Ry Cooder is one of the musicians core to modern blues and roots music, and while I have known of him for quite some time, I haven't spent much time with it.

Recently I pulled out his version of the gospel tune "Jesus on the Mainline". I would expect it to be a simple three-chord song — I IV and V — and when I search for chord sheets, that's what I see.

"Mainline" on YouTube

But what I hear is different. There's the I and IV — A and D in this case — but I do not hear the V. I hear F#m, the vi chord. It comes at the "call" of "call him up and tell him what you want".

There are other Ry versions online, and they're consistent. I haven't spent time with many other versions, but I would guess most use the V. Are my ears right about the version in question? Or are the tab sites?


You’re right Dave, the turnaround is:

F#m / D / |A D A / |

I haven’t researched other versions but this one is the vi, not the V.

I can clearly hear the F# in the bass and also the low note of the guitar. There are a few “variations” during the solo (I don’t want to say wrong notes/chords).

  • 1
    My mistake. The 5 is in the lead vocal.
    – Aaron
    Jan 2 at 8:01
  • @Aaron yep. the E makes it an F#m7 but the instruments all seem to play a triadic F#m, interesting. It also makes a good case for the V chord maybe being the original turnaround chord. I’ll have to check out other versions... Jan 2 at 8:22

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