Tip Jar Jam #19: Texting And Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

And thanks to Kasey S. for this blog title. Kasey showed up yesterday, cute as a bug, in her shorts and cowboy boots. It’s amazing how styles change. In my day that attire would have been considered dorky beyond belief. But, as I told Kasey, if she’s wearing it, it must be High Fashion! Anyhow, last night, for our final number, we were playing a slow version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Kasey had just finished her break. I watched with fascination as she then took out her phone and, while her dad, Ben, was playing his break (and why would she want to listen to that??), her thumbs were just a-flying. Texting away while still holding her banjo. As soon as she pushed “send” she put the phone down and started playing again. It was so 21st century!


We welcomed new jammer Steve last night, and also a returning new jammer, Kristina. Kristina takes mandolin lessons from me, and can now take leads on Boil Them Cabbage, Cripple Creek, Worried Man, and I Saw the Light. She also can chord to these (and many other three-chord songs in G) and last night during her lesson I showed her how to chord in the Key of C, since I knew we were going to have some “women singing” that night. She only had to learn one new chord, F, to go along with the C and the G she already knew. She hears chords changes well, so she didn’t have a problem chording along in C. Our next key will be A, but we’ll wait till the Key of C sinks in good!


Steve takes banjo lessons from my Casey and this was his first jam ever. He plays most of the beginning banjo songs and he can vamp. But what I didn’t realize is that, over the months, our jam has gotten much faster. We’re not up to a stage tempo yet but, as I found out, it’s hard for a new jammer to keep up. Steve was as good-natured as he could be about it, saying he’d jump in if he could. But I finally realized we needed to play some of the tunes slowly and in unison to give him a fighting chance to play. He said the whole jam thing was so new, he was trying to hear everything at once and it was a bit overwhelming. But I hope he’ll be back.


Bob A returned after a month-long absence. (He had some surgery on his foot and couldn’t drive.) After two years of lessons, he can now play simple lead breaks to 30 songs. (And we started from scratch.) However, the word “play” is slippery. And I only agreed to keep teaching him lead breaks to all these songs (30 was his goal, not mine!) if he would agree to stop at 30 for a while and polish them. Because my idea of being able to “play” a song is this: can you play it in a slow jam? I don’t care about speed or mistakes. My criteria are: can you play through your mistakes (no stopping!) and can you play the chords? So, Bob and I have been “polishing” on his songs. And he did very well last night! I was so proud of him. I think he was mad because he didn’t play perfectly, but I never care about that. He also sang lead on two songs, Beulah Land (a Do Lord clone) and Circle. Singing is something we’ve also been working on, because, as I told the jammers (with Bob’s permission—“You’re gonna tell it anyhow,” is what he said!), Bob had been told all his life that he couldn’t sing. NOT TRUE! He just needed to find his key. And it’s not the same key for every song. So he sang Beulah Land in G and Circle in C. (We decided, on the spot, that C was too low for Circle, so I’m guessing we’ll be moving that one to the Key of D, which presents its own problems in a slow jam. How many banjo players can play in D????)


Our other jammers were: Bob V, Janet, Kathy H., Scott, and Kenney on bass. A total of 10 folks. (Ben did play a couple of numbers on bass, giving Kenney a break. And although he said he kept expecting me to turn around and give him the evil eye—or maybe he called it the “look”—he did a great job and kept good time.)


And here’s something you’ll be hearing more about: The National Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring a gigantic, nationwide fund-raiser called “The Longest Day” on Friday, June 21, which is, of course, the longest day of the year. They are asking folks to form teams to do something they love doing all day long. So, I have formed a team called Murphy’s Misfits and we will be picking all day long! From 9 am to 9 pm! And you are welcome to join us—picking or listening! I’ll have more information about the event and how you can donate to the cause as I find out more about it. But mark it on your calendars. I have already set up my team page which you can view right here. You can join the team there and/or make a donation. I am doing this in memory of Mama and Daddy, Wynk and L.G. Hicks, who both had Alzheimer’s for ten years each and died of complications from the disease. Believe me, I want to support research for this awful disease! Every time I forget a word, I have a small moment of panic! More info later!

4 thoughts on “Tip Jar Jam #19: Texting And Foggy Mountain Breakdown

  1. Steve (in Honolulu)

    “Dorky” means unfashionable. Though, without the “y” it’s meaning is truly beyond belief.

  2. Martin Bacon

    I thought you might have to form another slow jam and bring a whole new group along and then blend them in.

  3. Barbara Grupe

    Sorry I can’t be a part of “Murphy’s Misfits” on the 21st. I’ll won’t get back
    From San Francisco ’til late that night. I’m enjoying your blog here in the city by the bay. Barbara G.

  4. Barbara Grupe

    Murphy forget my last comment. Of course I”ll be home by June 21st. Hope to join your group.

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