Picking the Wildwood Flower

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I am having the best time teaching my 20-year-old guitar student, Cody. He’s been taking now for not quite a year, and he and his dad Elvis are the wonderful folks who plow our driveway when it snows. (I’ve seen a lot of them this year!) Cody started off learning G, C, and D, of course, and then we ventured pretty quickly into E, A, and B-7 so he could learn “Folsom Prison Blues.” To quote Travis Tritt, Cody is a “member of the country club”, and country music is what he loves. So we’ve also done “A Country Boy Can Survive” (in D), the theme song from the Dukes of Hazzard “Just Good Ol’ Boys” (in E), “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” (in G) and are working on Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.” (Don’t expect to see these on a DVD any time soon!)

One of the things Cody does that is really helping his playing is, guess what? Getting together with other people and playing. Of course, they play electric guitars and use a lot of barre chords, but that doesn’t matter. Cody is still immersing himself in music. Early on he came back from one of these jam sessions and said one of the guys was picking out a song he really liked. What was the song? I asked. Cody couldn’t remember the name. I took a not-too-wild guess and said Does it sound like this and then picked a little of the “Wildwood Flower.” Bingo!

So we spent the next month or so learning to pick “Wildwood Flower” in C. Unfortunately it’s not yet on DVD, so Cody had to remember it a few notes at a time. The F chord in particular gave him fits and evoked some colorful language. (In today’s culture it was pretty mild but Cody has such a flair for it that it always tickles me.) But he “got ‘er done” and now plays it quite well and is able to trade off breaks with me easily.

Which brings me to the whole point of what I thought was going to be a short blog! Yesterday when Cody came for his lesson the idea came into my head to show him how to pick “Wildwood Flower” in the key of G. (I wonder now if that was inspired by all the blog talk here about banjo players playing in different keys.) Anyhow, we started learning the first line in G, following the same melody we used in C. After the first couple of times through Cody looks up and says, “Wow! That’s a lot of moving!”

That struck me as funny and oh-so-appropriate, so I wrote it down and thought I’d share. And I did! (I would have shared earlier but I was out yesterday square dancing! Four hours! My feet hurt when I got in and I was hearing “four ladies chain” and “weave the ring” in my sleep. But, oh my gosh, it was so much fun!)