Tip Jar Jam #22 Oh! Is That The One You’re Doing?

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

And thanks to Bob Mc for the title of this week's blog. Let me do a little explaining. Last Saturday, as part of Winchester's big Apple Blossom Festival weekend, Bob Mc hosted a picking party at his house. We picked outside for about two hours on Bob's patio and since most of us were long-time Tip Jar Jammers the feeling was comfy. When it came time to do the last song, I said, "Why don't we close out with John Hardy?" Then, remembering my manners, I turned to Bob and said, "Since it's your party, what do you want to do for the last song?" Naturally, I expected Bob to say, "John Hardy will be fine," which was the right answer, as Bob Van would have known. But Bob Mc will not be "herded," so to speak. So he said, "What about Old Home Place?" My fast-as-greased-lightning reply was, "No! That's not a good one to end with." And when he looked at me like, "Well, why did you ask me?" my Casey jumped in and said, "Jam buster!" I added, "The chords are too hard for this jam." Whereupon Bob said, "Well, John Hardy will be fine." To which I responded, in true Family Feud fashion, "Good answer! That's what you should have said to begin with!"


Now, inch forward to Tuesday when Ben came in for a singing lesson. I won't cover all the gory details but the long and the short of it was Ben wanted to sing Old Home Place since my Casey was teaching him and his Kasey a banjo break. Normally, I wouldn't think about adding a song to the jam that has two "off" chords in it. It's just too hard. But we've been jamming steady now for almost six months and you know what? Everyone has gotten so much better! And besides, Ben can be awfully persuasive, looking out from under his baseball cap and saying how he just wants to do it for Kasey, so they can have some father-daughter bonding time. Anyhow....I said okay. Then it turned out that the best key for Ben to sing it in is the Key of C. (G would have been sooooooo much easier!) But, again, we've been playing quite a bit in C, using the capos, and I thought we could handle it.
Shift now to last night, Wednesday, our jam night. I knew Ben and Kasey weren't going to be there (Kasey had a school concert to attend), so I decided to get a head start on Old Home Place by taking some time to teach the chords to the jammers.


Small aside about the chords to Old Home Place: If you are playing the song in the key of G, the "off" chord in the verse is B (or B7 on guitar) and the "off" chord in the chorus is A. (The chorus also uses the B again.) But, since Ben is going to sing it in C, the off chord in the verse becomes E and the off chord in the chorus becomes D. (With the E used again in the chorus.) I made everyone (guitars and banjos) learn the chords without using the capos so I could call out the "real" chords and thus avoid the nightmare of trying to call out two sets of chords, one for the capoed folks, and one for the upcapoed folks!


Returning now to the jam...So, with me singing, we go through the chords to Old Home Place in C, learning them in bits and pieces, playing them over and over, and finally putting the whole song together. Then, since Scott knew a banjo break, I said, "Let's put it all together now, like a real song." Well, of course, if you're going to play the banjo break that you've learned in G, you have to capo up to the fifth fret to play in C. Bob A, on guitar, reminded me that he, too, knew a break and Bob Van said he could play a break too. So all of a sudden, Scott was going to have to share the spotlight! (I'd told him he could have all the breaks. Whoops!) Then I remember that Bob Mc had asked for Old Home Place at his party, so that undoubtedly meant he knew a break, also. So I turned to him and said, "You were the one who wanted to play Old Home Place at your party. Do you want a break too?"  It was then that Bob uttered these immortal words: "Oh! Is that the one you're doing?" And he'd been vamping right along with us for the last ten minutes!


And, not to pick on Bob Mc (okay, I guess I am picking on him...but he has broad shoulders!), but this is a good example of a classic disconnect between the banjo break and the song. Folks, you've gotta learn the words to the songs! Just one verse and chorus will do. That's one thing that the Tip Jar Jam is really helping with.
Alright. I'm out of time. Gotta get to work now on a paper I'm presenting about my book,Pretty Good for a Girl, at the International Country Music Conference in Nashville on May 25.


BTW, the books should be here ANY DAY NOW! If you've pre-ordered we'll send them out AS SOON AS THEY ARRIVE.


Jammers present last night:

Bob Van





Bob A



Bob Mc


Only TWO banjos! We missed you Kasey and Ben!