Cotton Eyed Joe

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

Genre: Old Time, Bluegrass, Country
Skill Level: Intermediate
Key of A

You may download and use any of the MP3s and tablature for your personal use. However, please do not make them available online or otherwise distribute them.

NOTE: If multiple videos and MP3s are loading at once, this page will get slow! I recommend that you refresh the page each time you open a new video or MP3.

Before beginning the lessons, here is a video sampling of me fiddling both styles -- Western and Bluegrass -- with a little bit of a Rednex beat thrown in at the end for fun.

I remember down in Houston we were putting on a show
When a cowboy in the back stood up and yelled, "Cotton-Eyed Joe"!
He said, "We love what you're doing; boys don't get us wrong
But there's just something missing in your songs"
(From "If You're Going to Play in Texas, You've Got o Have a Fiddle in the Band" by Alabama)

This lesson is in two sections, "Western" and "Bluegrass," due to the history of this great old tune. It was written before the Civil War, and various old-time versions were played. At some point, the song split into two distinctive versions, which I call the "Western Version" and the "Bluegrass Version." Both versions achieved crossover fame.

First, here is an audio example of an old-time version of the song, recorded by Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, 1929.

Next is a sampling of the "Western" style of Cotton Eyed Joe. In this sample, you will hear Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys (Columbia Records, 1946), Al Dean (Paid Records, 1967), a later Al Dean (inspiration for Urban Cowbow), and Ricky Skaggs with the Cheiftans, (1992 end of the song).

Finally, here is a sampling of the "Bluegrass" style of Cotton Eyed Joe. In this sample, you will hear Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys (1956), Ricky Skaggs with the Cheiftans (1992, beginning of the song), and finally Rednex (1994).

Each lesson below (Western then Bluegrass) contains four videos, plus practice MP3s.

Western Style Fiddle Lesson

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

This is an online fiddle lesson for the tune "Cotton Eyed Joe." BluegrassDaddy.com is your best source for Bluegrass, Old-Time, Celtic, Gospel, and Country fiddle lessons!

From Wikipedia:

"Cotton-Eyed Joe" is a popular American country song known at various times throughout the United States and Canada, although today it is most commonly associated with the American South. In the Roud index of folksongs it is number 942.

"Cotton Eyed Joe" has inspired both a partner dance and more than one line dance that is often danced at country dance venues in the United States and around the world. The 1980 film Urban Cowboy sparked a renewed interest in the dance. In 1985, The Moody Brothers' (friends from Charlotte) version of the song received a Grammy Award nomination for "Best Country Instrumental Performance." Irish group The Chieftains received a Grammy nomination for "Best Country Vocal Collaboration" for their version of the song (with a vocal by Ricky Skaggs) on their 1992 album Another Country. And in 1994, a version of the song recorded by the Swedish band Rednex as "Cotton Eye Joe" became popular worldwide.

The origins of this song are unclear, although it pre-dates the 1861–1865 American Civil War. American folklorist Dorothy Scarborough (1878–1935) noted in her 1925 book On the Trail of Negro Folk-songs, that several people remember hearing the song before the war and her sister, Mrs. George Scarborough, learned the song from a man who had known the song during his earliest childhood from slaves singing it on plantations in Louisiana. Both the dance and the song had as many variants as the old old folk song that it is. American publishing house Harper and Brothers published a version in 1882, heard by author Louise Clarke Pyrnelle (born 1850) on the Alabama plantation of her father when she was a child, that was later republished in 1910.

During the first half of the twentieth century the song was a widely known folk song all over English-speaking North America, and an online discography lists 134 recorded versions released since 1950.


Cotton Eyed Joe

      A                               (D on the Western version)
If it hadn't have been for Cotton Eyed Joe
A
I'd have been married a Long time ago
A                                     (D on the Western version)
Where did you come from, where did you go?
                         E           A
Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?

Get down your fiddle, rosin up your bow,
Play an old tune called Cotton Eyed Joe
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?

Daddy held the fiddle, I held the bow,
We played a tune called Cotton Eyed Joe
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?

Matchbox fiddle and shoestring bow,
Wouldn't play nothing but Cotton Eyed Joe
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?
Posted in Bluegrass, Country, Intermediate, OldTime Tagged with:

Best Online Fiddle Lessons Forums Cotton Eyed Joe

This topic contains 17 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  John Cockman 2 years ago.

Viewing 18 posts - 1 through 18 (of 18 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #7052

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Cotton Eyed Joe keeps sticking his head into pop culture — and into BluegrassDaddy.com!

    https://bluegrassdaddy.com/cotton-eyed-joe-fiddle-lesson/]

    • This topic was modified 47 years ago by .
    #7053

    Bruce Stewart
    Participant

    This is so very cool.Great job , Love this song. Makes you wanna do some boot scootin.

    #7054

    Anonymous

    Hello John. For some reason I cant get the western tablature and notation to print for this song. It shows up as a pdf but wont print. Could be a problem on my end but I didn’t know if any one else was having that problem or not.

    thanks
    Joe

    #7055

    Anonymous

    Oh yea John I forgot to say in my last post I am using windows 8 if that makes a difference ( by the way I dislike windows 8 for the record).

    #7056

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Hi! I just printed the notation from a Windows 8 machine with no problem, so I’m not sure what the issue could be. On solution may be to right-click the link, and save the file to your desktop, then open the saved file. I am emailing you the file just in case all else fails, let me know if it doesn’t work!

    PS~ Sorry I haven’t been on-site for a few days. I’ve been in bed with a very nasty virus since Monday!

    John

    #7057

    Anonymous

    thanks John, Hey get well we need you…………….
    I really appreciate all you do, thanks so much.

    #7058

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Thanks Joe! A week and a half of E. coli was kind of rough 🙁 I’m much improved today and look forward to getting back to work, and of course making more fiddle videos!

    #7059

    mikhaelynwhite58
    Participant

    hey john i just wanted to thank youfor all you do on your fiddle lessons they are so good your the fiddle man i tell you what if there is anything i can do for you please let me know ok i do mean that your friend mike white

    #7060

    mikhaelynwhite58
    Participant

    and i would like to know if you have dvd s teaching videos on the dvd’s formate it is easyer i believe to watch on a tv can you give me a prices and mail it ? here is mjy email address mikhaelynwhite58@cox.net i will email you back when i get your reply thank you
    michael white

    #7061

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Hi! I’m sorry I haven’t produced any DVDs as of this date (October 2013). I hope to do that at some point! John

    #7062

    I find your lessons very helpful.

    #7063

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Thank you!

    #21736
    nagumaq
    nagumaq
    Participant

    Now this one will be helpful no matter what , it s got the country double stop fun and the shuffling 1/8th notes fun. If ever I manage to half to walk my kids through a ” Rave ” I ll bring my fiddle and play this one all night ! :O)
    Skype you later A or I mean Eh ! Well the thing is, here in Quebec we use A, because Eh, to us is like meh, no thanks, thats why me I say A ! A ?
    So skype you later A ! confirming I have so much material to learn here it s not even funny.
    But yeah , will keep learning on and well, phone call sounds so cool too.
    thanks for BOTH country and bluegrass lessons ,your awesome ! I try to integrate the two styles at the local Jam :O)
    Gu

    #21747

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Gu, I think that country jam has been very good for you. Your fiddling has just exploded in the last few months!

    You are right about this song. If you learn both versions, there are SO MANY applications. You will be able to play any song in the “Sally Ann” family, plus more.

    #23646
    nagumaq
    nagumaq
    Participant

    Hi John, how are you today? I am running through the western at 110 :O) but walking very slowly into the Bluegrass version. Sure is a tricky pinkie going on in there , woo hoo… On measure 11 and 15 there is a real down bow slur extension going on to a double stop.That s where I keep getting stuck. Unless you tell me it s a printing or typing mistake , I will get it down slowly and rise to proper tempo …..slowly :O)
    Loving every other sqeak , lol , just kidding.
    Hope you are having a great day !

    Thanks
    Gu

    #23679

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Gu thank you, I am having a great day, but boy, is my face red right now. That is actually a mistake in the tablature. Please insert an up-bow on the third note of those measures (D1) in order to continue the Nashville shuffle pattern. I will fix it — as soon as I find my original!

    #23698
    nagumaq
    nagumaq
    Participant

    Nice 1 Thanks john, ” and Gu, you have won the paying attention to tabs BGD.com trophy ” ” we did that on purpose to really see if subscribers cared about bowing ” :O) wink wink, just kidding , Ha ha
    Imagine if I would have learned to fiddle that that way, holy bowwy, lol,
    awesome, thanks,
    I ll take it up again tomorrow.
    Playing »Born to shine “Dedicated” today, over and over, I learned so much :O), awesome fiddle brake John ! definitely made my day .
    Gu

    #23706

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Gu, I have “Shady Grove” in the chute for an upcoming lesson, and I am going to include that killer lick I played in “Born to Shine” in the Shady Grove advanced break. It fits very well there.

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