I Don't Love Nobody Part One

by Neil Rossi

Photo by Gary DiGiovanni

In 1965, I was attending Boston University where I met several good old-time and bluegrass players. We played string music all the time when we weren't in class, and eventually put together an old-time band to play at the many coffeehouses and colleges around New England.

We searched hard for a name that would have an appropriate generic geographic reference to some Valley, Hollow, Gap or Mountain like our bluegrass band idols, but would still have a humorous element. So we named ourselves The Spark Gap Wonder Boys (our guitar player, George Nelson, was a sports car mechanic, so he thought this was a great pun). In 1967 we drove for 20 hours straight to visit the Union Grove (N.C.) Old Fiddlers Convention. Upon registering, the old lady behind the desk said, "Oh, yes. Spark Gap. I have kin back there." I looked it up in an atlas later; there really was a Spark Gap. So much for subtle city humor.

We went back to Union Grove several more times - it got rowdier each year as the motorcycle gangs decided it was a great place to party - up till 1970 when we won the World Championship Old-Time Band title. The tune we played that year was I Ain't Got Nobody, an old jazz tune also played by many string bands. I recall being so fatigued after four days of driving and picking without much sleep that, after we played our tune in the competition, I stumbled back to my tent to collapse into an exhausted sleep. I was so tired that I couldn't tell if it was a dream when I heard way off in the distance a voice screaming, "We won! We won!" Moments later, there were hands shaking the tent violently and a voice shouting, "How can you be sleeping, Neil? We won!"

I Ain't Got Nobody is a catchy C tune that works either in old-time or in bluegrass. When I learned this back in

the `60's, I had heard several versions of this ranging from swing to bluegrass, but I wasn't a good enough player then that I could copy them so I found some sounds that worked well at my skill level. This arrangement sounds harder than it really is. The whole tune can be played out of first position, but the setting makes frequent use of open strings as "filler" notes to make it sound complex. Play it slowly at first until the finger changes feel comfortable. Normal tempo is around 205, but choose what works for you. I've also heard this done beautifully as a slow piece, more like a march tempo.

You'll need your pinky for this, especially in the variation. See measure 18 towards the end of the A part; the high B is done with the pinky, as is the high B in measure 24 of the B part.

Next time, my variation of the A section.
     Neil Rossi

Neil Rossi, primarily a fiddle and mandolin player, also plays banjo, guitar and bass. He has been involved with old-time and bluegrass music for over 40 years as a performer and teacher. He has worked with a number of bands over the years, including the Spark Gap Wonder Boys and the David Bromberg Band. He lives in Vermont and currently plays mandolin with Big Spike Bluegrass.

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