Guitar lesson for
Tennessee Flat Top Box
by Johnny Cash • Lesson #145
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In this video I’ll teach you how to play “Tennessee Flat Top Box” by Johnny Cash, including a tutorial for the intro tab, the chords needed, strumming patterns used, and more! This is one of the funnest Cash songs to play, in my opinion – it combines simple verse chords & strumming with a complicated (but approachable) riff heard in the intro and interlude. Enjoy! Make sure you put a capo on 3 if you want to play along with Cash’s album version.
- 0:00 Lesson preview & greeting
- 1:23 Capo or no capo?
- 1:57 Verse chords
- 2:45 Verse strumming
- 3:45 Verse lyrics & chord changes
- 4:36 Main riff, part 1 of 2
- 7:32 Main riff, part 2 of 2
- 11:01 Riff extras: how to transition back to verse
- 14:36 Riff extras: how its played in song’s intro
- 16:10 Full song playthrough
My full play-along cover
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.
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
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
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...
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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