One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.
Many people know Stefan Grossman as the paramount teacher and entrepreneur in what has become the world’s largest “blues school”, Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. He is one of the most skilled guitarists in the genre, having been a student of Rev. Gary Davis in New York City. He also picked up lessons directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
Fingerpicking blues guitar is a never ending study full of surprises and discoveries. Each key of the guitar offers new sounds and textures. A blues played in the key of C sounds world's apart from a blues played in the keys of A, G, D or E. In this series I decided to focus on a single key for each lesson.
The key of G offers specific advantages. It is ideal for the alternating bass technique i.e. Mississippi John Hurt's style of playing. We start by learning an arrangement of Marshall Owens' 1930s recording of Try Me One More Time. This was originally played in an Open G tuning but I have arranged it in standard tuning using a John Hurt approach. Not all blues from the 1920s and 1930s were fingerpicked. Jim Jackson was a popular Memphis songster who basically strummed his guitar. But his repertoire was full of wonderful songs. I have taken his Wild About My Loving and have tried to keep the original feel by combining a strum approach intermingled with fingerpicking the melody.
Little Hat Jones was an amazing fingerstyle bluesman. His Bye Bye Baby Blues was played in the key of G. I have transcribed his version note for note. Blind Boy Fuller recorded many blues in the key of G. We tackle three of his arrangements: Baby Let Me Lay It On You, Baby Quit Your Low Down Ways and I Crave My Pigmeat. We study his playing note for note but also explore variations.
By the end of this lesson you will know six great tunes and have an insight in to fingerpicking blues in the key of G. A detailed tab/music booklet is included as a PDF file on the DVD. Each tune is taught phrase by phrase and played slowly on a split-screen. As well, the original old recordings are included in the Bonus Audio section.
Titles include: Try Me One More Time, Wild About My Loving, Bye Bye Baby Blues, Baby Let Me Lay It On You, Baby Quit Your Low Down Ways and I Crave My Pigmeat
100 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD