2021-07 Tune of the Month - Diving Duck Blues

  1. HonketyHank
    The July 2021 Tune of the Month is "Diving Duck Blues". The SAW thread for this tune is https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/g...cussionid=1705 , but there are only a few videos posted there that still work. I really liked the tune as played there by OldSausage (David Mold), but then I realized that he was making a musical joke, claiming that it was really a bluegrass tune.

    Diving Duck Blues was written by John Adams "Sleepy John" Estes and was first recorded by him in 1929. The mandolin backup in that recording was provided by James "Yank" Rachell. That recording seems to have resulted in this tune's popularity with blues mandolin players. Sleepy John Estes was born in 1899 or 1900 to a cotton sharecropper family in Ripley, Tennessee. His father taught him to play guitar. The nickname "Sleepy John" came about from a lifelong blood pressure problem that often caused him to nod off, even when performing. He died of a stroke in 1977. An interesting biography can be found at the Kansas City Blues Society website: https://blueskc.org/sleepy-john-estes/ .

    Here is the original recording of Sleepy John and Yank playing Diving Duck Blues:


    Here is one by Steve James with John Sebastian:


    There are quite a few videos on YouTube that feature the mandolin, some of which may be the remnants of the dead links over in the SAW thread.

    As a side note, I am not a blues fan but I think I am going to enjoy messing around with this tune. This morning I discovered that I have two instructional DVD's from Homespun featuring Steve James: DVD's #1 and #2 of "Learn to Play Blues Mandolin". They were in a rather large library of mandolin instructional material I bought from a local guy who had to quit the mandolin due to worsening arthritis. One of the tunes on DVD #1 is Diving Duck Blues. So I plan to watch the DVD's and then see what happens. It never hurts to branch out as long as you remember how to get back to the trunk if need be, right?
  2. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    It would be cool to hear blues in the newbies group, Sue this might be a good place to start. It’s the very first tune taught in Steve James’ Homespun series. Looks like only two of the SAW videos survived, Eddie Sheehy arranged a more traditional blues approach and OS grassed it up with a really great rendition as usual.

    I play this tune frequently and my own version was built on Steve James’ interpretation, simplified for my abilities. I’ll record and post it.

    I love the posting of Yank & Sleepy John, Hankety!
  3. bbcee
    I KNEW you were going to jump all over this one, Mark! Looking forward to your version, with your excellent singing. And Sue - go for it!
  4. HonketyHank
    I knew this was right up your alley, Mark. Probably NDO also. I look forward to the videos from everybody, even old doubters like me.
  5. HonketyHank
    I have been looking for an ABC or TEF or even standard music notation for this tune. I do have music notation and tabs from the Homespun Video dvd but it is copyrighted and I don't want to be a pirate. There is a guitar tablature available from multiple sources on the internet, in that funky ASCII format, but it turns out to be a rather generic walking bass kind of boogie woogie backup, allegedly as played by Taj Mahal in his recording with Keb Mo.

    In fact, the blues is very much an aurally transmitted medium. And the melody line is usually fairly simple. So this might be a good exercise in figuring out a tune by ear.

    The tabs that come on the Homespun dvd are pretty much the bare bones of the melody plus a bluesy turnaround between each line. Very basic. And fairly readily figured out by ear, especially if you are familiar with the blues scale. Throw in some tremolo on the long notes and a few seventh chord double stops and you'll be playing the blues like Yank.

    Bottom line: I don't think it is worth buying the DVD from Homespun just to get the tabs for Diving Duck Blues. But it is very much worth buying the DVD if you want an introduction to how blues tunes are built and tutorials on several different mandolin blues standards all tied up in single package. Also, DVD 2 is basically a review of the instructional material on the blues from DVD 1 followed by tutorials on more blues tunes.
  6. Southern Man
    Southern Man
    There's a TEF file over at mandohangout. I haven't really looked at it but it is a source.

  7. HonketyHank
    Thanks, SM. I thought Mando Hangout folded a long time ago. I have added their tab library to my list!
  8. NDO
    Wow I just listened to those, I’m skeptical of whether it’s in my skill set so far but
    I’m game to try! And really happy with the song choice Hank!
  9. HonketyHank
    I am finding that the main hurdle I am facing on this tune is right hand technique. It seems that just about everything violates the basic principles used in fiddle tunes and their derivatives and which I have tried to refine and pound into my deep lizard-brain. The tune is simple. Playing it is difficult. This is not a complaint - just an observation.
  10. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Henry, do you have sheet music for this?
  11. HonketyHank
    This is what I am working from. It is mainly based on Steve James' instructional version which is kind of a mashup of Yank Rachal's mandolin, Hammie Nixon's piano, and Sleepy John Estes' vocal line. I have made some modifications, but I have to admit that it is very similar to Steve James' version.

    I find that it is very difficult to write down this kind of blues in standard musical format or tabs and it is very difficult (again) to render the blues from written material. The act of writing it down seems to force the original content into something mechanical.

  12. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Had thought I might give this a try, but I see I missed the "blues" part, so never mind.
  13. HonketyHank
    Well, here it is. Blues is not my favorite genre and I feel somewhat uneasy about playing a blues number, even as an exercise. Hey, I am a pretty lucky and pretty happy guy, all things considered. So I beg you not to consider this to be anything more than an exercise.

    I had trouble with this. The tune itself is pretty simple. The blues is all "blues-y" and drawn out and slow. There is even a fairly regular background rhythm most of the time. So what is the problem?

    Number one is the rhythm patterns. The beat goes on, but the tune heavily emphasizes the up beats. I didn't even think about trying to do this to a metronome, even though I should. I just wasn't ready for that yet. I hope the syncopation does come through. Playing on the off-beat is a whole new feeling.

    Problem two is the blues scale. Gotta get used to the flatted third, fifth, and seventh. How about ending a tune on the tonic seventh chord? Oh yeah. It kinda leaves you hanging ...

    Number three was what instrument. I just can't picture a regular mandolin on this kind of blues. I guess it can work. But I chose a noisy old mandolin banjo. It is equipped with very light strings and thus easy to bend notes, which can be good if done on purpose, but is pretty awful when done by accident when you are strangling the heck out of the mandolin, er, banjo, whatever. Don't forget the pick - the cheaper the better.

    So, as an exercise, I am happy that I got this as far along as I did. I am just going to say that if you are happy you shouldn't try to play the blues and that's my story and I am sticking to it.
  14. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    Love the pick
  15. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Henry, I'd say you're off to a good start with the blues. That's quite a collection of instruments you have, BTW.
  16. Louise NM
    Louise NM
    Nice job, Henry! Sounds like the blues, even if you're not particularly blue.
  17. NDO
    Nice work Hank! Now we wanna hear you sing it!
  18. bbcee
    Henry, that manjo-bandolín sounds perfect for this tune- as do you. It is indeed time to dust off your vocals and go for it.

    If I liked the blues more on mandolin, I’d go look for one of those, but luckily I don’t. Saved from MAS!
  19. HonketyHank
    Thanks for the comments folks. NDO, at one point I was able to channel up ole Sleepy John himself. I have to say that my timing didn't exactly suite him and he refused to spend any more of his limited astral plane availability on the project. But I did get one verse recorded before he gave up the ghost (so to speak). He hit the mute switch on his mic and as he faded out, I heard him mutter, "Hmph, trying to find Yank Rachal and all I can come up with is some dude who calls himself Honkety and don't know blues from chartreuse ..."

    So here is the one verse ...

  20. NDO
    Dang Hank you have mad editing skills! That was very cool and definitely demonstrated how well you played it and how well you chose the instrument.
    Now I just can’t figure out what’s wrong with all y’all blues haters.
    Mark, we better do that collab sometime soon so we can show ‘em what blues sound like.
  21. Sue Rieter
    Sue Rieter
    I like it, Henry. Sounds cool. Good vocals. Makes me want to get out my banjo mandolin (which sits in the case far too much).

    Personally, I like the blues quite a lot, just can't play 'em yet. I'm looking forward to the collaboration!!
  22. Mark Gunter
    Mark Gunter
    Henry those were awesome! Both videos show that you are a great student of the music, and you paid homage very well to a genre you’re not much interested in. I loved it.

    This month got crazy busy & exhausting for me so I never had time to do this tune justice - but to keep my word, I turned on the old iPhone and recorded some semblance of it this morning.


  23. bbcee
    Yea Mark! That's got the blues feeling big time. I can tell this is one you play a bit. The mando sounds great, as does your voice. How it's supposed to be!
  24. Sherry Cadenhead
    Sherry Cadenhead
    Love the different versions/sounds. Keep 'em comin'.
  25. NDO
    Great job Mark! I knew we could count on you.
  26. HonketyHank
    Yessir, Mark, sounding BLUE. Looking blue too - gotcher blue shirt and your blue jeans. Great job, Mark. Thanks for the nice comment, too.
Results 1 to 26 of 26