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The Guitar of

Mississippi
John Hurt
Volume Two
taught by

John Miller

Contents
You Got To Walk That Lonesome Valley ................................................................ 4
Worried Blues ................................................................................................................. 8
Avalon Blues ................................................................................................................ 12
Richland Woman Blues ............................................................................................ 15
Big Leg Blues ............................................................................................................... 19
Candyman .................................................................................................................... 23
Payday ........................................................................................................................... 29

Mississippi John Hurts Music


John Hurt was born in Teoc, Mississippi in 1892, but lived most of his life in Avalon, Mississippi. In 1928, after being
recommended for recording by his neighbors, fiddler Willie Narmour and guitarist Shell Smith, John Hurt recorded 13 songs for Okeh
Records. He returned to Avalon and nothing was heard of him outside of his home area until 1963, when Tom Hoskins, a young
Country Blues enthusiast, rediscovered him, recorded him, and arranged for him to perform at the Newport and Philadelphia Folk
Festivals. From that point onward, until his death in 1966, John Hurt traveled and performed, charming audiences wherever he went.
Such are the bare bones of John Hurts life. What of his music? It has a quality of being simultaneously familiar and mysterious,
because the more you listen to Mississippi John Hurt, the more you realize how different he was, not only from other musicians of his
region, but from anyone else in the Country Blues genre. His music bore some similarities to the playing of Furry Lewis and Frank
Stokes, both transplanted Mississippians who lived in Memphis, but whereas both Furry and Frank were two-finger pickers who
employed a lot of brush strokes, John Hurt was a three-finger picker who seldom used brush strokes, preferring to pick single strings.
John Hurt played with facility in E, A, D, G and C in standard tuning, as well as open G and open D tuning. Of recorded country
bluesmen of his region and generation, only Bo Carter shows comparable versatility. John Hurts characteristic rhythmic feel was
utterly distinctive, featuring a driving alternation in the bass, varied with tricky omitted beats and connecting runs. His repertoire was
huge, encompassing blues of his own composition, ballads, hymns and forgotten pop ditties of his childhood.
Playing Mississippi John Hurts songs puts you in a position to appreciate his originality and imagination, as well as the fact that
while his music was strong and clear, it certainly was not simple. Continuing to play his music will help keep it alive. Lets do that.

About the Tablature


Most guitarists who transcribe songs using tablature have their own ways of communicating what the player who wishes to play
a song will have to do to get the job done. In this respect, Im like everyone elseI have my own wrinkles on the system. If you
observe the following points, I believe the tab will be clear.

Notes with downward stems are played by the thumb of the right hand. Notes with upward stems are played by the
fingers of the right hand.

Where two notes are connected by a slur, the letters H, P and SL indicate a hammer-on, a pull-off, or a slide. An
arrow curved upwards ( ) and the letter B indicates that the note is bent, and an arrow curved downwards ( )indicates that

the bend is released.


A straight arrow up or down (

the stroke, relative to the strings represented by the lines in the tablature.
The tablature employs the same methods of notating rhythm as does standard music notation. A quarter note ()

e r ) indicates a strum or brush

stroke. The direction of the arrow indicates the direction of

has the same duration as two eighth notes () or four sixteenth notes (). A single eighth note looks like
and a single sixteenth note has a doubled flag (). Each of these note values has its own rest symbol, as wellthe

quarter rest (), the eighth rest (), and the sixteenth rest (). A dot following a note or rest adds on one half of the
note or rests rhythmic duration. An eighth note triplet ( ) divides one beat into three notes of equal duration.
The 12/8 time signature has four beats per measure with each beat divided into three eighth notes. Thus the beat can
be broken into three eighth notes (), a so-called broken triplet ( ), or one beat (.), the dotted quarter note.
When a note is sustained or held across beats, the notes are connected by a tie (
). Where two notes are tied, only the first note
is plucked by the right handthe left hand continues to hold the position for the duration of the second note. Thus ties are helpful

not only for indicating how long notes should sustain, but also when the left hand should move.
Good luck and have fun!

You Got To Walk


That Lonesome Valley
This was played in G, standard tuning, and was Johns version of a song popular in both the African-American and White Country
traditions. The way John Hurt takes the sixth string along for the ride when the melody ascends the first string is a technique he also
used in his solo to Casey Jones. The muted bass notes are indicated in the TAB by the symbol

, above the affected notes.

Key of G, standard tuning

Mississippi John Hurt

j j j

C
&

j0

VERSE

#
&

0
7

5
0
0

j
j

j
5

3
0

0
3

j
0

j
j

3
0

j j

j
7

SL

3
0

mute

#
&

j j

#
&

11

#
&

&

3
0

0
3

j
0

j
0

j j

j
j

j
j

3
0

VERSE
TWO

5
0

j0

#
&

20

j
0

j
7

17

3
0

SL

j j

14

3
0

5
0

0
5

5
0

j
j
#

&

j
5

26

&

3
0

j j

j
3
0

5
0

3
0
0
0
2
3

5
0

j
7

j
0

j
7

0
3

j
j

3
0

SL

&

29

j
0

32

#
&

SL

j
5

23

7
0

5
0

YOU GOT TO WALK THAT LONESOME VALLEY


(Legends of Country Blues Guitar: Vestapol 13003)

You got to walk that lonesome valley


Well, you got to walk it for yourself
Aint nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk that valley for yourself.
My mother had to walk that lonesome valley
Well, she had to walk it for herself
Its nobody else could walk it for her
Yes, she had to walk that valley for herself.
Oh yes, you got to walk that lonesome valley
Well, you got to walk it for yourself
Its nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk that valley for yourself.
My father had to walk that lonesome valley
He had to walk it for hisself
Its nobody else could walk it for him
He had to walk that valley for hisself.
Oh, Jesus had to walk that lonesome valley
He had to walk it for hisself
Its nobody else could walk it for him
He had to walk that valley for hisself.
Oh yes, you got to walk that lonesome valley
Well, you got to walk it for yourself
Its nobody else can walk it for you
You got to walk that valley for yourself.

Worried Blues
Worried Blues, played in A, standard tuning, was transcribed from Rounder CD 1082. It is one of John Hurts most
intense performances on record, and he really sounds like he is going for broke instrumentally and vocally. The short second
line in the verses adds a note of urgency.

Key of A, standard tuning

Mississippi John Hurt

### C . j j j j j j j j j j j j
n n n

n
.
&

INTRO

. 2j 2j 2j 0j
.0 4 2 4

&

###

&

###

2
4

5
2
0

2
2
0

5
2

2
3
0

2
3
0

2
3
0

Bm

j n j j
n

0
4

2
3

0
3

j j
0
3

j j j

5
0

0
0

A
j j

j j j j
5

j j j j

j
j
n j n j

j j j j

0
0

2
2

0
0

### j
j

&

10

0
0

13

&

###

2
2

5
2

5
2

.
.

5
2

j j j j j j j j 23 j j j j j j C

n #

VERSE

j j j j

j j j j

j j j j j j

2
0

7 7

5
0

###
j
&

Bm

19

2
0

2
0

j
5

2 2
2
2
0
0

0
0

5
0

j j
0

SL

5
0

j Aj

### C
&

16

2 2
2
2
0
0

j j

j
0

j j

.

.

j
2
0

2
2

0
0

0
0

2
2

0
0

22

&

###

j j

2 2
2
2
0
0

j j j j
2

### j

&

2
0

### j j

&

31

0
2

j
2
2

0
0

Bm

j n j j
n

7
0

7
0

0
4

0
0

0
0

j
j j
w


www

ow

j j

2 2
2
2
0
0

5
2

10

5
2

5
2

SL

j j j

5
2

n
j

j5

5
0

28

SL

D
### j j j j
&

j j j j

INTERLUDE

25

j j j j

j j

j
5

5
0

5
2

5
2
2
2
0

WORRIED BLUES
(Rounder CD 1082)
Dont your home look lonesome when your baby pack up and leave?
Home look so lonesome
Dont your home look lonesome when your baby pack up and leave?
Home look so lonesome when your baby pack up and leave
Home look lonesome
Home look so lonesome when your baby pack up and leave.
Dont the sun look lonesome shining down through the trees?
Dont the sun look lonesome?
Sun look so lonesome shining down through the trees.
Oh, tell me, baby, whats the matter now?
I want to know
Oh, Lordy, baby, tell me whats the matter now?
Is you gonna quit your daddy anyhow?
Is you gonna quit your
Is you gonna quit your daddy anyhow?
Baby, thats all right, thats all right for you
Baby, thats all right
Baby, thats all right, honey, thats all right for you.
Well, you know I love you any way you do
You know I love you
You know I love you any old way you do.
I want to know whats the matter, something going on wrong
Tell me whats the matter, baby
Went away last night and you stayed out all night long.
Honey, thats all right, thats all right for you
Baby, thats all right
I love you, baby, any old way you do.
Well the sun going down, aint this a lonesome place?
Sun going down
Sun going down, aint this a lonesome place?
I feel so lonely, cant see my babys face
(Guitar plays line)
So lonesome here, I cant see my babys face.
Well, Lordy, baby, please dont put me down
Please
You are the sweetest girl in town.
Dont your home look lonesome when your baby pack up and leave?
Home look so lonesome
Home look lonesome when your baby pack up and leave.

11

Avalon Blues
Avalon Blues was transcribed from Rounder CD 1081, and is played out of E, standard tuning. It is exceptionally fun to
play and the signature lick really works its way under your skin. Like some of Robert Wilkinss songs, Avalon Blues has a form
which is simultaneously original and completely natural.

Key of E, standard tuning

&

####

Mississippi John Hurt

j
n #

INTRO

1
2

j
n #

j0

j j

1
2

# # # # j j
j j
j
6

&

n # 4

j0

j
E
# # # # C j
&

j 4j

VERSE

0
0

j0

1
2

j
n #

j
4

4
0

2
4

12

j
2

2
4

2
0

1
2

E
j
# # # # j j
j
6 j

C
&

n # 4

10

j0

2
0

7
SL

n j #

j
0

A
# # # # C j j j
&

1
2

13

j 0j

j0

1
2

E
j
# # # # j j
j

&

n # 4

16

j0

B
# # # # C j j

&

19

0
2

1
2

2
2

13

2
0

j
j

2
2

j
2

j0

n j #

2
0

1
2

E
Fine
j
# # # # j j
j
6 j

C
&

n # 4

22

j0

&

####

VERSE
TWO

j
C

0
0

j 4j

25

j0

1
2

0
2

4
0

D.S. al Fine

To %
2

2
4

2
4

AVALON BLUES
(Rounder CD 1081)
Avalon my home town, always on my mind (2x)
Pretty mamas in Avalon want me there all the time (2x)
When I left Avalon, throwing kisses and waving at me (2x)
Says, Come back, Daddy, and stay right here with me. (2x)
Avalon my home town, got no great big rain
Avalon my home town
Avalon my home town, got no great big rain.
Pretty mamas in Avalon sure will spend your change
Pretty mamas in Avalon
Pretty mamas in Avalon sure will spend your change.

14

2
0

Richland Woman Blues


Richland Woman Blues, played in C, standard tuning, was transcribed from Rounder CD 1081. Both the tune and the
lyrics evoke the Ragtime Era, and you could tell that John Hurt really relished singing it.

Key of C, standard tuning

& C

SL

1
1

0
1
3

3
2

3
2

3 3 1
0

1
0

1
3
1

15

j

64

&

j
4

&

SL

j
4

# j
.

INTRO

Mississippi John Hurt

3
1

3 3
3

10

& C

j
0

0
3

3
1

13

&

0
2

0
2

3
0

0
3

16

&

&

1
0

0
3

3
3

0
2

3
0

16

3
0

0
3

0
2

19

VERSE

j
#

1
0

j
1

0
3

1
0

&

22

j
j
j

0
1
3

25

&

2
3
1

28

&

j0

0
0

0
3

17

j
1

j
0

j
2

j
1
3

ww
w
o ww

0
1
0
2
3

j
3
0

1
3

0
3

RICHLAND WOMAN BLUES


(Rounder CD 1081)

Give me red lipstick and a bright poppy rouge


A shingle-bob haircut and a shot of good booze.
(Chorus:)
Hurry down, sweet daddy, come blowing your horn
If you come too late, sweet mama will be gone.
Stop at the fashion shop, get the one looks best
Your own sweet mama wants a brand new dress.
(Chorus)
Red rooster says (guitar finishes verse and chorus)
Red rooster says, Cock-a-doodle-doo-doo
The Richland woman says, Any dude will do.
(Chorus)
Repeat verse 2 and chorus
Dress skirt cut high, then they cut low
Dont think Im a sport? Keep on watching me go!
(Chorus)
Every Sunday morning, church, watch me go
My wings are sprouted out, the preacher told me so.
(Chorus)
Come along, young man, everythings sitting right
My husbands going away til next Saturday night.
(Chorus)

18

Big Leg Blues


Played in D, standard tuning, Big Leg Blues was transcribed from Mississippi John Hurt Avalon Blues: The
Complete 1928 Okeh Recordings, Columbia/Legacy CK 64986. It is one of John Hurts subtlest pieces and abounds in
intricate detail work. The ascending bass run in bars 56 and 910 is easier to play if you drag your thumb through in
one motion rather than winding up and hitting each string with a separate attack.

Key of D, standard tuning

&

##

Mississippi John Hurt

n # n

# n #

j0

INTRO

1
2

1
2
0

2
3

2
3

3
0

# # j j j j
&

j0

j
3

j2
3

2
0

5
2
0

j j

j
2

2
0

3
2
2

0 3
J
19

j2
3

A
D
j
j j
# # j j
j

&

n #

j
j

j5

3
0

j2
3
3
0

j
0
3

2
3
0

2
3
0

j j

j2 2 2
3
3 3
0
0

j
0

# # j
&

11

j j

j0

VERSE

j0

# # j
&

2
3

#
& #

17

j
2
3

j
0
3

3
0

14

3
0

3
0

0
3

2
3
0

5
2

2
0

2
4

j2
3

3
0

j
0

2
0

5
2

2
0

j
j

3
2

20

2
3

D
j
# # j j j j


&

j
2

20

j
2

j2
3

j
2
0

2
3
0

2
3
0

D
# # j
&

j5

SOLO
SL

j
j
j n # n #

23

SL

# # n # n j #

&

26

&

##

29

2
2
0

j
j
# #
&

J n #

3
2
2

2
3

0
3

j2
3

21

2
0

5
2

j


5

3
2

j
0

j0
3
.3

# j n

0
3

32

A
j
j
j

j
2

SL

j5

j2
3

2
3

2
3
0

BIG LEG BLUES


(Mississippi John Hurt Avalon Blues: The Complete 1928
Okeh Recordings, Columbia/Legacy CK 64986)

Raise up, baby, get your big leg off of mine (2x)
It's so heavy make a good man change his mind.
I asked you, baby, come and hold my head (2x)
Sent me word that youd rather see me dead.
Im going, Im going, crying wont make me stay (2x)
More you cry, further you drive me away.
Some crave high yellow, I like black and brown (2x)
Black wont quit you, brown wont let you down.
It was late at midnight, the moon shined bright like day (2x)
I seen your faro going up the right of way.

22

Candyman
Transcribed from Rounder CD 1081, Candyman is played out of A, standard tuning, and is a real tour de force.
The solo is huge, and I know very little in the way of anything to compare it to in the style. Probably the piece closest to
it is an instrumental by the Tennessee guitarist, Sam McGee, called Sally Long. The variety and unexpected nature of
John Hurts thumbwork on Candyman make it a real challenge to play.

Key of A, standard tuning

Mississippi John Hurt

j
j

j j

### C

&
e

E/A

INTRO
SL

12

2 9 9
2 9 9

12
9

j
j
# # #
&

&

# # #

9
10
0

5
7
0

9
10

5
7

5
7
0

0
6

23

10

9
10

10
0

9 9
10 10
0

9
10
0

j j
J

j
0

j
5
7

10

j
9
10 10
0

j
5
7

j 12

j 10

9
9

A/D

10

j 12

0
4

j
3

J2

10

&

###

j j

2
0

A
13

&

###

j n

2
0

###
&

16

###
&

19

VERSE

2
0

2
2

j
2

24

j
3

j
2

j
0

j n

3
2

j
4

j j

j
5

3
0

# # # j
&

22

&

###

25

j j

j n

2
0

5
2

# # # j
&

###
&

j j

j
2

3
2

3
2

25

2
2

SL

3
2

j
2
4

3
0

j
0

31

j
0

28

j
5

5
2

2
0

###
&

34

SL

2
2

12

9
9

###

&

10

10

12

j
# # #
&

10
0

10
9

10
9

9
9

A/D

5
7

9
9

j
9
10
0

9
10

9
10
9
0

5
7

9
9

j
9

j 12

j 10

40

10

j
9

12

37

j 12
9

j
j

SOLO

E/A

5
7

5
7

5
7
0

0
E

# # # j j
&
J

43

j
0

0
4

j j

j
3

2
0

26

2
4

j
3
2

3
0

###
&

46

4
2

###
&

49

###
&

52

###
&

55

3
0

j n

2
0

2
2

j
2

j .

INTERLUDE

5
2

5
0

27

3
2

5
2

j
0
3

2
0

j
3

j j

j n

5
4

5
3

5
3

###
&

58

0
3

4
3

j
5

5
2

CANDYMAN
(Rounder CD 1081)

Well, all you ladies, gather round


Good sweet candymans in town
Its the candyman.
Hes got stick candy thats nine inches long
He sells as fast, a hog can chew his corn
Its the candyman
Its the candyman.
Well, you all heard what Sister Jones said
She always take the candy stick to bed
Its the candyman.
Well, you and the candyman, youre getting mighty slick
Umm hmm, umm hmm
You must be stuck on the candymans stick
Umm hmm, umm hmm
Well, all you ladies, gather round
The good sweet candymans in town
Its the candyman
Its the candyman.
Hey, his stick candy dont melt away
It just gets better so the ladies say
Its the candyman.
You and the candyman are getting mighty slick
Umm hmm, umm hmm
You must be stuck on the candymans stick
Umm hmm, umm hmm

28

5
2
2
2
0

Payday
Played in open D tuning, this version of Payday comes from Rounder CD 1100. It has a beautiful ruminative
quality and the fact that there are no chord changes just adds to the trance-like feeling it evokes. I could easily imagine
the melody in African or Asian music.

Open D tuning: DADFAD

Mississippi John Hurt

## C

&

SL

9
0
0

0
0

2
0

4
0
0

j j 64


j j j

j 0j j

7
0

j
4

0
0

SL

## 6
& 4

#
& #

SL

29

SL

7
0

7 9
0
0

9
0

#
& #

11

SL

2
0

##
&

##
&

20

&

##

0
0

2
0

0
0

j
4

30

0
0

j j

0
0

4
0

SL

SL

0
0

j
4

2
0

SL

SL

0
0

SL

17

j
j

SL

SL

14

SL

0
0

4
0
0

#
& #

23

2
0

##
&

&

##

# # j j

&

SL

0
0

0
0
0

31

4
0

0
0

j
0

SL

2
0

SL

32

j
9

SL

SL

9
0

29

j j j

26

0
0

2
0

#
& #

35

VERSE

&

##

2
0

j0

##
&

2
0

0
0

2
0

0
0

SL

7
0
0

0
0

9
0

0
0

32

SL

4
0

0
0

SL

2
0

7
0

9
0

2
0

&

41

##

44

SL

2
0

j
0
0

38

7
0

7
0

#
& #

47

0
0

##
&

0
0

j
0

0
0

PAYDAY
(Rounder CD 1100)
I done all I could do and I cant get along with you
Im gonna take you to your Mama, pay day
Pay day, pay day
Im gonna take you to your Mama, pay day.
Just about a week ago, I stole me a ham of meat
Im gonna keep my skillet greasy if I can
If I can, if I can.
Well, the rabbit in the log, I aint got no rabbit dog
Lord, I hate to see that rabbit get away
Get away, get away
Lord, I hate to see that rabbit get away.
Well, Ive did all I can do and I cant get along with you
Im gonna take you to your Mama, pay day
Pay day, pay day.
Repeat last verse

33

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SL

50

2
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2
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