Mississippi John Hurt TAB

John Hurt's grave in Avalon, MSIn April, 2010, I first got a chance to visit Mississippi John Hurt’s grave up in the hills at the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta, in Avalon, Mississippi.

While I was in Greenwood, MS as part of the celebrations of the centennial of Robert Johnson’s birth (true to form:  celebrated in the town where he was killed), I stumbled on a small group of new friends headed to the Mississippi John Hurt Museum, housed in the little shotgun shack that was John’s home for more than 30 years.

My national at the John Hurt house.Finding myself on his porch, with a small group of friends, I asked if anyone would mind if I played a couple of his songs there before that porch where he played for so many years, so long ago.

It got personal really fast.

I had recorded Pay Day on You Better Lie Down.

The First Shot Missed Him; Avalon Blues; Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me; Got the Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied; Monday Morning Blues; Avalon Blues and Honey, Right Away are on  my 2014 CD:  The Last Shot Got Him.

Mississippi John Hurt TAB:

  1. John Hurt Rhythmic Lexicon
    Here are a number of the things that John asked his right hand to play. This is a good technique orientation. If you are new to finger picking this style of music, you can spend some time with each of these patterns that float over the steady alternating bass/thumb notes. A little time spent here will pay you real dividends when you tackle a song, which will shift in and out of these patterns in one- or two-beat denominations.
  2. Pay Day Drills
    Like the rhythmic lexicon, this is a place to start developing the vocabulary of picking/right hand coordination patterns that are used in John’s music. This is played in either DADDAD (or EBEEBE, where I play it) or in standard Open-D (DADF#AD) or Open-E (EBEG#BE). With the guitar in one of these open tunings, you can remove the distraction of the left hand entirely and concentrate on making your right hand fingers and thumb behave.
  3. Creole Belle sheet music coverPay Day Song
    Probably one of the earliest songs that a young guitarist would learn, employing melodic figures on the first two strings. A good place to start.
  4. My Creole Belle
    This tune from the earliest years of the 20th Century is a simple tune in the key of C.
  5. Hey Honey Right Away
    Another charming tune in the key of C.
  6. Corrina, Corrina
    One of John’s D-tunes.
  7. Monday Morning Blues
    This tune starts on a D, but is in the key of A. Monday Morning Blues has a reference to a hapless convict being sent down in the mines. There aren’t any mines in Mississippi.But leased convicts were routinely rounded up, charged, convicted and essentially sold to Pratt Mines in Birmingham, Alabama, where they might never live to see the light of day again: chained together, penned in the mine when the work day was over, often unclothed, starved and worked to death.The average lifespan for a leased convict in the South between 1865 and 1930 was three years. No leased convict in that time span lived to serve out a ten year sentence. In comparison relatively few blacks faced the terrorist violence of a lynching, while many tens of thousands were picked up when a local or regional employer needed convict/slave labor. The younger and stronger you were, the more likely you’d get picked up.In the song, receiving a sentence to the mines, John sings, “That’s the only time I ever felt like cryin’.”
  8. Avalon Blues
    In the key of E, this is the song that led Tom Hoskins to John Hurt’s front door back in 1963. Written as a sort of lament for his home while he was in NYC in 1928, the “Avalon, my home town” sent Hoskins to the map room at the Library of Congress, when contemporary maps failed to reveal where Avalon, MS was.You can find Avalon on the maps of Mississippi today. Mississippi John Hurt put it there.

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