Chris Eldridge

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Let Him Go On Mama

Teaching the Song

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Let Him Go On Mama > Teaching the Song


We’ve got a new song we’re going to start working on this week, “Let Him Go On Mama,” by the great John Hartford. For those of you unfamiliar with Hartford, he was a true polymath. Legendary as a songwriter, banjo player, fiddler, step dancer, and he even had a gig as a writer on the Smothers Brothers show. Oh, and he was an actual steamboat captain on the Mississippi River too. He literally used to take a month or two off in the summer at the peak of music festival season, to pilot the Julia Belle Swain, a riverboat on the Mississippi that shows up in a bunch of his songs. Hartford is a big hero of mine and many others.

This song is off of his record, Mark Twang. It’s about an old-time river man who has a changing world around him. I love it. Musically, it’s pretty simple. There are two verses at the top and then it alternates verse - chorus for the rest of the song. Play it easy and loping, and get into the vibe of the old man that you’re singing about!

If you want to explore more John Hartford check out the albums Aero-Plain, Mark Twang, and Morning Bugle. And there’s plenty more to explore from there,






Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:
Chris Eldridge
Let Him Go On Mama

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Let Him Go On Mama


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 4:36 Introduction to Let Him Go On Mama and John Hartford

Loop 5:48 Breakdown of Song Form and Chords

Loop 10:58 Rhythm Guitar Feel

Loop 13:29 Closing Thoughts and Outro





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James Macklin
James Macklin Mar 27, 2018

Been having a great time working this one up. Took a lot of passes before I finally got one where I didn't totally blow a lyrical or guitar line. Hope you like my take on the extended solo (minus the minor clunker).

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Apr 03, 2018

Hey James, great job! I especially dig the way you are phrasing the vocal. ”He likes her red dress and pearly white teeth.” That syncopation is hillbilly-funky and I love it! Also, nice job outlining the chords on your solo. My one piece of constructive criticism on this is that you might use bluegrass rhythm guitar as more of a jumping of point rather than the full on accompanimental feel. Of course, it sounds good the way you did it, but see if you can, in a musical way, get a little of the vibe in your rhythm playing from your vocal approach. I tend to feel this song with almost a cut-time bluegrass feel, if that makes sense. Like there’s Anyway, mess around with it and see if you can find a slightly different feel that you like.

Zachariah Jones
Zachariah Jones May 13, 2017

 Love this tune. Went ahead and just recorded how I've been playing it for a few years while adding your intro riff (which is awesome btw) Will work on the other licks and can't wait to see if I can improve. Thanks!

Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge May 29, 2017

Sounds good! Looking forward to hearing more from this tune!

Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Jan 14, 2017

Great thanks - suddenky craving Oysters Bienville.


Kip Marchetti
Kip Marchetti Jan 13, 2017

Beauty ... another one from the file of where was I when this was going on? The verses are a mouthful until I learn it, and what is the lyric in the 2nd verse "HE PLAYED IN A BAND ON TWO DIFFERENT BOATS WORKING FOR THE ??????? LINE  and the last verse as I'm not quite catching it (or understanding) "WELL YOU SEE THESE OYSTERS ?????? AND THESE BAKED POTATO SKINS".  Really cool man.


Chris Eldridge
Chris Eldridge Jan 14, 2017

"He played in a band on two different boats, working on the STRETFAST line."

I believe that that is the name of of a riverboat company from the old days.


"Well you see these Oysters BIENVILLE, and these baked potato skins..."

Jeff Caldwell
Jeff Caldwell Jan 13, 2017

Hola, guys--the pdf is of a previous tune.

Mike Caren
Mike Caren Jan 13, 2017

Hi Jeff --- yes, our mistake --- thanks for letting us know.  All fixed.

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