Country Blues at Berklee College of Music


This is the info page for Woody Mann's students at Berklee College of Music.
For Berklee students only:  Please email for class schedule and private lessons with Woody.


badge-facebookCountry Blues at Berklee 

 Click here for the Country Blues writings page



American Roots: Country Blues Survey
Listening Class
Country blues is an essential part of America’s musical history. It is an art form encompassing a wide variety of sounds styles and techniques – from gospel, blues and folk melodies to ragtime and early jazz syncopations. The instrumental, vocal and songwriting techniques, as well as their approaches to improvisation were central to the development of America’s roots music and early jazz styles. This class is listening history of pre-war blues through the recordings of the major artists including Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Scrapper Blackwell, Memphis Minnie and Blind Blake as well as the obscure (but no less great) masters such as Blind Joe Reynolds, Buddy Boy Hawkins, Clifford Gibson and Willie Walker. The styles range from the blues of the Mississippi Delta to the ragtime sounds of the Carolinas. The class offers a history of African American musical traditions as well as the development of the early recording industry. Come and enjoy a listening survey of one of the richest traditions in American roots music.

Country Blues Guitar Workshop
The styles and techniques of Country Blues 
The Country Blues Guitar workshop focuses on developing fingerstyle technique and learning the repertoire of the early masters including Skip James, Blind Blake, Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, Memphis Minnie, Reverend Gary Davis, Lonnie Johnson and many others. The workshop will cover techniques including syncopated picking, chord melody, playing in open tunings, improvisation, and the connection to other styles including ragtime, folk, and jazz. This is a workshop for students who would like to expand their fingersyle playing and explore new sounds while learning some great tunes.

Country Blues Performance Workshop
Working as a group, the focus in on performing in a relaxed non-competitive atmosphere and develop individual performance skills as well as a common repertoire. The set-list includes a wide range of sounds from the country blues and roots masters including Robert Johnson, Scrapper Blackwell, Charlie Patton, Big Bill Broonzy and many others. This is a playing workshop for learning new tunes and developing improvisational skills as a soloist and as a group. Open to all instrumentalists.

Country Blues Repertoire 

Here are a few suggestions of classic tunes and melodies.

Sitting On Top Of The World – Mississippi Sheiks
alt version:
Worrying You off My Mind – Big Bill Broonzy
Some Summer Day – Charlie Patton

Key to the Highway – Big Bill Broonzy
alt version:
Mississippi River Blues – Big Bill Broonzy
Crow Jane – Julius Daniels

Big Road Blues – Tommy Johnson
alt version:
Dark Road Blues – Willie Lofton (1935)
Bull Frog Blues – William Harris (1928)

Make Me a Pallet on the floor – Mississippi John Hurt
alt version:
Never Drive a Stranger From Your Door – Willie Harris

Salty Dog Blues – Papa Charlie Jackson / Mississippi John Hurt
How Long Blues
 – Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Midnight Hour Blues
– Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell
Weeping Willow Blues
 – Bessie Smith
Tired of Being Mistreated
 – Clifford Gibson
Babe I want you to know
 – Bo Carter
Bye Bye Baby Blues
 – Little Hat Jones

Country Blues Traditions

Why study it?
Country blues is an essential part of America’s musical history. It is an art form that transcends its original times, offering a lasting body of material, techniques, and approaches to improvisation. Though its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s is a distant memory for most musicians today, time has not diminished the musical contribution of the early masters. The instrumental, vocal and songwriting techniques, as well as their approaches to improvisation were central to the development of America’s roots music as well as the early jazz styles.

Historically, country blues traditions developed from the collective work of individual musicians. In the 1920’s, itinerant musicians traveled throughout the South and mid-west playing on street corners, at local dances, and in churches. Their music was a confluence of sounds from African chants to the pop music of the day to Appalachian and English folk ballads. There was no one geographic center where musicians would meet. As a result, each artist developed his or her own sound, repertoire and technique. In addition, jobs were scarce and highly competitive, encouraging little collaboration among musicians. The result was a genre rich in sounds and approaches defined by the individuality of the artists.

Country blues is often overlooked as a type of music that existed in a contained time and space that no longer resonates with contemporary aesthetics. But the instrumental and songwriting techniques as well as the approaches to improvisation are central to the development of America’s roots music. It represents the beginnings of the jazz story and pre-cursor to the early styles of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Bix Biderbeck and the musicians who recorded in New Orleans in the late 1920s. Though it’s initial audience is gone, it is a genre that should not just be acknowledged but expanded.

As guitar students, we understand that studying both classical music and jazz allows us to hone our musical skills. Similarly, the concepts specific to country blues provide the basis for a wide variety of playing styles from the early country traditions to jazz and contemporary music. Country blues is an art form defined by a craft. Just as we study the music of the jazz “greats” to develop our skills, learning the techniques of the original blues masters is a curriculum for musical inspiration and creativity. – Woody Mann


Country Blues Listening
A (starter) guide to pre-war blues recordings

The following list of 80 titles was compiled for 4CD set of country blues recordings I put together for Acoustic Music Records, in Germany: “The Essential Country Blues Guitar” – Acoustic Music Records (319.2004.2). It features the most important (and most recorded) artists as well as the obscure (but no less great) players who cut only a few sides. To me it represents the some of the most creative guitar arrangements and showcases a broad cross-section of styles from across the South. Here is the complete track listing for each of the volumes.

Volume One

1 Kokomo Blues – Scrapper Blackwell

2 Down the Dirty Road – Charlie Patton

3 Devil Got My Woman – Skip James

4 Mississippi Blues – Willie Brown

5 Away Down the Alley- Lonnie Johnson

6 Matchbox Blues Blind -Lemon Jefferson

7 Terraplane Blues - Robert Johnson

8 Little Leg Woman – Big Joe Williams

9 Future Blues -Willie Brown

10 Milk Cow Blues- Kokomo Arnold

11 Cairo Blues -Henry Spaulding

12 Gone Dead Train -King Soloman Hill

13 Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson

14 Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues -Charlie Patton

15 Statesboro Blues -Blind Willie McTell

16 One Dime Blues -Blind Lemon Jefferson

17 Diddie Wa Diddie- Blind Blake

18 Candy Man -Mississippi John Hurt

19 Long Tall Mama -Big Bill Bronzy

20 South Carolina Rag -Willie Walker


Volume 2

1 Moon Going Down – Charlie Patton

2 Big Road Blues -Tommy Johnson

3 When You Got a Good Friend -Robert Johnson

4 Drunken Barrelhouse -Memphis Minnie

5 Bye Bye Baby Blues-Little Hat Jones

6 Crow Jane- Carl Martin

7 Tired of Being Mistreated -Clifford Gibson

8 To Do This You Got to Know How -Lonnie Johnson

9 Yo Yo Blues -Barbecue Bob

10 Bull Doze Blues- Henry Thomas

11 Keep It Clean -Charlie Jordan

12 Ragtime Millionaire -Willie Moore

13 Shave ’em Dry -Papa Charlie Jackson

14 Southern Rag -Blind Blake

15 I Belong to the Band -Rev. Gary Davis

16 Bull Cow Blues -Big Bill Bronzy

17 Special Agent -Sleepy John Estes

18 Hard Time Killing Floo-r Skip James

19 Eagles On a Half -Geechie Wiley, John Byrd

20 Dry Spell Blues -Son House

21 You Can’t Keep No Brown- Bo Weavil Jackson

22 Panama Limited -Bukka White

Volume Three

1 Pony Blues- Charlie Patton

2 Crossroad Blues -Robert Johnson

3 Playing With the Strings -Lonnie Johnson

4 Howling Wolf Blues -Funny Papa Smith

5 Lawdy Lawdy Worried Blues -Teddy Darby

6 Blind Arthur’s Breakdown -Blind Blake

7 Boogie Woogie Dance -Tampa Red

8 Rising River Blues -George Carter

9 Motherless Child Blues -Barbecue Bob

10 Come On in My Kitchen -Robert Johnson

11 Special Rider Blues -Skip James

12 That’s No Way to Get Along -Rev. Robert Wilkins

13 Roll and Tumble Blues -Hambone Willie Newburn

14 Don’t Sell It,- Don’t Give It Away Oscar Woods

15 Fishing Blues -Henry Thomas

16 Try Me One More Time -Marshal Owens

17 Fare Thee Well Blues -Joe Calicott

18 Preacher’s Blues -Hi Henry Brown

19 No Woman No Nickle -Bumble Bee Slim

20 God Moves On the Water -Blind Willie Johnson

Volume Four

1 Stomping ’em Along Slow -Lonnie Johnson

2 I’m So Glad -Skip James

3 Blue Day Blues -Scrapper Blackwell

4 Catfish Blues- Robert Petway

5 Green River Blues -Charlie Patton

6 Rolling Log Blues- Lottie Kimbrough

7 Kindhearted Woman Blues -Robert Johnson

8 Mistreated Blues- Henry Townsend

9 Outside Woman Blues -Blind Joe Reynolds

10 I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom- Robert Johnson

11 Good Boy Blues -Arthur Pettis

12 Turn You Money Green -Furry Lewis

13 Twelve Pound Daddy- Pearl Dickson, Pet and Can

14 Weeping Willow Blues -Blind Boy Fuller

15 Police Dog Blues -Blind Blake

16 The Law’s Gonna Step On You -Bo Carter

17 Blues Gosse Blues -Jessie Thomas

18 Good Gal -Josh White

19 A Spoonful Blues -Charlie Patton

20 Brownskin Shuffle -Big Bill Broonzy


Here are a few suggestions for blues anthologies and individual artist CD’s.

Charlie Patton – King of the Delta Blues (Yazoo 2001)

Charlie Patton – Founder of the Delta Blues (Yazoo 2010)

Blind Boy Fuller – Truckin’ my Blues Away (Yazoo 1060)

Blind Lemon Jefferson – King of the Country Blues (Yazoo 1069)

Blind Blake – Ragtime Guitars’ Foremost Fingerpicker (Yazoo 1968)

Big Bill Broonzy – The Young Big Bill Broonzy (Yazoo 1011)

Skip James – Complete Early Recordings (Yazoo 2009)

Blind Willie McTell – 1927-1933 The Early Years (Yazoo 1005)

Mississippi John Hurt – 1928 Sessions (Yazoo 1065)

Scrapper Blackwell – The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell (Yazoo 1019)

Blind Willie Johnson – Praise God I’m Satisfied (Yazoo 1058)

Tampa Red – Bottleneck Guitar 1928-1937 (Yazoo 1039)

Reverend Gary Davis – The Complete Early Recordings of Reverend Gary Davis (Yazoo 2011)

Reverend Gary Davis – Blues and Ragtime (Shanachie 97024)

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings (Columbia)

Son House – The Complete Library of Congress Sessions 1941-1942 (Travelin’ Man TM CD 02)

Snooks Eaglin – New Orleans Street Singer (Storyville STCD 8023)

Various artists – East Coast Blues 1926-1935 (Yazoo 1013)

Various artists – Country Blues Bottleneck Guitar Classics (Yazoo 1026)