The Ballad of Jed Clampett

Murphy HenryI want to answer a question I got about the song “Ballad of Jed Clampett” which Casey taught on our new DVD Easy Songs for Banjo. The inquirer wanted to know if we taught it exactly like it is tabbed out in the Earl Scruggs Book. (Actual title of the book: Earl Scruggs and The 5-String Banjo.) The answer to that would be “no.” But it is very, very close. Except for those darn D licks. Let me ‘splain.

Just because I abhor tab doesn’t mean I didn’t dabble in it myself while learning banjo. (That’s why I know it doesn’t work!) You should see my Earl Scruggs Book! Even the tape holding together the first layer of tape on the spine has now pulled away.

I was totally incapable of learning the “Ballad of Jed” out of the book. And it was those darn D licks that got me. Specifically the phrases “poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed” and “up through the ground came a bubb-a-ling crude.” The rest of the song, even from tab, is a piece of cake. Of course, those darn D licks comprise a “right smart” of the whole song.

As was often the case what was easy for Earl and came naturally to him was hard for me. So when I got good enough on banjo, I just substituted some different Scruggs licks into those two spots, and bingo! I had a perfectly good break, albeit not note-for-note like Earl done it. I finally realized that, when people asked for “Jed Clampett” or “The Beverly Hillbillies” they didn’t know and didn’t care if I was playing it exactly like Earl. They just wanted something that sorta sounded like what they heard on TV. Which, when you get right down to it, could just be as simple as a few banjo rolls and someone singing the lyrics.

We’ve given you a lot more than that. We’ve given you a banjo break that is actually learnable and playable. And one that sounds a whole lot like Earl’s. I can’t say that it’s actually beginner level, but it shouldn’t be too hard if you’ve gotten “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” under your belt and can hold down a 4-finger D chord. We put it on Easy Songs for Banjo because so many people had been asking for it, and we wanted to get it out there ASAP. Even if it is a leetle harder than strictly-speaking-easy.

So, have fun with Jed!

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