Play the Classic Blues Tune "Way Out on the Desert"

by Steve James

For years before his death at age 92, in July of 1996, Roosevelt T. Williams (aka Grey Ghost) led a loose aggregation of musicians in Austin known as the Grey Ghost Orchestra. Even at an advanced age, Mr. Williams had formidable piano skills and could occupy the bandstand for hours spinning out blues, boogie, and jazz standards.

Way Out in the Desert EXCERPT
Click to enlarge tab.

Grey Ghost generally didn’t like to play in guitar-friendly keys like C or G (he called them “child chords”) and would even transpose songs usually played in those keys to B flat or F. One exception was his rocking stomp “Way Out on the Desert,” which he played in D.

Arranging piano blues for guitar presents some challenges. It’s hard to attain the wide tonal range of the keyboard without sacrificing drive, so it’s often expedient to pitch the higher and lower voices an octave closer together. “Way Out on the Desert” includes a series of bluesy phrases and seventh chords. The chords are struck against a striding alternating bass with ascending and descending figures in the lower voice.

Excerpted from Roots and Blues Fingerstyle Guitar

See more Explore the Blues articles.

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox

Join the Play the Classic Blues Tune "Way Out on the Desert" discussion