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We will be adding more tablature arrangements regularly... please visit again.


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Carry Me Back to Old Virginny

Words & Music: James A. Bland
Arr: Merv Rowley 2011

The black-faced minstrel shows were still a popular form of entertainment when James A. Bland, a Negro, wrote this song before the age of twenty. His story is remarkable. He was born in Flushing, NY in 1854, and learned to play the banjo while still a boy. His parents were persons of some means, and his father was a college graduate. The family moved to Washington, D.C. while James was still a youngster, and he found work as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives, with Ulysses S. Grant as President.

Bland attended and graduated from Howard University, in the District of Columbia. While there, he had developed a keen interest in the entertainment profession, especially minstrel shows. After graduation, he had difficulty in finding employment, because the management of minstrel shows was dominated by whites. He therefore formed his own troupe of Negro minstrels and traveled abroad, primarily in England, where he enjoyed a successful career. His musical composition, Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, uncopyrighted, was donated to his profession. He wrote over 700 folk songs. Other popular songs by Bland were In the Evening By the Moonlight and Oh, Dem Golden Slippers. At the height of his career, his troupe gave a command performance before the royal family of England!

James Bland eventually returned to America, where he died in poverty in Philadelphia in 1911. Old Virginny was adopted as the State Song of Virginia in 1940. Many today think that this music was written by Stephen Foster.

About the Music:

Although composed in a diatonic scale, the music here is arranged in a 1-3-5 tuning, allowing the use of numerous color chords we hope you enjoy playing and hearing.

Your 1-3-5 Team


Download files: 

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.pdf

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.tef

Carry Me Back to Old Virginny.mid

Historical Links:



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If you do not have the Tabledit program, please click on the TablEdit banner to download a free .tef reader program.  It includes the ability to play this song at a slower speed (great for learning). TablEdit is a program for creating, editing, printing and listening to tablature and sheet music (standard notation) for fretted, stringed instruments.

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  Our PDF music files are produced from music created with Finale® notation software.


Our .MIDI music files are produced by TablEdit notation software.





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