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Four Slide Guitar Tunes with roots and variations

Dust My Broom

Dust My Broom

The first slide guitar riff that many guitarists learn is the opening riff to “Dust My Broom” by Elmore James. He took the older Robert Johnson tune, “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and made it his own. Robert Johnson included slide parts in some of his tunes but not in “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom.” I suggest you listen to the Robert Johnson version first to better understand how Elmore James changed the tune.


 I Can’t Hold Out (Talk to me Baby)

Elmore James was highly influential to slide guitarists as well as to blues and rock music in general. Almost all the great rock and blues guitarists have covered his tunes. One of my favorites is “I can’t hold out“, also sometimes called “Talk to me baby”. I own two different recordings of Elmore James doing this tune. I’ve included both below. The first one is the version I prefer. I think Elmore James’ singing is better on that version. However the production quality and slide guitar seem better on the second version.

Now listen to what Eric Clapton does to the tune. Clapton is great at taking a classic tune and making it his (as he did on Down at the Crossroads). Clapton’s take still has great slide but the feel is very different. I like both but they are hardly the same tune.


Statesboro Blues

Statesboro Blues was written by Blind Willie McTell, a 12-string guitarist who recorded the tune in 1928.

Taj Mahal recorded a version of Statesboro Blues on his first album. It has a great slide guitar part on it. I’ve found conflicting information regarding who actually played the slide guitar part. It might have been Taj Mahal himself, as the review on Allmusic indicates. However, it could have also been Jesse Ed Davis who is listed as lead guitarist or Ry Cooder, a great guitarist who played rhythm guitar on the album.

Duane Allman was one of the best blues/rock slide guitarists ever. The story that has been told about how Duane and Greg Allman became a band with such a strong blues influence and Duane became the slide guitarist he was started with Duane Allman recovering from a cold and listening to the Taj Mahal album. His brother Greg had given him a bottle of Coricidin (an antihistamine that came in a distinctive glass medicine bottle) and the album. He had never played slide guitar before then but was influenced by the Taj Mahal album to learn slide and make Statesboro Blues a signature Allman Brothers Band song. And if you don’t already know, the Coricidin bottle became his slide of choice.


Rollin’ and Tumblin’

The last slide guitar tune for today is Rollin’ and Tumblin. The tune has a long history and can be heard with several different sets of lyrics. As was typical for blues tunes from the past, each performer claimed the tune as theirs. A history of the tune can be found on Wikipedia.

There were several versions listed that were recorded before Robert Johnson recorded “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day” in 1936 but Robert Johnson is always a good place to start.

Muddy Waters recorded Rolling and Tumbling twice in 1950. Howlin’ Wolf who also recorded for the Chess label recorded “Down in the Bottom” with lyrics by Willie Dixon but listen and see that the tune is essentially the same.

Elmore James recorded Rolling and Tumbling in 1960. Later in the 60’s both Cream and Johnny Winter recorded the tune.

Eric Clapton recorded the tune again in 1992 for his unplugged album.


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