I will resume leading the weekly IBA (Idaho Bluegrass Association) - sponsored beginner bluegrass jam in the Pioneer Building on Thursday, Sept. 8 (6:30 - 9pm).
The song of the week will be 'Wabash Cannonball' in the key of A.
Originally recorded by the Carter Family in 1929, 'Wabash Cannonball' has gone on to become a Country classic, and has been recorded by many notable Country and Bluegrass artists, including Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Willie Nelson, Flatt & Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, and Claire Lynch. But perhaps the most well-known version of the song is still the 1936 recording by Roy Acuff - many people in both country and bluegrass circles still associate the song especially with him. and this record is one of the less than 40 singles to have sold more than 10 million copies. 'Wabash Cannonball' also happens to be the oldest song on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
The chord progression that I use for 'Wabash Cannonball' is:
(In the key of A: 1=A, 4=D, 5=E. In the key of G: 1=G, 4=C, 5=D.)
Of the progressions on the 'Basic Chord Progressions' handout, this progression is most similar to progression W8, which is the progression used for 'Blue Ridge Cabin Home' and 'Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong':
The order of chord changes for 'Wabash Cannonball' is the same as in prog. W8, just the timing of the changes is different; the change to the 4 occurs a measure later in 'Wabash Cannonball', as does the change back to the '1' after the '5'.
Here are a few versions of 'Wabash Cannonball' to take a listen to:
Mac Wiseman - key of A: good banjo and fiddle breaks
Note; In place of an intro break that follows the melody and chord progression of the song, a quote from another old well-known 'train' song 'The Orange Blossom Special' is used instead. Also, immediately after the fiddle break, Mac goes into another 'Carter Family' song 'Homestead On The Farm' (a.k.a., 'I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home'), which in bluegrass circles has become more associated with Mac than with the Carters.)
Doc Watson: key of G (includes guitar, dobro, fiddle, and banjo breaks):
Norman & Nancy Blake: key of A: good guitar breaks
...and for those interested:
Roy Acuff: key of A:
Notice that no two of these versions use exactly the same set of lyrics, and that there are also differences among them in notes that make up the melody, and in the case of the Acuff recording, the chord progression as well (1144 for lines 1 and 3, which works with the notes that Acuff sings here, but would not fit well with other versions of the melody)
The melody sheets attached here correspond to how I usually sing the first verse of the song, with one exception. In the banjo tab of the melody, measures 4 and 12 have a higher starting note than what is given on the other melody sheets. The only reason for giving this alternative melody note here is because, in the octave in which the melody is written in the banjo tab, the note on the other melody sheets is inaccessible on the banjo when playing in G tuning with the capo on the 2nd fret for the key of A.
I am looking forward to seeing you at the jam.
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