Grady Martin or Paul Burlison or BOTH in Train Kept A-Rollin'? A fresh take on the topic!

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
All these guys were nationwide stars and outstanding influential musicians. No disrespect at all, just let's face the truth, Johnny Burnette's trio... Yes, they had some local success. Correct me if I'm wrong but those songs didn't even make it to the charts. On music side, they fully relied on the A-Team, hardly being able to influence Owen Bradley's decisions. For the studio crew, Johnny Burnette was most likely just yet another gig, among folks like Johnny Carrol, Don Woody, Autry Inman, Arlie Duff...... (again, no disrespect, but I'm trying to wear an A-Team member's hat).

Given this context, how willing would be Owen Bradley to invest time and effort into overdubbing, and how motivated would be his musicians to innovate?

I can see this possible scenario. A-Team gathered to cut yet some more songs, but then the singer's original guitar player said, guys, you know, I have an idea... The studio folks listened and then some of them said, hmmmms, this sounds like some interesting noise, why not trying it out? Otherwise Train Kept A-Rollin' might have sounded like... Bigelow 6-200?
I think you are probably right. Overdubbing, in those days, was not nearly so casual as it has been since the number of tracks proliferated.

OTOH, playing double octaves is pretty simple, and any of these session players could handle it, without breaking a sweat. Double octaves are actually pretty limited, all you can do is play up and down the neck. It sounds interesting, and it’s not often employed, but in reality it’s hardly worth a moment’s worry.

”Studio work”, as in playing musical cues for movies or television, is highly demanding, because of the precise timing involved. “Session work”, such as the Wrecking Crew or the Nashville A Team, is a bit more ad hoc. If plan A wasn’t working out, plan B could be implemented on a moment’s notice.
 

Byron

Country Gent
Sep 4, 2009
1,174
uk
I don't find it easy at all. Or maybe folks THINK they can do it. Like the Johnny B Good intro. Close enough but no donut
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
I don't find it easy at all. Or maybe folks THINK they can do it. Like the Johnny B Good intro. Close enough but no donut
Different people, different experiences. If I can play Wes Montgomery‘s version of Tequila in octaves (which I‘ve been doing for decades), I can handle Train Kept A Rollin’.
 

kpnash

Electromatic
Jul 31, 2020
75
Germany, Karlsruhe Area
For me, it's not complicated, it's just special - also unusual enough NOT to practice this skill on daily basis.

Regarding the unusual point, I mean I can recall only five songs where double octaves are used. Tell me more! (Full disclosure, I plan to make another video dedicated solely to the topic, and I'd like to be prepared...) Could be that Danny Gatton might been playing something like that somewhere....?

This double octave technique is just completely different from 'normal' octaves. Octaves mean a lot of work for left hand, because you have to move it a lot, plus shapes are different depending on which strings do you play (e. g. 3rd and 1st vs 5th and 3rd). Right hand is relatively straightforward.

Double octaves mean not so much challenge moving up and down the fretboard but if you'd like to endure 2 mins at 88bpm (Train Kept A-Rollin'...), you'd better figure out something for your fingerstyle technique.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
For me, it's not complicated, it's just special - also unusual enough NOT to practice this skill on daily basis.

Regarding the unusual point, I mean I can recall only five songs where double octaves are used. Tell me more! (Full disclosure, I plan to make another video dedicated solely to the topic, and I'd like to be prepared...) Could be that Danny Gatton might been playing something like that somewhere....?

This double octave technique is just completely different from 'normal' octaves. Octaves mean a lot of work for left hand, because you have to move it a lot, plus shapes are different depending on which strings do you play (e. g. 3rd and 1st vs 5th and 3rd). Right hand is relatively straightforward.

Double octaves mean not so much challenge moving up and down the fretboard but if you'd like to endure 2 mins at 88bpm (Train Kept A-Rollin'...), you'd better figure out something for your fingerstyle technique.
That’s the thing; it’s almost completely unused. I don’t find double octaves hard, but they are tiring. With regard to RH technique, I would either use my thumb, or a thumbpick, and use my second finger for the high E string. I could hybrid pick it, with a flatpick, but that would probably be pretty tiring.

I‘ve seen two approaches to single octaves. There was a tradition, of sorts, for fingerstyle octaves, that would bridge across four strings, such as the outer two notes of an open position C Major chord. I believe that these were what Chet Atkins used. The sound was beautiful, and clear.

The octave that Wes Montgomery used only bridged three strings and the string in between was muted. Wes used his thumb, although these work with a pick, as well. Wes said, in interviews, that he initially started using his thumb, to keep the neighbors from complaining, when he practiced while using his amp. The attack is soft, and somewhat swooshy, for lack of a better term. Wes always practiced with an amp, and Wes style octaves, played with the thumb, really come to life, through an amp. The problem is, if you transition to this sort of octave, in the middle of a song, there will be a volume drop.

I use these in the Classics IV/Atlanta Rhythm Section song, Spooky. In my guitar firmament, few stars shine as bright as Wes Montgomery. I’ve spent many an hour copying him, but the scope of his work was very broad. He’s been gone for 54 years, but he still is a source of many useful lessons. He came out of the tenor guitar world, and used chords in a manner that was reminiscent of tenor banjo, with incredibly intricate voice leading.

Wes wasn’t the first to use octaves, by any means, but he definitely extended the way octaves were used, and broke new ground. Over the years, a lot of players have emulated his approach to octaves, but only a relative handful have actually pulled it off, effectively. Beyond the challenges of proper fingerings, and keeping things clean, there was a subtle feel that Wes employed, which is often missed when people try to copy his sound. I’ve heard all sorts of tributes, but few have captured his feel.
 

Byron

Country Gent
Sep 4, 2009
1,174
uk
Ya know, on the whole I don't think it's a good song to cover. I love it but can never get on with other versions...Aerosmith, the Yardbirds, not for me. The Trios version is a savage fireball of off the cuff rockabilly. There's virtually no melody, no useable riffs or interesting arrangements. But it's dynamite. Oh, and the lyrics are dumb. Shoot me
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
Ya know, on the whole I don't think it's a good song to cover. I love it but can never get on with other versions...Aerosmith, the Yardbirds, not for me. The Trios version is a savage fireball of off the cuff rockabilly. There's virtually no melody, no useable riffs or interesting arrangements. But it's dynamite. Oh, and the lyrics are dumb. Shoot me
I like what Jeff Beck did with it, a few years back. It’s hardly my favorite song, but I sorta like the energy, and the double octaves have all the subtlety of a nuclear bomb.

A lot of those early bands were pretty primitive. They were inventing Rock n’ Roll as they went along. Gene Vincent had Cliff Gallup, Elvis had Scotty Moore, and Ricky Nelson had James Burton, but some of the early Rockabilly acts were, as you said, completely off the cuff.

My personal tastes favor trios, and there were plenty of trios in early Rock n’ Roll. I love that open sound, of the guitar playing with just bass and drums. I saw the VH-1 Behind the Music episode on Brian Setzer last night, and really enjoyed his early material; just him, Slim Jim and Lee Rocker. It was primitive, but it was so effective. Jeff Beck’s tribute album to Cliff Gallup captured a lot of that, too.

The band I play with is a trio, and I love just having a bass line and some drums to work along with. It’s that sound of the guitar, carrying the melodic burden alone, and out in front. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to play guitar, since I was old enough to pronounce the word guitar.

I timed my birth well. Young enough not to have been sent to Vietnam, but old enough to have heard some early Rock n’ Roll in real time, culminating with watching Ed Sullivan on 02/09/1964. I also got to hear Instrumental Rock develop, from Duane Eddy, to Surf, and onto Jeff Beck’s work with Cozy Powell. I take credit for planning all of that. :)
 

Byron

Country Gent
Sep 4, 2009
1,174
uk
I know what you mean about that three piece sound. Some studio recordings just have that magic moment about them. Maybe like Voodoo Chile. Big fan of that too. Like you suggested Synchro, the hole in the sound is MEANT to be there. My band is now just a two piece, bug thudding bass drum which fills in the lack of bass guitar. I never like trying to make the guitar sound like a bass with something like an octave pedal....the missing bit is what counts!
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
I know what you mean about that three piece sound. Some studio recordings just have that magic moment about them. Maybe like Voodoo Chile. Big fan of that too. Like you suggested Synchro, the hole in the sound is MEANT to be there. My band is now just a two piece, bug thudding bass drum which fills in the lack of bass guitar. I never like trying to make the guitar sound like a bass with something like an octave pedal....the missing bit is what counts!
Pretty much my sentiments. I have a pretty good bassist to work with, but drummers come and go. I’ve played gigs without a drummer, and it’s somewhat the same. It makes my timing much more critical, but it also opens up the sound and allows the interplay between bass and guitar to be more easily heard.

A while back, I heard a Jazz recording with a tenor sax, double bass and drums. No piano or guitar playing rhythm. I wish I had noted who the artist was, because I’d love to hear more of it. Now, the song was a Standard with complex chords, but no one was playing chords. He was soloing over those complex chord changes, but the chords existed only by implication. It was refreshing.
 

calebaaron666

Friend of Fred
Aug 15, 2018
6,973
Auburn, Maine
The two E octave thing alá Train Kept a Rollin’ is one of the few fancy tricks I know. I use a flat pick on the low E and pick the high E with my middle finger. I learned it to cover Train Kept a Rollin’ and now I use it a lot.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
The two E octave thing alá Train Kept a Rollin’ is one of the few fancy tricks I know. I use a flat pick on the low E and pick the high E with my middle finger. I learned it to cover Train Kept a Rollin’ and now I use it a lot.
I tried playing some double octaves tonight. Using a flat pick, I found myself using my third finger to strike the high E. I could do it with my second finger, but it was a bit of a stretch. I don’t have particularly large hands. The flat pick gave it a nice pleasant kick, as opposed to using my thumb.

Then, I tried a thumb pick, which is what I‘d be most likely to use on a gig. This was pretty easy, and my second finger just naturally gravitated to the high E. Not much sonic difference, either.

One place I could see these as very handy, would be if I were doing an ascending melody line in the upper register and just dipped into double octaves for a few notes, like maybe an E Dom 7 arpeggio.
 

calebaaron666

Friend of Fred
Aug 15, 2018
6,973
Auburn, Maine
Then, I tried a thumb pick, which is what I‘d be most likely to use on a gig. This was pretty easy, and my second finger just naturally gravitated to the high E. Not much sonic difference, either.
It’s easiest to do with a thumb pick, which I use sometimes when my hands are acting up (got bad wrists and aches my picking hand in the winter, can’t hold a flat pick too well).
When using a flat pick I use the middle finger most of the time, but I’ll use the ring finger too sometimes. In the heat of a love show, no difference can be heard.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
It’s easiest to do with a thumb pick, which I use sometimes when my hands are acting up (got bad wrists and aches my picking hand in the winter, can’t hold a flat pick too well).
When using a flat pick I use the middle finger most of the time, but I’ll use the ring finger too sometimes. In the heat of a love show, no difference can be heard.
I think that the middle finger is more natural. In my case, with my first finger curled up against a flat-pick, the reach is easier with my third finger.

When it comes to flat pick vs. thumb pick, I find myself moving between them, a lot. The Fred Kelly Slick Pick feels like a flat pick, when I grip it like a flat pick, but then I can transition to fingerstyle, without interruption. But those little Dunlop 205s feel great for a flat pick, so I gravitate towards those for Rock & Pop. When it comes to picks, I’m all over the map.
 

kpnash

Electromatic
Jul 31, 2020
75
Germany, Karlsruhe Area
Well, let me throw this in... One of the bands I sometimes play with is a six piece band ;)

Back to the topic. I don't know how you guys manage to play double octaves with a pick and only one finger. I use a thumb pick, and for the high E string, alternate between index and middle.

Regarding Train Kept A-Rollin', the solo is just a tip of an iceberg. Out of curiosity, I've learned several verses as well, the double octave part, note for note. So tasty, sometimes polyrhythmic, licks!
 

Byron

Country Gent
Sep 4, 2009
1,174
uk
Well, let me throw this in... One of the bands I sometimes play with is a six piece band ;)

Back to the topic. I don't know how you guys manage to play double octaves with a pick and only one finger. I use a thumb pick, and for the high E string, alternate between index and middle.

Regarding Train Kept A-Rollin', the solo is just a tip of an iceberg. Out of curiosity, I've learned several verses as well, the double octave part, note for note. So tasty, sometimes polyrhythmic, licks!
If you do a lot of pick and fingers, its part of the technique but it's still a weird stretch. The ultimate claw picking I guess. But as mentioned, Grady didn't...as far as I know....claw pick. But he did use a pick. So both pick/fingers and finger picking weren't usual for him. I dunno, it's a puzzle. I'd vote for Paul but that Jerry Reed track seems to show Grady playing that exact same style.
 

kpnash

Electromatic
Jul 31, 2020
75
Germany, Karlsruhe Area
The Jerry Reed's tune was for sure played by someone else. Although it also utilizes double octaves, the vocabulary, I mean licks and the way how those are built, is totally different from what we can hear in the Burnette's songs. My vote still goes for Chet because that kind of finger picking perfection combined with refined sound is something only Chet could do in Nashville back in the days.
 


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