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The Guitar of Snooks Eaglin--Queries and Tips

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I had the great fortune to watch Snooks close-up when he did his monthly gig at the Rock 'n Bowl in New Orleans.

I think I already mentioned my amazement at his ability to make all of these great sounds with only his thumb and first finger of his right hand; the fingernails on the other three were unusually long.

The other thing that always made my jaw drop was watching his left hand when he held what John just called a "grabby" chord: he regularly covered the 5th and 6th strings with his thumb, and it sure looked at times that he was covering the 4th string, too. At the same time, he would reach across the fretboard with his ring finger and hold down the 6th string two frets higher, or use his pinky to hold the 5th string two frets up.

His hands were not that big, but over the years he stretched out his fingers so that those kinds of positions were second nature.

Go ahead, try it, see what happens. Several youtube vids illustrate what I just tried to describe with words.


Great song and breakdown of Snooks' guitar part, John. I've always loved this song. I first heard it on a compilation of Imperial artists LP that some of the Canned Heat guys put together in the late 1960s. This is a version I did with an electric band I used to play with sometimes over 20 years ago called The Boomers. I think I'm playing the rhythm guitar here and I think we played it in G. I always thought I failed because I couldn't pull off Snooks' gut scream on the last verse but I must admit I enjoyed hearing it again after all these years

Nice singing, Lightnin', boy, that song really suits you!  I know what you mean about Snooks' gut holler, but when he does it I remember what Lamont said to Grady on "Sanford and Son" when Grady was doing some hacking coughing:  "You keep doing that and you're gonna lose something you still need!"
All best,

Hi all,
Old Man Ned recently posted this, Snooks' version of "I Get The Blues When It Rains" over in the "Favorite Treatments of Musical Time" thread, and I thought it was worth taking a look at and seeing how Snooks negotiated the chord changes on this song. I'll copy the link to the performance here, so that you don't have to bounce back and forth between this thread and that one.

Snooks played the piece out of F position in standard tuning. Here is a chord chart of his first pass through the form, after vamping on F during his spoken intro, he hits a C7 and goes:

   ||4/4    F    |    F    |    C7   |    C7   |
     |    C7      |   C7   |    F     | F7  F9 |
     |    Bb      |   Bb   |    F     |    D7   |
     |    G7      |   G7   | C7 (stop)|       |
     |    F        |    D7   | Gm    |    Gm  |
     |    C        |   A7    |   Dm  | F7  F9 |
     |    Bb      |   Bb    |   F      |    D7   |
     |    G7      |   C7    |   F      |    C7   ||

In his second pass through the form, he plays the first 16 bars essentially with the same progression though he has various rhythm breaks where the chords drop out and he taps out rhythms on the top of his guitar. For the third 8 bars of the progression, where he comes back in singing, he really changes his progression though, playing:

     |    F      |    D7     |   G7    |    C7   |
     |    A7    |    A7     |   Dm   |    F7    |

He makes changes in the final eight bar phrase as well, playing this and going into a rocking vamp between F and Dm7, and occasionally hitting an A7 on the way from F to Dm7 as the song draws to a close:
     | Bb (stop)|----Bdim7|  F/C   |    D7   |
     |    G7    |     C7    |    F     |   Dm7    |     F    |    Dm7   | etc.

It strikes me that this song could also work as a medium-slow tempo shuffle. It sure has a neat set of chord changes, and Snooks' ability and choice to vary the progression as he went along is a good indication, if any were necessary, of how big his ears were, as well as his command of the language of harmony.

All best,

Old Man Ned:
Thanks for this John, which has also lead me to this thread on Snooks Eaglin. This is going to keep me busy for a while :-)
All the Best Ned


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