Chords form an folk song "Poor Old Slave"

Hey Justin Community.
I am trying to find the guitar sheet music, tabular and strumming for this folk song that my Mom would sing to us as children, her grand and great grand children. The closest version of the verses she sang are from this YouTube video of Gary Clawson -

Any help in finding, getting the sheet music with chords or tabular would be great help to play the song for her at the next family reunion at end of July.


Hi Patrick, welcome to the community. A quick Google search will provide many options for you.

My google searching has not been successful in finding the information about the chords, sheet music or tabs for this song sung by Gary Clawson.

Ah, apologies, I jumped to the conclusion that because it is an old “traditional” song, that the basic structure would be the same for various versions. My bad!

Try this Warren.

Some AI tools used had trouble locating much. The Library of Congress may be a good place to dig. Not sure if you’re going to find guitar specific stuff though. Hopefully whats below may help somewhat

Cheers, Shane


Hello Patrick.
Welcome to the JustinGuitar Community.

It is a simple three chord accompaniment.
The song you linked is played in the key of E.
Chords used are E, A and B7.
Those chords are the I (tonic chord), the IV and the V7.
That means you could play it in any key using I, IV and V7 chords.
For example:
C, F, G7
A, D, E7
G, C, D7.

The time signature changed from 3/4 for most of the song to 2/4 at the end.
The playing style is to pick the root note of the chord then to make two down strums on the chord. The count changes when it shifts to 2/4 and the pick-strum alternates one-for-one playing 8ths.
The tempo also shifts. I have put two suggested bpm measures on my TAB which are a guide and not the entire story.

I hope that helps.


Thank you for you input. I did find that version at “The Library of Congress”. Come find out the camp song that my mother sang is the chorus of the song authored by , "G.W.H. Griffin (1829-1879), and the curious epigraph: “Respectfully dedicated to the celebrated tenor S. B. Ball, Esq. of the Ordway Aeolian Harpists.”
1 - URL for FaceBook location: Lawrence Bechtel Books


Yes and Yes, thank you so much for the explanation of the Key, Cords and timing and for the Tab sheet. I am still in the beginner to almost comfortable stage of playing the guitar. Now I can practice the song for the family reunion. You made my day a bright one.



Having @Richard_close2u on these forums is such a huge part of what makes this site great.

To go to the effort of listening and transcribing a tab for the poster is above and beyond what most other guitar sites would have done.

Thanks Richard (and to all the over mods) for all that you do.


That’s very kind. thank you.