The Carter Scratch

By Wayne Erbsen

They didn’t call her Mother Maybelle for nuthin.’ Nope. In addition to being the mother of three girls (Helen, June, and Anita), Maybelle Carter was nothing less than the mother of flatpicking guitar. Starting in 1927, her lead and rhythm guitar playing laid the foundation of what would later be known as bluegrass guitar. Her signature lick on the guitar has been referred to as the Carter Scratch, the Carter Family Scratch, or the Maybelle Carter Scratch. That’s because of her way of playing the melody notes on the bass strings of the guitar while vigorously going

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‘Whiskey Before Breakfast’ – Clawhammer Banjo Tab

Clawhammer Banjo CoverI recently published my newest clawhammer banjo book-Clawhammer Banjo~ Tunes, Tips & Jamming. Among the forty four tunes in the book, I included “Whiskey Before Breakfast.” I always wondered about the origin for the tune, so I took this opportunity to do some research. Here’s what I found.

Chasing down the history of “Whiskey Before Breakfast” is about as easy as finding the Rosetta Stone at a flea market. Thanks to the painstaking research by Andrew Kuntz and Vivian Williams, we can start to get an idea of the origins of this great old tune. There are a

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The Hanging of Fiddlin’ Joe Coleman

American Fiddler cBy Wayne Erbsen

The story of the hanging of Fiddlin’ Joe Coleman is enough to send chills up and down your spine. In 1847, near the town of Slate Fork, in Adair County, Kentucky, a shoemaker and fiddler named Joe Coleman was living with his wife, and his wife’s mother and sister. According to some accounts, Joe had been acting erratically and not long after that, someone smothered his mother-in-law to death with a pillow. A few days later, Joe’s wife went into the woods to gather bark and never came back. Joe went searching for his wife in the

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Quill Rose, Mountain Fiddler

“He could neither kill a bear, play the fiddle, nor shoot a gun.” 1860


The unknown writer of this disparaging quote apparently was not talking about a mountain man from the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee named Quill Rose, who could do all three, and more.

Born Aquilla Rose in Cades Cove, Blount County, Tennessee on May 4, 1841, he died on November 3, 1921 at the ripe old age of eighty. Tall, wiry and broad-shouldered, he had long dark hair and sported a beard. At 6 foot 1½ inches, he was considerably taller than most men at that time.

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