From the March/April 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Adam Perlmutter

Download this arrangement of “Stealin’” here.

In the 1960s, many folk, blues, and rock musicians helped introduce old and sometimes forgotten gems to youthful audiences. A good case in point is “Stealin’ Stealin’,” which was first recorded by the New Orleans jazz musician Clarence Williams in 1921 and which saw a definitive version in a 1928 recording by the Memphis Jug Band. “Stealin’,” as it’s alternatively titled, became a folk/pop standard through interpretations by the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and others. 


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Like many folk and pop songs, “Stealin’” is built from the I, IV, and V chords—C, F, and G5, respectively, in this arrangement’s key of C major—with the vi chord (Am7) also thrown in. This notation conveys what singer-songwriter Maurice Tani plays in the accompanying video on AG’s website. (Note that Tani’s vocal line is somewhat simplified in the notation, to make it more playable for guitarists of all abilities.)

In his accompaniment, Tani demonstrates an important but often overlooked concept: when strumming cowboy chords, you don’t need to play notes on all of the strings. For instance, Tani omits the first string on all four chords, and this discourages sonic clutter. He also uses efficient fingerings, which make it easier to switch between chords—in bars 13 and 18, he plays the Am7 chord simply by removing his third finger from the C chord shape. 

As for the picking hand, Tani plays a basic boom-chuck pattern, with the occasional walk-up, shown below. Note that for the C chord, you’ll need to move your third finger between the third fret on strings 5 and 6. Also, be sure to maintain a loose and relaxed strum throughout, for a kind of swinging feel. 

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.