Tip Jar Jam: I’m Pretty Proud Of Myself!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well! I never thought I would hear those words out of the mouth of Betty Fisher! But last night in the jam she was playing her patootie off and she did an exceptionally good job on Old Joe Clark. After we were done, I heaped praise on her as did Bobby. I told her that Ben Smelser himself hadn't done as well the first time he played Old Joe Clark in the jam, especially on the coming-back-in part. At which point Betty uttered the amazing words, "Well, I have to say that I'm pretty proud of myself!" And I was proud of her for being proud!

You know, I enjoy every tip jar jam we have, but last night's jam was "extry spatial" fun for me, probably because I felt like I got to teach a lot. In addition to Betty and Bobby, Diane was back after a three-week layoff from guitar (and believe me, her fingertips were talking to her!). Except for the sore fingers, it was like she'd never been away. She played her three lead guitar breaks (I Saw The Light, Do Lord, Circle) with aplomb and sang her heart out.

Drew Campbell

Drew in his bibs.

And brightening up the jam with his youthful presence, his exuberant personality, his delightful banjo playing, and his bibs (!) was nine-year-old Drew, who came for the second time with his dad, Jason, who is learning guitar. There are many things I admire about Drew but I was especially appreciative of his cheerful willingness to slow down his playing to fit the jam. I tried to make it up to him by letting him play some of the instrumentals at breakneck speed after we'd done our first, slower version. My only rule was, "Don't play it any faster than you can stay in time." We had a couple of restarts on that account!

When Drew came to his first jam, a few weeks ago, he didn't do much vamping. But last night when he didn't vamp on our first tune, Banjo In The Hollow, I told him that if he went to a "real" jam, folks would think it was strange if he didn't vamp. They would probably think that he didn't know his vamp chords. I think that last statement got his attention. Because he does know his vamp chords and he has a good ear for the chord changes. I suspect, like many banjo players, he finds vamping boring. So he rose to the challenge and vamped on most of the tunes all night long, even when we went to A. Occasionally he would say, "I don't think I'll vamp on this one." To which I would reply, "I think you will." Sometimes I would say, "How about a compromise? You only have to vamp on half of it." And on tunes that he didn't yet play, especially the ones with "off" chords (Foggy Mountain Breakdown and Old Joe Clark), I told him he didn't have to vamp. And I was delighted to hear him soften up his vamping when Diane was taking her guitar breaks. I  complimented him on that. He said, "Well, everybody else was playing quieter, so I thought I should too." I told him I was proud of him for even noticing that everyone was quietening down!

At the end of the jam, I asked Drew if I could take his picture for the blog. He said I could and politely posed. He then asked his dad, "What's a blog?" Jason told him. I'm not sure Drew will see this blog, but if you do, Drew, hope it doesn't give you the big head! I have a feeling that the challenge of playing the banjo will keep you grounded. As it does all of us! I'm looking forward to playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown with you. I hope Casey decides that that can be your next tune! (Hint, hint!)

3 thoughts on “Tip Jar Jam: I’m Pretty Proud Of Myself!

  1. Betty Fisher

    I will have to say last night’s jam was a lot of fun. That darn Drew is just too amazing. I keep remembering the first jam he came to and said “Cumberland Gap”, my nemesis, was his best tune! Murphy just looked at me and smiled, then when he burned through it, Murphy and I looked at each other and laughed. When I tried to play it I was worse than EVER! LOL. I later told Murphy that was going to be my last jam until I got a lot better…………That darn Murphy can talk you out of anything! Anyway it was fun being back. (I really think Bobbie should always check to see what night I am coming and be there!) Isn’t it all about me?…..Now don’t start Murphy!

  2. Ben

    I am proud of you too Betty. But what’s nice is hearing that you’re proud of yourself. What a lot of folks don’t realize is the countless hours spent days in and out with these instruments. Trying to get our fingers to work, the chords, the A part, the B part, the melody. Then finally we get it. The older we get the more PRIDE we have in our accomplishments. Every new song makes each of us a little prouder of each other!! You Go Girl!!!!!

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