29 October 2015


Puttin' on the Style.
Enjoy Yourself.
It's the Royal Telephone.
Listening to Tuba Skinny performing Vine Street Drag (also known as Lonesome Drag), in this video (click on to watch), I noticed that the chord progression sounds remarkably similar (possibly identical) to that of I'm Looking for the Bully of the Town recorded in 1927 by The Memphis Jug Band. You can hear The Memphis Jug Band performance by clicking here.
Similarly, if you listen to Tuba Skinny performing the eight-bar tune Mississippi River Blues, you may agree with me that it has the same chord structure as the first eight bars of Lonesome Road:
I wonder how many hundreds of cases there are (in addition to the obvious examples of 12-bar blues) where this occurs.

There are dozens of 32-bar tunes based on the same chord progression as Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home. Similarly, there are several using the same chords as When the Saints Go Marching In.

A less known example of a parallel is the 32-bar Please Don't Talk About Me, for which you can use exactly the same chord progression as for Has Anybody Seen My Girl? (also known as Five Foot Two) and Who's That Knockin' At My Door? and also for Aaron Gunn's great song Caffeine. It seems to me that Postage Stomp has an almost similar sequence too.

And I'm fairly sure you can play Livin' in a Great Big Way and Christopher Columbus to the very same chord structure as I Got Rhythm.

Where Am I Gonna Live When I Get Home improbably uses the same chord progression as Just a Closer Walk With Thee!

Bei Mir Bist Du Schön seems to me to use the same chord progression as When I Get Low I Get High and Blue Drag.

And my friend Ralph Hunt, the banjo player, tells me that Pennies from Heaven has exactly the same chord structure as I Can't Give You Anything But Love, apart from just one chord, which is a 7th in one tune and a minor in the other - hardly a significant difference.

My Josephine (first recorded by Papa Oscar Celestin's Tuxedo Band in 1926) is virtually identical to Some of These Days (composed by Shelton Brooks in 1910) - not only in chord structure but even in its melody. My theory is that someone (Celestin himself, perhaps) wrote a lyric dedicated to Josephine - a fan of his band - and set it to the music of Some of These Days, with only the the most negligible of modifications to the tune and chord structure.

I also think that the two spirituals Precious Lord, Take my Hand and When I Move to the Sky, if played in the same key, would be found to have the same chord progression.

I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate seems to me to have the same chord sequence as Southern Shout and the Chorus of Heebie Jeebies and of Dallas Rag. But the alternating of dominant and tonic chords is a very familiar ploy in dozens of tunes.

You Can't Escape From Me (aka San Jacinto Stomp) uses the same chord sequence as The Cat's Got Kittens.

The chord sequences for CoquetteYes, Sir, That's My Baby and I Want to Be Happy all seem pretty much the same to me.

Rip 'Em Up Joe is an example of a 16-bar tune that seems to have a familiar chord sequence: it is similar to that found in Crazy 'Bout You (recorded by The State Street Boys in 1935) and sundry other tunes.

The House of the Rising Sun sounds suspiciously similar to St. James Infirmary. My ear tells me they have the same chord progression and almost the same melody.

Improbably, the religious number Royal Telephone is remarkably similar to Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think and to the rocking tune Puttin' On The Style.

Listening again on YouTube to the wonderful Tuba Skinny playing How Do They Do It That Way?, I thought the chord sequence sounded identical to that of the 1925 popular song Ice Cream (Ice Cream, You Scream, Everybody Loves Ice Cream). They are both very fine songs. How Do They Do It That Way? is a song about which I know very little, though I believe it dates from 1929, when Victoria Spivey recorded it. It is probable that she also composed it. I can't prove the chord progressions are identical as I do not have copies of the printed music. They are fairly different styles of song (Ice Cream is also usually played more quickly than the other) but it's interesting that to my ear at least the same chord pattern works very well for both. Listen to Tuba Skinny by double-clicking here. Try humming Ice Cream during the vocal and see whether you agree with me.
Luke Holladay has sent me this email:
I believe the chords for "Do Lord" are identical to "This Little Light of Mine" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic".

As for 'modern' jazz, there have been many tunes based on the chord sequences of good old songs, I'm told. For example:
Grooving' High is based on the chord sequence of Whispering
Take the A Train is based on the chord sequence of Exactly Like You
Donna Lee is based on the chord sequence of Indiana
In a Mellow Tone is based on the chord sequence of Rose Room
Ornithology is based on the chord sequence of How High The Moon
Hackensack is based on the chord sequence of Lady Be Good
Koko is based on the chord sequence of Cherokee.