Rag, Mama, Rag

Blind Boy Fuller, 1935

The original version was recorded on July 25, 1935 in New York City, with Blind Boy Fulller (Fulton Allen) on guitar and voice, Blind Gary Davis (later billed as Reverend Gary Davis) on second guitar and Bull City Red (George Washington) on washboard. The group recorded two takes, and this study uses take one.

I recorded both guitar parts here on a 1930 National Style O resonator guitar. I used bare fingers for Fuller's part because I understand that's what he did, but I used a flatpick for Davis's part because that's the only way I could play it that fast.

I didn't notate and record the first guitar and washboard parts entirely note for note, but I used a couple of the most common patterns and added some of the notable variations to capture what they were doing overall. The second guitar part was my main focus here. Davis plays fast, single-note riffs, but he's completely inaudible to me in some verses and in the first two measures of every verse. John Miller told me Davis never stops playing once he starts halfway through verse two, but I only tabbed and recorded what I could hear (including a few notes that don't fit with the underlying chord).

Fuller sometimes strums a few strings with his thumb rather than just hitting single bass strings, as in the first two measures of the attached tab, creating a "fuller" tone. I suspect he also uses his thumb to alternate with the fingers in strumming the treble strings, to more easily play faster rhythms. I indicated these parts with a "(T)" in the tab.

The washboard does a cool trick from :07 to :13, dragging one hand steadily across the board while playing a heavily accented rhythm with the other hand. This isn't shown in the notation, but you can hear it in the recording.

Documents: First Guitar Tab, Second Guitar Tab, Washboard Notation


Guitar 1
Guitar 2


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