How to Play Wildwood Flower by Carter Family (Guitar Lesson)


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Jim Deeming

Wildwood Flower

"Wildwood Flower" is best known the way the Carter Family popularized it back in the 1930-1960's era. However, the original tune dates back at least as far as 1860. It is jokingly referred to by some as "The Bluegrass National Anthem," because it is so well known and widely played in folk and bluegrass circles.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Songs with Jim Deeming seriesLength: 30:04Difficulty: 3.5 of 5
My arrangement of this song is influenced by various recordings. In fact, so many have been done that it would be hard to make a truly original one. But the tune has been a part of my repertoire since I was a child first learning to play, so I wanted to include it on my second album.

Chet Atkins played several versions of the song, including (as I chose) one in open G tuning on his 1981 album, Country After All These Years. However, I wanted my arrangement to do more than mimic Chet. I also wanted to give a nod to Maybelle Carter's style of clawhammer, or frailing. Or as it was sometimes called, "Carter Family Style" picking. Basically, it's a technique of picking the melody with the thumb and filling in the chord and rhythm pattern with a brush stroke of the first finger.

It is said that Mother Maybelle Carter played clawhammer style banjo before learning the guitar and is the reason she used that right hand technique so often.

"Wildwood Flower" was originally taught to me in the key of C. But when I went on a quest to overhaul it, I found that the open G tuning not only worked for the Chet style I grew up on, it accommodated the Carter style with the melody played in two different octaves. The whole arrangement finally came together when I stumbled on what at first seemed to me an over-simplistic little 8-bar interlude that I used to separate the different verses and styles. I didn't think much of it until the first time I performed it live. The effect it had on the listeners was obvious and I knew it was working. It's a great reminder that groove and feel are infinitely more important than fancy or fast.

I hope you have as much fun learning this important little piece of music history as much as I have enjoyed rearranging and performing it.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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triariustriarius replied on November 22nd, 2015

Sounds great but it's open tuning... Not for me, I'm afraid. :-(

danosh34danosh34 replied on July 22nd, 2015

Way too fast hard to pick up what you re doing mate need to really slow it down

Brad_BBrad_B replied on March 20th, 2014

i want tab 1 on paper so i can take it with me and play it were everi go how can i do that

aquiguillermoaquiguillermo replied on March 1st, 2014

On that ! G is sort of easier for me !

mocoffeemocoffee replied on January 13th, 2014

Jim, great song, but your confusing the heck out of me. Your tab and your actual fingering do not coincide. This makes learning the song much more difficult especially for someone who is trying to be attentive to every detail. Another suggestion I have is......try slowing your videos down so that we can learn the slight fingering nuances that are very difficult to pick up at actual speed.

emilios1995emilios1995 replied on April 16th, 2013

I just searched youtube for other arrangements and yours beats them all

emilios1995emilios1995 replied on April 16th, 2013

i didnt know this song, I think its great and my fav part was that little break riff, i was surprised when you said that you did it !

tonigreertonigreer replied on April 1st, 2013

wow I love this song. Wonder ful job

edkickhamedkickham replied on November 13th, 2012

I too would love to learn Jimmuy Brown in this fingerstyle. Your version of Wildwood Flower is very moving. Thank you.

bwakehambwakeham replied on February 4th, 2012

I'd love to hear you play Jimmy Brown, The newspaper boy.

tamartintamartin replied on October 13th, 2010

My first experience with open G tuning. And it was a very positive one. I had alot of enjoyment with this lesson. Thanks very much.

gotatelegotatele replied on November 5th, 2009

Thanks for this arrangement. I have played in this tuning for years on blues tunes, never tried this great old tune in open G it works great.

kenny yarbroughkenny yarbrough replied on June 26th, 2009

great job jim.....i love your arrangement

maplemaple replied on April 8th, 2009

This is great

jessehjesseh replied on April 5th, 2009

Awsome song

Songs with Jim Deeming

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Learning songs is a great way to put your guitar knowledge to use and expand your horizons.



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Christmas Medley Part 1

Jim teaches the first part of a beautiful Christmas medley. This installment features "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Christmas Medley Part 2

In this second part of the Christmas medley, Jim Deeming adds the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Length: 15:30 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Christmas Medley Part 3

In the 3rd part of the Christmas medley, Jim Deeming adds "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

Length: 28:00 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Alice's Restaurant

Jim Deeming covers the classic song "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie.

Length: 18:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

On Jordan's Stormy Banks

Jim Deeming teaches "On Jordan's Stormy Banks", a gospel tune from his CD First Fruits.

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

In this lesson Jim Deeming teaches a beautiful fingerstyle version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Length: 22:29 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Windy and Warm

In this lesson Jim covers his version of "Windy and Warm," a song written by John Loudermilk and performed by Chet Atkins.

Length: 23:43 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Waltzing Matilda

Jim teaches an arrangement of "Waltzing Matilda," a popular Australian folk song. He teaches the song in the style of Tommy Emmanuel.

Length: 38:28 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Yankee Doodle Dixie

In this lesson Jim Deeming teaches a performance version of "Yankee Doodle Dixie." This version features both the verse and chorus of "Dixie" on top of "Yankee Doodle."

Length: 30:21 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Red Wing

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle version of the classic folk song "Red Wing."

Length: 15:34 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Wildwood Flower

Jim teaches "Wildwood Flower," a well-known bluegrass folk song. While it was made popular by the Carter Family, this song originated in the 1860s. Jim teaches you his own version which blends the familiar...

Length: 30:04 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Stephen Foster Medley

Jim teaches Chet Atkins' arrangement of the "Stephen Foster Medley." He adds his personal touch to this three song medley.

Length: 40:17 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Last Steam Engine Train

Jim Deeming teaches the song "Last Steam Engine Train" by John Fahey.

Length: 15:47 Difficulty: 3.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

The Claw

Jim Deeming teaches "The Claw" by Jerry Reed.

Length: 39:51 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Away In A Manger

Jim Deeming teaches a simple version and an advanced fingerstyle version of "Away In A Manger".

Length: 19:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Silent Night

Jim Deeming teaches a beginner version and a more advanced fingerstyle version of "Silent Night."

Length: 20:05 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

The Little Drummer Boy

Jim Deeming teaches a warmed over arrangement of "The Little Drummer Boy."

Length: 36:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Freight Train

Jim Deeming teaches "Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotten.

Length: 13:02 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Amazing Grace

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of "Amazing Grace."

Length: 12:27 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Auld Lang Syne

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle interpretation of the classic "Auld Lang Syne."

Length: 28:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Red River Valley

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of the traditional folk song "Red River Valley."

Length: 11:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Armed Forces Medley

Jim Deeming teaches a medley of songs from the five main branches of the United States Armed Forces.

Length: 40:37 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Good King Wenceslas

Jim Deeming teaches the Christmas song "Good King Wenceslas."

Length: 27:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

The Water Is Wide

Jim Deeming teaches both a fingerstyle and flatpicking version of the classic tune "The Water Is Wide."

Length: 31:59 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

A Pick in My Pocket

Jim Deeming teaches his original fingerstyle masterpiece, "A Pick in My Pocket".

Length: 51:07 Difficulty: 4.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Farewell My Bluebell

Jim Deeming teaches a fingerstyle arrangement of the classic tune "Farewell My Bluebell." Originally written by Edward Madden and Theodore F. Morse, the tune has been popularized by artists such as Merle...

Length: 20:44 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes JamPlay.com is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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