M. Missouri Clem, AKA W. Clem Small
In this workshop, we’ll
teach the basics of the thumb picking styles of Mother Maybelle Carter,
Merle Travis, Chet
Atkins, and Doc Watson. Only the simple basics. Mother Maybelle developed
her unique style of thumb picking early in the history of country music.
In the style usually associated with Maybelle, the melody is played on
the bass strings while rhythm is played on the higher strings. Later, the
thumb picking of both Chet Atkins and Doc Watson was inspired by the guitar
playing of Merle Travis. Travis-Atkins-Watson thumb picking is the art
of playing rhythm accompaniment with the thumb on the guitar's bass strings
while using fingers to play the melody on the higher-pitched strings. Interestingly,
Mother Maybelle did a bit of this style too, as we'll discuss in the workshop.
This workshop will approach these thumb picking
styles both for playing instrumentally, and as accompaniment to singing.
Mother Maybelle Carter’s
style is somewhat easier to learn, and will be covered first. Then
a simple thumb-finger roll will be covered which, when diligently practiced,
can lead to learning how to keep the thumb going for the rhythm accompaniment
while playing melody with the fingers as in the Travis-Atkins-Watson
styles. Supplementary techniques such as rolling hammer-offs, and various
kinds of harmonics will be covered only if time allows.
I’m W. Clem Small, A.K.A. "M. Missouri Clem", age
76 years. I started playing guitar at 16 years of age. In those days
when you learned to play country guitar you had two important goals:
to learn “Guitar Boogie” and Mother Maybelle Carter’s “Wildwood
Flower” played in her style. But even more than those goals,
I loved the thumb picking and singing of Merle Travis. I figured out
the basics of Mother Maybelle’s style, and a bit of Travis’s,
Chet Atkins’s, and Doc Watson’s styles on my own, and learned
some more from teachers, friends, and videos. Other major influences
on my guitar work include: swing music in general, the walking-bass
lines of Eldon Shamblin who was Bob Wills’ legendary western-swing
guitarist, Jimmie Rodgers the Blue Yodeler, and the various lead guitarists
who played for Ernest Tubb. Always remember that M. Missouri Clem says
that "music is just happiness in search of your ears."