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Banjo Lessons: Snuffy Jenkins Part 1: “Cripple Creek”

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As I'm filming this, the site has been up
for about three or four months and
there's been no Cripple Creek.
What's that all about?
You need a Cripple Creek, Creek if you're
gonna have a banjo instructional website.
It only seems right.
I'd actually not done that, because the
best version that there ever was and
ever will be is, is Earl's.
Well, until this version.
And you can, you can pick up Earl's
version in the Scruggs book,
which I highly recommend as an
augmentation to this site.
But I did an interview with Snuffy Jenkins
back in the late 80s, mid to late 80s.
Snuffy Jenkins was a predecessor of Earl's
and they used to hang out together
in North Carolina and Snuffy spent the
last years of his life in Columbia,
South Carolina as a Ford salesman and he
was very influential.
He considers himself to probably be the
first person to go on
the radio through the South playing
finger-style banjo,
three finger style banjo with finger
And he played with Byron Parker and his
hired hands,
brought to you by Crazy Water Crystals.
Kind of a patent medicine.
Anyways, so I hadn't listened to this tape
my interview with Snuffy Jenkins in many,
many years.
And I just pulled it out last month and
was listening to it.
And he was playing some wonderful banjo on
there in the middle of the interview.
We were talking about Cripple Creek and he
would play it.
So I finally sat down and transcribed his
version of it and it's great.
And so and he was playing this way in the,
in the 30s for sure.
So it's it's kinda hard to tell exactly
how much Snuffy influenced Earl or
in, Earl influenced Snuffy.
Cuz Earl said that they would hang out
together and go to fiddle contests
together in rural North Carolina around
Flint Hill where, where Earl grew up.
So anyway, that's what you heard was
Snuffy Jenkins's version from,
really the mid-80s, of Cripple Creek.
But he's, he was playing it that way back
in the 30s and 40s, I'm sure.
So I'll play it through one more time
slowly and then break it down.
So a very interesting thing is that he
starts sliding.
[SOUND] And here's your C chord if you bar
the fifth fret, he slides into that.
The way Earl does it and
most everyone does it is something like
So your G.
[SOUND] C.sss G.
[SOUND] But it's stuck at, it just starts
on the C.
But this would work against a G.
You could still play it the way your
guitar player would play it, G, G, C, G.
But just so you know Snuffy starts.
And I'm using middle and ring.
[SOUND] Sliding up to the fifth fret on
the first two strings.
[SOUND] Another forward [NOISE] and he
lifts off the ring finger.
So it's [NOISE] another forward roll and
then he goes down to the C chord down
here, your regular C chord.
Open first [NOISE] pinch.
[SOUND] So it's a partial [NOISE] forward.
[SOUND] One forward.
Two forward.
[SOUND] So it has all this drive, cuz it's
three forward rolls.
Then he does a forward backward roll.
With a slide, two to three slide.
[SOUND] Let go of it as you go across the
third fret.
Second fret, I mean.
[SOUND] Unless,
you're one of those folks that likes to
slide two to four and that's okay too.
So [NOISE] forward.
[SOUND] And then move the back the middle
finger to the second fret of the,
fret of the fourth string.
And alternating thumb hammer on.
Thumb, index, thumb, middle, thumb.
[SOUND] Pinch.
[SOUND] And that repeats, cuz it's a
fiddle tune.
And this is done in the key of A, if
you're gonna play with a fiddle player or
a mandolin player, they're gonna want to
do it in A.
Even though we like to think of it, think
of it as a, as a G banjo tune.
Part B starts with a forward backward
Very easy second half,
it's just a backward roll completely open.
And another slide, this time alternating
To the fourth string, very important.
Good, that's a quarter note.
[SOUND] And then another forward backward
[SOUND] Slide.
To the second fret of the fourth string,
hit the first string after that.
So the first three measures thus far are.
Another slide, alternating fourth.
[SOUND] Fifth.
[SOUND] Second.
[SOUND] Slide.
[SOUND] Al, forward backward roll.
And this last measure here is.
So forward roll with a hammer on.
[SOUND] Index on the open third, cuz you
just used the thumb on the fifth string.
Quarter and a quarter on the fifth string.
[SOUND] So those are the two parts and you
just repeat each of them.
I have the second ending here.
What that is, is that's the ending that
will propel you into the ending.
So it's just,
you're just leaving off the quarter note
at the end of the eighth measure.
So let's just play.
So what you would do when you wanna end it
is you'd go A, A,
you know, part A twice, part B twice.
And for the second part B, instead of
playing measure eight,
you'll play measure nine, which is where
the second ending is.
So I'll just play measure nine.
[SOUND] It's the same as measure eight,
just no quarter note at the end on the
fifth string.
Then he goes.
And we're just like going.
What he's doing though is.
I'm not sure of the fingering,
cuz I don't remember from 20 years ago.
But it's a.
You, excuse me,
you could go ring to index.
[SOUND] Ring on the 11th fret of the 2nd.
[SOUND] Index on the ninth fret of the
So second.
[SOUND] Then you go into a forward roll
starting with that fifth string.
You can go to the index or middle,
I'll use the middle here.
On the ninth fret of the third string
[NOISE] and the index down the seventh
fret of the third string.
And then measure 11,
the last measure is 5th.
[SOUND] First.
[SOUND] And.
Middle on the fourth fret of the third.
Open second, open third.
The fingering up here is a little
ambiguous, it could be whatever you want.
You could use your [SOUND] Your index on
the fourth fret of the third, whatever
works for you and
has a reasonable amount of economy of
So that's Snuffy Jenkins's Cripple Creek,
I'll play it one more time up to this, up
to tempo.
It's, It's really fun to play this and
Snuffy's one of the real pioneers
of country music in general and certainly
in Bluegrass music.
So I think this is a real important
version to learn.
And it's very cool too.