Tip Jar Jam: When You’re Told To Come To The Damn Jam You Come!

Today's title is courtesy of Betty, one of our newest and most faithful jammers. The entire text exchange went like this:

Betty (8:45 am): Jam tonight?

Me: Yes! Yea! [We'd been snowed out completely last week.]

Betty: (6:10 pm): At work. [She's a nurse.] Just opened my banjo. No capo. It there isn't one I can borrow will have to wait and come tomorrow night. )-:

Me: Come to the damn jam. Use Ben's capo!

Betty: LOL. Ok.

Thus, the title!

We had a lively jam last night as we always do when both Ben and Betty show up. Somehow they create a comfortable, hilarious atmosphere.

Take, for instance, Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms. Betty has just learned it, so I made sure we played it. Since none of the Bobs were there, I croaked it out in G, with Ben taking the lead on the choruses. After the song was over, Betty said, "I hate that verse about 'I know your parents don't like me, they drove me away from your door.' No wonder they don't like him. He doesn't want to work!" [You may recall the song starts out: I ain't gonna work on the railroad, I ain't gonna work on the farm, I'm gonna lay around the shack till the mail train comes back, and roll in my sweet baby's arms.]

She continued on with her rant: "I always wanted to write another verse that says, 'It's no wonder her parents don't like you,  you lazy, sad little jerk, all you want to do, is lay around and....."

Here she paused and said, "I'm not going to say that. I'm trying to clean up my act. What's a word that rhymes with 'do' "?

"Chew," I said, helpfully.

"That works," she said. "All you want to do, is lay around and chew, and roll in your sweet baby's arms."

By this time the rest of us were in stitches, except for Kasey who still seemed to be confused by the whole issue of finding a nice, Sunday School word that rhymed with "do." Bless her heart. She was pretty busy texting, so she might have missed out on some of the drama.

She did not miss out, however, on the drama Ben provided when we played Old Joe Clark. We had just gotten out of C (capoed up five), where we did some excellent womyn singing, and were fixing to play Old Joe Clark in G because there were no mandolins or fiddles present. (If you'd been there, Kristina, we'd have done it in A!) Old Joe was another new one for Betty (Casey, her teacher, is working her hard!) and I figured the complications of the capo might have wrecked the train. So Betty kicks it off, then Kasey takes her break, then Ben starts in on his and.....well, I never! What a racket! (I exaggerate, of course, using Georgia lingo. I knew exactly what was going on.) Ben had forgotten to un-capo his fifth string! I look over at Kasey with raised eyebrows and Kasey is looking back at me and we are both silently laughing and shaking our heads. It took Ben a few long seconds to figure out what was wrong, but then, like the Tip Jar Jam pro that he is, he reached up, unhooked his fifth string, and kept on playing! I was proud of him for that!

Speaking of proud, I was also proud of Kenney, on bass, for playing Old Joe Clark in the Key of G, when he learned it in A. And he doesn't have the luxury of a capo! (Bass players are expected to adapt!) I had briefly reviewed the chords with him before we started (G and D with F as the "off" chord), but then he was on his own. I did hear a strange sound coming out of the bass early on, but that soon disappeared. When the song was over, Kenney explained that he wasn't sure if I meant F-sharp or just regular F. So he had tried F-sharp, but that sounded funny so then he tried F and that sounded right. So he stuck with F! Good ears, Kenney!

Murphy and Janet

Murphy and Janet "womyn singing"

And while I'm slinging around praise, let me pat Janet on the back for two things: She took an extra guitar break when she was boss of the song Blue Ridge Cabin Home (very banjo-playerish!), and, even more wonderful, she improvised a break--on the spot--to Two Dollar Bill, something she's never, ever done before in the jam. I knew she could do it because she already plays so many songs that are similar to Two Dollar Bill. (Worried Man, Do Lord, Somebody Touched Me, Mountain Dew.) Still and yet, to make up a new break on the spot, in the middle of the jam, and then play it is pretty darn scary. Terrifying is probably a better word. But Janet did it! I'm proud of you, girl!

And I mustn't neglect the womyn singing. Diane and Janet and I are starting to work up some tight trios now in the key of C. Diane has a wonderfully expressive and strong lead voice, especially on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Janet has a solid tenor, and I fill in the holes with the baritone. (Remember, in bluegrass these are vocal parts, not vocal ranges. See our Harmony Singing Made Easy DVD.) Sometimes after the song is over, we sing an extra chorus a cappella--without the instruments--just because we like the sound!

And finally, you probably have heard by now that the great Pete Seeger died Monday, January 27, at the age of 94. In honor of him, we closed out the jam with Where Have All The Flowers Gone, a song that he wrote. I learned this song along with If I Had A Hammer and tons of other folks songs at camps I attended when I was young. I loved singing around the campfire. Loved it, loved it! Pete was all about singing. In fact, his biography is titled How Can I Keep From Singing. (I highly recommend it.) Diane sang with me and I think we both choked up a bit, I know I did. So, rest in peace, Pete. I'm guessing you've already traded in your harp for a banjo, and are leading the saints and angels in a rousing chorus of something celestial like When The Saints Go Marching In. Or perhaps you're just sitting quietly in the back of the choir, Toshi by your side, plunking on your banjo and smiling while Bill, Lester, and Earl sing Shine, Hallelujah, Shine. Thanks for all the music.