How to Play Come Back Baby by Orville Johnson (Guitar Lesson)

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Orville Johnson

Come Back Baby

Orville Johnson teaches his version of the classic blues song "Come Back Baby."

Taught by Orville Johnson in Songs with Orville Johnson seriesLength: 29:43Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Scene 1
Orville introduces the tune Come Back Baby. It's a traditional blues lyric. The earliest recording of the song is probably Walter Davis' cut that was recorded in 1940 but the song itself is certainly older than that. This version is available on Orville's CD with the great harmonica player/songwriter Mark Graham. Their group is called the Kings of Mongrel Folk and the album is entitled "Still Goin' Strong." Two other notable guitar versions of the tune were recorded in the 1960s by Dave Van Ronk and Bert Jansch. Check them out for some variations in the guitar arrangements.

Scene 2
Orville plays the song and sings a verse. He then outlines the chords we need to know to play this song. There are three types of A chord, the basic version, one with your pinky extended to reach the A note on the 5th fret of string 1, and an A7 chord with the 1st string fretted at fret 3. The D7 chord has the 3rd (F#) in the bass on the 6th string. If you play the open 1st string (E) in this chord its name becomes D9. Orville plays the F chord by bringing his thumb over the top to catch the bass note. He demonstrates an alternate fingering for this later in the lesson. The last chord to know is E7.

Scene 3
Now we go through the tune from the top. Orville goes through the whole song one phrase at a time describing the left and right hand fingerings. He leaves out the bass line to begin with, concentrating on what you need to do with your fingers. There's one misspoken fingering at 2:17 where Orville says to fret a note with the ring finger when it is really fretted with the middle finger. Please forgive him for this mistake and play it with the correct finger.

He talks about the style of bass that your thumb will be playing and calls it the "dead thumb" or "monotonic bass" style. This is a manner of playing where you thump a note over and over on the same string, keeping the pulse of the tune going, as opposed to the alternating bass style described in one of Orville's Genre Teaching lessons.

The rest of this scene takes us up to the F chord. Orville demonstrates two different ways to play this chord and phrase and talks about the advantages and disadvantages of each way.

Scene 4
Now we play a single note run leading back to the A chord. After that, we go to the E7 and play a passage that brings us back again to the A chord. Time now for the "turnaround" that gets us back to the beginning of the song.

Scene 5
A turnaround is a phrase, usually one or two bars long, that occurs at the end of a blues chord progression to set you up to start the whole thing over again. There are endless variations for doing this that Orville explores in another lesson devoted to turnarounds. The one he uses in this piece is a classic that is often referred to as the "Robert Johnson turnaround." The influential bluesman Robert Johnson used variations of this phrase in several of his 1930s recordings that are linchpins of the modern blues repertoire.

Scene 6
Orville describes a variation you can use for the opening phrase. This variation is higher up the neck but uses the same rhythmic phrasing that you've already learned. So it sounds the same rhythmically but uses different melodic notes.

Scene 7
Orville plays the whole piece one more time including the variation on the first phrase. When you've mastered the guitar part go back to the beginning and watch what Orville does when singing the tune. Notice how he plays certain of the melodic phrases right along with his sung melodies but in other spots he leaves out the guitar melody while he sings, just keeping a rhythm, and then uses the melodic phrase on the guitar as a "fill-in lick" displacing it so it fits into the space between the singing lines. You can experiment with this and decide for yourself where you want to match the guitar notes with the singing and where you leave out the guitar melodies to make room for the singing. Have fun with this classic blues composition!

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

alfrednoelalfrednoel replied on May 10th, 2015

Orville........You're a fantastic teacher and guitar player.....I really enjoy learning these precious songs. Thank you

skyreacherskyreacher replied on January 30th, 2014

I`ve only been working on this for a few days, but I just caught a video of the Kings of Mongrel Folk performing this on u tube, and it is OUTSTANDING! I am wondering if I can get a full tab some where of that version with the tabs for the slide?

skyreacherskyreacher replied on January 30th, 2014

Enter your comment here.

Daniel KashDaniel Kash replied on November 15th, 2013

I have gone through the original lesson for Come Back Baby but don't know how to continue the lesson to the end of the song

revcarevca replied on November 2nd, 2011

After listening countless times to the lesson, I did finally hear how to fit the song into the guitar tab - it actually follows the guitar tab fairly closely. For example, the first 'well come back baby fits into the first and second measure, "please don't go" fits into the 2nd and 3rd bar and the second "well come back baby" fits into the 5th and 6th measures.

revcarevca replied on October 29th, 2011

I love this song and Orville's interpretation of it. The instruction for playing the guitar solo section is so clear. So far, however, I'm quite lost in terms of how to play along with singing the lyrics. (Orville, I'm sorry but your Dec. 2009 comments did not help me, at all. What would help would be something like fit this phrase into measure X and this phrase into measure Y, but perhaps emphaize the bass in some measures and melody notes in others.) I have ordered a song book, Soul Hits, that includes Come Back, aby. I'm hoping it will be similar enough to Orville's version to help.

wypyhoskiwypyhoski replied on September 3rd, 2011

Hi Orville. I cannot pick up on the first few (4?) notes leading into the song. They are the notes you use before you analyze the "First Phrase" of the song in Scene 3. Thanks!! Rick

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on September 4th, 2011

Not sure what you're asking about. I looked at the beginning of scene 3 and I'm explaining all the notes I'm playing. are you referring to the pickup notes I play leading to the downbeat of the A chord? It seems I explained those notes (G on the 1st string and B on the 3rd string) and showed how to slide up to the A and C#. Are those the notes you refer to?

wypyhoskiwypyhoski replied on September 4th, 2011

When you first play the song it looks like you are playing a few quick notes beginning at the first fret . . . .. before you begin the song at the third fret. Also, your last three notes at the end of your song seem to be the "A" chord played on frets 4 then 3 then 2. Am I correct? I really enjoy your lesson. I first picked up a guitar one month ago at the age of 59. My rendition of Come Back Baby sounds nothing like yours . . . LOL . .. but I will work on it. Thanks in advance for your reply and have a great Labor Day!!

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on September 5th, 2011

I looked at scene 2 and noticed that I am sliding into the first notes at the 3rd fret. That must be what you're referring to. So I am actually playing only the notes I've described but I'm sliding up to the 3rd fret, the same way I slide from the 3rd up to the 5th to reach the A chord.

mstewart85mstewart85 replied on August 9th, 2010

Love your lesson, however, it seems you're doing a little lick leading into the main tune. Am I right? If so, could you please share it. Thanks.

wypyhoskiwypyhoski replied on September 3rd, 2011

Hi Orville. I cannot pick up on the first few (4?) notes leading into the song. They are the notes you use before you analyze the "First Phrase" of the song in Scene 3. Thanks!! Rick

dlstewarddlsteward replied on June 1st, 2010

I'm hung up trying to work the singing into the picking.....

gary_bridghamgary_bridgham replied on May 8th, 2010

I like the song and the lesson but I'll have to come back to it later.

tony248tony248 replied on April 23rd, 2010

Great song and arrangement and very clear instruction on how to play it by Orville.

roy944roy944 replied on March 22nd, 2010

Loved it, I'm working hard to get it perfect! It's stuck in my head!

iw2198iw2198 replied on December 9th, 2009

hello Orville! Great lesson. I was wondering, is that an L.R. Baggs M1A pick up? I was thinking about buying one but they are a bit pricey. How is it?

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on December 12th, 2009

I use it in conjunction with the Takamine undersaddle pick-up thru the Cool Tube onboard preamp and get a pretty nice sound.

mpattersonmpatterson replied on December 6th, 2009

Excellent teaching as far as it went . would have been nice to have finished it off with a bit of guidance about the change to the playing when singing Don't get me wrong though , a good piece of instruction . I especially appreciated the alternative f shape which suits me better

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on December 7th, 2009

Mostly what happens when I sing the tune is that I leave out the melody notes on guitar to make room for the vocal melody. I lean on the bass riff to keep the rhythm strong while I sing and I displace some of the melody lines to make them into fills that come in between the vocal phrases. And once in a while I play the melody lines along with the vocal lines and try to match them closely which creates and interesting sound. hope these ideas are helpful...oj

jaybirdjaybird replied on December 3rd, 2009

I really enjoyed both of your lessons. Please continue. Thanks

CarolLBCarolLB replied on November 30th, 2009

Yeah, instruction on finger picking without a thumb pick! Welcome Orville! Your first lesson in wonderful. Can't wait for more!

SylviaSylvia replied on November 30th, 2009

Man, I need to pay attention a little better... so many new and awesome teachers. Hi Orville!

Orville.JohnsonOrville.Johnson replied on November 30th, 2009

Thanks for the kind welcome. I'll have a bunch more lessons rolling out as time goes on. Jeff and his crew do a great job on the filming and editing. More supplemental material is on the way too so keep coming by to see what's new. see you soon!...oj

bulletinaboxbulletinabox replied on November 29th, 2009

easily my favorite song on this site

nate_thegreatnate_thegreat replied on November 28th, 2009

sweet, more blues stuff. man I really need to do some research and learn about more blues guys, since I only know the more famous ones.

glynbglynb replied on November 28th, 2009

Nice lesson Orville,and welcome to Jamplay

axisaxis replied on November 27th, 2009

more amazing blues, I'm so glad I joined Jamplay, great to have you here Orville, fantastic lesson, looking forward to where you'll be taking us :)

Eve.GoldbergEve.Goldberg replied on November 27th, 2009

Welcome Orville! Great to have you on JamPlay!

chris2pchris2p replied on November 27th, 2009


dearlpittsdearlpitts replied on November 27th, 2009

not seeing chords in suppledment

J.artmanJ.artman replied on November 27th, 2009

Welcome to Jamplay!

greenogreeno replied on November 27th, 2009

Welcome Orville! Looking forward to your lesson series.

nessanessa replied on November 27th, 2009

Welcome, Orville. :)

Songs with Orville Johnson

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Orville Johnson teaches a select group of his favorite songs, including a few originals.

Lesson 1

Come Back Baby

Orville Johnson teaches his version of the classic blues song "Come Back Baby."

Length: 29:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Depot Blues

Orville Johnson teaches a classic blues song entitled "Depot Blues." This lesson was inspired by the blues great Son House.

Length: 35:31 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Railroad Bill

Orville Johnson teaches the traditional blues song "Railroad Bill."

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Bye Bye Baby Blues

Orville teaches the classic blues song "Bye Bye Baby Blues" by Little Hat Jones.

Length: 21:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Spanish Fandango

Orville Johnson teaches the classic "Spanish Fandango."

Length: 32:50 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

A Bicycle Built for Two

Orville Johnson teaches a classic song entitled "A Bicycle Built for Two." This song is also known as "Daisy Bell."

Length: 23:54 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Weave and Way

This fantastic tune entitled "Weave and Way" is a great song for beginners that want to take things to the next level. Alongside the simple chord progression, Orville also demonstrates 3-4 very different...

Length: 44:19 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Texas Gales

Orville presents this fiddle tune entitled "Texas Gales." This song lesson offers an opportunity to work on right and left hand synchronization as well as flatpicked melody lines.

Length: 34:11 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Gold Rush

Orville presents a great fiddle tune titled "Gold Rush." This is yet another great beginner song that offers a secondary lead option that, by the end, will leave you with a complete tune perfect for jamming...

Length: 49:22 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

The Sailor's Hornpipe

Orville will teach this classic tune titled "The Sailor's Hornpipe." This up beat song imitates the life of a sailor and the duties aboard the ship. This lesson provides the perfect opportunity for a beginner...

Length: 12:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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