Jethro Burns Mandolin Lesson Tapes

The closest you'll ever get to a private lesson with Jethro.

The celebrated comedian and mandolin virtuoso Kenneth "Jethro" Burns passed away in 1989, but mandolinists can still learn from him through his recordings and instructional materials. Jim Nikora and Mike O'Connell are two players who took private lessons from Jethro, and it's lucky for us they brought their tape recorders along with them. They've graciously agreed to share these amazing recordings with us, and I am happy to provide them here as free MP3 downloads.

Mike O’Connell’s Lessons.

New! Added February 4, 2011

I'm pleased to announce the availability of this previously private treasure trove of Jethro instruction. I was contacted recently by Jim Nikora and asked if I would be willing to host these lessons. Of course I would! Here they are, with this introduction from Jim:

From Jim Nikora: Over the years, I have been incredibly fortunate to study with great mentors in several fields, including music, shoe making, and business. Almost all have taught me as much or more about life than about their skills and have left their indelible mark on me, artistically, professionally and personally. Certainly, Jethro was one of those great mentors. Several years ago, I lent the tapes of my lessons with Jethro to Mike Stangeland. I thought he might copy them and learn from them but he asked me if he could make them available to all mandolin players via the Internet. We both thought it was a great idea and, thanks to him, it became a reality and thanks to Rob Coleman for hosting it.

A couple years ago I asked Mike O'Connell of Chicago, a great player in his own right and a 1980 student of Jethro, if he would consider making his tapes available. He thought it was a great idea and I offered to edit and digitize them. Thanks, Mike for sharing these incredible tapes. Once again, Rob has generously offered to host them and make them available for download. When they were made, Jethro had more teaching experience and Mike had a better sense of what and how much to record than I did. These are amazing!

Mike O’Connell’s Lessons— Disc 1.
Download complete Disc 1 (.zip, 55MB)
1 Pinky Exercise 1.42MB
2 Diminished Exercise 808KB
3 All Purpose Scale in C 1000KB
4 Sweet Georgia Brown 2.12MB
5 Sweet Georgia Brown Ending 3.30MB
6 Four Finger Exercise 2.90MB
7 Little Maggie 1.31MB
8 Little Maggie Licks 1.14MB
9 Good Scale Arpeggio 1.46MB
10 This is a Great Mandolin 439KB
11 Tennessee Rag (slow) 930KB
12 Tennessee Rag (to speed) 501KB
13 Exercise in G 1023KB
14 Sailor's Hornpipe in A 2.24MB
15 Rocky Top in D 4.79MB
16 Dixie in A 1.30MB
17 Bile Them Cabbage Down 1.79MB
18 Slipped Disk 449KB
19 Slipped Disk Chords 981KB
20 Flop Eared Mule 798KB
21 Flop Eared Mule Chords 691KB
22 Chromatic G Progression 1.32MB
23 Chromatic C Progression 751KB
24 Please Release Me in C 715KB
25 June Apple 1.09MB
26 Junqueyard 1.34MB
27 Junqueyard Chords 1.34MB
28 Salty Dog Chords 725KB
29 Barber Shop Rag 1.82MB
30 Dill Pickle Rag 1.58MB
31 McKinley Blues in D 1.16MB
32 McKinley Blues in D 3.09MB
33 McKinley Blues Jam 1.68MB
34 Cattle in the Corn 1.61MB
35 Little Rock Getaway in C 1.81MB
36 Little Rock Getaway Chords 1.08MB
37 Little Rock Getaway Chords 2.03MB
38 Over the Rainbow 1.69MB
Mike O’Connell’s Lessons— Disc 2.
Download complete Disc 2 (.zip, 62MB)
1 Durham's Reel 1.49MB
2 Florida Blues 1.74MB
3 Devil's Dream 1.26MB
4 Devil's Dream Licks 1009KB
5 Super Licks 535KB
6 Sam's Bush 1.05MB
7 Take the A Train 1.80MB
8 Sweet Georgia Brown 2.21MB
9 Take the A Train Chords 1.26MB
10 Take the A Train Turnaround 635KB
11 Take the A Train Licks 1.20MB
12 A Smooth One 1.39MB
13 ? 2.44MB
14 Over the Rainbow 1.53MB
15 Over the Rainbow Chords 2.14MB
16 Darktown Strutter's Ball 1.12MB
17 Heartaches 1.70MB
18 Exercise Tune in G 1.28MB
19 Jethro's Tune 576KB
20 Fickle Fingers 711KB
21 Heartaches Chords 1.46MB
22 East Tennessee Blues 2.08MB
23 Lady Be Good 2.07MB
24 Rip Off (Slow) 1.20MB
25 Rip Off (to speed) 1.10MB
26 Back Up and Push 1.82MB
27 Back Up and Bush 1.33MB
28 Djangology 1.77MB
29 Djangology Chords 982KB
30 Dinette 1.58MB
31 Dinette Chords 2.09MB
32 Minor Swing 1.88MB
33 Minor Swing 1.51MB
34 Jitterbug Waltz 1.60MB
35 Cumina 2.12MB
36 Cumina Chords 1.69MB
37 Jitterbug Waltz Chords 1.22MB
38 Once in a While 1.22MB
39 Once in a While Bridge 576KB
40 Once in a While Chords 2.15MB
41 Stumbling Chords Guitar 2.55MB
42 Stumbling 1.44MB
Mike O’Connell’s Lessons— Disc 3.
Download complete Disc 3 (.zip, 54MB)
1 Moonglow in G 2.02MB
2 Swing 42 2.73MB
3 Swing 42 Chords 1.31MB
4 Once in a While 1.86MB
5 Tea for Two in Ab 2.41MB
6 Avalon 2.01MB
7 Avalon Chords 3.37MB
8 Tennessee Rag 1.93MB
9 Sabrosa 1.45MB
10 Sabrosa Chords 1.82MB
11 Someone to Watch Over Me 2.97MB
12 Tears 5.82MB
13 Tears 1.68MB
14 In the Mood 1.50MB
15 Swing 39 5.12MB
16 Tickle Toe 2.90MB
17 Maiden's Prayer 2.58MB
18 Fascinating Rhythm 2.03MB
19 ? 5.32MB
20 Maple Leaf Rag 2.26MB
21 In a Little Spanish Town 1.80MB

Jim Nikora’s Lessons.

Jim Nikora took private lessons from Jethro in the 1970s and faithfully taped the lessons, thus preserving a lot of valuable learning material. Mike Stangeland took the time to digitize several hours of these recordings, and I'm happy to provide them here as free downloads.

Jim recorded Jethro playing 120 or so of his arrangements and exercises at a moderate to slow pace which make them much easier to transcribe. You can hear every note clearly, as Jim's recordings are excellent. This material is priceless.

Courtesy of Rick Jones, here are printable jewel case inserts in PDF format (274KB). Requires Free Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Jim Nikora’s Lessons— Disc 1.
Download complete Disc 1 (.zip, 43MB)
1 Scale exercises 426KB
2 Chords riffs 878KB
3 The Great Rip-off 992KB
4 Jethro's Tune 1.74MB
5 Warmup Thing 1.51MB
6 C & Bb Endings 976KB
7 Exercises 1 547KB
8 Ab arpeggio 209KB
9 Exercise 2 579KB
10 Flickin' My Pick 2.03MB
11 Take The A Train 949KB
12 Take The A Train variations 948KB
13 Whole Tone Exercise 834KB
14 Satin Doll 1.42MB
15 Sophisticated lady 1.87MB
16 Sugarfoot Rag 1.05MB
17 Slipped Disk 1.11MB
18 Fiddler on the Roof 1.14MB
19 Double stop exercise 916KB
20 Sweet Georgia Brown 1.79MB
21 G lick 683KB
22 Right-hand exercise 564KB
23 Jethro's Polka 707KB
24 Chromatic exercise 926KB
25 Sailor's Hornpipe in A and Bb 1.23MB
26 Bill Cheatum in A & G 1.20MB
27 Salt Creek .99MB
28 lick exercise 818KB
29 Exercise 5 385KB
30 Exercise 6 844KB
31 I Can't Give You Anything But Love 1.86MB
32 Maiden's Prayer 1.39MB
33 How High the Moon 1.13MB
34 The Shadow of Your Smile 685KB
35 I Got Rhythm 1.00MB
36 I Got Rhythm 2 774KB
37 Here's That Rainy Day 2.61MB
38 El Cumbanchero 1.77MB
39 Prelude to a Kiss 1.67MB
40 Liza 1.30MB
Jim Nikora’s Lessons— Disc 2.
Download complete Disc 2 (.zip, 42MB)
1 Liza 838KB
2 Mood Indigo 2.04MB
3 Mood Indigo slow 1.46MB
4 Liza 557KB
5 Liza 747KB
6 Honeysuckle Rose 716KB
7 Sears and Roebuck bridge 580KB
8 Sears and Roebuck bridge variation 2.03MB
9 Five Foot Two 422KB
10 Sweet Georgia Brown 1.31MB
11 Weird F tag 991KB
12 Josephine 2.07MB
13 C diminished exercise 507KB
14 Tea for Two 2.04MB
15 Watch What Happens 2.19MB
16 So What's New 1.27MB
17 It Might As Well Be Spring 3.40MB
18 It ain't Got a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing 1.62MB
19 All the Things You are 1.47MB
20 Got the World on a String 2.37MB
21 Girl From Ipanema 2.73MB
22 Back Home in Indiana 1.13MB
23 Tenderly 2.42MB
24 G exercise 435KB
25 Sailor's Hornpipe Chord solo 1.07MB
26 Got the World on a String 1.16MB
27 Chitlins 898KB
28 Unnamed 289KB
29 ? 1.17MB
30 ? 1.21MB
31 Down Yonder Chord solo A 835KB
32 Sweet Georgia Brown 734KB
33 Sweet Georgia brown slow chord solo 1.34MB
34 Blues in C 717KB
Jim Nikora’s Lessons— Disc 3.
Download complete Disc 3 (.zip, 43MB)
1 It Might As Well be Spring 1.87MB
2 Misty 2.99MB
3 Sunny 1.84MB
4 C Jam Blues 1.25MB
5 St Louis Blues 2.87MB
6 It Don't Mean A Thing 1.28MB
7 Fly me To The Moon 1.18MB
8 G Arpeggio 668KB
9 Blues in C 1.47MB
10 Blues in C 1.33MB
11 A Closer walk With Thee 996KB
12 Whispering 2.29MB
13 Charmaine 1.33MB
14 Cherokee 1.78MB
15 Avalon 1.61MB
16 Pennies From Heaven 2.18MB
17 The Lady is a Tramp 1.56MB
18 Beaumont Rag 1.13MB
19 Lady Is A Tramp (bridge) 860KB
20 Pennies From Heaven 1.29MB
21 Sweet Georgia Brown 1.25MB
22 Exercises in G and B 508KB
23 The Lady is a Tramp 1.14MB
24 Jitterbug Waltz 2.48MB
25 Exercise 477KB
26 Little Rock Getaway 1.57MB
27 Tico Tico 1.22MB
28 Tico Tico 574KB
29 Tico Tico 856KB
30 Twilight Time 1.86MB
Jim Nikora’s Lessons— Disc 4.
Download complete Disc 4 (.zip, 43MB)
1 Sentimental Journey 1.84MB
2 Pick Yourself Up 948KB
3 Harbor Lights 1.68MB
4 Mack The Knife 1.15MB
5 Sunny Side of the Street 1.03MB
6 My Funny Valentine 844KB
7 My Blue Heaven 1.19MB
8 The South 950KB
9 Georgia on My Mind 1.18MB
10 Dinah 705KB
11 Just One Of Those Things 2.00MB
12 Up a Lazy River 1.53MB
13 Smoke Gets in Your Eyes 2.26MB
14 Wagon Wheels 969KB
15 El Cumbanchero 2.14MB
16 Kuminah 1.17MB
17 Let's Do It 1.18MB
18 Crazy Rhythm 1.27MB
19 Three Little Words 1.20MB
20 Jitterbug Waltz 1.30MB
21 Gravy Waltz 981KB
22 Sunny Side of the Street 1.10MB
23 Sunny Side of the Street slow 1.35MB
24 Sunny Side of the Street slow 510KB
25 Sunrise Serenade 1.08MB
26 Black Mountain Rag 1.02MB
27 Little Red Wing 1.39MB
28 Ain't Misbehavin' 1.26MB
29 Strike Up The band 1.15MB
30 Sweet Lorraine 2.04MB
31 Summertime 2.01MB
32 Star Dust 2.43MB
33 Basin Street Blues 1.18MB