Here we have a set of 10 songs that have tickled the hearts of America for well over a century. Most of these are played using just a few chords with basic strumming patterns and are a great place to start on your way to becoming an accomplished Campfire Guitar Player.
Lesson 1: Oh My Darling, Clementine - Guitar Lesson
*Oh My Darling, Clementine*is a ballad from the late 19th century referring to the love for a 49ers daughter during the California Gold Rush. The daughter drowns but our hero quickly consoles himself with her sister, although the last verse about that is frequently omitted depending on the audience. The chord progression is about as simple as any, just using two chords. The lesson represents the chords using symbols rather than specific names, and different keys are considered.
Lesson 2: You Are My Sunshine - Guitar Lesson
*You Are My Sunshine*is a post 19^th century tune that helped bridge the connection between Cowboy Songs and what then became known as Western Music. It was a staple in the repertoires of all the Singing Cowboys, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and later even Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. It is a basic I-IV-V progression and this lesson looks at it in the key of C.
Lesson 3: The Old Chisholm Trail - Guitar Lesson
*The Old Chisholm Trail*is one of the earliest traditional Cowboy Songs, appearing in John Lomax’s 1910 book /Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads./ It is an example of a song with numerous verses and each one is followed with a whoopin’, hollerin, chorus “Come-a-ti-yi yippee yippee yea, yippee yea.” The song tells the tales of cowboys driving cattle from Texas ranches to the railroad towns in Kansas. Like many other early songs, it is really a two-chord song with a simple strumming pattern
Lesson 4: I Ride An Old Paint - Guitar Lesson
*I Ride An Old Paint*refers to a cowboy’s horse and heading to Montana to round up wild horses. Its verses tell the typical stories of tragedy in the west and the dying cowboy’s last request. Songs like this are commonly done with various chord progressions and many slightly different melodies. This version is done similar to Woody Guthrie’s using just two of the three primary chords in a key. Multiple keys are presented as well.
Lesson 5: Red River Valley - Guitar Lesson
*Red River Valley*is a song that goes back to the late 1800s with differing accounts of its origins. It may have also been known as Bright Little Valley, Bright Sherman Valley, and even Cowboy Love Song. It was made popular by many early starts, including Jules Verne Allen, and later Marty Robbins. It is a great example of how easy and simple many of these Cowboy/Folk songs can be. The lesson covers different keys, and as such uses chord symbols rather than letter names.
Lesson 6: Sweet Betsy From Pike - Guitar Lesson
*Sweet Betsy From Pike *is a song about the quest for gold that took hold over America in the mid-1800s. The song is in 3/4 time and strummed fairly quickly (partly due to a multitude of verses!), and can be played simply using the three primary chords in any key. The lesson also brings in some ideas on substituting a couple of the minor chords in the key
Lesson 7: Down In The Valley - Guitar Lesson
*Down In The Valley *is a classic American Folk Song also known as *Birmingham Jail.*It is played using just two chords, I and V7, and can be played in many keys. This lesson looks at a couple of different ways of counting it as it could be considered in 3/4 or 6/8 time.
Lesson 8: Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie - Guitar Lesson
*Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie*might be considered the most famous Cowboy Ballad of all time. There are versions going all the way back to the 1920s and was done by all the great Cowboy singers, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and Johnny Cash, although many of these version are quite different. The lesson covers the simple strumming pattern and two-chord progression, as well as touching on some chord substitutions.
Lesson 9: The Yellow Rose Of Texas - Guitar Lesson
*The Yellow Rose Of Texas*dates from the Texas War of Independence in the 1830s. It tells the story of a workingman’s love for an indentured servant, Emily West. According to the legend, she was partly responsible for the capture of Mexican General Santa Anna, which led to Texas’s Independence. The song has gone on to be closely identified with the state and patriotism in general, somewhat ironically. The lyrics have evolved and softened over the years to become a little more general in scope and there are great recordings out there by Bobby Horton and Hoyt Axton that really are not to be missed. The lesson is presented using chord symbols and can be played in many keys.
Lesson 10: Oh Shenendoah - Guitar Lesson
*Oh Shenendoah*is a song with many stories of its origin. It probably started out as a Sea Shantie before settling in to a love song about a region or an Indian Chief’s daughter. There are also ties to the river being an escape route for slaves. The lesson looks at a nice way of harmonizing it in the key of C. There are great versions out there by many artists going back to Paul Robeson, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and more recently, Arlo Guthrie.