Old Joe Clark

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

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

This lesson is free!

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 fiddle lessons 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.

Video #1: Here is a video of me performing the beginner version of the fiddle tune "Old Joe Clark."

Video #2: Here is a video of me performing the intermediate version of the fiddle tune "Old Joe Clark."


Tablature for the Beginner Version (1 page, PDF)
Notation for the Beginner Version (1 page, PDF)

Tablature for the Intermediate Version (1 page, PDF)
Notation for the Intermediate Version (1 page, PDF)

Video #3: Here is a measure-by-measure fiddle lesson for the beginner version of "Old Joe Clark."

Video #4: Here is the beginner version of "Old Joe Clark," with the metronome at 60 bpm.

Video #5: Here is a measure-by-measure fiddle lesson for the intermediate version of "Old Joe Clark."

Video #6: Here is the intermediate version of "Old Joe Clark," with the metronome at 50 bpm.

Video #7: Here is the intermediate version of "Old Joe Clark," played slowly at 80 bpm.


To download an MP3 to your computer, simply right-click the link above the player, then choose "save link as." The MP3 will then be sent to your downloads folder.

Tracks with my fiddle on them:

MP3 #1: "Old Joe Clark," Beginner version, 140 bpm with fiddle and vocals (performance track)

MP3 #2: "Old Joe Clark," Intermediate version, 140 bpm with fiddle and vocals (performance track)

Performance tracks at different speeds:

MP3 #3: "Old Joe Clark," 140 bpm (performance backing tracks only)

MP3 #4: "Old Joe Clark," 125 bpm (performance backing tracks only)

MP3 #5: "Old Joe Clark," 110 bpm (performance backing tracks only)

MP3 #6: "Old Joe Clark," 95 bpm (performance backing tracks only)

MP3 #7: "Old Joe Clark," 80 bpm (performance backing tracks only)

Hedy West sang the American old-timey song Old Joe Clark in 1965 on her Topic album Old Times and Hard Times. She commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Before the railways, automobiles and mail order houses brought the town to the country, before television, radio and gramophone brought “instant music” into the home, the play-party was a natural solution to the problem of self-made social amusement, in communities where religious feelings were so strong that dances were generally proscribed but dancing-games permitted to the young. A favourite dance-game was Old Joe Clark with its melody based on the minstrel show tune of Lucy Long, and its text made up of floating verses borrowed from sundry other play-party songs such as Ida RedShady GroveCindyLiza JaneBile dem Cabbage DownSally Ann, and others. Of the verses of Old Joe Clark, one Indiana farmer said: “There's thousands of 'em. Everyone has his own version.” Scholars set the number more modestly at 144.

Old Joe Clark is one of the songs Uncle Gus Mulkey used to play on the fiddle when his fingers were still nimble. Kim Mulkey had disapproved and pretended not to know of his son's fiddle playing till he began to her Gus playing religious tunes. Kim Mulkey's fundamentalist religion placed native song and the instruments they were played on as being in league with the devil. (mainlynorfolk.info)

Old Joe Clark

Verse 1:
I went down to Old Joe Clark
Found him sick in bed
Stuck my finger down his throat 
Pulled out a chicken head
Old Joe Clark he had a house
15 stories high
Every story in that house
Was filled with chicken pies

Fare thee well, old Joe Clarke

Fare thee well, I’m gone
Fare thee well Old Joe Clark
Goodbye Lucy Long
Fare thee well, old Joe Clarke

Fare thee well, I say

He'd follow me ten thousand miles

To hear my fiddle play

Verse 2:
Old Joe Clark is mad at me 
I'll tell you the reason why
I ran through his cabbage patch 
And ate his chicken pie. 
He puts my fiddle in my hand 
And tells me what to play 
Then dances on the kitchen floor 
Until the break of day

Online Fiddle Lessons Forums Old Joe Clark

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  • #7413

    I just started this one last night and my ear wants to take over….like a good dance partner it needs to let my arm lead…still zigging when I should zag, but better than when I first started.

    John (BGD)

    Ha I know what you are talking about. I was teaching the shuffle tonight with a class of beginners, and I would have them hold onto their bow while I held it in the middle and played the shuffle pattern on the strings. It is funny at first how they try to go the wrong speed and direction, and their hand comes off the bow, but soon they get the hang of it and are shuffling right along with me! “Boil Them Cabbage Down” is a good one for easy shuffle practice.


    If I wasn’t so far away I think I’d be taking up a seat in that class John! Sitting here on an island in the great lakes I’ll have to do the on-line version…“Boil Them Cabbage Down” will be on my to do list tonight.
    Thanks for the tip!


    Thanks John, you have on this very day and well just only a moment ago,made my dream come true, how to express jumping with joy while typing… It all started about a year ago or so, I learned ste annes reel for the towns people , and then Eidlewiss for a friend and then I stumbled upon that one youtube video on how to play fast , where you teach this o so cool run in D using the shuffle, and G major scale up and down, witch I practiced and played every time I got a chance, and that was all BEFORE joining Blurgrassdaddy, after joining , and discovered Old Joe Clark, I started from 80 in Aug to 110 by Oct and JUST HIT 140 COMFORTABLY, NO PAINS IN MEE RRRIST. Laddie I am feeling rejoiced beyond words.
    Thanks again, made my day
    GU :O)
    will submit in the LIONS DEn…soon

    John (BGD)

    Hot dog, Gu! 140 is getting up there where a hoe-down ought to be played. I am looking forward to hearing this one in the Lion’s Den!


    Thanks John, Dee hoe-down is the goal, although, theres not much musiciens around here other then deer , Moose, Rabbit, Partridge, Owls, cows dogs and cats, oh and not to forget the resonating echoes off the mountain tops…Just kidding, there are hoe-down types, but its not fast hoe downing, its like slow slow slow french country music, but I do get to play brakes and what not, but the feeling is not as o so cool as good old Bluegrass hoe downing, the nice thing , is next time, I wont just be playing double stops, I ll be able to through in some yeehaw 1/8 notes !
    And , I do understand its not just the speed but the beauty and clean notes are just as important if not more…


    Ok, couple hours later , I take it back, um….140 just made me shake and just slurred through it a couple of times, shuffled it once not too bad and picked up a couple of new notes and double stop fun and even third position playing open E with first finger on E up the A string and did some fun 123 with E Fsharp and G all while playing the E, aww anyways…I should just play it in a camera and send it in, it will be more fun. It is possible some days we play better then others , humh. Last night was better.Or ….maybe not, Ya better on the 1/8 notes and true to old Joe but tonight I learned new things so, no complaints. Im going to do it again now.Only back to 125 :O)

    John (BGD)

    That’s fine, Gu, don’t rush it! It is much better to get a song sounding right at a slower speed. Only crank it up if you feel comfortable with it!


    In your video performance above you seem to be going way faster than 140. How fast are you going?


    John (BGD)

    Great question… In the performance I am playing the notes as if they are 16th notes at 140 BPM. However, since I tabbed the notes as 8th notes, I should probably say that I am playing them at 280 BPM.

    In other words, I am playing the notes at a rate of 560 per minute.

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