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Railroad Bill

Lesson 5 – Hybrid Picking Rhythm Course
Lesson ID: A0140

“Railroad Bill” is an old traditional song based on a legend about a man in south Alabama during the post-Civil War era known as Railroad Bill. Sources suggest that Railroad Bill was a “Robin Hood” type of character that would steal from food trains and sell items to poor families at below market prices. As legend has it, Railroad Bill’s ghost is still roaming the L&N Railroad tracks to this day.

This song has a great melody that we’ll play using Chet Atkins and Merle Travis style picking. This is a challenging tune, but if you relax your right hand and take it slow, everything will fall into place with a bit of practice. We’ll focus on hybrid picking in this lesson, but feel free to play these arrangements with a thumb pick or finger plucking if you find that more comfortable. Download the tablature below the lesson video. Hope y’all enjoy learning this one!

Lesson Overview

Playthrough with Tablature

Arrangement 1

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Arrangement 1 Preview
00:42 min Line 1 Breakdown
04:10 min Extra Hybrid Picking Detail
07:36 min Line 2 Breakdown
13:05 min Line 3 Breakdown
15:53 min Practice with Me

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Arrangement 2

Video Start Time Lesson Topic
00:00 min Arrangement 2 Preview
00:54 min Line 1 Breakdown
05:28 min Line 2 Breakdown
10:21 min Line 3 Breakdown
13:33 min Practice with Me

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Here are some nice YouTube videos of other folks playing “Railroad Bill”…

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6 years ago

Great lesson, thanks Devin.

Aytan Leibowitz
Aytan Leibowitz(@aytan72)
6 years ago

I like that riff. This is a really good one to learn!

6 years ago

I have nobody to play along with, so I love all of your instrumental pieces. This has a nice and relaxed feel to it. Amazing lesson as always!


6 years ago

I added this to my favorites! It will take me some practice to clean this one up but it sounds awesome. Thank you so much for all your lessons Devin. I still say you have the best and easiest to follow lessons I’ve found on the internet. Cheers! Geoff

Trevor S
Trevor S (@guest_1152)
6 years ago

Fanstic site mate! On the way to sign up now my man

6 years ago

This legendary post civil war folk tune as you explain will help me learn to train my voice (i can’t really sing) but this came so fast cause it is very much same as Elizabeth Coton’s “FREIGHT TRAIN” not that it matters all much to which came first but interesting to find out. another fun lesson!

6 years ago
Reply to  Devin

Devin, I posted a minute ago but forgot to scroll down on this tiny lap top,, yes. I really like finger style and feel at home with growing my nails to proper length,, I tried thumb picks and just can’t take the time to use them.. I can do this hybrid or finger style same.. I can post this on youtube eventually .. this morning I really got the 12 bar without mouth movement this time much smoother and lighter with the picking.. I still did’t change my 12s elixirs on the D35 YET.. i TOOK YOU ADVICE AND HAVE… Read more »

6 years ago

I think this is so cool ..I love this style alternating Chet Atkins and with the capo I’m going to practice with singing too..just have to memorize the lyrics and few more hours I’ll let it ride ride ride too Devin thanks man!

5 years ago

Will have to get my thumb reset for this are there any more chet styles on this site?

5 years ago

Love it! More more more!

Randy Natho
Randy Natho (@guest_1010140)
5 years ago

Devin is this Merle Travis’s style of picking or is this country hybrid picking?

5 years ago
Reply to  Devin

Very interesting thanks for taking the time with me.

5 years ago

Do you usually play this type of song with a pick or do you sometimes just use your fingers? Can you switch between the two techniques?

5 years ago
Reply to  Devin

Right on. I’m more comfortable using only my fingers but I’m trying the hybrid picking as a challenge and a new technique. After that, probably thumb picks!

5 years ago

This is a great lesson series. I’d love to hear some more advanced stuff where you’re hybrid picking the bass notes while playing a nice melody. Thanks!

5 years ago

Thanks Devin, nice lesson. Looking forward to more hybrid picking lessons. greetings, Dennis

5 years ago

This is what guitar playing is about to me. Well nearly. I am not a great fan of using a plectrum but have persevered with it and it’s coming along. However the course material is excellent. Instead of using a plectrum I use a thumb pick. Now you can do one of two things here. You can hold it just like a plectrum with your index finger and thumb holding the thumb pick. This works exactly the same as a plectrum. However I prefer to use it as a thumb pick which gives you the extra finger and actually makes… Read more »

4 years ago

Good one. First recording of this that I have is Riley Puckett (one of my favorite pickers) done in 1924.

Jean Galou
Jean Galou(@galou)
3 years ago

What a song!

3 years ago

I can’t wait for more lessons in this series!

2 years ago

As always great.Thank you very much Devin!

Joe Valadez
Joe Valadez(@jevaladez44)
1 year ago

Is the pickup measure always part of the first chord in a song?

Alberto Paiola
Alberto Paiola(@alberto-pai)
3 months ago

added to my favourities Devin! Special one!