Transcription and Video Lesson available
Level: Int/Adv Tuning: Standard
Khamenkule is a piece I wrote as a tribute to John D. Loudermilk’s fingerstyle guitar classic Windy and Warm.
In the world of fingerstyle guitar music there is a small group of pieces that have endured over the decades and become part of a core repertoire that almost everyone who plays fingerstyle seems to dip in to at some point. Windy and Warm is certainly part of that group, along with other classics, like Freight Train, Classical Gas, and Blackbird.
Loudermilk wrote the tune, but it was Chet Atkins’ 1961 recording that turned it into a classic. It was actually written at Chet’s request. Chet was concerned his previous two albums had become too pop, jazzy and slick. He wanted Loudermilk to write him something that was more down to earth. Windy and Warm was the result.
The piece became a signature tune for Chet and he continued to perform it throughout his lengthy career. Because of Chet’s influence, it wasn’t long before thousands of guitarists — and over the past sixty years, perhaps millions — were learning to play it.
I was part of that multitude, having learned Windy and Warm in 1972 from a Doc Watson album, and as with so many other guitarists, it became a staple of my own repertoire. After playing it for some thirty years I had the idea of paying tribute by using it as the seed for one of my own compositions. Khamenkule was the result.
At the time I was playing around with a composing trick of taking a melody and turning it upside down to inspire something new. I decided to try applying this technique to Windy and Warm’s main theme to see what I might come up with.
It turns out it’s kind of hard to turn a melody upside down in your head – at least it certainly is for me. What I wound up doing instead was inverting the general shape of the melody, rather than the specific notes. So, for example, if the original melody was ascending, mine would be descending, and vice versa. The final result loosely followed this idea, but that was the seed it sprang from.
There are a few other similarities; the descending line at the end of the main theme from Am down to E7 is similar to W&W’s line ; the modulation to A major for one section is another idea inspired by the original. I was trying to maintain the tone and character, but melodically and harmonically the rest deviates quite a bit.
When it came to naming the piece I followed a similar approach, this time inverting Loudermilk’s original title. So Windy and Warm became Calm and Cool. But that seemed a bit too obvious for my liking. So, I tweaked it a bit and for a while its working title was Kalm and Kool. In the end that didn’t sit right with me either. So I succumbed to my whimsical side and my attraction to word play, and in a stroke of self-congratulatory genius it morphed into Khamenkule.
Unfortunately, from a marketing perspective Khamenkule proved to be too smart by half as audience members would always come up confused as to why they couldn’t find Calm and Cool on any of my recordings. (Hot Tip: It’s on the album The Voice in the Grain.)
Such is the burden of genius, particularly the self-congratulatory kind.
Incidentally, Loudermilk eventually wrote his own follow-up to Windy and Warm. I have always felt he missed the bus when he called it Cloudy and Cool. But I was happy to pick up the slack from his missed opportunity.
John D. Loudermilk talks about writing Windy and Warm
Chet playing Windy and Warm
And of course we have to include Chet playing Cloudy and Cool