Johnson City Blues
By Clarence Greene

Recorded on October 15, 1928



Image Gallery

Went up on Lookout Mountain

As far as I can see

I was lookin’ for the woman made a monkey out of me.

I come down to the depot

In time to catch a cannonball

Got the blues.... Chattanooga

I won’t be back ‘til late next fall.


Down in Memphis

On East Main Street

I was watching everybody that I chance to meet.

I saw my sweet daddy

Coming round a flat

He was dressed in a tailor made suit

And a John B. Stetson hat.


Daddy Sweet Daddy

I know you’re gonna quit me now

But I don’t need no daddy no how.

Oh it’s trouble, trouble

Is all I ever find

Goin back – Johnson City

Ought to worry you off my mind.


Down in Nicaragua

As far as I could go

Are the darnedest bunch of soldiers that you
ever saw.

On the Tennessee River

Down below the lock and dam.

I been lookin’ for my good gal

Thinkin’ she might be Miss Brown.


Down in Johnson City

For hospitality

Are the finest bunch of people

in the State of Tennessee.

I’m tired – of roamin’ this way

Goin back – Johnson City

I’ll go back and stay some day.

John Miller Teaches Johnson City Blues
Johnson City Blues
John Miller Teaches the
Clarence Greene Song

Clarence Greene - 1915
Clarence Greene - 1915
Greene Brothers String Band
Western Union Telegram - 1929
Explanation of Photos
Byrd Moore's Hot Shots - Johnson City, TN 1929

Byrd Moore's Hot Shots: 1929
Byrd Moore, Clarence Greene,
& Clarence "Tom" Ashley

Careless Love**
Three Men Went A Hunting**
Frankie Silvers**

** From the Johnson City Sessions

Clarence Greene - 1940
Clarence Greene - 1940
Newport, TN 1910
Newport, Tennessee - 1910
Johnson City Blues - 2009
Great Cover Version from Sweden
Notice: Bear Family Records is searching for original recordings from the Johnson City Sessions in order to digitally master a box set from the Sessions. Read the Johnson City Press article detailing this effort.

Clarence Horton Greene was born in 1894 and died in 1961. A native of North Carolina, Greene had a long and distinguished musical career playing primarily fiddle and guitar from 1915 - 1955. Clarence Greene recorded for the Columbia, Victor, and Okeh record labels.

According to Greene's son, Clarence Greene had heard a ragtime type tune titled Chattanooga Blues recorded by the Allen Brothers in 1927 and Clarence was in Atlanta at the time of the Allen recording. The tune actually originated with blues singer Ida Cox, who recorded the song for Paramount in 1923 and Greene's version is much closer in style to Ida Cox who was accompanied by a piano. Webpage on the Chattanooga Blues.

In 1928, when Frank Buckley Walker auditioned and recorded Appalachian talent for Columbia Records in Johnson City, Tennessee, Clarence Greene, who performed Chattanooga Blues in his repertoire, adapted the Allen Brothers/Ida Cox tune to the lyrics above as "Johnson City Blues." In the recording for Columbia, Greene performs only with his guitar in a style reminiscent of Delta Blues. In 1938 another North Carolina recording artist, J. E. Mainer and His Mountaineers, recorded a tune for Bluebird Records titled Back to Johnson City that is virtually identical Greene's arrangement of Johnson City Blues.

The Columbia recordings by Frank Buckley Walker became known as The Johnson City Sessions and in addition to Clarence Greene featured top performers Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman and Clarence "Tom" Ashley. Ashley's recording of the Coo Coo Bird (from the 1929 Johnson City Columbia Sessions) is considered a clawhammer banjo classic. Ashley (1895 - 1967) was the last surviving star of the Johnson City Sessions, and was still performing at folk festivals and international tours with his friend Doc Watson shortly before his death. On June 6, 2008, Johnson City celebrated Doc Watson Day, honoring Doc for his lifetime achievements as part of the annual Blue Plum Festival.

According to Greene's protege and travel companion, Walter Davis, Greene and Davis learned blues guitar from the legendary bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson, (October 26, 1894 -- December 1929)
who lived for a time in Johnson City, Tennessee performing as a street musician in the town's hotel/railroad district. Both Davis and Greene also performed as "street musicians" in cities in both eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Walter Davis was playing banjo on the streets of Newport, Tennessee and other area towns as a small boy.

The audio interviews below of Walter Davis (interviewed by Wayne Erbsen) offer tremendous insight into the 1920 - 1940 era of old-time music and entertainment in the mountainous sections of North Carolina and Tennessee. The musical selections show the "melting pot" influences between the songs and styles of Lemon Jefferson, Clarence Greene and Walter Davis, and on through Doc Watson. Listen to this BBC interview with Doc Watson which discusses the British influence on old-time American music via the original Scotch-Irish settlers (interview conducted by music/folklorist A.L. Lloyd).

Note: The search for authentic information on Clarence Horton Greene was elusive. Columbia Records attributed the recording of Johnson City Blues to Clarence "Green." Music historian Wayne Erbsen enabled the research team to contact Clarence Greene's son (Clarence Howard Greene) to set the record straight on his father's outstanding music career and the proper spelling of the family name.



This page is dedicated to Clarence Howard Greene (1946 - 2009)

Music and Audio

Blind Lemon Jefferson: Southern Woman Blues - 1929

Clarence Greene: Johnson City Blues- 1928**

Mainer's Mountaineers: Back to Johnson City - 1938

Walter Davis: Graveyard Blues - 1983

Walter Davis: Crooked Creek Blues - 1983

Walter Davis: Crooked Creek Blues (Banjo Version) - 1980

Audio Interview of Walter Davis by Wayne Erbsen - 1978

Audio Interview 2 of Walter Davis by Wayne Erbsen - 1978

Audio Interview 3 of Walter Davis by Wayne Erbsen - 1978

Audio Interview 4 of Walter Davis by Wayne Erbsen - 1978

Bill and Belle Reed: Old Lady and the Devil - 1928**

Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman: Moonshiner and His Money - 1928**

Clarence "Tom" Ashley: Coo Coo Bird - 1929**

Doc Watson Discusses and Plays the Coo Coo Bird

Tennessee Stud by Doc Watson

Coo Coo Bird Lyrics

Coo Coo Bird: Cover from British Columbia

Mike Seeger Version of Johnson City Blues - 1962

John Miller Teaches "Johnson City Blues"

Wayne Erbsen MySpace Music

The Death of Blind Lemon Jefferson

** From the Johnson City Sessions


Recordings are for Educational Purposes Only

Sources: Digital Library of Appalachia, Archives of Appalachia,
Internet Archive, Wayne Erbsen and Clarence Greene Interviews