Tip Jar Jam #5

Murphy Henry

Our fifth Tip Jar Jam, December 19, went swimmingly! (I always wanted to use that word!) We were “lighter” than at the last few jams (meaning we had fewer people), but we were all bubbling with enthusiasm. I know I look forward to these Wednesday night gatherings and I think the students do also.


Present and accounted for were:


Suzi (fiddle)

Jon (banjo)

Bob A (lead guitar)

Zac (banjo)

Todd (guitar)

Bob Mc (banjo)

Barbara (bass)


We were a Bob short (ha ha—I think that sounds British!) as Bob Van was sick as a dog, bless his heart. Janet and Kenney also didn’t make it so without my two mainstays on guitar I was obliged to play guitar for the entire two hours. Except for the times I pulled out the fiddle to play a twin tune with Suzi. We, along with Bob A, actually did a pre-jam version of Silent Night (in G) while everyone else was getting tuned up and sampling the cookies Zac’s mom, Kathy, had made. Bob had just learned Silent Night (he badgered me into letting him learn it, as he so often does!) and he played it beautifully. Suzi did her usual amazing job of transposing since she normally plays it in the Key of D. It sounded really good with all of us playing the lead together and was a good, Christmassy way to start the jam.


I’ll really have to brag some more on Bob A because he took quite a few leads on guitar and did very well. (And he’s only been playing for a year and a half! Yes, he does practice all the time!) Some of the songs he picked lead on were: Blue Ridge Cabin Home, I Saw the Light, Two Dollar Bill, I’ll Fly Away, and Old Joe Clark. I’m a big believer in learning to pick the simple singing songs on the guitar (playing just the melody notes), because these are actually playable in a jam. The harder instrumentals (Salt Creek, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Liberty, Soldier’s Joy) are just that: too hard! More and more I’m realizing that it is the singing songs that make a slow jam work--all instruments can play these.


Two of the lovely surprises of the evening came from Jon, who takes lessons from Casey. He actually sang Mountain Dew! I had no idear he could do that. It sounded really good, too, in the Key of A. This song gave Bob Mc a chance to improvise a break and he came through with flying colors! At the end of the jam, when we were officially done, Jon said something about how he liked to play Joy To The World on the banjo. I said, “Have at it!” So he played a lovely rendition of one of my favorite Christmas carols while son Chris and I accompanied him. I asked him if that was a version Casey had taught him and he said yes. I said, not for the last time, that she really comes up with good versions of the tunes she teaches. One more brag about Jon: he is really, really good at playing through his mistakes, which is exactly what you have to do to play in a jam!


And speaking of son Chris who is in town for Christmas...He came in toward the end of the jam, joining us on mandolin in the middle of I’ll Fly Away and tremolo-ing away. He and I then did a blistering version of Little Girl in Tennessee (mandolin and guitar) after I had declined to try to sing tenor on Bill Monroe’s The Last Whippoorwill, which I don’t know well at all. The jam then moved on to When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder with Chris and me providing the vocals. Then Chris and Zac played a fast instrumental together—I think it was John Hardy—and then we closed out the jam with first a slowish version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown and then Chris and Zac took off on a lightning fast version. Zac, a senior in high school and an excellent banjo player, is so good to come and play slow with us that I was glad he and Chris could cut loose on a couple. Zac and I had done a few fast numbers along and along—Clinch Mountain Backstep, Crying Holy, Sally Goodwin, Salt Creek—with me taking lead guitar breaks on the last too. I figure I can’t very well ask the students to step out of their comfort zones if I don’t step out of mine occasionally!


After thanking Barbara for doing an excellent job of holding down the bass duties (always nice to thank your bass player!), we parted amid cries of “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year!” since we won’t be doing a jam the Wednesday after Christmas. But we will be back in the saddle again the first Wednesday in January, January 2, the first Wednesday in the New Year. We have such a good time and the students are improving so much, I urge you to join us if you can. Please call ahead (800-227-2357) if you are coming from a long distance in case of changes.


Now, on to breakfast and the tasks of the day which include a final trip to Toys R Us to get one more thing for grandson Dalton! Hope your last five days before Christmas aren’t too hectic!


On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A banjo in a pear tree


On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Two mandolins and a banjo in a pear tree


On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Three guitars and a banjo in a pear tree


On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Four fiddle bows and a banjo in a pear tree


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me

Five bass fiddles......


Not the greatest and I could go on but I will spare you! Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

One thought on “Tip Jar Jam #5

  1. Steve (in Japan)

    I enjoyed reading this one. It’s great and inspiring. Thank you. I wish all the tip-jar jammers a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013 New Year.

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