Beginning Banjo Camp Part Two: The Concerts

Murphy Henry

The students also got to do some quality listening. Friday night Casey’s new band, the Gooseneck Rockers (with Marshall Wilborn on bass and Tom Adams on guitar) performed. They were excellent, of course, with tight harmony, unusual song selection (not the SOS), and Casey’s inventive, playful banjo picking. The quirky emceeing of Tom Adams is also a plus. Casey, who was fighting a cold, had a coughing fit during one of the songs and mouthed to me from the stage, “Cough drop!” I sprang into action, ran to my table of “stuff,” poked a hole in a brand new, cellophane-wrapped box of Fisherman’s Friend cough drops, and extracted a lozenge. Then, approaching the band from behind, I sidled up to Casey and popped the cough drop into her open mouth. She didn’t miss a beat!

Gooseneck Rockers

The Gooseneck Rockers: Tom Adams, Marshall Wilborn, Casey Henry (Photo by Janet)

 

I joined the Rockers for their second set, which was really a Casey and Murphy set backed up by Tom and Marshall. Our pre-planning had consisted of Casey and me saying, ten minutes before we went on, “What shall we play?” We decided to open with a medley of Banjo in the Hollow, Cripple Creek, Cumberland Gap, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. We also decided our other instrumentals would be Earl’s Breakdown and our twin version of Dixie Breakdown. The singing songs we would just wing! We ended up singing East Virginia Blues, I’ve Laid Around and Played Around in This Old Town Too Long, and I'll Fly Away. We ended with Will the Circle Be Unbroken and invited everyone to sing along. It was great!

 

Saturday night my newest crop of Misfits performed and I was so proud of them! Scott, who had been playing banjo only since January, played Lonesome Road Blues (low and high breaks), Dueling Banjos, and then kicked off and sang Long Gone, vamping while he was singing, and then coming back in for several breaks. I played guitar and sang tenor.

Murphy and Scott

Murphy and Scott

 

Bob Van was up next. He, along with Janet, was one of our rhythm guitar players for the weekend but the concert gave him a chance to show off his flatpicking and singing. With me playing second guitar and singing tenor we did Step Off on That Beautiful Shore, When the Roll is Call Up Yonder (instrumental), and Kneel at the Cross. We also entertained the crowd with some of our good-natured Bob and Murphy banter. Murphy: “What do you want to start with?” Bob: “Do I have a choice?” Murphy: “Yes, we can do one of these three songs.” Bob: “It doesn’t matter what I say, you’re going to do what you want.” Murphy: “Ok, how about starting with When the Roll?” Bob: “No, let’s do Step Off on that Beautiful Shore.” Murphy (rolling eyes): “Whatever.” And on and on and on....

 

Murphy and Bob

Murphy and Bob

Janet (guitar) and Kenney (on bass) and I (banjo) had worked up three songs. Janet and Kenney are my square dancing friends, and, as I told the students, Janet is sometimes my partner when we don’t have enough men to dance and I dance the man’s part. So, we’ve played together a few times to entertain our square dancing friends. (Not for the dancing, though!) Saturday night we started off with Janet and me singing Somebody Touched Me. Then we did the Boogie Woogie so we could feature Janet taking a lead guitar break! She took a total of three breaks and did a fantastic job! We closed out our portion of the show with Rocky Top, which has a lot of tricky chords. Kenney, who has only been playing bass for about 8 months, didn’t miss a one!

 

Murphy, Janet, Kenney

Murphy, Janet, Kenney

Then it was time for Zac. You’ve read about Zac before in this blog. Zac is now a senior in high school and I’m happy to say he has really kept up with his banjo playing. He can now play REALLY FAST. So, with Bob Van on bass and me on rhythm guitar, we burned through Crying Holy Unto the Lord, Down Yonder, Sally Goodwin, and Fireball Mail. The great thing about Zac’s playing is that, even when he’s playing fast, he plays really clean. And his vamping is right in the pocket (as we say) and never too loud.

 

Murphy, Zac, Bob

Murphy, Zac, Bob

That ended the first half of the concert. We took a short break and then regrouped with all the Misfits to demonstrate the fine art of jamming. Scott, Bob, Zac, Janet, and Kenney had never played together in a group before, so they were going to have to reply on all their “jamming” skills. Of course, since I was there to act a facilitator, I was able to make sure the songs were well known to all the players. We did some standards like I Saw the Light, Blue Ridge Cabin Home, John Hardy, Salty Dog, and Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms. We ended with Foggy Mountain Breakdown, played slow at first, and then we turned Zac loose! Again, I was so proud of my students. And I hoped that seeing them play would serve as an inspiration to all the students at the camp. That is certainly part of the pay off for me as a teacher, seeing my students playing and seeing them enjoying it so much!

 

Everyone!

Everyone!

Camp ended with lunch on Sunday. Some folks had had to leave early to deal with Hurricane Sandy. I’m happy to say that here in Shawneeland we survived with no loss of power and no trees down. Ditto for Casey in Winchester. Hope the rest of you were as lucky.

 

Our next Winchester camp will be our Intermediate Camp March 22-24. This will be held at the Marriott Hotel in Winchester. Plenty of room for night-time jamming! Hope you will join us there!

 

And for you folks in the Portland, Oregon, area, I’ll be out there for a Banjo Workshop January 11-13. We had a great time last year, and I’m looking forward to working with all y’all (as we say here) again!

**All photos courtesy of Janet. She took most of them except, obviously, the ones that have her in them!**