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XmasTree2014

Decorations by Dalton's direction!

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
a banjo in a pear tree!

On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
two mandolins and a banjo in a pear tree!

On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
three violins, two mandolins, and a banjo in a pear tree!

On the 4th day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
four good guitars, three violins, two mandolins, and a banjo in a pear tree!

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
five.....doghouse......basses! Four good guitars, three vi'lins, two mandolins, and a banjo in a pear tree!

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

12 jammers jamming

11 singers singing

10 tuners tuning

9 Dobros dancing

8 vampers vamping

7 chunkers chunking

6 cloggers clogging

5 doghouse basses

4 good guitars

3 violins

2 mandolins

And a banjo in a pear tree! (Hope it's a Stelling!)

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

And what an appropriate title for the last Tip Jar Jam Blog of 2014!

We had a bodacious and Brobdingnagian crowd at the jam Wednesday night. As Kathy G said, "Just mention hooch and they will come!" Yes, we did have a small holiday party with adult beverages! The entire Campbell family showed up and as always it was good to see Drew (banjo) and Rhys (pronounced Reece, on fiddle). We have Drew to thank for the blog title!

Here's the story: I was looking for one more song to sing so Dan could continue to play in Open C. He'd already done well on Do Lord,  Circle, and I'll Fly Away, even playing some two-finger melody pinches on the latter ("when this life is o'er"; and "God's celestial shore"). The crowd was too big and too diverse to try Dooley or Long Black Veil or When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, so I settled on I Saw The Light. I called for a volunteer to kick it off, and Drew stepped up to the plate. He was capoed up five frets as were most of the banjo players.

Drew was all excited about kicking off I Saw The Light because, as he said, "I want to play my new high break!" I told him gently but firmly (although it might have been just firmly....) that he had to kick the song off with the low break. However, nothing ever seems to dim Drew's enthusiasm, so he said, "Well, I'll play my high break second." I raised my eyebrows at his father, Jason, and said, "I don't think so" because with ten other pickers taking breaks I knew that Drew wouldn't get a second chance. This, too, did not make the slightest dint in his joy. Amazing kid. He was willing to hope for the best! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Last night's jam started off in a sedate fashion, with five banjos and two guitars circled up ready to pick. Then, while everyone was tuning up, I heard some thrashing around in the adjoining room. I did a quick calculation, ticking off students who I knew weren't coming and I couldn't quite figure out who it was. Then just as Kathy G was fixing to kick off Banjo In The Hollow (this time in G!), in walks......Bob McQueen! "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!" Even though he "officially" lives in Florida now, I'm sure Winchester still feels like home sweet home. He was nattily attired in all things "Steeler" from his jersey, to his hat, to his tennis shoes! Go, Big Ben!

After the excitement of seeing Bob, things settled back down for a while. We did a bunch of G tunes and then Kathy H sang I Want My Dog Back, which is fast becoming a favorite. All the banjo players--which also included Ben, Kasey and Betty---tried Roly Poly breaks and they all got an A for effort but the odd chord pattern was really throwing them, even with me yelling "Short D! Short D!" So after the song was over we "workshopped" it a bit, with Kathy H singing the melody lightly while I called out the chords and everyone Roly Polied at the same time. I now know that the first half of the break has an extra two beats of G and, as Diane (on guitar) pointed out, the second half of the break does NOT have those extra two beats of G. Confusing! Especially when you're trying to play a break on the fly. Which is one thing that makes bluegrass so much fun!  ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Hey, hey, hey! Our son Christopher is featured in the December issue of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine! The article talks about his band, Hardcore Grass (recently returned from a month-long tour in Australia, or Oz, as they seem to refer to it on Facebook) and also focuses quite a bit on Chris's songwriting. As some of you know, Chris wrote the song "Walking West To Memphis" which was recorded by the Gibson Brothers and was nominated for IBMA Song Of The Year in 2011. ChrisBUArticle

...continue reading

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Ten years ago when Casey and Chris were living in Nashville, struggling along as musicians without much ready cash, they decided to record a Christmas album for their family. After a couple of practices to decide which songs to include, the two of them gathered around Chris's computer in the living room of his apartment and laid down eight tradtional Christmas carols (instrumentals) and one Stanley Brothers' Christmas song with Chris on guitar and Casey on banjo.

The relatives loved it. (Murphy got tears in her eyes.) There were no plans to ever release this album commercially. Except for family and friends, no one has heard it. Every Christmas when Murphy first listens to it she calls both Casey and Chris to tell them how much she likes it and how good it is. (And she still gets choked up!)

When trying to think of a present for our customers we remembered this album. It has never been sold. The ONLY way to get this CD is as part of this free gift promotion. We thought it would be the perfect way to say "Thank You" to our students for sticking with us and keeping us in business all these years!

Every order this week (Dec 7-13, 2014) will include a free copy of the Casey and Chris Christmas album. Physical orders will get a CD in the package. Download orders will receive an email with the audio files.

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We did a lot of great jamming last night but the funniest part of the jam was when two of our doctors started talking about hip replacement surgery. I'm sure I'll get the details wrong (and you docs can laugh) but I think the conversation centered on the trendy new anterior approach--in which you only have to split the muscle--and the old-fashioned posterior approach in which the muscle is actually cut. Then, mercifully, the topic morphed into music and medicine when one of the doctors said he had recently played my M and M Blues CD in the "OR" (doc-speak for Operating Room). From there the conversation took a nose-dive into "songs you don't want to hear played in the OR," such as "I Saw The Light" or "Bury Me Beneath The Willow." Maybe you had to be there but was really funny at the time. I said, "Keep it coming, folks, it's all fodder for the blog."

We had a nicely balanced jam last night with three guitars and three banjos, three womyn (Kathy G, Steph, and moi) and three men (David, Gregg, and Chuck). There were also three lead singers. And--I just realized this--it was the third of December. (Which brings to mind that classic opening line to Ode To Billy Joe: "It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty Delta day....") But I digress. ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

(No bluegrass here!)

Red and I, along with Chris and Casey and three-year-old Dalton, spent a lovely Thanksgiving weekend in Charlotte, N.C., with my sister Laurie, her husband David, and their son Andrew. That is, it was lovely once we got down there. We tried to leave Wednesday---in the middle of that raging snowstorm---but got only as far as the Strasburg exit on I-81 before discretion got the better part of valor and we turned back. Red and I spent the night with Casey and Dalton and vowed to try again the next day.

Small, but essential aside: Laurie had emailed early in the week asking if there was anything special we needed. After requesting "coffee and Corona" I added, "And just one more thing. Dalton has a few special words he likes to say to get a laugh. They don't mean anything particular but they all came from stuff we were doing. Long story. The words are: opossum, cross that marker bridge, and whoa Nelly. We always laugh. If you can laugh, that will be great. Thanks!"

Throwing those snowballs!

Throwing those snowballs!

Thursday morning found the roads clear and dry. We had an excellent trip down, stopping at the Hillsville exit in Virginia for a picnic lunch. There was plenty of snow still on the hills, so Dalton and Gran (that's me!) had fun making and throwing snowballs. That is, I did the making and the throwing while His Benevolent Highness dictated where to get the snow and where to throw the snowball!

However, the point of this blog is not to give you a day-by-day account of our trip. That's worse than watching 1960s vacation slides! The story I really want to share is this:

Friday night at Laurie and David's house we were having yet another meal of yummy Thanksgiving leftovers, supplemented by some excellent barbeque ribs David had grilled. By now everyone present, including sister Nancy, her husband Rad and daughter Natalie, had heard a few of Dalton's funny words, and he had gotten a few laughs, but I wasn't sure David had witnessed any of this or participated. Which was no big deal. David has a quick and pleasantly warped sense of humor, which is sometimes dry, always clever, and occasionally biting but never mean. In other words, he's a funny guy himself. I just wasn't sure he had noticed Dalton's little one-liners. Or maybe I just didn't notice that David noticed. Whatever.

Now, at our Thursday Thanksgiving meal, David had given a lovely toast, offering a few well-chosen words about being thankful for those present, those absent, and those who had gone on before whose lives made our family possible. I was moved and impressed with his toast-giving talent. So when time for the Friday-night toast came, I was looking forward to whatever words of wisdom David had to bestow. So imagine my surprise when he lifted his glass and said, "I just want to say one word.......................................................................

opossum!" He brought down the house! Huge laughter from everyone at the table, including a delighted Dalton. It was the perfect toast.

So, a great big THANK YOU to David. You made my Thanksgiving! Opossum!

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I've been trying to write this blog about the Wednesday night jam--which turned out to be all women--for two days, but it's just not happening. As Jim Croce sings, "Every time I try to tell you, the words just come out wrong..." [Confession: I thought that was an Elton John song. Google set me straight!] 

So, ladies--Kathy H, Kristina, Diane, and Steph--we laughed a lot, we picked a lot, we had some great three-part harmony, and we tried out some new songs: Gentle On My Mind; a gender-flipped version of Dooley (no reason a woman can't be a moonshiner!), and Paul and Silas Bound In Jail All Night Long. These are probably keepers, so heads up all you Jammers! And we mentioned Mae West. There. That's it in a tiny nutshell.  ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I wanted to write a quick blog just so I can show you this cute picture of me and my buddy and singing partner, Cam. Cam is Ben's grandson (he calls Ben "Pap"), and this was his first jam! He behaved like an angel, sitting on the couch and playing with a Kindle and the Ninja Turtle I had given him for a surprise. And when Kasey sang I Saw The Light, Cam was right there singing along on the chorus, with a big smile on his face. Come back any time, Cam. You da man! (Do people still say that? Or is that, like, so last year decade?)

Me and my buddy, Cam!

Me and my buddy, Cam!

...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Wow! We had 12 people at the jam last night: Betty, Kathy G, Ben, Kasey, Steph, Diane, Gregg, David, Chuck (sitting on the floor!), Rhys, Drew, Amber, and Jason. This broke down into 3 guitars, 7 banjos, 1 fiddle, and 1 mandolin. Ben swapped his banjo for the bass early on and with me pounding my Martin we managed to keep folks in line!

We were sorely missing our buddy Bob Van who has landed his butt in the hospital. In his honor we set up his picking chair and put a roll of duct tape in it. The duct tape is in honor of Bobby always saying something like, "I hope we don't play Salt Creek." Which forces me to say, "Why don't we play Salt Creek!" At which point he growls, "Where's the duct tape?" meaning he needs to have his mouth taped shut so he won't say anything else stupid! We will keep your chair and duct tape there, Bobby, until you get back. We love your ornery old hide!

We started off gently with our "party pieces," Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, I Saw The Light, and Blue Ridge Cabin Home, all in G. And thanks to Chuck for being our "G" singer! Then we moved on up to C, for some womyn singing: I'll Fly Away (Kathy), Two Dollar Bill (me), and Circle (Diane). Then I realized, once again, that I had cheated Kasey out of singing her song, I Saw The Light, which we'd already done. (Girl, you gotta get a new song!) But Diane reminded me that Kasey used to sing Rocky Top in C. At first I demurred, saying the chords were too hard for the whole group, but then I thought, "Why not let Kasey sing it as a 'show' piece?"  ...continue reading