Tabs For “Next To Jimmy” Steel Guitar Solo
By David J. Stewart | September 2015 | Updated December 2018
Jerry Byrd (1920-2005) was a brilliant steel guitar artist who set the
standard for generations to come. Jerry invented the C6th tuning (Jerry
says it was at least 1938 on page 119 of his autobiography). He also
invented the C Diatonic tuning later on in 1952, which few steel guitar
enthusiasts are familiar with. Jerry didn't fully develop the tuning until
much later on, but he sure made some awesome recordings with it in the
1950's and 1960's. To show you what can be done with the Diatonic tuning,
check out this 1955 recording by Jerry Byrd titled, “Come
A Little Closer” (from his Hi-Fi Guitar album). Here's
some tabs for the song!
The Diatonic tuning is extremely simple to remember, just follow the alphabet for the bottom seven strings (from bass to treble: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, E). Using this very tuning (minus the bottom “D” note because Jerry's steel guitar only had 7-strings), he recording on the song, “Next To Jimmy” (here's the MP3) by Ferlin Husky, recorded in 1960. Wow! Great stuff!
I've made a humble attempt to tab out the solo for others to learn. I have no idea if this is all correct, but it's in the ballpark, and I think pretty close. I listened recently to the recording and realized that I tabbed it wrong originally in 2015. The fictional character Sherlock Holmes is famous for the quote, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” The only way that I've been able to imitate what Jerry did is to lower the F (6th string) to a D# instead. That's a whole tone drop. I've put an asterisk (*) sign by the chord below so you can see what I mean.
Also, I believe Jerry's playing through his old Volutone amplifier, which is more resemblant of a loudspeaker. You can hear the distortion in his speaker. I just cranked up the gain on my little Roland MobileCube amplifier to get a similar tone.
Jerry uses some great manipulation of the bar in this song on strings 1 and 2, which requires some quick hand skills and coordination. He's moving quickly at the beginning, which creates almost an illusion to the ears. Jerry mastered this technique better than anyone in my opinion. It's interesting how each steel guitar tuning feels different the way you create the chords and sounds. I think the C Diatonic has a pretty good feel to it, not as laidback as the C6th, but offers some great sounds if you master the techniques. Again, please be aware that I changed the standard Diatonic tuning, lowering string 6 from an F note to a D# for this particular song...
Isn't that beautiful?
Scotty's Music in St. Louis has some nice solo tablature arrangements by Jerry Byrd in his C Diatonic tuning, including the complete song, “Come A Little Closer.” According to my order list, Scotty's also has Estrellita, Danny Boy, Cold Cold Heart, Ebb Tide, Ame No Bojyo, Hana lei Moon, Honolulu Eyes, Serenade To Nalani, Mauna Kea and Invitation To Love, tabbed out in the C Diatonic tuning by Jerry.
What I like about the Diatonic tuning is that the chords are there, unlike the Bill Leavitt tuning where you have to work with less. I like the Leavitt Tuning, but it is more difficult to work with. Jerry has impeccable bar slanting skills, which when done accurately, quickly and with your amplifier cranked up, and a decent guitar (this sounds like Jerry's 7-string Rickenbacher), it will all sound GREAT. Don't be afraid to do quick reverse bar slants. In fact, you should get into the habit of doing them as a practice scale. Jerry Byrd masterfully glides through the scales, letting it all flow seamlessly. That's all he's doing, following the melodic scales. It's not magic, just plain ole hard work and persistence.
A helpful way to look at Jerry's Diatonic tuning is that it is a C6th tuning with an added 9th (D note) and 11th (F note). So you've really got a C11th tuning here. Really sweet too!
Let's use the chart above to see what chords we've got in the C Diatonic tuning. I won't tab out all the chords, because you can use the C6th chord tabs here. You got the C6th tuning below with the added 3rd and 6th string. So if you pretend that strings 3 and 6 aren't there, it the same as standard C6th. This is a really versatile tuning, if not the most...
The nice thing about standard C6th is that you can relax and just rake across all the strings; whereas with the C Diatonic you've got to work at it more (like the Bill Leavitt tuning), but you've got more to work with on the C Diatonic. It's a very beautiful and interesting tuning to say the least!
Although this is not a strum tuning like the F# minor 9th tuning, it does offer a very beautiful 9th chord as heard in the previous song “Come A Little Closer.” I tried to work out the solo for “Next To Jimmy” and it requires some excellent left hand maneuvering for much of the solo, but that's why Jerry was dubbed “The Master Of Touch And Tone” in the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. That's quite an honor, and Jerry earned it!
For the solo to “Next To Jimmy” you have to do several bar slants, which aren't too difficult once you become familiar with how the tuning works. Each tuning has a different “feel” to it, which once you are comfortable with, you'll begin to excel at the tuning. I understand the C6th well, so be viewing the C Diatonic tuning without strings 3 and 6, I see why Jerry did what he did to invent this tuning. It is really an expanded hybrid C6th. I think it's great!
The following helpful information is from Jerry's good friend, Ray Montee...
Below are Jerry's words regarding this song "Next to Jimmy" and his brilliant newfound diatonic tuning. This was posted on This Forum in 2001 by Jerry's brother, Jack Byrd. ...
Here is (in my humble opinion) Jerry Byrd's finest album which he recorded back in 1959. It is simply the most brilliant steel guitar playing I have ever heard. I want to particularly draw your attention to the song "Honolulu Eyes" which Jerry recorded using his amazing C Diatonic tuning!
Take someone to the islands today with your music!
John 20:31, “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”