Tip Jar Jam #25: Salt Creek!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

As you can see, I am late, late, late with this blog! Like most of you, I am constantly trying to cram 10 pounds of activity into a 5-pound bag! (I cleaned that one up for public consumption!) But I hit the ground running faster than usual on Thursday after the jam, and am just now coming up for air! And I realized I'm gonna have to make these blogs shorter to continue blogging. So here is my first attempt at a shorter blog!


Here's one sign of how much our jam has evolved: last Wednesday night we played Salt Creek for the first time! And it came out pretty darn well. As a general rule I don't teach Salt Creek much anymore (and never to Beginners), even though it is on our Beginning Banjo Vol. 2 DVD. Why don't I? Well, although the lead part is not too terribly difficult on banjo, guitar, or mandolin, the chords are beastly! The pattern is hard, hard, hard and there doesn't seem to be any good way to teach it. You just have to learn it by slogging through the song time after time. (That's the way I learned it!) But Casey had taught Salt Creek to Ben and Kasey, I had taught it to Zac, and Bob Van has been working at it on guitar for years and has finally forgotten enough of my arrangement to be able to substitute some stuff of his own which he can actually play. And we didn't have any fiddles or mandolins to contend with. (No disrespect to fiddlers or mandolinners, but that meant we could play it in G and not have to worry about capoes.) And I decided that, instead of trying to teach the chord pattern to the group (which I have found almost never works anyhow), I'd just let them listen and try to pick up what they could. I did tell them we were playing in the Key of G and that the off chord was F.


Bob Van kicked it off so he could set the tempo. And I'll have to brag on Bobby: he played the living fire out of Salt Creek. Best I've EVER heard him play it. Who knows why he was playing so well? Maybe he just rose to the occasion. But again, I think one big reason was that he was substituting some of his own licks for licks of mine that had proved difficult. He didn't do this on purpose, these are licks that just came out. He didn't think about them. He was simply trying to put something in there and keep going. And it worked!


Why am I hammering that point about Bobby's homemade, substitute licks so hard? Because I think it's important to understand that my arrangements--even Earl's arrangements--are not The Only Way to play a song. There is NOT a perfect set of notes--no matter whose notes they are. The only thing that is imperative, the only thing you HAVE TO DO is to stay in time. And when Bobby was trying to play my notes, he was falling out of time. His choice of notes obviously make better sense to him. And, to use a colloquialism, they don't suck. The best notes to play are the notes you CAN PLAY!


Even though I studied Earl assiduously (My, my, my! I am full of big words today!), there were some of his notes that I just couldn't play. I either couldn't figure them out (Polka On A Banjo) or I couldn't execute them no matter how hard I tried (that C7 lick in Shucking the Corn). And by "play them" I meant play them on stage. Could I have worked harder and learned to play them? Perhaps. But, for whatever reason, I didn't. So finally I learned to substitute my own stuff--and eventually even learned to be happy with it! So, I hope each of you can get there. I love it when Kasey "accidentally" substitutes a lick from the one my Casey has taught. She always looks up at me like, "Whoops! I did it wrong!" But I always try to give her the thumbs up because what she played WORKED.
We did one other new song last Wednesday, Wagon Wheel, which Kathy is singing (and quite well, too, I must add). And while few of the "grownups" know it, Kasey and Zac were both singing along enthusiastically. Zac even took a banjo break. I believe that one is a keeper!


We'll be jamming again next Wednesday, so if you're in the area, come join us. We're always glad to slow down so beginning jammers can join us. (Hey, I guess that means we're not beginning jammers anymore!)
Don't forget about the Longest Day Jam on Friday, June 21. We'll be starting at 9 am and jamming till 8 pm when the Gooseneck Rockers (Casey, Tom Adams, Marshall Wilborn) will end the day by giving a concert from 8-9. My sisters Nancy and Laurie are coming so I'm looking forward to picking with them. Maybe we'll even get into some deep Broadman Hymnal songs. Maybe we'll do the Blood Songs: Washed in the Blood, Power in the Blood, Nothing But the Blood, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood. Oooh, sounds like fun!


Also, for those of you who have been patiently waiting: We will be shipping out the books Pretty Good For a Girl on Monday, June 3. Thanks for your patience! We received our carton of books right before Red and I both left town! As I said, 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag! Hope you enjoy the read. The book has been getting some good reviews. YEEHAW!


And one more thing: I will be doing my first book signing this coming Saturday, June 8, at the Winchester Book Gallery, starting at 3 pm. This event coincides with the Downtown Mall Beer Festival (which they are calling a Hops Festival) so grab a designated driver and come on down!


I don't think this blog is any shorter....sigh!