Walking to New Orleans

GRADE: K-2, 3-5
SUBJECT: Music, History, Culture
GENRE: New Orleans Rhythm and Blues
TOPIC: Chord Structures, Catchphrases
DISCIPLINE: Music General


In this lesson, students will learn the song “Walking to New Orleans,” one of six lessons in the New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Unit. They will learn about catchphrases and identify chord structures and combinations. Students will demonstrate with a group vocal performance.



  • Analyze the lyrics to “Walking to New Orleans.” 
  • Sing the lyrics of “Walking to New Orleans.”
  • Apply the unique and special rhythms of a song.
  • Identify parts of a song, such as verses and choruses. 
  • Identify chord structures and how combinations of chords are building blocks that constitute sections of songs. 
  • Play chord changes using basic pitched instruments.
  • Play horn parts using basic pitched instruments or recorders.



National Core Arts Standards

MU:Cr1.1.K.b With guidance, generate musical ideas (such as movements or motives).
MU:Cr1.1.1.b With limited guidance, generate musical ideas in multiple tonalities (such as major and minor) and meters (such as duple and triple).
MU:Cr1.1.2.b Generate musical patterns and ideas within the context of a given tonality (such as major and minor) and meter (such as duple and triple).
MU:Cr1.1.3.b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms and melodies) within a given tonality and/or meter.
MU:Cr1.1.4.b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and simple accompaniment patterns) within related tonalities (such as major and minor) and meters.
MU:Cr1.1.5.b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and accompaniment patterns) within specific related tonalities, meters, and simple chord changes.

Common Core State Standards

RL.K.4 Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
RL.1.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
RL.2.4 Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
RL.3.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
RL.4.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).
RL.5.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.



Teachers should be familiar with the history and life of Bobby Charles and the media resources in the lesson prior to teaching.

When considering how to introduce the R&B unit, “Walking to New Orleans” has the easiest chord changes. Its simple structure is a good starting point for introducing repeated chord structures. The song consists of four verses that repeat the same three chords. The string accompaniment is an echo of the vocal part, reinforcing the “call and response/echo” concept. The song is in the key of “C,” so diatonic Orff instruments can be used to play parts in the original key without “accidentals.” 






  1. Display slide 3 of the presentation Walking to New Orleans to play the song “Walking to New Orleans”. Ask students to listen to the string part. How does the melody sung in the first and third bar of each verse correspond to the string part played in the 2nd and 4th bar? Is this an echo? Does an echo need to be a voice repeating a word or a phrase, or can instruments echo a vocal line? Can instruments echo other instruments? Are there multiple kinds of echos?


  1. Build students’ background knowledge about Bobby Charles and the song “Walking to New Orleans.” Display slide 4 and show the About “Walking To New Orleans” video. Tell students that songwriters have an ear for catchy phrases, then turn catchy phrases into a song. Contemporary examples are, “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it” by Beyoncé or “Yeah, I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road” by Lil Nas X. Ask: Can you think of a catchphrase that has been made into a song or a catchphrase that could be a song?


  1. Tell students that the expression “See You Later, Alligator/After a while, crocodile.” was just a saying going around Cajun country back in the 1950s, but it was a line that sounded catchy to one songwriter’s ear. Bobby Charles turned “See You Later, Alligator” into an international hit. Bobby Charles was a huge Fats Domino fan. When he went backstage to visit with Fats at a concert in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1960, Fats invited him to visit in New Orleans. Bobby Charles told Fats, “I don’t have a car. If I’d go, I’d have to walk.” Bobby was inspired by this line and wrote “Walking to New Orleans” on the ride home from the concert that night. Fats recorded the tune and producer Dave Bartholomew added a string part to give the song a modern feeling. It became a hit record.



  1. Distribute the Lyrics: “Walking to New Orleans” or display them on slide 5. Play the song and have students sing along. Discuss lyrics with students. Ask: What story is the song telling? The song tells the story of someone going home to New Orleans. 


  1. Discuss the rhymes or couplets in the story. How do couplets, such as “I’ve got no time for talking, I’ve got to keep on walking” or “You used to be my honey, ’til you spent all my money” convey meaning with more emphasis? Why are these rhymes “catchy”? The rhymes make the story interesting, but also easier to remember. Setting the words to a melody and adding rhymes to the words makes songs memorable, which is why you get lyrics stuck in your head.


  1. Tell students they will now learn to identify song parts: chorus and verse. Reference the handout Charting Songs to review the definitions of key elements of the song. In whole group, identify the song parts as “Walking to New Orleans” plays. Play Fats Domino – “Walking to New Orleans” on slide 6. Pause the song to discuss parts with students. 

Basic Tune Chart for “Walking to New Orleans”

      • Intro: Strings
      • First verse
      • Second verse
      • Third verse
      • Fourth verse
      • Decrescendo   


  1. After listening and identifying the parts, ask students: How is the song put together? What are the building blocks of a song? Tell students that songs are built on repeating chord structures. 


  1. Play the melody and response on basic pitched instruments such as recorders, or Orff instruments. Reference the Melody: “Walking to New Orleans” and Response: “Walking to New Orleans” handouts. Have students take turns playing and singing the melody and response.


  1. Perform the song as a vocal, instrumental, or vocal and instrumental ensemble.



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the song, “Walking to New Orleans,” with a written reflection. Ask students: Why do songwriters use catchphrases and catchy melodies to create musical works?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Davis Rogan, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer
Meghan Swartz, Music Artist Consultant
Mark Braud, Music Artist Consultant



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