Chris Eldridge

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Ginseng Sullivan

Learning The Tune

Hello All,

We’ve got a new tune this week by request: Ginseng Sullivan by Norman Blake. This is truly a flatpicking classic. Norman recorded it on his record Back Home in Sulpher Springs (which you should listen to if you haven’t already). The chorus is of particular interest - it changes keys for just a second but resolves in a really pleasing and intuitive, if also weird, way. I really enjoy singing this song.

Give it a try!





Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Gingseng Sullivan


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 2:42 Breakdown of Ginseng Sullivan

Loop 16:53 Closing Thoughts and Outro





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James Macklin
James Macklin Sep 23, 2017

Hey Chris, always been curious about this-- regarding the the melody for "I'm too old to ride the rail..."  The first version (and as a professor once pointed out to me, therefore the definitive one in my mind) I ever heard of this tune was Tony Rice's, and he sings that part differently, so that became the "correct" way in my head. Now hearing your version, and going back to Norman's original, I know you use Norman's original melody to it.
Just curious about your thoughts on these kinds of differences in interpretation, especially when it comes to stuff like this where its more than just a lick or two or a chord substitution.


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Oct 02, 2017

When I learned this song and knew that I would likely be performing it, it was important to me to check out both versions just to see if there were certain parts I liked better, or if hearing both versions might suggest something that I might do that was different from either one of them. I definitely knew Tony's version first, but there was something so straightforward about the way Norman sang that part that I found to be more appealing, especially without the benefit Ricky Skaggs singing harmony! So really, my version of the song is nothing more than an amalgamation based on my personal tastes. 

Jeff Falke
Jeff Falke Aug 26, 2017

Great tune! But is that fourth chord in the verse an Em7 or Bm? The tab and performance are Em7 but the lesson is Bm. Not sure which I prefer. Decisions! 😁

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Sep 02, 2017

Em is an error! Should be Bm. Also, that A7(sus4) can just be a plain old A. Thanks for catching!

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Aug 25, 2017

I have a huge smile of happiness on my face ... thank you ... I have become such a big Norman Blake fan over the past year or however long I've been on here and this tune really stands out for me.  You have opened up a whole new musical world for me and I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to learning the tune.

Oh yea ... big fan of you and Julian also.   : )

Sarah H
Sarah H Aug 28, 2017

I second this 100%

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