Back in May of this year, I had a special birthday. I turned 70! No one was more surprised that I was—not surprised that I’d made it that far (although I am extremely grateful for each of those years)—but surprised that I was SEVENTY! It seems so old, yet I feel so young! (At times!)

Son Christopher made this birthday extry-spatial (quoting Lester Flatt there; meaning extra special!) by surprising me with a CD he had conceived and recorded with 25 women who were prominent bluegrass musicians playing and singing 23 songs that I had written over the last 40 years! He did this completely on the sly, with Casey and Red and all of my sisters plus all of the musicians in on the surprise, and no one letting a thing slip for over three months!

He presented me with the CD the weekend before my birthday, when he and Red and I (with Marshall Wilborn) had a gig at the B Chord Brewery in nearby Round Hill, Va. He had an elaborate presentation all mapped out, but naturally, it didn’t go as planned!

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Recently I spent six wonderful days teaching beginning banjo at Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Week in Elkins, West Virginia. It had been many a long year since I’d walked those “green rolling hills of West Virginia” (Hazel Dickens song) and they seemed to have gotten a bit steeper!

One of the highlights of the camp every year is the staff concert. Each teacher chooses a song to perform and picks other teachers to be in their band. In the past, I’ve always done a bluegrass standard because those are so easy to work up. But this time I decided to sing a song I’d just written called “I’m Not Ready To Go Home.” I think of it as a gospel “protest” song.

The first line came from a Louise Penny book I was reading. She was talking about an old woman (Ruth, for you Louise Penny fans) and said, “She could see the shore ahead.” I loved the line and, feeling a song coming on, I wrote it down, personalizing it to “I can see the shore ahead.” Then the words “But I’m not ready to go home” popped into my mind. Soon, the rest of the lyrics starting flowing and by the end of the day (which I had spent playing with my grandson while jotting down more ideas) the song was finished.

I was so excited about it that I drove 30 miles down the road to share it with Teresa, who’s the lead singer in my student band, the Bluegrass Posse. She liked it and said all the things a songwriter wants to hear about a new song and soon we were harmonizing on the chorus. We actually performed the song a few days later at a nursing home, and it sounded so good that I decided I’d sing it at the Elkins camp. Joining me on stage would be Vickie Vaughn and Kimber Ludiker (from Della Mae) playing bass and fiddle and Dudley Connell and Mark Panfil playing guitar and Dobro. Vickie and Dudley would also sing harmony.

The five of us went over the song exactly one time before our sound check Wednesday night. There we sang it twice, working on the kick off, the ending, and the order of the breaks. The harmony parts fell right into place, which is what happens with amazing singers like Dudley and Vickie. Dudley had written out the words to the chorus in big letters with a black marker “just in case” he forgot any of them.

Thursday night, my song was second on the show and I was surprised to find myself nervous. I’m no stranger to performing but it had been a long time since I’d been in front of a big audience. What if I forgot the words to my new song? What if I mispronounced Kimber’s last name? What if my picks fell off? I could feel my hands starting to sweat.

Then, I was being introduced. I bounced up to the mikes as the rest of the band got in place around me. I introduced the musicians and the song. I didn’t forget any names or stumble over any words. I was ready. The band was ready. Now, to kick it off. But, OMG! I couldn’t remember the kickoff! I’d never kicked it off on stage before, and that was a whole different ballgame from kicking it off in practice! What were the pickup notes? No clue. The deer was in the headlights. She couldn’t move.

I had to do something and fast because no one else knew the song well enough to start it. I played three strange and pitiful sounding notes and then stopped. That wasn’t working. Then I made a face. It wasn’t an awful face, but I did look heavenward with an eye roll. (See video below.) Then realizing I had to try again quickly, I played three different pickup notes and went into an all-purpose banjo lick that could go with either a G or a D chord. Unfortunately, the correct chord was C, which was what everyone else was playing. Well, too late to turn back now. I just plowed on through. To my ear, it sounded like an unholy mess but I finally landed on some familiar licks that led us into the chorus and we all started singing in the right place, “I can see the shore ahead but I’m not ready to go home.” After that it was smooth sailing because all I had to do was remember the words and play some banjo backup. Everyone did their part magnificently! We ended as we’d planned by segueing into the chorus of “When the Saints go Marching In.” We finished to loud applause, which was extremely gratifying.

During the intermission, I texted one of my banjo students (and friends) and said, “The song went great but I blew the kickoff.” The return text said, “Sorry! But I love that you blew the kickoff. Now I know you are human!”

Somehow, I found that very comforting. No light-hearted reassurance that “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.” Or “I’m sure no one else noticed.” Just an acknowledgement that, yep, you blew it. And the underlining assurance that everything was still fine. Because it was.

After the concert was over and we were all leaving the stage, I picked up the words that Dudley Connell had written out. I brought them home and I’m going to frame them. What a joy to sing on stage with him. And Vickie. And Kimber. And Mark. My cup runneth over.

PS: Vickie Vaughn has just been nominated as IBMA Bass Player of the Year! Congratulations, Vickie!

PPS: When I looked at video of the song, the kickoff wasn’t that bad. If I had just kept going and hadn’t made a face—which is what I tell my students all the time--I don’t think anyone would have noticed!

I’m Not Ready To Go Home

Chorus:
I can see the shore ahead but I’m not ready to go home
Oh, Lord, don’t take me now, my to-do list is too long
I’ve got people that I dearly love and places yet to roam
Oh, Lord, don’t take me now, I’m not ready (ready, ready) to go home.

First verse:
I know I’m just a player in this game that we call life
I know my days are filled with lots of toil and lots of strife
I know you’re holding all the cards and you still call the plays
But if I had my druthers, Lord, I’d like a few more days.

Second verse:
My friends might put a word in, ‘cause they like me hanging round
My fiddling’s getting better, I don’t want to let them down
We play the bluegrass music and we always get a hand
Don’t take me I’m not ready to join the angel band.

Third verse:
So many sings I’d like to sing, so many tunes to play
Until the roll call of the fiddlers on that final judgement day
When Jesus makes the set list out and calls us all again
To play the bluegrass music while the saints go marching in.

Words and music by Murphy Hicks Henry, Arrandem Music, SESAC

The great J.D. Crowe passed away on December 24, 2021, at 84 years old. He was the biggest influence on my banjo playing right after Earl Scruggs. I spent literally hours trying to get my pull-offs to sound like his. I learned many of his classic songs including "Train 45" and "Blackjack" and his break to "Crying Holy." I was fortunate to get to meet him in 2003 when both of us were teaching at a banjo camp in California. Casey was there too, as a camp helper and gofer. In one of my classes, I needed her to help me by playing guitar, so I sent a runner down the hill to fetch her. The runner came back empty handed. No Casey! Why not? She was helping J.D. Crowe in his class! Or maybe she was just attending his class. At any rate, she would not budge. Not even for her Mama! How could I fault her for that? It was J.D. Crowe!!! Of course, I wrote about the experience. Rereading this now makes me happy that I got to know J.D. just a little bit, and sad that he is gone. I offer this now as my tribute to him. Rest in peace, J.D.

 

WHAT WOULD J.D. DO?
(Reprinted with permission from Banjo Newsletter magazine)

I’ve been a fan of J.D. Crowe all my bluegrass life. The first banjo break I ever learned from a record was J.D.’s break to “Somehow Tonight” on the Rambling Boy album. So it seems amazing that a few weeks ago, at the J.D. Crowe Banjo Camp in Northern California, which was organized by Bill Evans, I was playing guitar and singing “Somehow Tonight” while J.D. picked the banjo. Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Bill Evans!

By then, Sunday afternoon, I had gotten pretty used to being around J.D. and was no longer petrified to pick with him or talk to him. I had gotten “thrown into the fire,” so to speak, at our first rehearsal when I had to join J.D. in picking “Train 45” with him sitting not five feet in front of me. Bill Evans was picking too, but I can handle Bill. Our styles are completely different. (Did I hear you murmuring “thank god,” Bill? Tsk, tsk tsk.) But I had learned to pick “Train 45” from a Crowe recording and was still basically playing it “like J.D. done it.” That works fine as long as J.D. is not in the room with you doing the same thing only better! Fortunately J.D. has a way of making you feel comfortable in a picking situation. He’s relaxed, easy going, takes everything in stride, likes to kid around, and is actually very supportive of the other players. In California-speak, his aura is kind. I suppose it’s significant that the song “Little Drummer Boy” is coming to mind as I write this: “Then He smiled at me, pah-rump-a-pum-pum, me and my drum.” Make the obvious substitution and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how I felt.

Meanwhile, J.D’s son David, 23, who had come along to handle CD sales, had fallen asleep in his chair. As we left the house, I kidded David about falling asleep while his dad was playing. “Aw,” he said, “I hear him pick “Train 45” all the time. Besides, it’s after midnight in God’s country.” “God’s country” is how David would refer to Kentucky, his home state, all weekend. Pretty soon I found myself asking him, “What time is it in God’s country, David?”

In the title of this column I asked the question “What would J.D. do?” Here’s one illustrative answer. Laurie Lewis (bass), Tom Rozum (mandolin), Alan Senuake (guitar), and Chad Manning (fiddle) were serving as the backup band for the two concerts we would be giving. (Some backup band!) At rehearsal, after they ran through “Sin City,” “I’ll Stay Around,” “Blackjack,” and “Old Home Place” with J.D. someone suggested that Laurie sing “Crying Holy.” She was willing, with one caveat: “I’ll have to sing it in D.” Implicit in that response (I think) was the knowledge that J.D. had recorded the song in B, which meant he was playing out of G position. Now, his kickoff—a killer kickoff—is the defining element in the song. To play in D—whether he played in D position or C position—he’d have to change the kickoff. (Or capo up seven frets, which I didn’t think he’d do.) What he did speaks volumes about his character and the way he views the music: he never hesitated for a moment. He just grabbed his capo, put it on at the second fret and starting working up a new kickoff out of C position. It took a few tries until he was satisfied, but when he had it, it was outstanding. I was so impressed. You see, with J.D., the overall band sound comes first. And he always defers to the singer.

Shift now to Sunday afternoon. Camp is winding down. I am teaching the Beginning Level class. All weekend we have been working on vamping I, IV, and V chords in different keys. Without a capo. Today we were learning to vamp to “Old Home Place” in the Key of G because it’s a J.D. Crowe standard and has two “off” chords in it: A and B. (Or as Janet Davis might say, “A II chord and a III chord.”) Normally I sing while the students vamp, but I have to keep things interesting for me, too, so I decided to play a banjo break. (And pretend I was J.D.!) Then I had an epiphany. (It was Sunday, you know. Epiphanies are allowed.) We had a group session coming up with J.D. What if J.D. himself were to play “Old Home Place” and the students were to vamp along? Then they could all go home and say that they’d played with J.D. Crowe. I got tears in my eyes just thinking about it! The students loved the idea! I cautioned them: “I’ll have to clear it with Bill and with J.D.” They understood.

I figured it would be okay with Bill. He is one of the most enthusiastic and cooperative people I’ve ever worked with. J.D., team player that he is, said it would be okay with him. I told him he’d have to play it really slow for the beginners. He understood. So, all the teachers, including Ron Block and Casey Henry, are sitting in front of the whole camp; everyone has their banjos out. I have the guitar. I tell the students what they are going to do (vamp), then I turn to J.D. and say (I loved this part!), “Kick it off, J.D.” “How fast do you want it?” he says. I strum the guitar really slowly. He immediately says, “No, that’s too fast!” I told you he’s a kidder. We arrive at a tempo and he kicks it off. I sing the first verse. Everyone is vamping. When it comes to the end of the verse, I listen expectantly for that classic Crowe fill in. Nothing. “Aren’t you going to put in some fill in?” I ask petulantly. “Oh,” says J.D., “you want me to do some fill in?” “Yes!” “Do it again,” he says firmly. “It’s been ten long years since I left my home....” And then J.D. is all over the neck with That Signature Sound. And Bill, Ron, Casey, and I are about to split our faces grinning because it sounds SO GOOD and we are playing with J.D. Crowe. The students are in hog heaven because THEY are playing with J.D. Crowe, and J.D. is handling all this collective worship with much dignity. He’s just doing his job, calmly and serenely, playing the banjo. Is this guy classy or what?

Shift now to Monday night and our concert at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. I was going to do my original song “Fried Chicken.” As part of the song, when I get to the chorus, the band yells “fried chicken!” with me. I had done the song at the concert on Saturday night, and when I came off stage, J.D. told me that I should have yelled “fried rabbit!” (It’s a Southern thing...) So Monday night I was on stage doing the song with Laurie, Tom, and Chad while the rest of the musicians were in the warm-up room behind the stage. When I got to the chorus, I noticed the audience was really cracking up over the shouts of “fried chicken.” But it wasn’t until the last chorus when I heard shouts of “fried rabbit!” that I knew that J.D., the trickster, had been up to something. Unbeknownst to me, he and the other players—Bill Evans, Alan Senauke, and, if you can believe this, David Grisman!—had snuck out during the song, crouched down behind a low wall at the back of the stage, and had been popping up yelling “fried rabbit” and then popping back down. That’s why the audience was in hysterics. It was exactly like something you would see on Hee Haw! To think I have lived long enough to be pranked upon by J.D. Crowe. I owe you, J.D. Watch your back!

When it was time to fly home, Bill dropped J.D., David, and me off at the airport. As Bill was trying to slide into a parking spot, I heard David softly singing the Mickey Mouse song: “Now it’s time to say goodbye....” and I finished it up with “to all our family.” I honestly felt like I was leaving part of my family. There were big hugs all the way around: David, Bill, J.D. David had given me three of J.D.’s CDs, and I had given David (if you can believe this) my Beginning Banjo DVD! (He’d told me he was learning to play the banjo.)

Since I’ve been home I’ve been wearing out my Jimmy Martin “Big and Country Instrumentals” album and my J.D. Crowe “Live in Japan” CD. What a weekend! As we say here in the Shenandoah Valley, J.D. is “a prince of a fellow.” Or as banjo picking Jim Fee would say, “He’s a dandy!” Thankyoubillevans, thankyoubillevans, thankyoubillevans. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

“Your jams are kind.” Okay, that’s not a question. One of my students said that to me recently and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. I consider it to be high praise. I want my jams to be a place where students feel comfortable and supported. Goodness knows it’s hard enough to scrounge up the courage to take your instrument out of the house and play with other people. So, it’s nice to know that when you mess up, people at the jam are going to offer positive feedback: “Good try!” “You really hung in there!” “You were able to come back in after you missed a lick!” At our Murphy Method jams everyone encourages and everyone gets encouraged!

And now a real question from Rick, who came to our Intermediate Camp a few years ago:

“What is the best way to go about connecting the chords?  In essence, what I am trying to say is how do you lead from one chord to another?”

I emailed him, asking for some clarification, and Rick said he was talking about the vamp chords in the F and D shapes, and moving from G to C or C to D or D to G by using certain notes. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that was too hard to explain on paper. I suggested he might find some answers on Casey’s DVD Beyond Vamping: Fancy Banjo Backup. I also suggested he and I might try a Zoom lesson to talk about this in person. Then he wrote back and said he had Casey’s DVD and had learned a lot from it. He said he’d also learned a lot from our Amazing Grace DVD. I was impressed with that because I think the arrangement of “Amazing Grace” on that DVD is one of the hardest breaks I’ve ever taught. Rick said he could now take the licks I taught in Amazing Grace and move them to different keys and to different strings. Yeah! You go, Rick! We’re planning on setting up a Zoom lesson to talk about all this “face to face.”

One more:

Dion L writes, “I don't have a question for you but rather a statement. I use the Misfits and Improvising DVDs to learn the banjo. When I started I had not one smidgin of musical experience at the age of 80 years. I take my inspiration from Barry Abernathy and you. It has taken me 8 years to be able to jam at medium pace. It is only now that I pretty much know when a chord change is coming and what chord it will be. My ear has started to come into its own in the last year. I can hear what is going on with most of the instruments except the fiddle. I don't know if I am progressing in a normal manner or way too slow. I never look at tabs but I do look up songs with chords, then apply what you have taught me to the banjo. I hope that's not cheating. Whatever, it has been--and is--a wonderful experience. Thank you so much.”

You are welcome, Dion. I think you’re progressing at a completely normal pace. The important thing is you’re hanging in there! And looking up the chords is not cheating. I had to use a chord book when I was first learning the ukulele! In the fourth grade. Eventually the sounds got into my head, and I didn’t have to look. I’m sure the more you play, the easier it will get to hear the chords.

You have questions? I have answers! Or, at least I’ll try to answer. Send your questions to themurphymethod@gmail.com.

And there you have it! Or as the late great Sonny Osborne said, “Case closed!”

PS: Hope to see some of you at our Intermediate Banjo Camp, April 8-10. Lots of answers there!

PPS: And don’t forget our Buy One, Get One Free Sale  going on now through Christmas!

Murphy

I’m sure you all have heard by now of the passing of the great banjo player
Sonny Osborne. As a tribute to Sonny, I’m writing an article for Bluegrass
Unlimited magazine based on Sonny’s Banjo Newsletter column. It was
called “Keep on The Sonny Side,” and every month Sonny answered
questions that readers would send in.

So…… that gave me the idea that I could follow in his footsteps and do the
same thing. So we’re gonna give this a try. And since “Keep On The Murphy
Side” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, we’re just gonna call it, “Ask
Murphy.”

If you have a question you want to ask me, email it to
themurphymethod@gmail.com. If you do NOT want me to use your
name in my answer, please say so, otherwise I will assume that it’s okay.

Sonny said in his first column, “Any questions you would will ask, I’ll try to
answer.” I’m not sure I can be that bold, but I will try to answer any
questions relating to learning by ear, banjos, bluegrass, jam sessions, and
my book about women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl. Looking forward
to hearing from you!

Also: I still have room for a few more students. Either online (Zoom or Skype) or in person. Email me at murphybanjo@gmail.com  or text 540-533-9685. Beginners most welcome. I also teach guitar and beginning mandolin.

Seven people standing on stage playing fiddles, and one person playing guitar

Murphy (in the pink plaid shirt) playing fiddle with the Advanced Fiddle Class

Well, it’s been years since I blogged [Editor's note: it has actually been one year, four months, and ten days.] but since I just spend 5 days being a fiddle student at the Augusta Heritage October Old-Time Retreat in Elkins, W.Va., I thought I’d relive the experience by telling you about it. It was such a reversal, me being a student instead of a teacher. And on an instrument with which I have had such a tempestuous on-off relationship for decades.

Three of my banjo students were also going to go, but two of them couldn’t make it, so it was just me and Dano, who was going to take the vocal class.

I signed up for the Advanced Fiddle Class, not because I feel like I’m an advanced fiddler (I still call myself a hacker) but because I figured that, as a professional musician, at least I’d be able to keep up. However, I found myself hanging on by my fingernails! It was an odd feeling to be the slowest student in the group. (Although I’ll confess, I had already had that humbling experience when I started doing yoga 5 years ago.)

It was a small class, just 6 students, most of us over 60. On the first day, our teacher, the twenty-something Tessa Dillion (who is a fabulous fiddler), played 4 tunes for us (all very fast!) and said this is what we’d be learning during the 4-day camp. Yikes! Three of them I’d never heard, and the fourth, “Salt River” (known in bluegrass as “Salt Creek,”) didn’t sound anything like the version I teach. In fact, having the banjo version in my head actually made it harder to learn.

Luckily, Tessa was teaching by ear (yay!) and she broke down the tunes into small phrases and she played them slow and she even told us where to put our fingers. But, dang, even the names for the fingers were confusing! I use the words index, middle, and ring and she used the words first, second, third. So, when she said “third finger,” I had trouble making my ring finger move. By the time I figured out what my third finger was and got it in place, she had already moved on to another note!

Of course, if I really got lost, I had no trouble asking her to go over the phrase again, because that’s what I want my students to do. Tessa always did it willingly and graciously and slowly. I was, however, the only student who ever asked her to explain something again. After class she told me she was glad I spoke up. She said there were probably other students who needed to go over it again, too. That made me feel good.

So, in two hours of instruction I learned the whole of “Wilson’s Hornpipe.” I use the term “learned” loosely. Fortunately, at the end of class, Tessa played the whole tune slowly for us to record on our phones. And it was a good thing she did because, when I got up the next morning to review the tune before class, I had completely forgotten it! So there I am, standing in my room in my pajamas, ear buds in, listening to the tune and trying to pluck out the notes on the fiddle without using the bow because it’s 6:30 am and I don’t want to disturb anyone. It was slow going. I did have some muscle memory from all the reps in class, but there were many notes that I was still having to guess at. And that drove me crazy!

By 9:30, we were back in class, playing the tune together slowly. That helped. I was beginning to get a tiny feel for it. But now, it was time to learn another one! “Salt River”! The next day, we learned yet another whose name escapes me right now. And each day my brain was tireder and foggier because Dano and I had found a little spot where we could play some bluegrass (him on banjo and me on guitar) and we stayed up till about 11 every night jamming. A few students and even a couple of instructors slithered over to the dark side and joined us, and several folks stopped by to listen. The camp coordinator actually gave us a plug one morning and referred to that spot as the “Bluegrass Alcove”!

I kept practicing the fiddle tunes in my room, even using the bow after I figured everyone was awake. And it would be a great end to this story to have me say that I finally learned the tunes and could play them well. But the truth is, by Sunday morning, when each class went on stage to showcase a tune that they’d learned, I was still struggling to remember all the notes in the first tune, which is the one we were going to play. Sometimes I had them, and sometimes I didn’t. And I absolutely could not play it fast.

Still, I got on stage with my classmates, and with Tessa on guitar, I gave it my best shot. The thing that saved me was my joy of being on stage and my ability to keep going when I made a mistake. The strongest fiddlers pulled us through and we sounded fine.

It’s going to take a lot more woodshedding for me to be able to play those tunes! We’ll see if I make the time to practice them. If I don’t, well, I did play a lot of fiddle in the class and think I’m a better fiddler for that. And for now, that’s enough.

I don’t remember who sent me this photo of Janet Davis and me, but
apparently this was (or is?) an exhibit at the American Banjo Museum in
Oklahoma City, Okla. I knew nothing about it! I am honored, however, to
have been featured. If anyone knows anything about this, please let us
know! The museum includes banjos of all types, not just the five-string.
Here’s the link to their site: https://americanbanjomuseum.com/

By Red Henry

Ever since we founded the Murphy Method in 1982, one thing we’ve been proud of has been customer loyalty. Many, many of our Murphy Method students keep ordering lessons year after year, and we appreciate all that repeat business.

Some customers may take off several years, and then come back and order again. It often happens that people take off four or five years in their lessons before resuming them. Sometimes it is a ten-year gap. One day a man called who had ordered some audiocassettes fifteen years before, saying that one of them had gone bad. Fortunately it was still in print, and he was amazed when we replaced it for free.

But we recently had a record-breaker:

A customer in New England ordered some of our audiocassette series in 1989 and 1990. After that we did not hear from him until last month, when he called and ordered a DVD. That was an astounding gap of THIRTY YEARS between orders! But when he called us, of course we were glad to do business again.

Don’t wait 30 years yourself! Order any time. Murphy Method DVDs are waiting for you!

I thought I’d add a word or two here to Casey’s always-excellent newsletter, just to let you know how we’re faring at Murphy Method headquarters (aka Our House) during this stay-at-home time.

I’m missing my Tip Jar Jam! I miss hearing David sing In The Pines with the “woo woos” at the end, just like Bill Monroe done it. 😉 I miss singing Where The Soul Of A Woman Never Dies with Kathy. I even miss hearing Banjo In The Hollow!

Both Casey and I were bummed to have to cancel our Intermediate Camp this month. We had so much fun stuff planned: Geoff Stelling, The Fly Birds, Karaoke, Gregg and Chuck’s band (back by popular demand!), food from Bonnie Blue, a singing workshop with David McLaughlin, jamming, Murphy and Casey’s Sunday Morning Gospel Show. We still have our fingers crossed for our July Women’s Camp, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Like many of you, I am mourning the loss of John Prine. The Tip Jar Jammers are already planning a John Prine Night when we get back together. We were already occasionally doing Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, Souvenirs, Spanish Pipedream (aka Blow Up Your TV), and Paradise. Now some of the Jammers, having time on their hands, are learning other Prine songs so we can celebrate his life.

On the non-musical front, Red and I killed quite a few hours re-watching all the Harry Potter movies and now I’m rereading all the books. Just finished Goblet of Fire this morning. Now my TV time is taken up with the new season of Dr. Who, which I am somewhat ambivalent about.

I’m also trying to keep focused on the biography of Maybelle Carter I started writing in January. But, I’ll admit, it’s hard to find the energy. So, I try to be kind to myself and just do what I can do.

Also, like many of you, I’m getting really good at using the Zoom app! I’ve found the “mute button” and the “gallery view”! I use Zoom to take online yoga, which I love. Now if the poses are too hard (Firefly? Plow? Shoulder Stand?), I can revert to Child’s Pose and nobody can see me! I’m also trying to walk almost every day, which is easier now that it’s warmer. I’ve discovered listening to Podcasts on my phone with earbuds makes me more likely to get out the door, so I feel very “with it,” being able to do all these complicated techy things. Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Iris Dement and I remembered how much I love her music. Might have to download her latest album, IDK.

Since Red and I are some of the “olds” (a term my niece came up with and I have embraced), we are being extry careful about going out and when we have to go out, we wear our masks and carry hand sanitizer. And when we come back in, we wash our hands like crazy. Thankfully, we are able to limit our trips to town because my former banjo and guitar student turned singer/songwriter Kasey Smelser is doing our grocery shopping. She leaves them on the front porch and then we visit from six feet away! Thank you, Kasey!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go online and order a T-shirt that says, “May Birthday 2020. The one when we were quarantined.”

And then it’s time to Maybelle. I hope. Well, maybe after lunch. Or after my nap…

Stay safe, y’all.

This post originally appeared on Banjo Hangout. This is the third installment in The Adventures of Peg and Jill. If you need to catch up here are part 1 and part 2.

Peg tripped lightly up the steps to Jill’s teaching place, banjo in hand. She was feeling good about her practice this week. She hadn’t been able to play two hours every day as she had planned because of her “damn job” but she was excited about learning the first song on the DVD. She knew Jill would be pleased with her.

She was early so she sat down to wait in the adjoining room. She frowned when she noticed the velvet picture of Jesus praying on a hillside hanging on the wall. “I didn’t know Jill was religious,” she thought. “Not with that empty Stroh’s can sitting on the mantle. Who drinks Stroh’s?”

Settling down on the couch, she recognized the voice of Bob, the student she’d met last week, talking to Jill about something in the teaching room.   ...continue reading