Blues Guitar Lesson - Livin' With The Blues by Brownie McGhee

Jim Bruce, Blues Guitar Teacher and Author

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2 Videos (25m)
    • Livin' With The Blues Preview

      3:30
    • Livin' With The Blues Lesson - Brownie McGhee

      21:43

About This Class

Although not the King of Swing like Big Bill, Brownie McGhee was a very important blues guitar player who created many standards, such as Born With The Blues, and this variation, Livin' With Blues. Of course, with Sonny Terry on harmonica he helped form one of the most successful and enduring blues duos well into the 80s.

Sonny Terry can be heard backing Blind Boy Fuller, Rev Gary Davis and several other blues men in his hey day, and all by himself was a potent force in the blues world.

McGhee's guitar style was very attractive and suffered from one drawback - all his songs sounded very similar. This is a problem for many of us. We develop a certain way of playing, with certain riffs and personal 'quirks' and they tend to appear everywhere in our playing. However, with Brownie it was a fact that his output wasn't that varied.

He acknowledges this fact in a radio special hosted by Studs Terkel, stating that he plays basically the same kind of thing either fast or slow, and different words! Not knocking it at all - this version of Livin' With The Blues was my finishing song for live performances for some years, particularly when performing with a harmonica player.

Try and listen to the Studs Terkel show and compare Brownie's guitar prowess against that of Big Bill, who also appears on the show. Broonzy's guitar work is a step above McGhee, and they both know it. For one thing, Broonzy's repertoire was huge, covering down home blues, folk ballads, swinging blues, ragtime pieces and popular songs from Tin Pan Alley.

Livin' is a blues in the key of E, but has some great chords and an unusual structure. It's quite modern in it's feel, as it has a verse and then a kind of chorus which appears after every one. Early blues in E just didn't have a chorus - just verses with an occasional instrumental break. You should have a lot of fun with this one - I love playing it.

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Jim Bruce

Blues Guitar Teacher and Author

After making a living out of playing acoustic blues guitar in Europe for many years, I became interested in teaching online about 15 years ago, and began creating lessons. In 2103 I was voted N?2 top blues guitar teacher by users of Truefire.com.

While blues guitar remains dear to my heart, the last year I've been concentrating on novel writing and future classes will reflect this. It's all about creating and being the best we can possibly be!

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