Blackberry Blossom (tune)

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"Blackberry Blossom" is a fiddle tune in the key of G major.[1] It is classified as a "breakdown" and is popular in old time, bluegrass and Celtic traditional circles.[2][3]


The tune has been included in over 250 tune books.[4][3] The tune became popular as recorded by Fiddlin' Arthur Smith. That version, according to Alan Jabbour, supplanted an earlier tune played by Santford Kelly from Morgan County, Kentucky,[5] which is now represented by the tune "Yew Piney Mountain".[6][7] It is also called "Garfield's Blackberry Blossom", perhaps to distinguish it from the earlier version.[8] Contradicting Jabbour, who clearly distinguishes the earlier version, is the account of Andrew Kuntz to the effect that "Betty Vornbrock and others have noted a similarity between 'Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom' and the West Virginia tune 'Yew Piney Mountain', a variant ... also played by Kentucky fiddlers J.P. Fraley and Santford Kelly".[8] Alan Snyder gives an alternate name of "Strawberry Beds".[9]


Although the tune is closely associated with the old time/ bluegrass traditions of the United States,[10] it enjoys the distinction of being frequently played by traditional Irish musicians.[3]

In Celtic music[edit]

This is a partial list of covers by Irish musicians and bands.

  • An Fhidil, Sraith 2 by Sean Keane, Kevin Burke, Paddy Glackin And Seamus Creagh
  • Ireland's Best Session Tunes CD 1 by Waltons Recording
  • Irish Dances by Various Artists
  • Top Of Coom by Conal Ó'Gráda
  • Traditional Irish Dance Music by All Star Ceilidhe Band
  • Traditional Irish Dance Music: All Star Ceili Band by Joe Derrane
  • Traditional Irish Music by William Sullivan
  • Traditional Irish Tunes Played On The Tin Whistle (1/2) by Geraldine Cotter
  • Traditional Music Of Ireland by Various Artists
  • Natalie MacMaster in Four on the Floor (cassette)[11]

In Bluegrass[edit]

According to Devon Wells, "Blackberry Blossom", as a banjo tune, was brought to the public's attention as one of the earliest arrangements of Bill Keith.[12] Wells, a bluegrass teacher, asserts that the tune is a standard in the bluegrass banjo repertoire.[13]

Some of the older recordings archived at the Digital Library of Appalachia include:


Like most fiddle tunes, "Blackberry Blossom" has an A part and a B part. In Arthur Smith's 1935 version, the A part is in the key of G major, with C and D chords in the second half of the part; the B part introduces an E major chord, making for a rather unusual mood shift.

Later recorded versions changed the harmonic structure of this tune radically, introducing additional chord changes (substitutions based on the melody line) in the A part, and alternating E minor and B7 in the B part.

The key of E minor is the relative minor of the key of G major - it uses the same sharps and flats but its modal center is E rather than G. This makes for a more "standard" harmonic structure.

Melodically, according to Anthony, "The note played on the 1st & 3rd beat of the first 2 measures are the first 4 notes of the descending scale of G. Each of these notes is the beginning of a 3-note run, returning to this base note, before moving on to the next note in the G scale."[2]

Videographic documentation[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Blackberry Blossom «  Bluegrass Banjo Tabs – Videos – Lessons". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire - Wendy Anthony". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "The Blackberry Blossom". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-07-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Note: As an E minor tune. He ends the tune "that's the way that God made peace".[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Fiddle tune played by Alan Jabbour at Berea College on 5-28-08, while participating in Berea's Appalachian Music Fellowship Program; Jabbour, Alan; Blackberry Blossom
  7. ^ "Blackberry Blossom" - Lecture and performance by Alan Jabbour. Madison County, Kentucky,Audio Compact Disc, Digital Library of Appalachia, Archives, Hutchins Library, Department of Special Collections & Archives.
  8. ^ a b The Fiddler’s Companion, Andrew Kuntz, 1996, citing Jean Thomas's Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky
  9. ^ "Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  10. ^ Note: The Digital Library of Appalachia has recordings primarily from Kentucky. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-07-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  12. ^ "Exploring Blackberry Blossom". Devon's Banjo Homepage.
  13. ^ Wells
  14. ^ a b "Digital Library of Appalachia". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Blackberry Blossom - Fiddle Tune a Day - Day 312 - Vi Wickam". 10 November 2012. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  16. ^ unique3phase (19 October 2008). "Blackberry Blossom Fiddle Guitar Banjo". Retrieved 29 March 2018 – via YouTube.
  17. ^ "Markology — Mark O'Connor -". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  18. ^ Carrie Rodriguez performing live at the Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale, NY on January 3, 2008. Playing with Rodriguez are her band members Hans Holzen and Javier Vercher.

External links[edit]