We must have had an exceptionally good jam last night because already this morning, before 8:30, I've had a text from Betty saying, "Loved last nite's jam. Steph did too. Good speed for an old f--t like me. I know it's not all about me...but it should be. Ha."
Of course it's all about you, Betty! (And yes, I say the same thing to all the jammers!) I'll brag you on myself: You did great with your Roly Poly breaks to Circle and I'll Fly Away! I've never seen a student look more astonished at using a D lick and having it work! Then after you realized, "Holy cow! It worked!" the look of delight on your face was priceless. It's burned into my mind, because when Betty is happy, Murphy is happy! And since it's all about you, I feel obligated to tell the folks about the first song you played last night.
Betty came into the jam a little late because of her work and we'd already played Cripple Creek and Boil Them Cabbage Down. In fact, we were boiling cabbage when Betty walked in. After she got settled I wanted to give her a chance to get warmed up so I said, "Why don't you kick off Banjo in the Hollow?" Well, Betty is a "yes" person so she said, "Sure." Then she said, "Do you want me to play the low part twice and the high part twice?" Now, that confused me. So I said something like, "What?" And she repeated what she'd said. I gave her a puzzled look because I was trying to figure out what she meant. Finally I said, "Just play Banjo in the Hollow like we usually do." And then it dawned on me....."Unless you're fixing to play Boil Them Cabbage Down!"
It took her a second to process that--and again the look on her face was memorable, kind of a cross between "Huh?" moving into "Duh!"
And then she said, "That's exactly what I was going to do! And I heard y'all playing that when I came in!" So we all had a good laugh and then Betty kicked off Banjo in the Hollow.
NOTE: This blog was interrupted in the middle of the above story by grandson Dalton (and Casey) coming in my office to ask when I could come and play. I said, "What are we playing?" Dalton said, "Candles!" So naturally I said I would come "right now!" The candle game consists of me lighting Christmas candles and Dalton blowing out the matches. [BTW, I am on a quest for some matches with different colored tips. Not red or green. We just used up our last yellow-tipped match. Suggestions--or the matches themselves--appreciated!]
Steph, mentioned above by Betty, was attending her first-ever jam. She started guitar lessons in June, having never played before, and she can maneuver through G, C, D, and Em pretty well. She can also use the capo, although it completely flummoxed her initially. She hung in like a champ last night, although she did admit to sore fingers toward the end of the jam. Thanks to Steph's gentle persuasion, she and I are now working on John Hartford's Gentle On My Mind, in G. I love the song, but at first I was resistant, thinking it was too hard. But Steph she said she was very familiar with the melody, so since she had worked so hard on the songs I had been giving her, I thought, "Why don't you try something different, Murphy? Why don't you give a little?" (And I hope admitting that won't come back to bite me in the butt!)
There were three other reasons for my being willing to try the song. I already knew the words, I liked the song, and the chords were easy: G, Am, D. The things I was worried about were the extremely LONG PAUSES between the phrases where Steph would have to keep time with no words to guide her. As in "It's knowing that your door is always open and your path is free to walk.....2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8." And every line of the song is like that. When we first played it I thought, "This can't be right. I must be remembering it wrong." So we went on YouTube and, sure enough, there was Molly Tuttle singing it with all those long pauses. And if it's good enough for Molly, it's good enough for me! And after singing Blue Ridge Cabin Home thousands of times, singing a new song is always fun, especially when the words are so mellifluous and poetic: "I dip my cup of soup back from a dirty, crackling cauldron in some train yard..." WOW! That's good writing. I always think of John Hartford when I sing it, hoping he's somewhere up there listening to us. I hope we can try this tune in the jam soon.
NOTE: Big break in blogging for more playing with Dalton. First we piled up all the stuffed animals so Dalton could jump on top of them and scatter them. Then we built a "book house" (just what it sounds like) for Mama Eeyore and Baby Eeyore. Finally we shifted our focus to painting, where his chief joy comes from pouring the paints out of little jars onto a paper plate while I yell, "Holy Cow!" when he pours out too much, which is always. Sometimes I yell, "Whoa, Nelly!" which he likes a lot and one time I even yelled, "Good Greefus, Reefus!," an old saying which I didn't even know I remembered. Casey does not let him play this game at home (she guides the pouring) but what are Grans for if not for this? Now Casey and Dalton are off to the grocery store, so perhaps I will get this blog finished today! But, hey, when I go to join the big Tip Jar Jam in the sky, I don't want to be saying, "Yes, I was a faithful blogger." I want to be saying, "Dalton and I played, and played, and played! And we had the best time."
Back to the jam. Kathy H had an learning experience when she volunteered to sing I Saw The Light in the Key of A (so we didn't have to move the capo right then) and found out it was too low. She talked about it afterwards, saying that now she understands that each song is different, that just because you can sing some songs in A doesn't mean you can sing all songs in A. She and Diane and I did some nice three-part harmony singing on a bunch of songs. But we still missed our G and A singers, Chuck and Bob A. and Bob Van.
Dan is now working on improvising in open C (without a capo) and is finding that his fingers won't behave! They keep wanting to do "Key of G" licks. But he's making a great start. Gregg, whom I called "Chuck" so much that he finally retaliated by calling me "Casey," continues to improve on his Roly Polys, as does David. I'm proud of you, guys!
The big news of the night is that when students celebrate their "anniversaries" with me, as in "I've been taking two years now," they are supposed to bring presents! David thought that only the girls did that, but I told him the first student to do that was Ira and that I wrote about him in my first Banjo Newsletter column, way back in 1983. (Holy cow!) I liked what I wrote so much that I'll share it here:
Me to Ira, at his lesson: "Time's almost up, Ira. What song shall we quit with?" He puts up his banjo. "What are you doing?" I say. "I've got something for you," he says.
He steps outside the door for a couple of minutes, and comes back with a cherry cheesecake with four lighted candles stuck in it. "It's our anniversary," he says. "I've been taking from you for four years. Happy Anniversary." Oh, Ira, you make it all worthwhile. (From my book And There You Have It! pg 4.)
And it's still true: You all make it all worthwhile! THANKS!