Tip Jar Jams: Too Fast For Kasey To Text!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Tuesday night student Mark Heilman joined us for the first time and whoo hoo! He plays really fast! I knew he played fast so I wouldn't let him kick anything off at first. Then when I felt like he'd gotten an idea of how fast we play, I let him kick off Old Joe Clark. Yikes! You should have seen Kasey's eyes pop open! She looked right at me and her whole face said, "OMG!" She knew there would be no texting during this song! Ben just rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. He knew Kasey had his back and would come to his rescue, which she did! I am proud to say Kasey put the "thumb to the five" and came through with flying colors. Thanks for pushing her, Mark. (Or "pooshing" her, as we say here!) Loved having you at the jam. Come back anytime!

We got an "extry spatial" treat Tuesday when Marshall Wilborn showed up to play an hour of bass. Wow! I think the students were a bit star-struck. Thanks, Marshall. Having that rock-solid rhythm was one thing that enabled everyone to play fast. So, it was Providential that you came on the same night Mark did!

I asked Kasey to sing Rocky Top again, which we have now moved to the Key of C which suits her voice better. (We don't do that high, Osborne Brothers ending, though.) She sings it great, but has gotten into the habit of pulling the words up on her iPhone, just for reference. "I don't really look at them." "End of December," I reminded her, meaning she has until the end of December to memorize those words because in January, no more iPhone!

I gave Kasey a copy of a CD I just reviewed for Bluegrass Unlimited, True Grass Revival by Marteka and William Lake. Marteka is only 15 and already she is really good Scruggs-style banjo player. She's got The Sound and The Feel. I wanted Kasey to hear her, because as I told Kasey, "You can do this, too. Just depends on how hard you want to work." I don't effuse about young banjo players easily but something about Marteka's playing really spoke to me.

Wednesday's jam was bass-less, as Kenney had taken his bass home to do some work on it. Nevertheless, we had some high moments. I've been working with Kristina on mandolin improvising and during her lesson we stumbled on something that seemed to work well. (She made a mistake in playing what I had showed her and her mistake turned out to be vastly superior to my idea, so we kept the "mistake.") I was looking for a "lick" that could be used in all the closed three-finger chords on the mandolin, so that Kristina could play an improvised "no-melody" break in any key. (Of course, the foundation for this is hearing the chord changes.) She tried it on Blue Ridge Cabin Home and I thought it sounded "super," to use a 1970s word.

Bobby was all excited about her break and said, "I haven't heard that song in a long time. What was it? I can't think of the name." And I'm going, "Huh? It was Blue Ridge Cabin Home."

"No, no," he says, "it's another song. I can't think of it."

Again I say, "It's just an improv pattern I taught Kristina. It's not really a song. Are you thinking of the Boogie Woogie that I sometimes show mandolin players?"

"No, no," he says. "Not the Boogie Woogie. Dammit, I can't think of it."

"Well, the only thing I can think of that it sounds like is Me And My Fiddle, that Benny Martin tune that Dolly Parton used for her song Nine To Five. You know, 'Tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition and moan and stretch and try to come to life...' "

"That's it! That's the song! Me And My Fiddle. I haven't heard that for years."

Well, I never! But he was right--it did sound like Me And My Fiddle. I hate it when Bobby is right! Luckily, it doesn't happen often.

I have high hopes for this mandolin improv. There's a lot riding on your shoulders, Kristina. Beginning mandolin players everywhere are waiting with bated breath to see if this is going to work. No pressure though! 🙂

I threw another new song at Kathy H on Wednesday, Traveling the Highway Home, a great three-chorder sung by Molly O'Day and Ralph Stanley. (Note: It's the same melody as Coming Down From God (Better Get In That Number That No One Can Number), so beware. I may pull that out next time!) Kathy is getting good at finding the tenor part on the fly. And one of the high notes she hit was AWESOME. At first she thought it was a mistake, but, oh no. It was The Note. I can't tell you what the note was or how to find it (Is it a "6" note in the chord? Casey would know. I tend to like those....) but I absolutely love it when I hear it. I think that song, like Purple Robe, is a keeper.

And I have to brag on Bob A, who had used the Flatpicking DVD to learn the entire break to Soldier's Joy in open D. It's not quite jam ready, but it should be soon. I got tears in my eyes when I heard him play it. Really, I did.

Wednesday night was Bob Mc's last jam for a while. He's retiring and moving to Florida! He'll be back for the Apple Blossom Festival in May (and our jam at his house) but he and his wife are relocating to Satellite Beach. (And he will be looking for pickers! So let me know if you live in that area and want to jam!) He obviously had read my previous blog because he kept referring to being in his "McWorld." I loved it. I'm going to miss his dry sense of humor and his Steeler's attire.

In Bob's honor we closed out the jam with one of his favorite songs, Keeper Of The Door by the Gillis Brothers. Then, since that one seemed too slow and sad, we ripped through Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Thus ended the Tip Jar Jams for 2013! Bob Mc was kind enough to give me some Christmas candy--chocolate and peanut butter Buckeyes!. Thank you Bob. And not to be outdone, Bobby had made me a pan of cornbread! I wish I'd saved our text messages about the cornbread. Basically, he said he was making cornbread and I asked him to bring me some. He said there wouldn't be any left. I said, "It won't kill you to save me a slice." So, he made another pan and brought it to me. Who would have thought Bobby would be such a good cook?

Well, this winds down the blogs for this year. I can't imagine I'll have time to blog for the next two weeks. But I will resume, TGLWATCDR*, in January. Thanks so much for reading! I know we have many faithful readers out there, and believe me, I appreciate you. This blog is not "interactive" with lots of comments going back and forth, but I know from casual comments that you're out there! And that makes doing all this writing worthwhile.

So Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas to Ben (!), and Happy New Year to you all. Hope to see you in one of our jams or our camps next year!

Next Jams:

Sunday January 5: Frederick, Maryland, 3-5

Tuesday, January 7: Winchester, Virginia, 7-9

Wednesday, January 8: Winchester, 7-9.

Portland People:

Womens' Jam, Thursday, January 9: 7-9

Murphy Method Workshop (everyone): January 10-12

See our webpage for more details. Can't wait to see all you folks on the West Coast!

* The Good Lord Willing And The Creek Don't Rise!