[Betty Fisher, a Tip Jar Jam regular, was kind enough to blog about her recent jamming experience. Betty has been having some problems with bats in her house, hence the blog title. She is also a very, very good sport!]
My friend and neighbor Stephanie is a beginning guitar student of Murphy’s. She and I have been threatening--or rather promising--to get together and jam as Murphy has suggested. Finally on Sunday we were able to do that.
We sat out on Stephanie’s beautiful new stone patio in the shade with a nice breeze blowing. Steph warned me that she had not practiced for a couple of weeks. She had also let Murphy know that things would be on hold for a short while, then she would get back in gear with her lessons.
We started out with “I Saw the Light”. I picked it and Steph strummed along. This didn’t work too well. The tag lick seemed to throw her off every time. She informed me that Murphy usually sang it for her. Oh no! Sing? Me? Oh well, anything for a friend and fellow musician, right? So I sang and vamped the song and with each round Stephanie did better. Each time I went back to picking it, things seemed to go south, so I sang and vamped my dang heart out. By this time Stephanie had to go in and get me some water because even with my croaky, low voice, singing this song in G was a bit much.
We started doing “Worried Man” or “Worried Gal” as Murphy, ever the feminist, does it. We had the same issues with the tag lick throwing Steph off, so darned if I didn’t have to sing some more! For the life of me I couldn’t remember the verse about “29 links of chain…and on each link the initials of my name." So we just had to stick with “going down to the river and lying down to sleep” and the chorus. I did pick it a few times and would attempt to let Steph know that this is the “tag lick”. I think she will have some questions for Murphy at her lesson about what she is supposed to do during the tag lick. I had no idea what to tell her.
I remembered the easy chord progression of “Blue Ridge Cabin Home” and suggested, at the risk of invoking Murphy’s wrath, that we try it. I figured that if Murphy can forgive my many screw-ups at the jam, I could most likely get away with this. So on we went, “full steam ahead”. I didn’t know the words so I sang the chords to the tune of the song: "G G G…G G G...G G C…C C C...D D D...D D D...D D G....." As absurd as this sounds, it worked! Steph caught on quickly, and Heaven knows it was easier than singing those other two songs! Things still slowed down a bit when I picked it. If Stephanie didn’t mess up, I did. Fortunately we laughed a lot!
During all this singing, strumming, and vamping the neighbor’s donkeys and Guinea hens chimed in occasionally. I am still not sure if they were trying to sing along or drown us out. All in all we felt that it was a success because we did improve noticeably from the beginning to the end.
Note from Murphy: Thanks, Betty, for writing this. Nothing to forgive. You did great! Best thing in the world for you and Steph. We will work on hearing the tag lick at her lesson this week. And I loved the way you sang Blue Ridge Cabin Home using the chords. Seeing it on paper was a little confusing at first but once I realized that "G G G...G G G" represented the syllables of the words sung in their correct time, "There's a well...beaten path....", I totally got it.
Also, now you have experienced how hard it is for women to sing in G. That's why we capo up to C in the jam. It's a pain in the butt, especially with 5 or 6 banjos, but it's absolutely necessary so women can realize that, yes, they can sing bluegrass. They just need to find the right key! And, now we know you can sing! Be prepared!