I hope that you have had a good Summer.
I will resume leading the Intermediate Bluegrass Jam at the Pioneer Building this coming Thursday (Sept. 6).
The song of the week is 'Little Maggie' in the key of B.
Ralph Stanley - key of C
Ricky Skaggs - key of B
Flatt & Scruggs - key of A
The Stanley Brothers - key of C
On the Ralph Stanley recording, the breaks use the progression:
1 1 b7b7
1 5 1 1
but, the verses use
1 1 1 b7b7
1 5 1 1
This is how I usually play the song when I lead it at a jam. The melody sheets included in the attachments follow the progression for the verses, rather than for the breaks. To read them for the breaks (or for the verses for versions of the song that use the same progression for the verses as for the breaks), skip over the second half of measure 2 and the first half of measure 3 in lines 1 and 3.
On the Ricky Skaggs and Stanley Brothers recordings, a 5 is put in place of the second b7, so that the first and third lines of the breaks are: 1 1 b7 5, and the first and third lines of the verses are: 1 1 1 b7 5.
On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, both the breaks and the verses use the same progression as the one that is used for the breaks on the Ralph Stanley recording:
1 1 b7b7
1 5 1 1
On all four recordings, the arrangement is: break, verse, break, verse, break, verse, etc., with the banjo being the specially featured lead instrument. The banjo takes both the first break (the intro break) and the last break in the song, and gets one more break than any other lead instrument playing on the recording.
The song has no chorus, and no harmony vocals on the verses. On the Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, and Stanley Brothers recordings, there are 5 breaks and 5 verses, and the banjo plays a break after the verse that ends with 'listen to this old banjo ring'. On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, there are 4 verses and 4 breaks.
On the Ralph Stanley recording, Ralph sings a different second verse than the one that he sang on the earlier Stanley Brothers recording. Ricky Skaggs uses the same 5 verses that are on the Stanley Brothers recording, but inverts the order of the second and third verses. On the Flatt & Scruggs recording, Lester uses the same first and third verses that Ricky uses, but his second and fourth verses are different than any of the verses sung on the other three recordings.
To accommodate more breaks at a jam, I have sometimes sung 7 or 8 verses for Little Maggie, and in no particular order, except for the first verse ('Over yonder stands...), and the last verse (either 'Go away, go away...', or 'March me down to the station'), and being sure to time the banjo verse ('Lay down your last gold dollar...') for when I want to hear a banjo break next. But, more often than not, I sing 5 or 6 verses, and have two or more breaks played back to back between some of the verses. Sometimes I will also end the song with a break instead of with a verse.
Most versions of the melody of Little Maggie that I have heard contain only 4 or 5 different notes, two of which are 'blue notes': b3 and b7 (D and A notes when in the key of B; Bb and F notes when in the key of G). The version of the melody given in the attached melody sheets is based upon the sung melody on the Ricky Skaggs and Stanley Brothers recordings.
Note to Banjo Players
Although all the banjo breaks on the recordings are melody-based breaks, the implied melodic content of most of them does not correspond all that closely to the version of the sung melody given in the attachments or to the versions of the sung melody heard on the recordings. In addition to the timing of the melody being altered in several spots (often by way of using the foggy mountain roll in measures that in the sung melody are not made up of a quarter note followed by a dotted half note, or a quarter note followed a half note and then another quarter note), in most of the breaks, for instance, the order of the melody notes in the first two measures of lines 2 and 4 is altered, with (when thinking in the key of G) G notes being put in place of D notes, and vice versa.
Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
started as Beginner Jam in Jan 2015
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order