Guitar lesson for

Honky Tonk Heroes

by Waylon Jennings  •  Lesson #94

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson I’ll show you how to play the song “Honky Tonk Heroes” by Waylon Jennings. This is a fantastic outlaw country song with plenty to chew on: a fun intro riff, a fun repeating verse progression, and an opportunity to kick everything into overdrive with the song picking up the tempo in the 2nd half. I’ll teach you the intro (with tabs), show the chords, talk about strumming, etc.

Chords needed

E –––2––––2––––3––––2––––0––––0––––2––––––
B –––3––––1––––0––––0––––3––––2––––3––––––
G –––2––––2––––0––––2––––1––––0––––2––––––
D –––0––––0––––0––––1––––2––––2––––4––––––
A –––––––––––––2––––2––––2––––0–––––––––––
E –––––––––––––3–––––––––0––––––––––––––––
     D    D7   G    B7   E7   A7   D/F#   

Intro tab

The following tab shows the foundation of this intro. This focuses on the main chords you need to hit, and also the transitional notes that walk up and down between each chords. Note, what I’m not showing is the more intricate filler notes you can play when you’re hanging out on each chord. Watch to my video lesson for specifics here – you can hear me playing notes that aren’t tabbed out, but again – these are filler, and can be played (or ignored) as per your desired skill level.

E ––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––
B ––––––––––––––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––
G ––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––
D –––––––––––0––0––––––––––––––––––0––––––––1–––––––––––
A ––0––2––4–––––––––––––––––––––––––––4––2––2–––––––––––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
                D                           B7

                                    "Low down leaving sun..."
E ––––––0–––––––0––––––––2––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––
B ––––––3–––––––2––––––––3––––––––––––––––––3–––––––––––
G ––––––1–––––––0––––––––2––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––
D ––2–––2–––––––2–––––0––0––––––––––0–2–3–4–4–––––––––––
A –––––(2)–––0––0–––––––––––––0–2–4–––––––––––––––––––––
E –––––(0)––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
        E7      A7       D                  D

If it isn’t clear or you need more help, note the intro uses this general timing per the main chord placement:

D                       B7
1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  

                                           "Low down leaving sun..."
E7          A7          D                       D/F#
1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  

That being said, here’s a few minor notes to help you nail this one:

  1. The first 3 notes, leading up to the first D chord, happen on the final “+ 4 +” of the preceding measure. That is, the “1” count of the next measure should be the open D (4th) string, as part of the “D” chord – which lasts for an entire measure.
  2. The final D chord is technically a D/F# – and the 6 notes that lead up to the F# note (4th fret on the D string) are triplets. What this means: they happen on the “3 + 4 + “ of the final measure, and each of these final two beats receives three evenly distributed notes. If this isn’t clear, see my video! This final measure is a bit tricky… especially since you start singing during this run of notes (align the lyric “down” with the first pluck of the 4th fret of the D string).

Verse chord progression

Very similar to the intro, you just play around a bit more on the D (adding a D7 and G) before moving to the B7 / E7 / A7 etc.

D  •  •  •  D  •  •  •  D7 •  •  •  G  •  •  •
G  •  •  •  D  •  B7 •  E7 •  •  •  A7 •  •  •

Verse strumming

Keep it simple to start with:

Down... down up, down... down up, down... down up, down...

Or written out with the counting:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
D   D U D   D U D   D U D   D U
>       >       >       >

For the second half of the song, Jennings picks up the tempo big time. At that point, you can adjust this if you want however you see fit.

Lyrics w/ chords

Low down leaving sun
D7                              G
Done, did everything that needs done
             D               B7
Woe is me... why can't I see...
    E7                            A7                
I'd best be leaving well enough alone

Them neon light nights, couldn't stay out of fights
D7                         G
Keep a-haunting me in memo---ries
                                      D               B7
Well, there's one in every crowd, for crying out loud...
E7                        A7
Why was it always turning out to be me?

Where does it go? The good Lord only knows
D7                               G
Seems like it was just the other day
                            D            B7
I was down at Green Gables, hawking them tables
    E7                       A7
And generally blowing all my hard earned pay

Piano rolled blues, danced holes in my shoes
      D7                           G
There weren't another other way to be
                    D          B7
For lovable losers, no account boozers
    E7         A7          D         
And honky tonk heroes like me.... hey hey

    (start heavier strumming)

    (for remaining verses, use same chords)

Where does it go? The good Lord only knows

Piano rolled blues, danced holes in my shoes

Where does it go? The good Lord only knows

Piano rolled blues, danced holes in my shoes

Good luck!

Thanks for reading! I hope this helped you. Questions? Comments? Requests? Let me know!

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