“Ernie Hawkins is an important link in the unbroken chain of blues and gospel artists. His guitaristry and love of the style is incomparable. From the Rev. Gary Davis into the future with his own style Ernie is one of the special ones!” Jorma Kaukonen
Ernie Hawkins, internationally-renown acoustic guitar virtuoso, plays and sings blues, ragtime, and gospel. His riveting music springs mostly from the early 1900’s east coast Piedmont and Texas blues styles. Ernie’s early exposure to roots music was under the tutelage of the caretaker on his uncle’s farm. Ernie studied extensively with Rev. Gary Davis, and played with Son House, Mance Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Robert Pete Williams, Arthur Crudup, and many others. In addition, he spent thousands of hours ferreting out and studying obscure and historic recordings. Ernie Hawkins has become one of our best living links to this rich and magnificent American musical heritage, and is joyfully dedicated to preserving and passing on his treasured knowledge, both “in the letter” and “in the spirit”.
As one of a handful fortunate enough to study with the old masters, he now serves as a master to other aspiring musicians. Ernie is dedicated to the continuation of this music and generously shares his “trade secrets”. A beloved and patient teacher, he is in demand worldwide.
Tablature/music is available as a PDF file for each lesson. Lessons are filmed with multiple cameras and consist of a performance, explanation, and conclude with a slow tempo split screen that follows the tab/music.
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This rocking' example of classic Texas blues is taken from a film of Lightnin' from the sixties. It is in standard tuning in the key of E and features his steady pulsing base supporting the melody. A great example of Lightnin's unerring sense of melody. One of the definitive versions of this blues chestnut that influenced every single blues player that ever lived.
A beautiful example of a Broonzy-style E blues. Notable is the rock-steady single note base, damped with the heel of the right hand. Conveniently, he uses
the open E base for the E chord, the open A for the A, and the second fret of the A string (B note) for the B7. The only guitar break occurs in the
beginning verse, with an eleven-bag intro. It is beautiful, and typical Broonzy, though quite different from the rest of the sung verses, which are
Basin Street Blues is a song often performed by Dixieland jazz bands. It was written by Spencer Williams and published in 1926. It was made famous in a recording by Louis Armstrong in 1928. The Basin Street of the title refers to the main street of Storyville, the notorious red-light district of the early 20th-century New Orleans, just north of the French Quarter. It became a red light district in 1897. Ernie has arranged this in the key of C, with a few Mills Brothers touches.
A wonderful example Of Big Bill taking a pop standard and turning it into something special. A great introduction to the art of playing standards in a
way that allows the tradition of ragtime-blues guitar to shine through.
This is a classic Blind Willie McTell blues played in the key of E and recorded in 1933. A handbook of the Georgia blues genius's licks in E. This song
shows the master of voice-guitar dialogue at work. Sometimes voice and guitar double each other, sometimes follow. Basically 12-bars, in the last 4
bars, he slides the B7 chord up two frets and and brings it back down the B7. McTell really knew how to use metaphors.
This is an example of McTell's brilliant ragtime-blues style. Follows a basic C A7 D7 G7 / C C7 F Fm progression.
Cornet Chop Suey, like many of the recordings Louis Armstrong made in February 1926, is astonishing in showing the first fruits of Armstrong's genius. It's in this track where Louis first develops his mastery of timing and rhythm in his soloing- his first solo is mesmeric, full of stops and starts and syncopations, almost as if Armstrong is inventing Be-Bop twenty years before it occurred. Armstrong's second solo is comparably brilliant, with his clarion-like trumpet transcending the relative obscurity of the tune.
Ernie has arranged Cornet Chop Suey in the key of C and hopefully captures the spirit of Armstrong's playing. It is played in a the ragtime/jazz guitar style of another musical genius, Rev Gary Davis.
In Broonzy's hands, a popular song really becomes so much more: it's a blues, it's a rag, a pop song, a work of art. His steady, dampened single-string
base swings its way happily through the song, backing the melody like a freight train exuberantly clacking through Chicago.
Classic blues from Lightnin' with all the runs bells and whistles you need to master that distinct Lightning' sound, the essence of Texas slow E blues. It features his steady single-note base supporting his brilliant soloing.
An iconic Broonzy tune: If you can play this, much of Broonzy's C ragtime-blues falls into place. It is especially helpful in nailing down his powerful
right-hand technique. Really, though he's playing interesting notes with his left, it's the right hand that really makes his style what it is: grooving,
swinging, driving. And it's his right thumb that makes it all happen. Broonzy is a master of the single-string dead thumb style.
In 1924 the young coronet player Bix Beiderbecke took his college band into Gennett Studios in Richmond Indiana and made Jazz history. These first brilliant
recordings introduced the world to one of founding geniuses of Jazz. He took this popular song (by King-Fio Rito-Kahn) and seemingly effortlessly showed
everybody how it was done. I transposed it to the keys of C and A. It modulates, first part in C, second in A and third back in C as it moves up the
neck. I kept to the chord progression and melody for the most part, but took liberties in order to try to make it the best guitar piece. I would not
have been able to even think of doing this if Gary Davis hadn't taught me his basic style and approach to twenties jazz. It's a Piedmont fingerpicking
style rooted in Davis's Carolina tradition. His brilliant playing opened the door for this kind of guitar jazz.
"I'm Coming Virginia" was written by Donald Heytward and Will Marion Cook. The song was first recorded by Ethel Waters in 1926. This was a popular
recording but the truly definitive version was recorded by the Bix-Trambauer band in 1927, that included Eddie Lang on guitar. I learned this song
in three different keys before deciding that A and E worked best for fingerpicking guitar.
Everything Blind Willie McTell played had an indefinable spiritual depth. You hear it, or feel it immediately, from out of the last century, and from a
very different world, somewhere in your heart. It's blues on a kind of universal level; it speaks to our being for some languid, deep, yearning place.
He seemed to be able to evoke this particularly well through his slide playing. Really nothing fancy about it, just every note economically perfect.
I am here offering this song as an instrumental. As with all Broonzy songs, this features his patented steady, dampened, single-string base. He generally
uses the open A base for the A and d chords and the opened for the E chord. He uses lots of pickup,or 'thumb-drag' notes with move between the E and
A chords. It starts out with an A form D on the fifth fret, down to A-E-A. Since the next part of the song starts with a C#7 it has a kind of a ragtime
“Shetland Pony Blues”/”Pony Blues” were recorded in the 1940’s and lyrically are reminiscent of Charlie Patton’s “Pony Blues”/”Stone Pony Blues.” One of Son House’s masterpieces that unfortunately goes pretty much unnoticed but you just can’t beat the bends, string snaps and single string slide licks in the this tune.
Here’s Lightnin’ at his boogie-woogie best. This key of E boogie style deeply influenced literally every bluesguitar player in the world that followed, especially the great Texas layers. Freddie Kind stole the solo and featured it in hisfamous Hideaway. The Vaughn brothers rocked audiences all over the world with the patented Lightnin’ base lines. Lightnin’ truly put his stamp on every generation of blues player with this boogie-base style of playing. If you want to play blues, this is essential to your basic vocabulary. In this film, the young Joan Baez looks on.
Blind Willie McTell was a master with a slide. He was part of a tradition of great 12-string slide wizards that included Barbecue Bob, Charley Lincoln
and George Carter. McTell knew and traveled with Blind Willie Johnson and they undoubtedly played together. He gets a lot of music out of very simple,
straightforward licks. It's a sound that goes straight to the heart, like all of his music.
A mystical 8-bar blues played in the key of E. Learn this and you also know "Ticket Agent Blues." There's something about Blind Willie McTell's sound -
the combination of his voice, rhythm, and the deep guitar that transports you to another place, a mythical South.
The sweet, deep side of Big Bill. This song reminds me of something from Leroy Carr.
One of the most soulful and beautiful of Lightnin's A blues. He was the master of Texas Blues, and his sound was definitive. This song shows off his easy ability to tell a story and pull any audience into his mood. It features a pulsing single-string base and stinging chordal solos. Classic Texas A-blues runs.
This song is the quintessential Broonzy C blues/rag. Terrific, fast lines and melodies, all the great Broonzy C blues moves are here. The song bubbles
along propelled by his steady, swinging, thumping single-string base.
One of the definitive C blues statements on any recording anywhere. This compliments the other, more up tempo C blues like "Shuffle Rag" or "St. Louis
Blues," in that it uses many of the same licks, but as this blues is sweetly slowed down, he can extend these licks, making them more complex, inward,
expressive. He appears to be improvising some, showing him to be a master reminiscent of the early recordings of Lonnie Johnson.
Broonzy tackles this W. C. Handy classic with his usual swinging C blues style. He has a great ear for melody and effortlessly weaves it into his "Shuffle
Rag" arrangement, even breaking into "Shuffle Rag" for a few verses, showing the similarities between some of the licks. As usual, he employs his solid,
swinging, single-string, steady thumping base, and shows us adaptable this style is, as it can be easily used with any kind of song.
Written by Hoagy Carmichael with words by Mitchell Parrish, It is said that the melody was inspired by the piano musings of Hoagy's genius friend
Bix Beiderbecke. Written in 1927, it went on to become arguably the greatest American standard, and has been recorded over 1,500 times by everyone
in the business. This version sticks to the melody pretty much as written.
This is one of Blind Willie McTell's greatest masterpieces, if not the greatest. The Allman Brothers had a famous adaptation, though it was a huge departure
from the original. A personal note: this is one of the songs that forever hooked my teenage self on to blues. I still get the chills listening to it.
I even hitchhiked down to Georgia when I was 17 trying to find Blind Willie, only to later learn that he died five years earlier, in 1959. Paul Geremia
tells me he made the same pilgrimage. Blind Willie McTell inspired a generation of young white blues fans with this song. From the very first famous
lick, the descending F#, F, E, D, every note is the perfect note. It's amazing that he can play so profoundly with such ease and simplicity. I really
wish I could have met him.
All of Big Bill Broonzy's songs are really fun to play. This one especially so. I think the reason is his swinging right hand. His single-base, dead thumb
style, of which he is a master, propels his songs swinging along. Also he seems always to find the easiest, most natural and economical way to play
melodies, and he is a master at coming up with catchy melodies. This is a great tune to learn his style. Broonzy was so popular in the thirties, so
prolific, that he influenced countless guitarists. It's a keystone style, so to speak, in country blues. "Stovepipe Stomp," though in the key of D,
which causes many guitarist to tune to drop D tuning, where the low E string is tuned down to D, is in standard tuning. For the D and A chords, he
plays an open A base, G base for the G chord. Playing open basses frees you up to move around up the neck anywhere.
Bix Beiderbecke recorded this song with his first band, The Wolverines in 1924. I transposed it to the key of C to best play it on the guitar. I stuck
to the chord progression and melody carefully, but took many liberties with the arrangement, the better to get the song's deep idea across. This is
one of my very favorite arrangements. It's important to note here that the style that Rev Gary Davis taught us all made this kind of arrangement possible.
This is a Lightnin' song that shows his deep knowledge of the great Texas blues tradition. It comes from a Blind Lemon Jefferson song, "Beggin' Back."
It is unusual for Lightnin' because it features a moving base as in the East Coast Piedmont style rather than his usual single base style. Plus it
is played in the key of C which was not used a lot by Lightnin'. It shows how versatile Lightnin' really was.
"Weather Bird" is perhaps the most famous jazz duet ever recorded. It was recorded in Chicago on December 5, 1928. Louis Armstrong's duet with Earl Hines
is one of the high points of jazz recordings, anticipating elements of the music to come, even decades later. Ernie has arranged this in the key of
C in the ragtime/jazz style perfected by Rev Gary Davis.
What a Wonderful World has become one of Louis Armstrong's most popular songs. It was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss. The original plan in 1967 was for the gravel-voiced, quirky jazz legend Armstrong to release the song as a piece that might quell some of the racial and political unrest in America, given its optimism and celebration of life. It hit the charts in England but took another 20 years thanks to its inclusion in the Robin Williams movie Good Morning, Vietnam, to finally claim a spot on the U.S. top 40 charts. Armstrong, sadly, was long dead by this time. It's a beautiful song and Ernie has arranged it in the key of C using first position chords and an alternating bass.