The campground jam favorite “Beaumont Rag” most likely started life near the East Texas town of Beaumont that it was named after. Recorded in the late 1920s by Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band and the East Texas Serenaders and about a decade later by Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, the original fiddle rag was played in the key of F. It’s likely that the move to the key of C occurred when guitarist Doc Watson got a hold of it. Watson was playing the tune when he began touring the folk circuit in 1962 and his recording with Clarence White at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival cemented it as a guitar tune played in C (sometimes with a capo at the second fret), although some hardcore traditionalists still insist on the key of F. Should you run into any such humbugs, simply slap a capo on the fifth fret and proceed with a smile.
White further transformed the tune from its Texas fiddle roots and even renamed it “Julius Finkbine’s Rag,” and it appeared that way on the live Kentucky Colonels recordings circulating in the late ’60s and early ’70s. An amazing and influential performance of it can be heard on the Kentucky Colonels’ Livin’ in the Past.