Tip Jar Jam #10: Listening To The Rain

Murphy Henry

In spite of flood warnings all over the media, nine hardy souls donned their slickers and ventured out to Wednesday's Tip Jar Jam. Looking only slightly bedraggled (except for Kasey who looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine!) were

Bob V--guitar
Ashley--mandolin and fiddle
Bob Mc--banjo
Me--guitar, banjo, fiddle

Bob V was kind enough to tune my guitar before the jam started, which makes me feel like a big star. So, naturally, after we had played our first few tunes, I had to stop, get out MY tuner and tune the bass E string. Can't let him slide, you know!

We played our usual repertoire of tunes, hitting most of Beginning Banjo Vol 1, a couple from Vol 2, and a couple from Misfits. With Suzi there, I also made "suit" (as we say here) to play Turkey in the Straw, Amazing Grace, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Old Joe Clark, and When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. These are all tunes Suzi likes to play. I figure I need to keep her happy because she has to sit through all those banjo tunes and the bluegrass singing songs that she's never heard. We also did Boil Them Cabbage Down (so I could tease Kasey about not liking it!) and at the end we all played it together, old-time style. I thought it sounded really good and had a lot of energy. I asked Suzi how she liked it. "Boring," she said. Suzi will speak her mind!

With four heading-toward-intermediate-level banjo players there, we did Lonesome Road Blues. Whoops, make that three--Kasey bowed out of this one. I think she went into the next room to text someone! Anyhow, Ben, who has just learned the tune, kicked it off and did a good job of staying in time and recovering from his minor misses. He passed it to Bob who somehow got off on the wrong foot going into the high break. I thought he was heading for a train wreck for sure, but, lo and behold, in the middle of the high break he jumped down to the low break, came in smoothly on that C chord, finished the low break, then jumped back to the high break, which he hit cleanly this time, and finished up his break in perfect time. I was so proud of him. I don't think he'd mind my telling you that I had been trying to get him to do that very thing for months, nay, years, but I think HE thought that he was "failing" if he didn't hang in there with the high break. I kept trying to tell him, as I do everyone, that the only thing that matters is to KEEP THE SONG GOING. You do whatever it takes. Somehow, now that he is taking lessons from Casey, he gets it! And naturally I ragged him about that.

Somewhere in the middle of one of the songs we were playing I heard a "pop" and looked down to see that my third string had broken. Without saying a word, Bob V handed me his guitar, I handed him mine, and he went off to change my string. NOT that Janet couldn't have handled the rhythm on her own, especially with Kenney on bass. But I thought that was really sweet of Bob.....and went a long way toward making up for him not saying the "right things" about the Xerox of my book cover.

You see, the University of Illinois Press had sent me a copy of the front cover of my new book. (AWESOME LOOKING!) So I had printed it out (black and white) to show to my students. I showed it to Bob and instead of saying something like "Great cover. This looks awesome" he starts asking questions: "Is it going to be in color? Is this the size the book is going to be?" "I don't know, Bobby," I said. "All I need to hear you say is something nice, like GREAT COVER. This looks good." "Well, dammit," he said, "I knew you wanted me to say something, I just didn't know what." "It's not rocket science, Bob. Just a few kind words will do. I am sooooo easy to please." I don't think I should mention his reply!

Anyhow, in answer to possible questions about the cover, I will post a picture of it ASAP, if the Press will allow it. The book should be out in May or June. I just need to finish the final proofing and complete the index.

The Jam ended at 9 pm with a short and sweet version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown. As I was putting away my guitar, Scott says, "Play something for us, Murphy." "On the banjo?" I asked. "Yeah." "What do you want to hear?" "What about Fireball Mail." So I strapped on the five, put on the picks, and away I went. Scott grabbed my guitar to play along, and Bob and Janet also played their guitars. Kenney had unplugged his bass but, as I found out, he was watching closely and playing along silently. When I ended the song, Kenney asked, "What are the chords in that song?" "Just G and D," I said. Kenney said, "I was watching Bob on the guitar and I saw he was only using G and D but what I thought was 'Bob's messing up--he's only playing two chords.'" I laughed and said, "That's going in the blog!" And here it is. Y'all come jam with us if you're ever in the area!

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