Monthly Archives: September 2009

Goodbye Booze cheat sheet

Goodbye Booze 78 by Gid Tanner and Faith Norris

The tune “Goodbye Booze” is a three chord goof for making drinkers feel pleased with themselves. This in itself is not usually hard, but how much damage can three chords do anyhow?

The song was written in 1901 by Jean Havez. Gid Tanner and Faith Norris, also known as The Skillet Lickers, did a recording in 1926. There’s a Charlie Poole recording in 1926, after the Tanner/Norris version. There’s a 1939 recording in the Library of Congress’ archive of California folk music from the 30s. The best known version these days appears to be the one by Old Crow Medicine Show.

I transcribed Charlie Poole’s recording, and I figured I’d share my work here:

  1. To print it out, grab the PDF.
  2. To look at it in the browser, grab the PNG img.
  3. To modify it using Sibelius, grab my Sibelius file.
  4. To reuse it in mix, grab the MIDI file.

Goodbye Booze sheet music and lyrics

Horace Weston’s Celebrated Polka

Horace Weston's Celebrated Polka (title)

Go digging for music by the 19th century banjo star Horace Weston and you’ll won’t find much. He was more of a player than a composer, I guess. Fortunately this 1880 compilation of banjo tunes:

The J. E. Brewster Banjoist.

On page 18:

Horace Weston's Celebrated Polka (18)

Had this sheet music:

Horace Weston's Celebrated Polka (sheet music)

I don’t have a banjo, and if I did I still couldn’t play this on it. What I do have is a parlor guitar from more or less the same time period and an hour or so a day for practicing the damn thing until I get it right. So I did this video:

Modern Skiffle Quartet

I saw a great local band called “Modern Skiffle Quartet” at Cinema Bar last night. Goofy good fun.

Skiffle is, more or less, a highly obscure British genre of the late 1950s which does stiff but friendly renditions of American jug band tunes from the late 1920s. The mood is happy go lucky and embarrassingly perky. It’s post Elvis and pre Bob Dylan. So this band last night was white Americans circa 2010 reviving white Brits ca. 1958 reviving black Americans ca. 1930. And this is not the same as skipping the intermediaries and going straight back to revive jug bands. The fun of it is copying the copiers.

Modern Skiffle Quartet is too small an outfit to even have a Myspace page. But whatever. If you see em around they’re very worth a drive to the bar.

Here’s Lonnie Donegan, the genre’s biggest star:

Photographic evidence of a band called “The City Ramblers”:

The City Ramblers

big chords

So it was my turn to call the song and I pulled out a cheat sheet I made that was damn good, except that the chord symbols were in the ordinary font for chords, meaning that they were too tiny to read and the mandolin player had to go out to his car for his glasses. So today I changed to a font size that a blind man could read. Check this out:

sample of huge chord font in lead sheetp

gigs aren’t about you

I’m a sap for neighborhood-level arts. I can’t abide arena shows, and I’m not even very interested in 500 seat shows. But I loved the person who played before me at the Talking Stick the other night, a singer songwriter named Whitney Steele:

Whitney Steele at Talking Stick

She was a good singer, and I liked that she got a bunch of friends to hang out, like her girlfriend who brought her child. Playing local gigs is about introducing your friends to one another, and they seemed to be a pretty natural social scene. You could see that she was at ease with them and vice versa.

The one thing which is hard to accomplish is that they need to be able to focus on one another rather than you. It’s not about you. Yeah, your music and personality are a factor, but unless you’re Picasso they’re only part of the deal.

use m for –

Following up on my post about formatting cheat sheets for songs, I tested out my cheat sheet for “I Wanna Be Loved By You” at a jam last night. One of the guys found that it was breeze. The other player had a tough time making sense of it.

One of the problems was that I wrote up minor chords by putting a dash after them, so “C minor” would be written “C-“. This notation is a jazz convention. Jazz players use ‘-‘ for minor, ‘+’ for augmented, ‘°’ for diminished, ‘ø’ for half diminished.

The guy who had an easy time with the chart is a jazz player. The guy who didn’t is a bluegrass player.

Bluegrass players use the convention of a lowercase ‘m’, so that C minor = C- = Cm.

I like the bluegrass style for a couple reasons. One, it’s intuitive. A beginner would probably guess what ‘m’ means but not what “-” means. Two, it’s visually distinctive. A dash is a tiny and hard to see, while a ‘m’ is very clear.

The down side is that it’s faster to write a dash than the letter ‘m’, and that a dash is more comfortable to jazz players.

I have updated the cheat sheet to use the ‘m’ style.

Ollie Oakley on zither banjo, 1910

Ollie Oakley
Ollie Oakley

1910 Zonophone recording:

Ollie OakleyMarche de Concert (MP3)

Arguably the greatest and certainly the most popular banjoist of all time, Olly Oakley is a fascinating and controversial figure who even today has the power to arouse devotion and hostility amongst players and followers of the banjo. The son of a Midlands jeweller, Oakley decided on the banjo at the age of twelve after hearing the pioneering Bohee brothers in concert. During a career stretching over thirty-five years he made more than five hundred recordings, toured widely throughout Britain and abroad, formed a highly successful concert party as well as a banjo quartet and a dance band, and was, as far as the circumstantial evidence suggests, a key figure in the development of the zither banjo.

Sheet music (PDF)

All this stuff is via folks on the classic banjo group on Ning.

playing in Venice tomorrow night

I’m playing tomorrow night at a coffee place in Venice Beach called The Talking Stick. Set time 8:30.

Typical Venice vibe — comfortable chairs, un- control freak in a slightly hippy way. Good place for talking, and when you play it’s at the same volume level as conversation. I love playing there because of the personal scale of the experience. It’s a good place for my music, with its parlor roots.

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1411 Lincoln Blvd
Venice, CA 90291

formatting cheat sheets

This post is to share a musician’s cheat sheet I put together for the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” which most people know from Marilyn Monroe’s version in the movie “Some Like it Hot.” I’m not sharing this because I think that other people want to get the music from me. I’m sharing it because formatting cheat sheets for musicians is tricky, and I put enough sweat into this one that other people might find it interesting. While you’re reading this you’ll probably want to open that document in another window so that you can flip back and forth: it is at

The title of the song is aligned on the right side of the page, so that you can bind or staple all your cheat sheets on the left side and still see the title when you’re flipping through the stack. Usually you do that flipping in the 30 seconds between one song and the next, and if you can’t find the page you’re really hosed.

If you open this in the browser, you’ll get a link to a printable PDF version in the upper left. I produced the printable version by saving to file. I did that so I wouldn’t have to fiddle with differences between browsers in how they handle formatting at print time.

If you open the PDF, or print from the HTML, the link to the PDF will have been replaced with the URL of the HTML file. That’s to let people who only have the printout get back to the original, which is helpful for making more printouts, for having something to link to, or grabbing and modifying the cheat sheet itself.

The HTML for the chords uses an HTML table to keep things aligned. Whether this is really tabular data is questionable but not totally out of the question.

Rather than align the chords and words within the same block, as sheet music does, I put the chords and words in separate sections and line them up using the section labels “A” and “B.”

The layout is designed for printing it out to use in a live situation. It will fit into a single 8 1/2″ x 11″ page, because players can’t hassle with page turns. The font is as big as possible, because in a live situation the lighting is usually low and the page is down on the floor. Still, instrumentalists would benefit from formatting that is nothing but chords and arrangement, all with a huge font.

The “pooh pooh be doo” lyrics require different chords than in the table ( IV IV IV# V ), but I couldn’t think of an easy-to-read way to express that. That’ll have to be picked up on the fly.

I specified the chords using numbers, in the Nashville style, rather than chord names. This is to make it easy to transpose the song for the benefit of the singer. Otherwise you have to rewrite all the chord names when the key is too high or low for the singer. More on Nashville chord numbering: here and here.

If you have the technical background to edit HTML, you may find that my HTML is a useful template when you need to write out cheat sheets for yourself. My HTML is in the public domain — do whatever you want with it. But if you make an improvement, it would be good to share it with the world and to let me know.

Talking about the public domain brings up the issue of licensing for this song. I obviously don’t have permission to post this composition. However I do have a legal justification: I’m posting for the purpose of scholarship, which is a fair use defense.