Tip Jar Jam: This Is So Much Fun!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Since we had 9 folks at the Tuesday jam, I wasn't expecting a big crowd on Wednesday, but durned if 6 students didn't turn up. This time we had two banjos, three guitars, and one mandolin. Gregg, on banjo, had just taken his first lesson from me so he mostly vamped. Amber is just starting on mandolin and said she preferred not to try any of the breaks she's learned so she chopped and helped out on the harmony singing. Jason, also, is sticking with rhythm guitar for now. Gregg did consent to playing the two tunes he knew, Cripple Creek and Boil Them Cabbage, which differ slightly from my versions. No matter. We played them really slow, as we do for every new student, and Gregg has such good timing that he came through with flying colors! On to Banjo In The Hollow!

Bob A put in his best performance ever last night, both with his guitar picking and his singing. He was having to do a LOT of singing, because he was the only one there who could sing in G! So he sang Your Love Is Like A Flower, Blue Ridge Cabin Home, Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms, Long Journey Home, East Virginia Blues (in C), and Wreck of the Old 97 (in A). As I've told you before, when Bob came to me for guitar lessons, three years ago, he didn't think he could sing. In fact, he'd been told--repeatedly--that he couldn't sing. But he did know the words to lots of bluegrass songs and he has worked hard on hid singing and, by Jove, I think he's getting it!

Bob's singing of East Virginia Blues and Wreck of the Old 97 inspired Dan to learn breaks to these on banjo. He could already do Roly Poly breaks, but he wanted something more so he turned to Casey's Custom Lessons. She teaches her own break to East Virginia Blues and, naturally, she teaches Earl's break to Wreck of the Old 97. Her rendition of Earl's break amazingly close to what I learned off the Hard Traveling album on August 1, 1976! [Editor's note: I am not teaching Earl's break to this. I must have learned it from Murphy and still play it pretty close to how she plays it. To my knowledge, I've never heard Earl's break to this!] I know this because AFTER I LEARNED IT OFF THE RECORD by slowing it down, I tabbed it out in my Scruggs Book and dated it. (I'm not sure this picture will show up very well, but I'm including it anyhow. The last two lines you see are part of the high break to Foggy Mountain Breakdown.) I remember clearly being amazed at Earl's use of the backward roll in this song to get the melody notes smoothly. Beautiful banjo work!

Wreck of the Old 97. It's a tab!

Wreck of the Old 97. It's a tab!

So, Dan has been working on this break for several weeks at his lesson with me and there were a couple of sections (the parts with eighth notes) that were eluding him. But he kept working with it and I sang the words for him and he learned the words and he heard how they fit with the banjo notes, and last night it finally all came together! He played it with spot-on bluegrass timing that meshed perfectly with my rhythm guitar. We were in sync with each other and for one brief shining moment all was right with the world! He knew it and I knew it. We felt it. I said, "This is what it's all about. This is why you do the work. So you can occasionally have a Moment Like This." Dan called it a "Training Wheel Moment" because he felt like, for the first time, his banjo training wheels had come off and he could simply play his break and enjoy it.
And somewhere in the middle of all this Gregg, who was attending his first Tip Jar Jam, said spontaneously, "This is so much fun!" Yes, it is, Gregg!

Diane and I had spent her lesson getting ready for our performance at the Women's Banjo Camp coming up July 18-20. She and several other female jammers are going to play five numbers as the opening act for the Casey and Murphy Show on Friday. Murphy's Merry Chicas will ride again! Diane is going to sing Will The Circle Be Unbroken and kick it off with a guitar break. Janet will split the verses with her (and take her own guitar break!). Naturally, we practiced Diane's song at the jam and she did great. But I was even prouder of her on the last number. Gregg suggested I'll Fly Away, so I said I could sing it in C. But I knew the chorus would be too high for me. So I asked Diane, "Can you sing the lead on the chorus?" Her immediate answer: "Remind me of the words." Good answer! I love that! Three years ago she was learning to chord Skip To My Lou on the guitar and was having trouble memorizing the words. Now, she is a seasoned jammer who can jump right in and help out. Good work, Diane! I love my job!

Looking ahead: We'll be jamming every Tuesday and Wednesday in July EXCEPT for Tuesday July 29. No jam on July 29. I will be at Augusta Heritage in Elkins, WV, talking about my book Pretty Good For A Girl and playing in the concert that night with Casey and some other Chicas! All Murphy Method students are welcome at the Tip Jar Jams. Suggested donation: $20.