Corey Harris

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61 Highway

Run-Through & Main Riff

Corey Harris Lesson >

61 Highway > Run-Through & Main Riff

In this lesson we will begin to learn Hwy 61 by Fred McDowell. I demonstrate the tune and then break down the basics. This is a simple tune to play. The key is (as always) in your rhythm and the feeling inside the music.

Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Open E Tuning
Corey Harris
Open E Tuning
Mississippi Fred McDowell
Highway 61

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 1:10 Open E Tuning

Loop 1:25 Run-Through


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 5:10 Breakdown of Main Riff

Loop 6:47 Breakdown Slide Transition to the V

Loop 8:12 V Slide Line and Closing Thoughts




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Corey Harris
Corey Harris Aug 08, 2013

@ David Sap -- welcome to Sonic Junction.  lyrics for hwy 61 vary as you know so I suggest listening to as many versions as you can and then putting the lyrics together that strike you the best. 

61 Hwy, its the only road I know

take you to new york city and way on down to mexico


some folks say, greyhound bus it don't run

we got the worst living lordy, here on Hwy 61


please, please, please see somebody for me

if you see my baby, tell her she's alright with me


if i happen to die baby, before you think my time has come

please bury my body here on hwy 61



Corey Harris
Corey Harris Jul 29, 2013 have a nice warm tone on the guitar.  I would suggest that you slow the tempo down and make it make steady.  Your tempo seems to waver in a few places.  Also pls listen again to the main riff as played in the lower and upper are close to getting it.  Thanks for posting.

Corey Harris
Corey Harris Jul 29, 2013

@Peter Wolf...yes I am using my fret hand to choke you are correct.

Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 21, 2013

@Jd..I've missed a lot of preciuous time...didn't know before how usefull was tab and listen half speed to learn a song..if only I knew before :(( I'm using audacity....very powerfull...

I know sigma guitars!!!....yes, they're nice and cheap!!!! 

Take care


JD Krooks Crouhy
JD Krooks Crouhy Jul 20, 2013

Well, i always play the music i learn at half speed  to get all details ! In every style of musique ! And I always tab (or wrote) Corey's lesson because there's always tricky variations and if i don't wrote them, i forget them quickly :) Special rider almost gone but i've tabbed the whole parts so i could play it again. For example i worked mississippi blues and saw that the grossman tab wasn't accurate with was Willie Brown played so i've made my own (but didn't sing it). I also try to notate the voice variation but with less accuracy... but i've decided to learn vocals with the same attention as i have always learnd guitar! 

But in this case it's a bad example ididn't work it with a lot of accuracy !! Usually i post on the foutrh lesson when i'm ok ;)

The guitar is a Sigma (signature martin : it's like epiphone for Gibson) from 1974 a DM-5 model, cheap but fun to play :)



Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 18, 2013 welcome here again!! I think everything went well if you are able to embrace again you're guitar! and I like it...I prefer the warmer sound of the acoustic guitar...which kind of guitar is that? me...I am always in that kind of strange period of change but in the blues I've started doing a thing that I found very usefull to learn...I've started tabbing songs that I already know and even some fingerpicking exercise...It's amazing how it works..I'm constrainged to get every notes and write it!!! I almost never use the function of half speed but I've just discovered that for example for me it's easier this way to work on the pronunciation...and listen Corey speakin half speed is also very funny as he looks like he's totally drunk!!!! :DDD

JD Krooks Crouhy
JD Krooks Crouhy Jul 18, 2013

JD Krooks Crouhy
JD Krooks Crouhy Jul 18, 2013

@Corey I think i've managed to mute the High E strings before playing the B strings with my left hand! You have to have a little gap between the 2 notes ! i use the half speed to hear that on your video ! The sound must be cut a millisecond. You can't play purely legato the two notes. As you can seen it's a big draft !! I haven't caught yet the melody and the lyrics, it's a work in progress version :)

@Alex nice to see you again on SJ ! You're a big motivation for me my friend :) ! As you see i play slide on a folk, my Dobro is already in vacation ! it waits for me in Bretany !

@Peter Nice Sound !! I have to change my cone too soon !

@ David I have also the fred mcdowell lyrics but Corey (as many bluesmen) takes lyberty with the lyrics. So usually i make a mix beetween is version and the original. But in this case forget it i sing wrong lyrics cause it takes me too much concentration to play both. I first start to learn both singing and playing then i separate them when i can play the whole song in a sort of big draft. I think your way is better ;) ! But i prefer work the details after...

david sap
david sap Jul 18, 2013

Hi there

New on sonic junction here. I just started working on hwy 61.. Singing and playing guitar at the same time has allways been a big problem for me.. So i decided to put the guitar away and just sing the song first..

I found the fred mcdowel lyrics but they're different.. on other website they're just plain wrong.. so is there a good place to find the lyrics or can someone copy paste them?



Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 18, 2013

@Mike...thanks...yes it's true...I think this is part of the process...many lick are almost the same but with different groove and feeling....this is what really makes the's like when you the beginning everything is really hard, but later you can find a kind of logic in everything and then only something become more easier...

I always "go crazy" when I go to the 2nd string with the's so difficoult to be clean!!!

i wait for your video soon national cone in your resonator guitar, isn't it? ;)))

Peter Wolf
Peter Wolf Jul 17, 2013

Hi all, here's my drop for the week.

Here's a question for Corey-- I notice your third and fourth finger on the fretting hand darting across on the main riff.  Why are you doing this?  Are you using your fretting hand to choke?  Or are you fretting the lower strings?



Mike Caren
Mike Caren Jul 17, 2013

@Alex ... you sound really good!  It's always inspiring to see how quickly you get the songs.  

I do think this is going to be one of those songs where the groove, feel and phrasing of the slide is going to be where the magic is. The new guitar sounds good too!

Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 16, 2013

@Corey I now remember about our past conversation about puttin matchbox cover under the nut...This is what I should have done to have more action...instead I worked on the Trussroad off course understanding later that to solve the problem that is not the way...:DD Bad experience teaches more than good one!! 

I'll post another video soon...not very satisfied about the groove and still facing the same old problem about having a good sound on the 2nd string with slide!!



Corey Harris
Corey Harris Jul 16, 2013

@JDY...yes I am muting or choking the string with my left hand on the neck...yes fingerpick doesn't matter since we are using the left hand (of course in general we can always use our palm of the right hand to mute also, as we have seen in other lessons).  I didn't play the National because sometimes I like a change...look forward to your post and thanks.



Corey Harris
Corey Harris Jul 16, 2013

@Alex...yes the guitar has just the right amount of action to play came like that I didn't have to do anything to it. We used to take a matchbook cover and fold it over on itself and cut it to the size of the nut, and glue it in place (just a little glue not too much) under the nut.  this usually raised the action to the right height.  experiment and see what works for you....

Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 15, 2013

@Corey...sorry I've got a question for you if almost everybody know here on Sj Alex from Italy has bought a new parlor guitar...ahahaha..I like to make some auto irony...anyway...In your Bob Gernahrdt parlour do you have a quite hich action because you frequently use it even when you played slide??...mine had (as I modified it) a low action and was almost impossible to get some good sound  with this action...

Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 14, 2013's my first feedback....those chokes are difficoult tryin to remain in time....

@Jd....nooooo...I'd like to see Moh as soon as possible, too!!!

JD Krooks Crouhy
JD Krooks Crouhy Jul 12, 2013

@Alex this concert was in Paris last year ! i know very well this jazz club "the Sunset". I miss this concert and the ast of Moh last month :( Our doaughter is getting older, hope i could do more concert this year !!

@Corey great song ! i'm a fan of Fred Mcdowell he got awesome groove !! Sometime he doesn't play the first beat and the song still groove ! When i do that, it makes just a gap for me :( 

By the way how do you mute the high E string when you play the high B String in the first lick tabbed ? Does you middle finger mute the E string when you play the B string with your index ? Can you do that with the fingerpick ?

I use this technique on electric slide (à la Dereck Trucks not as good of course)  when i play in single note but not in country blues... I can do it with bare finger but not with a fingerpick... That why i've never try it. But i remeber you told me to be cleaner so maybe i have to mute... Hope i was Clear ?

Another question why didn't you play the national ? Is it because Fred mac dowell mostly play archtop of electric ? Or just for change ?





Alex Barbera
Alex Barbera Jul 11, 2013

@Corey...mercì.....this is such a cool tune to learn!

Here's a video of Corey playin this tune with the great Moh Kuyate, from Guinee

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