Well, gang, it’s been one helluva summer. Hope yours was fantastic and that you were able to find some time for the three “R”s – relaxing, reflecting and recharging….Oh, and playing your banjo, of course. Can’t forget that one.
Over here at the Mountain we’ve been working on overdrive since May arranging, shooting and editing a wide variety of new songs – songs that will further challenge you and take your technical facility to new heights. These are songs that we’ve chosen with you, the Banjo Mountain subscriber, in mind. Some of them, like “Red River Valley”, are specific requests from our members. Others, like “Old Joe Clark”, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Roanoke”, are arrangements of tunes that are considered essential learning for any student of bluegrass banjo. We’ve been working especially hard expanding our selection of pop tunes; we’ve taken great care to select songs that we feel would not only make fun banjo arrangements but songs that are considered iconic and that we’ve all come to love over the years. We particularly pride ourselves on this group of songs – it truly has been a labor of love selecting and arranging them. Which is actually the case for all the tunes.
We hope you enjoy them! Happy practicing!
“Roanoke” was written by the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, and was recorded and released by his band the Bluegrass Boys in 1954. It has since become one of the most popular bluegrass instrumentals of all time and can be heard at bluegrass jams and bluegrass festivals the world over.
Red River Valley
“Red River Valley” is a folk song and country music standard believed to be of Canadian origin. The song dates back to the latter part of the nineteenth century and expresses the sorrow of a local woman as her soldier lover prepares to return to the east. Since its inception, it has become a folk classic and has been covered in country, bluegrass and pop genres by a wide range of artists including Gene Autry, Woody Guthrie, Bill Haley, Johnny Cash, the Ventures and Leonard Cohen.
Rocket Man – Elton John
“Rocket Man” is a song composed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It first appeared on John’s album “Honky Chateau” (released in 1972). The song became one of his biggest hits, reaching number 2 on the UK charts and number 6 on the US charts. Rolling Stone lists it as number 245 in its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It has been covered by a diverse array of artists, including Neil Diamond, Jason Mraz, The Gin Blossoms, Kate Bush and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
Old Joe Clark
“Old Joe Clark” is an American folk ballad written around the turn of the century. Like many American folk songs, it centers on a real person – one Joseph Clark, a Kentucky mountaineer and moonshiner who allegedly lived in the mid-1800s. It has been described as “one of the most widely known of all Southern fiddle tunes.” “Old Joe Clark” is a favorite not only in bluegrass circles but also among country and old-time musicians as well.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is a song written by Brian Wilson, Tony Asher and Mike Love for the Beach Boys’ seminal album “Pet Sounds”, released May 16 1966
. The album has been hailed by many as one of the most influential rock albums of all time. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” was released as a single two months after the album’s release, with “God Only Knows” as its B-side. The song entered the Billboard charts on July 30
where it remained for eleven weeks, peaking at number 8 in September 1966.
“Oh! Susanna” is a song written by Stephen Foster. It is not only one of Foster’s best-known songs, but one of the most popular American songs ever written. Internationally, it is considered one of the most recognizable American songs of all time. Prior to the song’s publishing in 1848, no American song had sold more than 5,000 copies; “Oh! Susanna” sold over 100,000 copies.
Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees
“Stayin’ Alive” is a song written and recorded by the Bee Gees for the 1977 film “Saturday Night
Fever”. The movie helped popularize disco music around the world and catapulted John Travolta to international fame. The film’s soundtrack, written by the Bee Gees, is one of the best selling soundtracks of all time. In 2004, “Stayin’ Alive” was ranked number 189 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Amazing Grace” is an Anglican hymn written in 1779 by the English clergyman and poet John Newton. Not only is it considered one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world, but one of the most popular songs in American folk music as well. Its growth in popularity in American secular music began primarily during the folk boom of the early 1960s and continues to this day. With its universal message of redemption and forgiveness, the song has become an icon in American culture and has been recorded by a legion of artists including Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Skeeter Davis, the Byrds, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nelson and the Lemonheads.
Banks of the Ohio
“Banks of the Ohio” is an American murder ballad written in the late nineteenth century by unknown authors. It tells the story of “Willie” who invites his young lover for a walk along the river bank. After she rejects his marriage proposal, Willie murders her by drowning her in the river.
While the song has long since been a staple in the bluegrass world, it is also commonly heard in folk and country music circles.
Artists who have covered it include Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, the New Lost City Ramblers, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is a Christian hymn written in 1907 by Ada R. Habershon and Charles Gabriel. Despite its authorship, the song is usually recorded unattributed, having lapsed into the public domain in the twentieth century.
One of the most covered songs in country music, it has been performed by a wide variety of artists including John Lee Hooker, Leon Russell, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, the Allman Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Avett Brothers and Susan Boyle. The song has long since become a standard in the bluegrass world and is generally considered a vital part of the bluegrass canon.
Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
“Sweet Caroline” is a song written by Neil Diamond and released as a single on September 16,1969. Diamond has stated in interviews that the song was inspired by a Life Magazine photo he saw of a young Caroline Kennedy shortly after her father had been assassinated. According to Diamond, the song’s actual composition didn’t come together till about five years later. The song has become a fixture at many sporting events in the United States, most notably at Red Sox home games, where it has been played since 1997.
One of the most enduringly popular songs of the twentieth century, it has been covered by a wide variety of artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Julio Iglesias, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
Stir It Up – Bob Marley
“Stir It Up” was written by Bob Marley and recorded by his group the Wailers in 1967. Widely considered one of his most iconic songs, it is also distinguished by being his first commercial success outside of Jamaica.