Tip Jar Jam: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Socks

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Okay, I'm guessing not too many of you are familiar with the movie the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Cute Chick Flick. Nevertheless, the young women in the movie--all dear friends--take turns wearing and then sharing this one pair of pants which seems to bring them luck. Don't worry, no pants were shared at the Tip Jar Jam!

It all started with Ben, of course. Last week, he was taking his lesson with Casey, playing Liberty and doing it just fine (according to him), when all of a sudden he notices Casey's red socks, with the green toes and heels, tapping away. For some reason this completely distracts him from his playing and Liberty comes to a grinding halt. Or as he put it, "Plain socks and tapping foot. No problem. Bright colorful socks and tapping foot. Too much. Screwed me up."

To which I replied, "Pitiful excuse Lamest excuse I ever heard."

And then I got an idea.... 

The Traveling Socks!

The Traveling Socks!

I asked Casey if I could borrow those same socks. I wore them in the jam last night, with no shoes (just like Casey does), and even rolled up my pants legs to make them more visible. Ben was late in joining the jam circle and we'd already started playing Banjo In The Hollow when he walked in with the bass. He set up and commenced playing, not noticing a thing. (I was so disappointed!) We had gone halfway around the circle picking before he glanced down at my feet, which were tapping away. He turned red as a beet and absolutely refused to look at me. I know he was afraid he would fall apart and lose time on the bass. So he kept his eyes focused on one of my mom's quilts which hangs on the wall beside him. It must have helped because he kept good time!

After the song was over, Ben told everyone the Story of the Socks, and we all had a good laugh. Then, all night long, if Ben played a wrong note or missed a beat, all I had to do was raise my red and green socks up and waggle them at him. It was a long night for Ben!

Then just to keep the joke going longer, after the jam was over, I surreptitiously gave the socks to his daughter, Kasey, who stuffed them in her pocketbook--and then put them on Ben's pillow! (I did check with Kasey to make sure her mom would think that was funny. She assured me it was okay!)

I'm sure there will be a payback for this, so I guess I better "sleep with one eye open from now on" as Lester and Earl sang!

In addition to all the hilarity with the socks, we had an excellent jam last night. On banjos we again had David, who is a brave and cheerful beginner; Jon, a former tabber, who is responding exceptionally well to playing by ear under Casey's direction; Betty, no longer a true beginner thanks to her hard work and jamming; and of course Kasey. Bobby was his usual sturdy self on guitar and singing. With David in the circle we played a lot of songs at Slow Jam speed, which was also good for Betty and for Jon. It never hurts to back it down and play it slow. Kasey was a real sweetheart when it came to playing the beginning material. To give her a chance to stretch our and shine, she and I played a couple of tunes, Fireball Mail and Daybreak in Dixie, at breakneck speed. She didn't even break a sweat!

We did some intermediate-level tunes for Jon and Betty--Old Joe Clark, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Lonesome Road Blues, and John Hardy--which are starting to gain some speed. Betty and Jon both have been using our Slow Jam DVD a lot and I am impressed by how much it has helped their playing. They both spoke highly of it. Casey and I both thought that the Slow Jam would be a great teaching tool and I'm always glad to see the "proof in the pudding." Plug: Give it a try!

And, bless Bobby's heart, once again he sat for two hours and played rhythm to the Beginning Banjo tunes which he has been playing now for 20 some-odd years. Of course, he takes breaks to some of them, but not the Big Four (BITH, CC, CG, and "that Cabbage Song," as fiddler Kenny Baker called it). So, as a "thank you" for all that (and because I really like singing these songs!) I called on Bobby and me to "perform" a couple of gospel songs for the group. We did Kneel At The Cross and Step Off On That Beautiful Shore. Ben did a great job on bass, playing two songs he'd never played and everyone else listened appreciatively.

When Bobby and I finished, and I was congratulating Ben on his bass playing, I took time to expostulate. I said, "This is where I envision my 'by ear' teaching leading. I have no desire whatsoever to be calling out chords to songs like these in a jam session. For one thing, it's too hard! My goal for my students is for them to eventually be able to figure out the chords to these more difficult songs if they come up in a jam." And, Ben, on the bass did just that. Okay, I did have to "throw" him the E chord in Step Off On That Beautiful Shore, which we did in the Key of D and the A chord in Kneel At The Cross (Key of G), but one time was all it took. And Step Off was in 6/8, which I'm not sure Ben had played before. But he heard it. Good job, Ben. I didn't have to shake my socks at you one time!

We are jamming tonight, Wednesday, April 23, and also this Sunday, April 27, in Frederick, Md. Then next week, Tuesday, April 29 and Wednesday, April 30. Y'all come. Red and green socks not required!

5 thoughts on “Tip Jar Jam: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Socks

  1. Betty Fisher

    It was a great jam. I was so glad to see David there and to meet him. I will repeat here what I told Murphy last night and Casey Sunday. The Slow Jam DVD IS a big help plus it’s just fun to play along. I wish I had gotten it back when I was learning my first songs.

    It’s always good to have Bobby there to keep Murphy in line…….LOL…..as if ANYONE could. I am a bit disappointed though. I made a special trip to Wal Mart to buy the loudest, ugliest, pair of socks I could find, and MY socks didn’t trow Ben’s playing off even once!

  2. Jon Christensen

    Betty is spot on – the Slow Jam DVD is a must in anyone’s collection. It has helped me immensely in working on timing – I wish I would have purchased it earlier. I highly recommend it.

  3. Ben Smelser

    Great jam!! Missed Kenny and Janet. Watch your back Murphy in time I’ll get even. Had to return the socks the fragrance was a little over whelming!!

  4. David Nelson

    I am so enamoured with my inability to jam I bought the slow jam video already. See U-all sometime soon.

  5. Betty Fisher

    David! What do you mean “my inability to jam”? You ARE jamming. That DVD will help but coming to the jams will help even more. Keep coming back. You will get there.

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