The Fourth Chord

Another thing about Ragtime:

images-5The introduction of the fourth chord into the standard three folk chords (1st, 4th and 5th) creates progressions that are wonderful fun to play. Usually the added chord is the fifth of the fifth. Ragtime just exploits those fifths, goshdarnit. Ragtime usually fifths that 4th chord too. Sometimes another fifth or two is piled on for good measure – all of them in major chord.

And it (Ragtime and then Jazz, too) all begins with that added chord.

Below are the words to Salty Dog Blues, a traditional country favorite. Quite an old one. It was probably one of the early four chord songs that was played by country musicians. Ragtime music had been popular in the cities – played mostly by African-American musicians like Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake early in the 20th century -110 or so years ago – in the United States.

I first heard Salty Dog on a Flatt and Scruggs record. It uses four chords and that’s it. I’m never too sure about the words. Something about chasing a hog, shooting at it, then the gun went off, and the shot wound up over in Mexico. All kinds of barnyard type stuff that we literati don’t know too much about. Anyway – and to conclude: country music absorbed a lot of ragtime. Later in the 20th century country music tried to absorb or accomodate rocknroll too – or perhaps it was simply engulfed by rocknroll. I’m not sure exactly what went wrong with country music.

To return to the business at hand, Salty Dog Blues is probably one of the earlier assimilations of ragtime into the country repertoire. It’s a pretty simple song.

(Bumba here would like to hope that you will try to play these songs too. At the minimum singing is required on this blog)

Standin on the corner shoutin the blues

Great big holes in the bottom of my shoes

Honey let me be your salty dog

Salty dog, salty dog don’t wanna be your man at all

I just wanna be your salty dog

Went to your house a quarter past ten

Knock on the door, baby let me in

I just wanna be your Salty Dog

And so forth

19 thoughts on “The Fourth Chord

  1. oh.. Steve.. I can not sing at all, nor play any longer an instrument.. but I’m happy with listening to your musical talents… πŸ™‚
    groetjes, Francina

  2. I am away from home without my Scott Joplin to hand. I can think of the diminished chord in the Maple Leaf Rag, and all the 7th chords, (I’m not even sure about 9ths) but not any 5th of the 5th, which would be 2nd. Have you any Scott Joplin examples?

    1. You’re right. No, I can’t play Scott Joplin yet. And, as you know, I don’t post others’ recordings. I like the Joshua Rifkin recordings of Joplin a lot.

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