Tip Jar Jam: Aren’t You Going To Watch Me?

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I wish I could tell you the story behind this title, but, alas, it's too risque, it's too long, and it's not about the music anyhow. But it was really funny when Ben told it!

Our jams have been smaller this summer, with so many folks taking vacations but I think everyone has enjoyed the novelty of having fewer pickers. (More breaks!!!!) Tuesday night's jam, with Kenney, Janet, and Betty, turned into an all-instrumental jam with the exception of Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms which I sang so I could practice my gender flipping ("Daddy was a beauty operator....") and Betty could practice her break. Neither Janet nor I were in good voice and we didn't really want to sing, so we didn't! So we just picked. When we ran out of instrumentals, we turned some of the singing songs into instrumentals: I Saw The Light, Worried Gal, Two Dollar Bill.

And then because Janet and Kenney were carrying the rhythm so well, I got out my fiddle! I haven't played the fiddle in the jams in forever, and--to use language I'm trying to discourage among the students--I didn't suck as bad as I thought I would! In fact I really enjoyed it! And may do more of it!

But I have to tell this funny story on Betty. She and I were getting ready to play Boil Them Cabbage Down. But instead of me dictating the exact way we would do the tune, as I do for larger groups, I said, "You play it as many times as you like and then I will follow what you did." Meaning that however she chose to play the song, I would play it the same way, with the same number of parts. If she did low and high, I would do low and high. If she did low twice and then high twice, I'd do low twice and high twice. Whatever she did, I would do the same thing when it came time for my break.

So.....Betty starts out with two low breaks and then does two high breaks. I'm listening to her and I'm thinking, "Great! I'll get to take a two low breaks and two high breaks. That's a longer break than usual." Then she does two more low breaks. And I think, "Wow! I'll get to take an even longer break. Great!" Then she does two more high breaks and now I'm thinking, "Wow, she's taking a really long break!" Then she does two more low breaks and ends the song! And I'm sitting there, fiddle in hand, thinking, "What happened?" Then I look over at Janet and Kenney and we all started laughing. Then Betty says, "Uh, oh. What did I do?" And I said, "I think we had a miscommunication! What did you hear me say?"

Betty says, "I heard you say, 'Play it as many times as you like.'"

"Oh," I said, "so you missed the part where I said, 'And then I'll play it just like you did. I'll follow your pattern.'"

Betty says, "Whoops! I guess I didn't hear that!"

"No problem," I said. "Let's do it again, and this time we'll play it together old-time style." So we did and it was fun--for us! I'm not sure Kenney and Janet enjoyed it as much as we did! Boil Them Cabbage is a great beginners' tune, but it is a little bland....

Wednesday night we had four folks, Bobby, Ben, Kathy G, and Kasey. Kasey, fresh from her week at Augusta Heritage, was playing great. She's started improvising high breaks now! I saw Ben get all teary-eyed at one of her up-the-neck improvs. Kathy G, one of Roly Poly Queens, stepped up to the plate to Roly Pole on Salty Dog (G, E, A, D) and Daybreak In Dixie. You can expect to see both of those tunes on the upcoming Roly Poly DVD that we'll be recording in, gulp, three weeks! We'll also be doing a section of Roly Polys in 3/4 time (Amazing Grace, In The Pines, Before I Met You, Little Benny), along with the basic Roly Polys in 4/4 time. I'm looking forward to recording this DVD because I'm excited that the Roly Polys give beginners a chance to jam ASAP.

Bobby is still singing his two new songs, Will The Roses Bloom Again Beside The River and There's a Bluebird Singing In The Blue Ridge Mountains. Ben was having a little trouble picking up the chord changes in Will The Roses, so I told him he'd been "ruint" by his exposure to Tab at Augusta Heritage! Then we went over the chords, which are unexpected. I told Ben that the only reason I was letting Bobby sing the song was that I liked that chord progression. Bobby, of course, bristled up at this and said, "What do you mean, 'You're letting me do this song?'"

I said, "Well, the words suck, and the melody sucks but I like the chord progression!"
To which Bobby replied (huffily), "Well, if it's that bad, why do you keep asking me to sing it?"
Then before I could answer, Peacemaker Kathy G, jumped in to say (soothingly), "Because your harmony is so good."

Thank you, Kathy! Our harmony is good! In this duet, I sing a high baritone to Bobby's low lead which means not only can I tromp all over the tenor part, I can also choose harmony notes that might not fit a close three-part harmony.

As for my rude remarks, I told Bobby I was just kidding. Which he knew anyway. It was just the Bobby and Murphy Act. We've been doing it for years.

I also got out my fiddle again, and Kasey and I had fun with Arkansas Traveler. I also tried Foggy Mountain Breakdown and was pleased to find out that, after all these years, I can finally hit that double-stop G chord on the A and E strings and get it in tune. And I have no idea why. I've not been practicing it. And I haven't been playing much fiddle. But I have been playing some fiddle every week at Suzi's lesson, so maybe that was enough! "Praise the Lord, I got 'er in tune!" That's almost enough to inspire me to start playing more fiddle. We will see!

We'll be jamming regularly through August, every Tuesday and Wednesday night, 7-9 pm. We will miss a couple of entire weeks in September, though. I'll keep you posted. All Murphy Method students are welcome. Suggested donation is $20.

5 thoughts on “Tip Jar Jam: Aren’t You Going To Watch Me?

  1. Diane

    I miss you all the voice is still gone as I’ve been very sick while on travel but the guitar will show up on Wednesday

  2. Betty Fisher

    Playing with you on the fiddle was a blast even if I did “hog” the breaks. LOL. So now I am DYING to hear the story behind the title of this blog!

  3. sue capps

    sounds like sooooo much fun ! Wish I lived there in Winchester. I am becoming such a “Murphy” junkie. Sue

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