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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Our ever-expanding circle of pickers grew last night as we welcomed new jammers Janice, who takes banjo from Casey, and Tim, one of my guitar students, who recently learned the "boom, chunk, boom, chunk" bluegrass strum--off the Internet!  Janice plays solid and clean and after she got comfortable by playing a couple of tunes in unison with the other banjos, she was quite willing to take a solo break and even kicked off a couple of songs. Tim sat quietly all night long, hammering out some excellent rhythm while watching my hands to see what the chords were.

I was also delighted to see Kathy G back in the saddle again, now fully recovered from her painful encounter with a flesh-eating dishwasher which had taken a bite out of her index finger. As E.T. said, "Ouch!" For some reason, being away from the banjo for a few weeks had not hurt her playing. She made her debut as a lead singer, singing I'll Fly Away in the key of C. Nice job, Kathy! ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Betty may kill me for this title, but she's the one who brought up the movie Nurse Betty--which popped into my head when I started writing this blog.

I have to brag on Betty even if it does jinx her for future jams. She played great last night--even though I can hear her denying it right now as she reads this: "Did not!"

"Did too! And I've got six witnesses to back me up!"

In the vast array of songs we did last night, from Banjo In The Hollow, and Cripple Creek to John Hardy and Foggy Mountain Breakdown, she played most excellently. Kicking songs off, vamping, putting endings on, and coming in for breaks. Even on Old Joe Clark, where she followed Scott's break on guitar, she came in perfectly. It was only after she nailed the entrance that she faltered and ground to a halt. "It's too fast," she said. (Kasey, sitting beside Betty, alertly picked up and finished Betty's break and then added the ending. Thanks, Kasey!) ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Last night as I popped another cough drop and surveyed the students tuning up for the jam, I realized we had a solid intermediate bunch. Except for Tammi, on rhythm guitar, everyone had considerable jamming experience: Ben, Kasey, Kathy H, Bobby, Bob A, Dan, and Bob Mc. As we warmed up with Lonesome Road Blues I thought, "We could set this up like a 'real' jam."

So we did. We went around the circle and had each person call a tune they wanted to play. (That also kept me from having to talk so much, since I still had a nasty cough and was slugging Robitussin while chastising Bobby for not bringing me some Jack Daniels! He said mildly, "All you have to do is ask. I'm not a mind reader." Wow! That was different!) With four banjos, two lead guitars, one rhythm guitar, Ben on bass, and me on Bob A's new mandolin (breaking it in) we had a nice-sized group for a real jam. Before we started I reiterated three basic jam rules: If you kick off an instrumental, then you are the one who ends it. And if you suggest a singing song, you have to be able to sing it or have to know someone in the group who can sing it. And, most important, always have a song ready to suggest! Keep one in mind at all times! ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We were back in the saddle last night after a week's layoff due to my cold and also to my trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to talk about my book. (That's another whole blog!)

We were seven strong counting me. For the second time we welcomed David, one of Casey's beginning students. He knows the Big Three plus Cumberland Gap and I Saw the Light. When we would play one of David's songs, I would have all the banjos play the lead together, very slowly, so that David could ease his way into group playing. Strength in numbers, you know! Then, I'd ask David if he was willing to play solo and kick the song off. He's an extremely good sport so he always said yes. Then we would go around the circle and everyone would play. Scott, Jon, and I were all playing banjo. This, of course, gave David a chance to hear other people playing the song and his comments were interesting. ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Hey all y'all! Just a reminder that I'll be giving a lecture about my book, Pretty Good For A Girl: Women in Bluegrass, on Thursday, April 3, from 4:30-5:30 on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The location is the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in the Wilson Library. The talk is part of the "Hutchins Lecture" series. And the title of the lecture is "Steel-String Magnolias: Women in Bluegrass. Here's a link: 

http://south.unc.edu/2014/01/01/hutchins-lecture-murphy-hicks-henry/

The lecture is open to the pubic. My sisters Nancy and Laurie will be there and I hope they will be getting up to sing some songs with me during my lecture.

The three of us will also be giving a noon performance from 12:00-1:00 as part of "Music On the Porch." That location is the Center for the Study of the American South @ the Love House & Hutchins Forum.

I will have books there to sell and sign, and I will also have some of the old Red and Murphy albums which have recently been reissued on CDs!!!

If you make it to either of these, please come up and shake and howdy!

Hope to see you there!

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Ben Smelser

Ben Smelser

Trying to help Murphy again on these blogs so here goes. At 12:30 campers began checking in and picking up their name tags. After looking around I could tell that some of these faces I had seen before. Yep I was right!! Returning campers from last year's intermediate camp. Going around the room listening to introductions I noticed that some folks did a great deal of traveling. Maine, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, and Southern Virginia. Plus I noticed that most of our heads were grey/white except for one teenager, the gentleman from Maine, and one Banjo instructor. The other instructor's hair has been altered. [Ha, ha!] I would say the average age for this Camp would be probably around 55. Where are all the young people? We've all gotta do better job of getting the youth involved. How many of us wish we wouldn't have waited so long to start playing? Encourage the young! ...continue reading

Ben Smelser

Ben Smelser

Yep, that's right folks, the Thursday night Jam was held at the Courtyard Marriott to help accommodate the Murphy Method Intermediate campers who are living there the next few days while attending camp. So....that makes a big house. Bigger than mine anyhow! 

Oh yeah, I'm blogging, not Murphy, trying to help her out cause she is busy with the camp. Since we had so many folks there last night I won't get into names. But here's my take!

Once we got the room set up and everyone got in the circle we were ready to jam. I missed the first song due to Murphy forcing me to drive to her studio and get the bass. But I rushed and that was the only song I missed. [It was a 15 minute version of Banjo in the Hollow!] ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I wish I could use one of Betty's colorful expressions about her banjo playing for the title of this blog, but she would kill me. In fact, right after she said what she said, she looked right at me with a steely glare and said, "You better not use that in the blog!" To which I could only reply, "Yes, ma'am!"

Some of Betty's frustration centered around John Hardy. She has been playing it slowly and without inflection, as Casey and I both insist that beginning students do. But, as Betty said, when she hears the rest of us play John Hardy in the jam it sounds like a completely different tune! I know what she means. And it's not the speed that makes it sound different (although the speed does play a part), it's more the inflection or the bounce, as we say in the banjo world.

Let me try to explain.  ...continue reading

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Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well! I never thought I would hear those words out of the mouth of Betty Fisher! But last night in the jam she was playing her patootie off and she did an exceptionally good job on Old Joe Clark. After we were done, I heaped praise on her as did Bobby. I told her that Ben Smelser himself hadn't done as well the first time he played Old Joe Clark in the jam, especially on the coming-back-in part. At which point Betty uttered the amazing words, "Well, I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself!" And I was proud of her for being proud! ...continue reading