George Merritt’s POCKET CHANGE Music Notes

Originally written in 1999

Wildwood Flower

I’ve met a lot of guitar players over the years who claim this is the first tune they learned to pick on guitar. I’m glad to include myself in this tradition.


I remember hearing my mom sing this song when I was very young. I’ve noticed a lot of women in my mom’s generation who know and like this tune.

Arkansas Traveler

I remember the first time I played this tune with a local fiddler and kept up; I thought I’d arrived.

Fisher’s Hornpipe

I learned this tune from Cathy Barton when we both were still in high school. Around 1980, Susan and I played Fisher’s Hornpipe for her great grandfather’s 100th birthday. When we finished, he said, “Where’d you learn that? That’s an old song. Say! That was old when I was a kid.” James Corbin lived to 103 years. I’ll never forget how he changed my perspective several times on relative history of the common tunes and music of our cultural heritage.

Soldier’s Joy

This tune was played a lot in jam sessions at the Chez Coffeehouse in Columbia, Missouri, in the mid-1970s. I don’t know where I learned it, but the Chez Coffeehouse is a good guess.

Highland Home Longing (Original)

I composed Highland Home Longing about 1994 while playing at Ranchman’s Café in Ponder, Texas. This tune has had a dramatic impact on most listeners and my inability to put in words what the tune expressed was such that I didn’t name it till much later. As the name implies a strong desire for home, the composition also moves with resolve and determination to get home at all costs.

Shortnin’ Bread

I learned this fun tune in grade school. My students will also recognize this as one of my favorite tunes for bow exercises.

Amazing Grace

It’s hard to say whether it is this tune’s commonness or simplicity that contributes to its beauty. Maybe it’s both. I had a local autoharp player, Cecil White, play on this piece. Cecil is one of my elder friends who is a good example of having fun aging gracefully.

The Old Country (Original)

Sometimes I compose a piece that has considerable diverse reaction among the listeners. This tune is one of them. Let your mind roam the globe as you listen to this tune. This piece is not intended to be listened to closely. There is a part of this tune I call the “dream section.” In the context of a dream, it makes sense; however, to an intent listener, it will seem disjointed.

Ragtime Annie

I played this tune for some time before I heard Taylor McBaine play it, but he seemed to bring this tune to perfection. This has been Susan’s favorite fiddle tune for years, yet in spite of my efforts, she says I still don’t have Taylor’s touch on this one. This tune is fun to play.

Irish Washerwoman

This could be the most common jig in North America. People always recognize and smile when they hear this tune and then ask me what the name is.

Foster Baker Banjo Blues (Original)

Besides being a great encouragement to me over the years, Foster Baker has one of the most amazing memories for old songs and ditties I’ve ever known. I give Foster the credit for saving this tune from immediate obscurity.

One evening at Ranchman’s while noodling around with this little bluesy thing on the banjo, a number of people around were looking at me in amusement about the silly tune. I probably would have forgotten the tune later except as I was playing the tune, Foster came out of the kitchen with a big grin on his face. When I’d finished, he said, “That’s great, I like it.” On a later album I’ll have Foster sing his words to this song.

Ozark Scotty (Original)

Imagine a Scottish fiddler traveling to the Ozarks somewhere in the early 20th Century and meeting a hillbilly fiddler. This is my idea of a meeting between fiddlers of these styles. Mike Grimes named this one.

Bill Cheatam

This is one of my all-time favorite fiddle tunes. I learned this from a Flatt and Scruggs with Doc Watson album titled Strictly Instrumental. I had a lot of fun recording this tune. Enjoy!

Turkey in the Straw

This is another popular tune that is fun to play on the fiddle. More people associate this song with old-time fiddling than any other tune I know.

Old Joe Clark

One of my favorite versions of this tune is one that Heinrich Leonhard used to play on the banjo.

Cotton-Eyed Joe

This is an all-time, powerful favorite of Texans. I first heard this tune in the 1970s on a local radio station in Missouri playing Ozark folk music. I played the Ozark version for years until later in Texas I learned the Texas version. Listen for Andy’s washboard break towards the end.

Ranchman’s Rag (Original)

Dave Ross and Ranchman’s Café have been a major part of keeping me alive as a musician for the last 10 years. This is another tune I composed while noodling around at Ranchman’s. This tune is similar to some Texas fiddle rags. It blossomed into quite a nice Texas swing tune in the recording studio. Many thanks to the friends at Ranchman’s who have supported and encouraged me all these years.

Blackberry Blossom

This is the tune that motivated me to take up banjo. I vividly remember sitting up all night working on this tune until I could play it completely.

New Blackberry Blossom

This is one of my makeovers of the traditional Blackberry Blossom that I think is different enough to warrant the “new” name.

Cluck Ol’ Hen

I’ve been aware of this Appalachian mountain song for quite some time, but it wasn’t until I was at a picking session hosted by Nathan Sarvis in Denton, Texas, that something clicked and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. I normally play this song longer than usual; I think the recording engineer took a nap while I played this one.

Texas Sunset (Original)

This tune came about as the result of a challenge I occasionally put to myself regarding stereotypes and preconceived notions about what does or doesn’t work on certain instruments. I composed this tune on the banjo while working at Ranchman’s. In moving from Missouri to Texas, I hated the thought of leaving Missouri’s hills and trees. That was 16 years ago. Now I have an equal appreciation for the Texas sky and sunsets. More than just conveying a reference to the visual effect of the sunset, this tune is also trying to give the impression of the Texas sunset’s tranquility.


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