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 added to over 250 tune books.[4][5] The tune became popular as recorded by Fiddlin' Arthur Smith. That version, according to Alan Jabbour, supplanted an earlier tune played by Sanford Kelly from Morgan County,[6] which is now represented by the tune "Yew Piney Mountain".[7] [8] It is also called "Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom", perhaps to distinguish it from the earlier version.[9] 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".[10] Alan Snyder gives an alternate name of "Strawberry Beds".[11]


Although the tune is closely associated with the old time/ bluegrass traditions of the United States,[12] it enjoys the distinction of often 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)[13]

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.[14] Wells, a bluegrass teacher, asserts that the tune is a standard in the bluegrass banjo repertoire.[15] Some of the older recordings archived at the Digital Library of Appalachia include:

  • Davenport, Clyde
    • Fiddle tune played by Clyde Davenport at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music on 11-03-84
  • Rawlings, Carlton
    • Fiddle tune played by Carlton Rawlings and recorded by John Harrod in Bath County, Kentucky [1970s].


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, [16] 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. "[16]


  • Sheet music for Blackberry Blossom PDF

Videographic documentation[edit]

Fiddle Solo (Vi Wickam)[17]

Fiddle and Guitar[18]

Fiddle Guitar and Banjo [19]

Mandolin (Mark O'Connor)[20]

Fiddle & percussion- interpretive - (Carrie Rodriguez)[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Website of Sean Ray|
  2. ^ Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire|Wendy Anthony |
  3. ^ a b The Sessions
  4. ^ ref name=DLA-Dickerson|played by Emma Lee Dickerson and| recorded by= Barbara Kunkle |date recorded=2-9-74|Greenup County, Kentucky|performer=Dickerson, Emma Lee|Place=Greenup County, Kentucky|Original Format=Reel-To-Reel Audio Tape|Holding Library|Berea College |"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  5. ^ ref name=The Session|Online resource|Jeremy, Administrator|
  6. ^ Note: As an E minor tune. He ends the tune "that's the way that God made peace".|
  7. ^ ref name=Jabbour BBB Transcript|cited=Wikiversity Ethnography of Fiddle|Fiddle tune played by Alan Jabbour at Berea College on 5-28-08, while participating in Berea's Appalachian Music Fellowship Program.c; Jabbour, Alan; Blackberry Blossom;
  8. ^ Blackberry Blossom|Lecture and performance by Alan Jabbour|Madison County, Kentucky|Audio Compact Disc|On web Digital Library of Appallachia| Archives, Hutchins Library, Department of Special Collections & Archives.
  9. ^ ref name=Kuntz|The Fiddler’s Companion|Andrew Kuntz|1996[?]|Citing Jean Thomas's Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky|[2]
  10. ^ Kuntz
  11. ^ ref name=Alan Snyder|Cape Breton Fiddle Recording Index|
  12. ^ Note: The Digital Library of Appallachia has recordings primarily from Kentucky. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2011-07-21. 
  13. ^ "Cape Breton Fiddle Recordings". Retrieved 2011-09-22. 
  14. ^ Saturday, April 2, 2011| Exploring Blackberry Blossom|Website of Devon Wells|Devon's Banjo Homepage|
  15. ^ Wells
  16. ^ a b Anthony
  17. ^ (Fiddle) Fiddle Tune a Day|instrumentation=(fiddle)|
  18. ^ Doc and the Lady (Fiddle and Flatpick Guitar)Operation Smile concert|instrumentation=(fiddle and guitar)|
  19. ^ Inland Northwest Bluegrass Association in Spokane Washington. Every month the INBA has what they call a Bluegrass Thang
  20. ^ album =Markology|label= Rounder| Released: 24 Jul 2007| url=|
  21. ^ Carrie Rodriguez performing live at the Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale, NY on January 3, 2008. Playing with Carrie are her band members Hans Holzen and Javier Vercher.|