John Burke & The Yankee Carpetbaggers


Well folks, here it is!  The companion record to my previous post!  This thing is harder to find than a Black Patti 78!, well maybe not THAT hard but pretty damn close.  Every time I post up one of these great records I think of how lucky I am to live in an area where I have so many great record stores to scrounge around in anytime I want.  Record stores are probably my MOST favorite places in the world.  It doesn’t matter what city, state or country I’m in, if I get anywhere near a record store I HAVE to go in.  I smell that dust and see those stacks and it’s like in old looney tunes cartoons where someone is cooking up something tasty and the smell lines turn into fingers and carry an unsuspecting victim into the place where they really shouldn’t be, and then all my money starts to fly out of my pockets and into the cash register.  It’s bad for my pocket book but it’s GREAT for people like you folks who may be reading this.

This L.P. is pretty good.  obviously since this is a companion record to a banjo instructor the banjo seems to be higher in the overall mix which is great for all you banjo players out there who are tired of trying to learn off of records where the fiddle drowns out the banjo.  The arrangements of the songs are along the lines of “meldodic banjo” playing where the notes on the banjo pretty much fall dead on what the fiddle would be playing note for note.

John Burke was really a great banjo player and if you listen to this record his playing is top-notch.  The back-up musicians on this recording are no slouches either.  The guitar playing is very good and  provides the bass on the recording which would otherwise be lacking.  The guitar players melodic lines sort of remind me a little of Asa Martin or the guitar player that Clark Kessinger used later on when he was making L.P’s for Kanawha records…very melodic bass runs and very pleasing to the ear.

The record is really a great companion piece to John Burke’s book.  John even put what page in his book that the tab for each track on the L.P. can be found.  So hopefully all of you folks out there who are enjoying the Instructional book will also enjoy this L.P. which was made to be used in conjunction with the book.  It’s a damn shame that both of these pieces of history are out of print.  I hope that at sometime John sees fit to re-release both his book and this great L.P.

as always: ENJOY!


1.  Jaybird
2.  Charleston
3.  Sandy River Belle
4.  Black-Eyed Suzie
5.  Sally In The Garden
6.  Turkey In The Straw
7.  Rocky Mountain Goat
8.  Arkansas Traveler
9.  Buck Creek Girl
10.  The Lazy Farmer
11.  June Apple
12.  Mississippi Sawyer
13.  Sally Johnson
14.  Rickett’s Hornpipe

P.S.  If anyone has a copy of John Burke’s Kicking Mule L.P. “Fancy Picking and Plain Singing”, I would be interested in getting a copy from you.  We could probably work out a trade of some type…also PLEASE don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have something you think I may like!  I’m always looking to expand my collection…Thanks folks!


John Burke’s Old Time Fiddle Tunes for Banjo: removed by request.

At the request of John Burke’s daughter I have removed the link to the book posting.  She has plans to rework the book and hopefully get real hard copies into all of the patient hands that are still out there waiting for a copy of this treasured book.  Keep your fingers crossed that it does happen and when it does, I will be first in line at my local music shop to pick up a newly revised edition of this classic book.

If you can help her in anyway feel free to leave a comment and hopefully she will see it and respond. 

Thanks folks.


It’s my pleasure to present to you folks one of the really great out of print banjo instruction books of the 20th century:  John Burke’s Book of Old Time Fiddle Tunes for Banjo. 

This book has been out of print for a LOOOONNG time.  It’s been at least 20-30 years as far as I can tell.  I’m personally sick of seeing this book routinely go for over a $100 dollars on Amazon, Ebay, A.B.E., etc.. and I feel that it is my duty as a citizen and also as a banjo player to make this book available to all free of charge.  No more inflation, no more gouging, no more greedy capitalists making money off of people who weren’t fortunate enough to be around when this book originally came out.  All the abuse stops NOW!

John Burke really put together a great book with this one.  John originally put this book together out of many tabs that he made for his banjo students.  The book was originally published in 1968 and sold for $2.95 (mine is a slightly later printing with Orange cover and $5.95 price tag).  It was one of the very first books to really delve deep into the stylistic nuances of the playing of people such as: Wade Ward and Hobart Smith.

The tabs that John created would today be descibed as “melodic clawhammer” interpretations.  They are very busy and follow very closely to the original fiddle tunes that he sourced them from, but they are not slavish imitations.

John’s tab system is pretty straight-forward as tabs go, but is a little confusing at times if you are unfamiliar with the tunes.  It seems that the measure breaks are randomly inserted at times but I think that John did this on purpose to challenge the student to use their own ears to figure out passages and really get into the heart of the tune and really learn it for themselves.

John says it best himself in the following quote: “You may decide that the tablature represents the “wrong” musical figure for a certain part of the tune.  But by that time you have the row of good music half-hoed;  you have aquired the technique to enable you to do what is represented, and decide whether you want to do that figure at all.  The best thing for a student to do (when he decides on it) is, to replace a figure in the tablature with one he makes up for himself.  Real banjo picking is not playing another’s arrangements, but having the technical ability and personality to make up your own.”

The book came with a flexi-disc of excerpts from one of John’s records with his string band: The Yankee Carpetbaggers.  It has 13 tracks on it.  Unfortunately there was a pressing error on side two of the Flexi so I was only able to make the first side listenable.  I have included it here for completist’s sake.  I urge everyone to try and find the source recordings that are listed for each of the songs.  If you can find them you won’t be disappointed.

This is a fantastic book and I hope that everyone enjoys it and that maybe it encourages others to digitize other rare and out of print instructional books and records…if you do decide to digitize some things for others to enjoy don’t forget to post them to your own blogs and then send them my way!


I’m eternally thankful to my wonderful girlfriend Meagan who turned this book into a PDF for me after my first attempt was suddenly erased.

Frank Fairfield San Francisco 5-5-11

I have a confession to make.  I sort of lied, well not so much lied as… I bent the truth just a little.  I said that the Oakland Frank Fairfield show was my first field recording…It wasn’t…Ohh the shame!  It was actually one of many over the years.  What I really meant to say was that it was the first good quality field recording I had made of Frank. 

I actually first recorded him 5 months prior to that show in Oakland.  The first show took place at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco.  It was a really great show and I was fortunate enough to get a seat in the first row and to have brought my Panasonic tape recorder along.  Frank and I talked about Eck Robertson a bunch before the show and when he was just about to go on I asked him if he would mind if I recorded the show with my tape recorder and he said that it wasn’t a problem at all. 

This recording is for true fans of Frank and field recording in general.  It’s for the people who don’t mind tape hiss, and the slightly overdriven sound of a 5 dollar Panasonic handheld tape recorder.  It’s for the folks who can’t pass by a record box without diving in headfirst hoping to score that elusive banjo or fiddle L.P., but most importantly: it’s for the folks who just enjoy a god damned good show, the kind of show that Frank puts on time and time again.  Enjoy!

Track list

1. Sally Gooden

2. Someday You’ll Be Free

3. Up The Road Somewhere Blues

4. Haste To The Wedding

5. Cindy

6. Hesitating Blues

7. Coal Creek March/ Chilly Winds

8. Rye Whiskey/ Texas Farewell

Frank Fairfield Here:

Mike Seeger S/T 1964


Mike Seeger.

Where does a person begin?  Mike was someone who was around on this planet for far less time than he/we deserved.  Mike was truly a one of a kind, a man who lived and breathed traditional folk-styles of music.  If it weren’t for the pioneering work of Mike and The New Lost City Ramblers (his string band from the 1960’s until his death), most of anyone who may be reading this would probably not even be privy to the type of music that he played.  Mike was a stellar multi-instrumentalist.  A field recordist.  A documentarian of the highest order, and from what I can tell, a warm hearted and gentle human being.  Mike is a person that I even though I never met him I feel a sadness that he has passed from this world and will no longer spread the gospel of what we today call old-time music.


Mike’s second L.P. as a solo musician was recorded for Vanguard records in 1964 and although it is not my favorite record of his, it maintains it’s place as a worthy addition to this blog as an example of a modern day master coming into his own as a musician and a person.  An early look into the mind and playing styles of one of this countries’ finest traditional musicians who was not born of the country or rural areas that so many traditional musicians would seem to stem from.


Mike plays no less than 6 instruments on this L.P. and he plays them with the ease of someone who should be in their 60’s or 70’s but he was only in his early 30’s when he recorded this L.P.  While Mike was a great player of many instruments, I think he was truly of a master of the banjo, fiddle autoharp.  His playing always shined when playing these instruments and I think his banjo and fiddle cuts on this L.P. do much to reinforce this view, especially the banjo pieces.  It’s also worth noting that Mike was also a master of the autoharp, as evident in his playing on the song “The Two Soldiers.”  Mike had a very melodic style while playing the autoharp and was known to play the melody on single strings as a lead instrument rather than just always playing the chords as a backup to his singing, which is fairly unusual.

            I hope you all enjoy this L.P. as much as I do and that it starts you on your journey to learning more about and appreciating old-time music and Mike Seeger.  If you’re interested in learning more about Mike’s life and music I suggest you pick up a copy of Bill C. Malone’s book about Mike’s life entitled: Music From The True Vine.  It’s a quick read and pretty interesting as well.


As always: ENJOY!


Track list


  1. Hello Stranger
  2. Oh Molly Dear
  3. Bachelor’s Hall
  4. We Live A Long Long Time
  5. Fishing Blues
  6. Johnny Grey
  7. The Two Soldiers
  8. Waterbound
  9. Leather Breeches
  10. Young McAfee On The Gallows
  11. Old Rachel
  12. It’ll Aggravate Your Soul
  13. Fair And Tender Ladies
  14. Wild Bill Jones
  15. I’ve Been All Around This World


Frank Fairfield Live in Oakland 10-1-11

Well everyone, today I have a very special treat for very first field recording!

The subject is none other than California’s own Frank Fairfield.  I ‘ve had the pleasure of seeing Frank play several times and he never disappoints.  Frank is really doing a great job of getting out there and bringing the music of the people back to the people who have forgotten that it was theirs to begin with.  Frank is no fly-by-night snake oil salesmen, he is the real deal.  He lives and breathes traditional music of the United States and beyond, and it’s painfully obvious when you see him live.  He really puts his blood and sweat into giving folks the best show he can.  Check out Franks records at Tompkins Square Records.

The show was set-up with about 24 hours notice as a warm-up performance for Franks’ appearance at Hardly-Strictly-Bluegrass today.  The show took place in a little park directly behind the DMV office in Oakland.  Surrounded by a circle of candles Frank played 7 songs that i’ve never seen him play live before. It was a very intimate experience that the folks in attendance will never forget.  I want to personally thank a fellow named Tim for pulling a good show off at the last minute.

Notes on the recording:  This is the first time i’ve ever used my Zoom H2 digital recorder, but I think it did a great job considering i’ve hardly read the instructions.  There was a busy main street and a gaggle of young skateboard punks shredding and screaming in the DMV parking lot just beyond Frank.  I suppose that’s the nature of field recordings though, you get whatever  is happening that moment whether it’s intended to be recorded or not.  I did my best to boost the sound as much as possible, but It’s not as loud as I’d like it to be.  I recommend burning the files to CD and listening to it on your home stereo where you can crank the volume and it will sound much better.  Thanks for listening and



1. Cluck Old Hen (partial)

2. Going Across The Sea

3. Lonesome And Blue

4.Sally Ann

5.John Hardy

6. Cannonball

7. Chilly Winds


Folk Banjo Styles L.P.



In the early to mid 1960’s while the folk-boom was at its peak, there were artists like Bob Dylan dipping into the coffers of American traditional music and pulling out melodies and bits of songs and mixing them with modern traditions such as beat poetry and stream of conciousness type verse then packaging them and selling them to the masses as original pieces.  There were also pre-fabricated groups of hand-picked singers like Peter, Paul and Mary whose sole purpose of existence was to cover other peoples songs and make their manager’s pockets deeper.  Then you had groups of people like the gentlemen on the Folk Banjo Styles album who were using the folk boom to introduce a generation to the sounds of real American music. 

Eric Weissberg (who recorded the Delieverance theme song) , Tom Paley of the New Lost City Ramblers and  Art Rosenbaum (fantastic banjo player and painter) were playing the music as it had been played in the rural areas where it originated.  They were making no attempt to modernize the tunes and songs like so many of their contemporaries were doing (most aggregiously the Kingston Family Trio and their interpretation of the murder-ballad Tom Dula) but instead strived with utmost determination to present the tunes with the authenticity that they demanded.  The album is loaded with great examples of banjo playing styles.  Eric Weissberg demonstrates his  postwar three-finger bluegrass style.  Tom Paley represents a more rural approach to the banjo with his  clawhammer,rapping,frailing (whatever you want to call it, it’s all the same downpicking technique) approach played on a fretless Frank Proffitt styled banjo.  Rounding out the album with some great old-time two and three fingered picking is Art Rosenbaum. 

This is the first of three albums that Elektra Records put out that focused exclusively on traditional banjo and stringband styles.  The other two records were curated by John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers and were titled: Old Time Banjo Project and Old Time Stringband Project.  I will post the other two albums in future posts


  1. Flop-Eared Mule
  2. Wildwood Flower
  3. John Hardy
  4. Nine Hundred Miles
  5. Lonesome Road Blues
  6. Wild Bill Jones
  7. Pretty Polly
  8. Rabbit, Where’s Your Mammy?
  9. Handsome Molly
  10. John Henry
  11. The Eighth Of January
  12. Marching Through Georgia
  13. Callahan
  14. Coal Creek March
  15. Across The Sea
  16. Harlan County Farewell Tune
  17. Swannanoa Tunnel
  18. Spanish Fandango
  19. Goodbye Old Booze
  20. Bluegrass Medley
  21. Forty Winks
  22. Devil’s Dream