Guitar lesson for

Tennessee Flat Top Box

by Johnny Cash

Video lesson

My cover / playthrough:

My full lesson explaining everything:

Capo to play along with Johnny Cash

If you want to play along with Johnny Cash’s version, use the chords I show you with a capo on the 3rd fret. I’m choosing not to play with a capo to keep things simple and accessible.

Chords needed

These are the chords you’ll need for the verse:

e –––3––––2––––
B –––0––––1––––
G –––0––––2––––
D –––0––––0––––
A –––2–––––––––
E –––3–––––––––
     G    D7

Intro riff

This is what’s heard in the opening measures of the song:

E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G –––––––––3/4––4–4–––––––––––3/4––4–4–––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––2–3–4––4/5––5–5––0––0–0–––4/5––5–5––0––0–0–––/5––3––2––0–––
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

E –––––0–––––––––       ––––3––––––––––––
B –––––1–––––––––       ––––0––––––––––––
G –––––0–––––––––  -->  ––––0––––––––––––   ...repeat this
D –––––2–––––––––       ––––0––2–0––2–0––      G four times
A ––3––––––2––0––       ––––2––––––––––––
E –––––––––––––––       ––3––––––––––––––
    C                     G

Interlude riff

This one is very similar to the intro riff, the only difference being how it begins. Note that they both end the same.

Play through these two sections twice:

E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–0–––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––2––3––2––0–––
A –––––0––2––3–––––0––2––3–––––0––2––3–––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––3–––––––––––3–––––––––––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––3/4––4–4––––––––––––3/4––4–4–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––4/5––5–5––0––0–0––––4/5––5–5––0––0–0––––/5––3––2––0––––––
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––3–––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Then, play this to end it and transition into the next verse:

E –––––0–––––––––       ––––3––––––––––––
B –––––1–––––––––       ––––0––––––––––––
G –––––0–––––––––  -->  ––––0––––––––––––   ...repeat this
D –––––2–––––––––       ––––0––2–0––2–0––      G four times
A ––3––––––2––0––       ––––2––––––––––––
E –––––––––––––––       ––3––––––––––––––
    C                     G

Lyrics w/ chords

VERSE 1

         G                               D7
    In a little cabaret in a South Texas border town
          D7                                           G
    Sat a boy and his guitar, and the people came from miles around
        G                              D7
    And all the girls... from there to Austin
         D7                                             G
    Were slipping away from home and putting jewelry in hock
                G                 D7
    To take the trip... to go and listen
           D7                                                       G
    To the little dark-haired boy who played the Tennessee flat top box
       (start riff)
    And he would play...

VERSE 2

             G                                               D7
    Well, he couldn't ride or wrangle, and he never cared to make a dime
        D7                                     G
    But give him his guitar, and he'd be happy all the time
        G                             D7
    And all the girls... from nine to ninety
         D7                                                    G
    Were snapping fingers, tapping toes, and begging him don't stop
             G                 D7
    And hypnotized... and fascinated
           D7                                                       G
    By the little dark-haired boy who played the Tennessee flat top box
       (start riff)
    And he would play...

VERSE 3

         G                                    D7
    Then one day he was gone, and no one ever saw him 'round
         D7                                               G
    He'd vanished like the breeze, they forgot him in the little town
        G                               D7
    But all the girls... still dreamed about him
        D7                                           G
    And hung around the cabaret until the doors were locked
                 G                    D7
    And then one day... on the Hit Parade
          D7                                                       G
    Was a little dark-haired boy who played the Tennessee flat top box
       (start riff)
    And he would play...

Good luck!

Let me know if you have questions. I hope this was helpful. Be sure to check out my other Johnny Cash lessons, I have a bunch!

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