Tip Jar Jam: Nurse Betty Battles On!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Betty may kill me for this title, but she's the one who brought up the movie Nurse Betty--which popped into my head when I started writing this blog.

I have to brag on Betty even if it does jinx her for future jams. She played great last night--even though I can hear her denying it right now as she reads this: "Did not!"

"Did too! And I've got six witnesses to back me up!"

In the vast array of songs we did last night, from Banjo In The Hollow, and Cripple Creek to John Hardy and Foggy Mountain Breakdown, she played most excellently. Kicking songs off, vamping, putting endings on, and coming in for breaks. Even on Old Joe Clark, where she followed Scott's break on guitar, she came in perfectly. It was only after she nailed the entrance that she faltered and ground to a halt. "It's too fast," she said. (Kasey, sitting beside Betty, alertly picked up and finished Betty's break and then added the ending. Thanks, Kasey!)

Then I said to Betty, "Start the song again at your own pace." So she did, and played it through just fine. Then I told her what I had noticed: "You were playing at pretty much the same tempo you thought was too fast! I think you can actually play that fast, but you just got nervous and screwed up." Betty said, "I know. I can't seem to shake these nerves. I even get nervous when my husband walks in the room when I am practicing. I'll be doing fine and he'll walk in and I fall to pieces. I wish you could do something to fix me!"

I said, "I'm doing everything I can," as I pointed to all the folks in the jam. "This is the only way I know to get over being nervous."

In truth, Betty, who has been coming to the jams as much as her work permits, has really improved. She now plays the beginning songs--Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, I Saw The Light, Do Lord--with no problem. And she's starting to get much better on John Hardy, Old Joe Clark, and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. In fact when Jon was getting ready to kick off Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Betty said she didn't want to take a break. But since he didn't kick it off too fast, when it got to me, I mouthed to Betty, "Play with me." And she did. Beautifully played!

As I told her, it's sometimes hard to see how far you've come, because everyone gets so caught up in what they can't play. Sometimes you've got to step back and say, "Damn! I'm doing pretty good!"

But our attention wasn't totally focused on Betty last night! Kasey sang Rocky Top in C and afterwards the banjos worked on "splitting" the break, which was a new concept to Jon. He caught right on though, and was able to play either the verse or the chorus part with ease. We also played a few songs in the key of B, since Kenney had been working on that during his bass lesson. Ben said that he'd been wanting to learn to play bass in B so I asked Janet if she'd sing Blue Ridge Cabin Home in B so that Ben could give it at try. Before Kenney handed over the bass, he took a moment to show Ben where the chords (B, E, F#) were. I loved that moment--Kenney teaching Ben!

ASIDE: Writing those chords down reminds me of this. Earlier, I had my wonderful young guitar student Audree for a lesson. Before we started, she was tuning her guitar using her Snark Tuner with its lovely clear display. She thought she had the G string in tune, but to me it sounded high--a whole fret high. So, I asked her this question: "Is there a funny little mark by the G on the tuner?" She looked closely and said, "Do you mean the hash-tag?" And in that moment I realized the tremendous age gap between Audree and me. To me that funny little mark--#--is either the "number" sign or the "pound" sign. Alas, no! To the young people, it's a "hash-tag." At least now I know what the folks on TV mean when they give out a Twitter address and use the word "hash-tag." I had wondered! And now I know to say "G hash-tag" when I mean "G-sharp!" Anything for communication!

And now it's time for me to stop! Lunch is calling! Just one more thing: I challenged Kasey to play a fast number last night--Daybreak In Dixie. And I kicked it off! She kept right up with me--without struggling, without breaking a sweat! No problem! I was so proud of her. Ben, for once, was so engrossed in surreptitiously scratching the poison ivy on his arms that he forgot to look adoringly at Kasey with tears pooling up in his "proud father" eyes. I tried to make up for it--without the tears! You were FANTASTIC, Kasey! Keep up the good work! You make us all proud!

5 thoughts on “Tip Jar Jam: Nurse Betty Battles On!

  1. Betty Fisher

    No. I don’t mind the title at all. Everyone in the tiny town in NC, where my husband grew up and where we still have his deceased mother’s house, calls me Nurse Betty. Down there they always use Mr, Mrs, Captain, Nurse, or whatever with your first name. And that movie did crack me up.

    I loved the jam last night and was pretty happy with my playing. I feel that I am improving and improve proportionally to how much I practice (DUH!) and how frequently I attend jams! (Duh again!) The group last night is so encouraging and I just really had a blast. I am actually getting more comfortable with “screwing up” and asking questions about how to improve.

    Everyone made me feel so good after Foggy Mt. Breakdown! I loved Ben’s comment about sitting in my driveway the day I asked for Casey’s number. I always love for Scott to come and I especially liked following his guitar breaks. A great learning experience. Kasey is always such a great help to me that I feel like I need to “tip” her! I also like watching the way her hands move when she plays. I told her to let me know if that makes her nervous. I really try to watch all the banjo players’ hands and she is usually right beside me. I hope I don’t drive her crazy! Janet and Kenney are my “touchstones”. One of the main reasons I love the Tuesday night jam is because of those two. They just always make me feel good about whatever I do. John and I had a great chat about his lesson on Saturday. He said he really messed up and I told him it must have been “in the air” this week-end……..poor Casey!

    Murphy I just always play better with you or maybe it’s because I can hear you over me! Ha. I think the slow jam CD will help me because I can play along with it. Your instruction at the jam is so helpful. (Don’t let that go to your head.) The “hashtag” thing cracked me up. I didn’t know what that symbol was until recently either!

  2. Ben Smelser

    Yes I do remember the day Betty asked for Casey’s number. I also remember a few others. Some people talk and some people follow thru. Its always good to see folks who never quit and are always trying. Its speaks highly of themselves and is a motivator for those around them.

  3. Paul Wagner

    Sounds like you all had so much fun! Alas, your Southern Jam is a bit too far away for this upstate New Yorker.

  4. Kenney Moore

    Janet and I have been talking about we kind of wish we were able to attend the Wed. Jams due to what they are doing, BUT… PLAYING WITH THE TUESDAY NIGHT CREW IS A TRUE EXPERIENCE, NOT ALL GET TO ENJOY!!
    We have grown together as a family of sorts, and when I say sorts, I mean all sorts. It is truly an enjoyable experience when a person can see a light click on for an other and we all feel good for that person. You can look around, see the smiles pop for the person and the supporting group. It helps pick everyone’s playing up and advances the overall level of play. The Tuesday night jam crew really rocks, in a blue-grassy kind of way.

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