top of page
mountain background only.png

Tune History

Knoxville Old Time logo

The Stories Behind Your Favorite Tunes


Green River March

Roane County Ramblers

An important (and fun) part of appreciating Old Time music is learning where the songs and tunes come from. When there is an East Tennessee connection, it’s even better! Roane County Ramblers, led by Jimmy McCarroll (1892-1985), formed in the late 1920’s and recorded for Columbia Records in 1928-29. Jimmy lived on a farm near Oak Ridge and claimed Cherokee ancestry. Their 1928-29 recordings for Columbia were made in Johnson City and Atlanta because the Ramblers declined to travel to New York.

One of their more popular tunes was Green River March. Jimmy said he got it from his grandmother, and family lore has it that the tune originated on the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Green River is located in the southwestern corner of Middle Tennessee along the Alabama line. The Bell Route of the Cherokee Trail Of Tears forced relocation to Oklahoma (1837-38) would have crossed the Green River near Waynesboro, TN.

For lots more on Roane County Ramblers, please visit their profile on the MUSIC page.

The original 78 rpm recording sounds like it is the key of F. There is a transcription in D by John Hartford from the playing of East Tennessee fiddler Charlie Acuff, who told Hartford he learned it from the recording. Charlie McCarroll (1935-2020, the youngest son of Jimmy) also played it in the key of D. Tom and Tammie McCarroll also play it in D. (see videos below) The mp3 file below from Costa Campbell Lloyd and Cline is in the key of C.

Speaking of pitch and tuning, you may know that we tune our instruments to A=440hz. Do you know why? Did you know that there was no internationally recognized pitch “standard” until 1955 - and even that was not formalized until 1975?  A cynical person might say that it is possible that banjo players have long known about, and continue to exploit this confusion.

Green River March 1929

Roane County Ramblers

Tom McCarroll & Tammie McCarroll - Burroughs play Green River March and talk about its history.

Recorded at the Laurel Theater's 44th annual Jubilee Festival in 2013

Green River March

Charlie McCarroll and Tony Thomas 2013

Green River MarchCosta Campbell Lloyd & Cline
00:00 / 03:12
bottom of page