twenties, and she’s been flyin’ round the country ever since. People sing this song all over. It’s called ‘The Coo-Coo Bird.’

Ashley rendered the following version of “The Coo-Coo Bird”:


Gonna build me log cabin
On a mountain so high
So I can see Willie
As he goes passing by.
REFRAIN
Oh, the coo-coo, she’s a pretty bird
She wobbles as she flies
She never says coo-coo
Till the fourth day July.

I’ve played cards in England
I’ve played cards in Spain
I’ll bet you ten dollars
I beat you next game.

REFRAIN
Jack-a-Diamonds, Jack-a-Diamonds
I’ve known you from old
You’ve robbed my poor pocket
Of my silver and my gold.

My horses ain’t hungry
They won’t eat your hay
I’ll drive on a little further
I’ll feed ‘em on my way.


The coo-coo is the cuckoo, not the modern one which gave its name to mental disturbance, but the old one, the classical symbol of fickleness, false love, of infidelity. The word “cuckold” was derived from the female cockoo’s habit of depositing her eggs in the nest of smaller birds and leaving them there to be hatched by a bird of a totally different species. Another symbolic role of the cuckoo was that it was the herald of spring and was identified with the warmth and promise of that season.

“The Coo-Coo Bird” is a traditional Appalachian lyric; it tells no story, but it presents a set of impressions, a philosophical statement. Plous says “The story of ‘The Coo-Coo bird’ and her flight is the biography of a folk song and the blueprint for a work of art.” The following is a chronology of the song’s development into a work of art.

1927 1st recording of “The Coo-Coo Bird.” This recording had only the germ of the future “Coo-Coo Bird.” It reveals a banjo picked too fast and without proper phrasing and an Ashley whose voice is too thin and shaky to do the song justice.
1953 Folkways released its Anthology of American Folk Music including a re-recording of the 1927 “Coo-Coo Bird.” A few college students picked it up, academically oriented music buffs found the song had potential and they began to study it. They also began to look for Clarence Ashley.
1960 Ralph Rinzler discovered Ashley at Union Grove, North Carolina. Rinzler persuaded Ashley to record again but on the first album “The Coo-Coo Bird” does not appear. Ashley refused to play it; he said he had to practice it.
1961 Ashley went to New York and announced that the “Coo-Coo Bird” was ready. Ashley had Doc Watson, a blind guitarist from Deep Gab, North Carolina, accompany him. With Ashley on the banjo and Watson on guitar, they reaped national acclaim for the beauty of their arrangement. Ashley and Watson set out to deliberately make the song more beautiful and they brought it to perfection, a work of art.


Doc Watson and later Tex Isley were the only two musicians who ever learned to accompany Ashley’s banjo style with a guitar on “The Coo-Coo Bird.”
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Postby jck_strw » Wed Oct 04, 2006 12:52 pm

Thanks for the link. Someday I may yet get a chance to take up the banjo.
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Re: Claw Hammer Banjo Tabs

Postby tcsned » Sat Oct 09, 2010 3:58 am

thanks Dan! very cool little piece of music history. Arthel "Doc" Watson is one of my all-time favs certainly someone everyone should make an effort to see play if they haven't. I'm fortunate to live in the Blue Ridge Mts and he's here all the time. He ain't gettin' any younger and does a pretty limited schedule these days. He'll be in Raliegh on Nov. 12. Doc is a true piece of American history (and part of the good of American history) I wholeheartedly encourage all live music fans to seek out some of these old timers and go see them - especially the folkies and blues players out there. They served as the foundation for the music we listen to today and many of these guys are not going to be around much longer. They came up in a time when there wasn't a buhzillion dollars in the game and did it because they had to and because they loved doing it. Most of them still don't make tons of money. Seek them out and give them some support.
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Re: Claw Hammer Banjo Tabs

Postby Pete B. » Sat Oct 09, 2010 9:32 am

You guys might be interested in these Bluegrass Backup Tracks:
http://www.virtualbluegrassband.com/

I Re-took-up Banjo and actually bought one this time, summer of '09.
I went with a 6-string Banjitar modded to be a 5-string bluegrass banjo with one extra string. Best descision I ever made!
My tuning is: geDGBD
Standard 5-string bluegrass banjo is: gDGBD
The lower case means high-pitched strings.
The single best thing about banjo is... The meat of the tuning is exactly the same a guitar DGB. Everyting you know on these strings from guitar, translates directly to banjo (everything from Scales to the CAGED system for... "Banjo").

Oh yeah... I changed the name of the instrument, too!
...A little sower to catch on World Wide, but...
Let the instrument formerly know as The Banjo, forever be called...
The "Jam-Bo"!
:cool:

Video content to follow... one of these days.
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Re: Claw Hammer Banjo Tabs

Postby Amoni » Mon Jun 17, 2013 8:12 am

mutant_dan wrote:I play a version of Clarence Ashley's Coo-coo Bird on the guitar and mandolin, (you might know this song from its more popular cowboy name Jack of Diamonds).

Regardless, I was looking for the banjo tab and it led me to this site with a vast collection of tab:

http://www.bluesageband.com/Tabs.html


Additional info for you musicologists:

For those who don't know this, Clarence "Tom" Ashley was mainly responsible for guitar great Doc Watson's "discovery" in the early 60s.

Ashley plays in a style of banjo which was very prevalent at that time in the Southern mountains, called by various names such as: "clawhammer", "frailing" "rapping", and the like.
The technique is to hit some banjer strings with a fingernail and hit the head at the same time.

Mr. Ashley's singing style is though, what a lot of oldtime banjer pickers like me would call "the high lonesome sound".

Ashley’s most popular song was “The Coo-Coo Bird” which has perhaps the most interesting history of any of his songs. He was much more particular with “The Coo-Coo Bird” than any of his other songs. He had recorded it earlier; but when he was asked to play it in the 1960’s, he refused to play it before it was polished to perfection. When he did play it, he often prefaced the song with “I don’t know if other people sing it the way I do or not – and I don’t care.” Fritz Plous gave an account of seeing Ashley perform at The University of Chicago Folk Festival of 1962, in which the audience was deeply moved by the almost oriental sound of the Tennessee farmer playing a centuries-old song on a modal-tuned five-string banjo. The other members of the band suddenly faded into the shadows as Ashley at seventy years of age picked up his banjo, sat down in a chair, and spoke to the crowd:


I set this old bird a-flyin’ back in the twenties, and she’s been flyin’ round the country ever since. People sing this song all over. It’s called ‘The Coo-Coo Bird.’

Ashley rendered the following version of “The Coo-Coo Bird”:


Gonna build me log cabin
On a mountain so high
So I can see Willie
As he goes passing by.
REFRAIN
Oh, the coo-coo, she’s a pretty bird
She wobbles as she flies
She never says coo-coo
Till the fourth day July.

I’ve played cards in England
I’ve played cards in Spain
I’ll bet you ten dollars
I beat you next game.

REFRAIN
Jack-a-Diamonds, Jack-a-Diamonds
I’ve known you from old
You’ve robbed my poor pocket
Of my silver and my gold.

My horses ain’t hungry
They won’t eat your hay
I’ll drive on a little further
I’ll feed ‘em on my way.


The coo-coo is the cuckoo, not the modern one which gave its name to mental disturbance, but the old one, the classical symbol of fickleness, false love, of infidelity. The word “cuckold” was derived from the female cockoo’s habit of depositing her eggs in the nest of smaller birds and leaving them there to be hatched by a bird of a totally different species. Another symbolic role of the cuckoo was that it was the herald of spring and was identified with the warmth and promise of that season.

“The Coo-Coo Bird” is a traditional Appalachian lyric; it tells no story, but it presents a set of impressions, a philosophical statement. Plous says “The story of ‘The Coo-Coo bird’ and her f light is the biography of a folk song and the blueprint for a work of art.” The following is a chronology of the song’s development into a work of art.

1927 1st recording of “The Coo-Coo Bird.” This recording had only the germ of the future “Coo-Coo Bird.” It reveals a banjo picked too fast and without proper phrasing and an Ashley whose voice is too thin and shaky to do the song justice.
1953 Folkways released its Anthology of American Folk Music including a re-recording of the 1927 “Coo-Coo Bird.” A few college students picked it up, academically oriented music buffs found the song had potential and they began to study it. They also began to look for Clarence Ashley.
1960 Ralph Rinzler discovered Ashley at Union Grove, North Carolina. Rinzler persuaded Ashley to record again but on the first album “The Coo-Coo Bird” does not appear. Ashley refused to play it on his MP3 player; he said he had to practice it.
1961 Ashley went to New York and announced that the “Coo-Coo Bird” was ready. Ashley had Doc Watson, a blind guitarist from Deep Gab, North Carolina, accompany him. With Ashley on the banjo and Watson on guitar, they reaped national acclaim for the beauty of their arrangement. Ashley and Watson set out to deliberately make the song more beautiful and they brought it to perfection, a work of art.



Doc Watson and later Tex Isley were the only two musicians who ever learned to accompany Ashley’s banjo style with a guitar on “The Coo-Coo Bird.”

An awesome little item of songs record. Arthel "Doc" Watson is one of my all-time favs certainly someone everyone should try to see perform if they haven't.
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