John Dee Holeman’s Shotgun Blues Transcribed by Earle Pughe

inTheir Musicon October 27, 2020

New England-based music teacher Earle Pughe has recently been exploring Music Maker’s catalog and transcribing our Partner Artists’ most iconic performances. We’re putting the material together for a forthcoming songbook that will feature his transcriptions alongside artist bios and stories of the songs. 

We caught up with Earle to get his thoughts on the project and asked him to give us a preview of one of the transcriptions. You can download the sheet music here and watch the 1989 performance here.

“When my guitar student mentioned Music Maker Relief Foundation to me in one of our sessions, I was intrigued. He showed me a few records and told me about the many artists he had seen on his recent journey to the Music Maker 25 festival. Not long after, I got a call from another student I hadn’t heard from in 10 years. He was ready to pick up the guitar again after seeing Little Freddie King perform on his recent trip to New Orleans. Quite a coincidence. So when my other student said the founder of the organization was coming to Boston and asked if I would join them for dinner, I couldn’t refuse. 

That is the story of how I ended up transcribing more than 30 compositions by Music Maker artists and counting. 

With this first transcription, I have written out John Dee Holeman’s Shotgun Blues recorded in the Gromes Hotel in New York City February, 1985. I was first drawn to this video because of how cool John Dee looks. 

Here’s John Dee Holeman, he’s got this hat on and this tie, sitting on the edge of a hotel bed; he immediately grabbed my attention. One of the great things about this video; you can really see his hands. You can see that with his picking hand he’s just using two fingers. He plays all these notes with just one finger. That has an impact on his phrasing; it makes it swing because he’s doing all this work with just one finger. That bass lick, he played all those notes with only his thumb. He will have a different sound than someone who would pick it alternating his thumb and finger. 

In the video, there’s a rhythmic click he uses, he’s muting the strings with his fretting hand making the strum more percussive than melodic. You can’t transcribe things like that. Having the video or the recording gives so much information.

These transcriptions are designed to be a starting point. To really grasp what John Dee is doing, you have to go and do the listening yourself. I hope that these transcriptions will help players and enthusiasts gain a deeper appreciation for these legendary artists’ gifts.” – Earle Pughe

Last year, at 90, John Dee Holeman released his newest album, Last Pair of Shoes. Preview and purchase the album here.

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