Earl Scruggs, with family and friends, played at the Ryman last week to kick off the Springer Mountain Farms Bluegrass at the Ryman concert series. He has played this series several times before, but this is the first time I’ve ever been free to go see him at the venue where he made bluegrass history when he stepped on the Grand Ole Opry stage with Bill Monroe. I hadn’t planned on going, but in the middle of teaching a lesson that afternoon it struck me—how the heck can I call myself a banjo player if I’m in town and Earl is playing and I don’t go see him? So I bought my ticket— at 5:00 that afternoon—and got a great seat in the tenth row (there are some advantages to attending concerts by oneself).
The Infamous Stringdusters opened the show, and Earl took the stage after intermission. I only had eyes for Earl, but for the sake of completeness I’ll tell you who else he had playing with him: Bryan Sutton (guitar), Jon Randall (guitar, mando), Randy Scruggs (elec. guitar), Gary Scruggs (bass), John Gardner (percussion), Hoot Hester (fiddle), and Rob Ickes (Dobro).
They kicked off the show with “Salty Dog” and it is hard not to get goose bumps of joy to think that you are sitting there listening to Earl play IN PERSON! (I’ve included a complete set list below.) Alas Earl seemed to have a bit of a cold and kept wiping his nose, and he was playing quite far back from his microphone, requiring the sound folks to really run it hot. But those are trivial details compared to the excitement of seeing the man in person. ...continue reading
The excitement in the air was palpable as over three hundred guitar and mandolin students arrived for week 2 at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp. Week 2 has an entirely different feel from Week 1, which is much smaller. Little jams spring up under every tree and on the front porch of every building. I taught six delightful students in the mandolin 101 class. This is the very beginning class for people who had never played before. We stuck to the lessons on Beginning Mandolin Volume 1, starting with two-finger chords (G, C, D) and strumming to lots of different songs. Then we did the G scale and by the end of the week we'd made it through "Boil Them Cabbage Down," "Skip To My Lou," and "Polly Wolly Doodle" with the chords and strumming to all three. And we changed our strings--all eight of them! Changing strings can be very intimidating to beginners, but when you've done it at least once, you can see that it's not that big of a deal.
There are concerts every night of the week at Kamp. I had the fortune to have some great musicians play on my set with me: Kathy Barwick (Dobro), Chris Jones (guitar), David Harvey (mandolin), and Celia Wyckoff (bass).
By the end of the week, everybody's brains are full to overflowing with new information, and their spirits are full of musical inspiration. We (even the instructors) go home inspired to practice and learn new things and we all hope that we can come back and do it again next year.
I write from the beautiful campus of Maryville College in Maryville, TN, where I've been for the past week and a half, teaching at Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp. Last week we had bluegrass banjos, fingerstyle guitars, Dobros, fiddles, basses, and old-time banjos. This week is flatpicking guitars and mandolins. My Banjo 101 class last week was small but fun. My two students, Paul and Phil, learned their rolls, three chords, "Banjo in the Hollow," "Boil Them Cabbage Down," and "Cripple Creek." I told them they now have enough to practice on for about four months or so! This week I have six Mandolin 101 students. So far they have learned three chords, "Boil Them Cabbage Down" and "Skip To My Lou." We will keep learning, picking and grinning here and I'll report more later!
We're in the process of developing this blog, which we plan to launch on July 1, 2008. Stay tuned!