Lesson Plan

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Lesson notes

St. Louis Blues, written by W.C. Handy in 1914 has been arranged and recorded by some of the most famous musicians of the last 100 years, including Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, Bennie Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, and most notably for our purposes, John Fahey.

Fahey recorded the tune multiple times with a lot of improvisation and variations. This lesson is based on his 1967 recording of Volume 1: Blind Joe Death. It can now be found on the 1996 reissue The Legend Of Blind Joe Death, which included 2 different recordings of essentially the same tunes.

The song is unusual for Blues because it has multiple sections, more like a Ragtime piece. Some of them follow the traditional 12-Bar progression but there is a 16-Bar chorus, originally done with a habanero, or tango rhythm.

This lesson presents Fahey's take on St. Louis Blues as accurately as possible, but encourages the player to make it their own. The last segment shows Neil improvising an arrangement.