Beaumont Rag

This swingy flatpicking standard is named for Beaumont, Texas and although the exact origin of the tune may not be known, it's safe to say that it started as a fiddle tune in those parts. According to the folks at

The "Beaumont Rag," has been recorded by country music fiddlers more often than any other ragtime tune. It has been recorded and performed under other titles, i. e., "White River Stomp," " Bob Mitchell," and "Possum Rag." The origin of the tune is uncertain. However, it was suggested by Mr. Walter Mears, of Alvarado, that Samuel Peacock, the fiddler in Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band may have been the composer.

Smith's Garage Band recorded Beaumont in 1928 and around the same time it was waxed by the East Texas Serenaders, (seen to the right). Here's a taste of how Smith's Garage Band did it back in the day:


Audio Clip: Smith's Garage Fiddle Band on Beaumont Rag

The most enduring of all the Texas fiddlers of that era — The King of Western Swing, Bob Wills — recorded Beaumont Rag in 1938 and it stayed in his repertoire for decades. As is the case in Wills' treatment, the tune is often stated in a relatively straightforward manner on the first pass but then becomes a vehicle for very free improvisation. Here's a clip from Wills and His Texas Playboys:

Audio Clip: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys on Beaumont Rag


Most folks credit — who else? — Artel "Doc" Watson with introducing this tune into the flatpicker's repertoire. He has recorded it several times over the years, including his 1965 Doc Watson and Son (Vanguard). It is also among the numbers included on his terrific Doc and Dawg collaboration with David Grisman. There, it appears as part of a fiddle tune medley and it's not Doc, but his longtime accompanist Jack Lawrence who gets to stretch out on the lead. Here's a clip from that performance:

Audio Clip: Jack Lawrence on Beaumont Rag (from Doc and Dawg, Acoustic Disc)

Doc performed Beaumont Rag live at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 with another flatpicker whose treatment of the tune has influenced guitarists ever since, Clarence White. One of the best-known of those he influenced is a master flatpicker in his own right, Tony Rice. Here's a taste of Tony's treatment of Beaumont, echoing Clarence:

Audio Clip: Tony Rice on Beaumont Rag (from California Autumn)


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