Molly Tuttle plays Whiskey Before Breakfast

Here’s a fiddle tune called Whiskey Before Breakfast performed  by Molly Tuttle- written by Canadian fiddler and composer Andy de Jarlis and made popular on the guitar by Norman Blake.

Although Whiskey Before Breakfast is a fairly strait ahead standard tune, Molly Tuttle performs this song with some interesting melodic lines and floaters.

Floaters… what’s that you may ask?

Well, it’s that sound of the strings ringing all together- and a technique that was started on the bluegrass acoustic guitar by New Jersey guitar legend Mike Scap. In fact, it is said that Tony Rice first learned of floaters from a jam session with Mike, and later incorporated some lines into his own playing.

Now this technique is fairly standard in classical guitar and the technique dates back a very long time ago. Even Chet Atkins used these floaters in his guitar arrangements. But the difference here is doing it with a flatpick, which is much more difficult than fingerstyle floaters.

Okay, I realize I still did not explain what a floater is so, here’s the technical part: When you are playing a run, scale or melody, you use every available open note and try not to play the same string twice in a row for a progression. So in Molly’s case, when she plays a descending line in this song, she will start with a formation up the neck, and use the E string (keep in mind she has a capo on) which is now an F#, and will use that open note and grab the E on the second string up the neck which creates a ringing harp like sound on the guitar. The difficulty comes with the right hand as this creates an odd picking pattern that’s dependent on what notes you are going for. I’m specifically talking about the picking direction, as it’s not just down up down. Now you may be asking how I know all of this.. Well, let’s just say that an album I did back in 1977 had nothing other than floaters, and for entire bluegrass songs. Back then, it was unheard of and through ignorance, it was the only way I knew how to play the guitar. I’ll share some more info on my floaters at another time.. so let’s get back to Molly.

I was able to find a good biography on Molly Tuttle (yes, she is the daughter of Jack Tuttle) on her website.

“With nearly two million viewers on YouTube and features in Bluegrass Now, Flatpicking Guitar and Acoustic Guitar magazines, Molly Tuttle is making a name for herself in the acoustic music scene. A virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and award winning songwriter with a distinctive voice, Molly has turned the heads of even the most seasoned industry professionals.

Growing up in a musical family, Molly has always been steeped in the bluegrass tradition. Through writing songs she has crafted her own sound that is unique and contemporary, but draws from bluegrass and folk influences. In recent years she has been awarded the Hazel Dickens Memorial Scholarship award from the Foundation for Bluegrass Music in Nashville, Best Female Vocalist and Best Guitar Player by the Northern California Bluegrass Society, music and composition Merit Scholarships to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and 1st place in the prestigious Merlefest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Competition.” read more and visit Molly’s website here


By Bob Harris