Tip Jar Jam: Play The Hand You’re Dealt

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We did a lot of great jamming last night but the funniest part of the jam was when two of our doctors started talking about hip replacement surgery. I'm sure I'll get the details wrong (and you docs can laugh) but I think the conversation centered on the trendy new anterior approach--in which you only have to split the muscle--and the old-fashioned posterior approach in which the muscle is actually cut. Then, mercifully, the topic morphed into music and medicine when one of the doctors said he had recently played my M and M Blues CD in the "OR" (doc-speak for Operating Room). From there the conversation took a nose-dive into "songs you don't want to hear played in the OR," such as "I Saw The Light" or "Bury Me Beneath The Willow." Maybe you had to be there but was really funny at the time. I said, "Keep it coming, folks, it's all fodder for the blog."

We had a nicely balanced jam last night with three guitars and three banjos, three womyn (Kathy G, Steph, and moi) and three men (David, Gregg, and Chuck). There were also three lead singers. And--I just realized this--it was the third of December. (Which brings to mind that classic opening line to Ode To Billy Joe: "It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty Delta day....") But I digress.

We started off with Banjo In The Hollow, as we often do, only this time we were playing it capoed in the Key of C! Why? Because Kathy already had her capo there! Hey, that was good enough for me. (Just like that Old-Time Religion!) The tune didn't sound too bad there. We followed that with Worried Gal, with me singing lead and Kathy blending nicely on the tenor. Then Kathy showcased her new song, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder. Since it was just the two of us singing, I sang the low harmony (baritone) in hymn-book fashion (which I just tried to write down but found it too confusing). You'd have to hear it. It sounded great, if I do say so myself, and it's a keeper.

Kathy had already worked out her Roly Poly break to When The Roll but David and Gregg did a good job of making up Roly Poly breaks on the fly, using Kathy's licks to guide them. Their breaks weren't quite coming out in perfect time, so after we finished singing the song we worked on the break. The chord pattern is, apparently, a little weird. David kept saying, "Now, it's one G Roly Poly, then a C Roly Poly with pinches, then another G Roly Poly, then a D Roly Poly, then another G Roly Poly....[there was more]. Is that right?" I'm sure he understood what he was saying, but my eyes glazed over when he got to the second G Roly Poly so I had to tell him, "I have no idea, David."

And it's true. I keep these chord patterns in my head just long enough to teach them on the DVD and then, poof! They're gone. I really and truly do play by ear. All the time.

After I sang Two Dollar Bill, I tried to get Kathy to sing I'll Fly Away while we were still in C but she said she was done. She wanted to hear Chuck sing. So down to G we went. Chuck sang several songs there including I Saw The Light, Bury Me Beneath The Willow, and Blue Ridge Cabin Home. He accidentally mixed up the verses on Blue Ridge Cabin Home, singing the last verse second. I don't think anyone noticed but me and he didn't realize it until it was time to sing the last verse and his face said, "Whoops!" I was waiting for that so when he looked at me, we both laughed. It was a lovely jam session moment. And then he sang the second verse last.

Kathy wanted us to do Jingle Bells, so we gravitated to A for that. But since I wanted that to be the last song--how can you top Jingle Bells?--I sang Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms and Chuck sang The Crawdad Song (You Get A Line And I'll Get A Pole, Honey). That song is fast becoming a jam favorite and it's a great Roly Poly number. It was only after doing these two songs back to back that I realized that they have almost the same chord progression. It's close enough that Earl's Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms break fits the Crawdad Song. Who knew?

We closed out, per Kathy's request, with Jingle Bells. I thought the break was the verse, which is an easy I, IV, V, I pattern. Alas! Kathy reminded me that the break was actually the chorus which has a fun "two" chord in it. (A barre chord, two frets up from the capo; you could call it an "A" position). Unfortunately the chorus also has lots of quick two-beat chord changes. Nevertheless, we Roly Polyed our way through it. I took great joy in singing all three verses because I learned them Mama. Here's my favorite line: "The horse was lean and lank/Misfortune seemed his lot/He got into a drifted bank/And we, we got upsot!" Got to love a word like "upsot"!

It was a good song to end on.

And one more thing: We are really missing Bob Van Metre at these jams. He said I could share with you what's going on with him. I'll let him tell you in his own words, from a couple of emails he sent to us. These are the essence Bobby:

I am working thru Stage IV Mediastic clear cell renal cancer tumor infections on the brain and in the lungs.

Had left kidney removed in Aug.

Had follow-up Thoractomy surgery on right lung in Oct.

Spent most of last week in hospital to monitor effects of radiation treatments.

Currently taking daily radiation treatments at Winchester Medical Center in Winchester VA.

Currently on (2) steroids daily while taking radiation.Will go on chemo treatment (pills) as soon as radiation is complete.

Don't feel bad, just no energy. I made Chicken Pot Pie yesterday, damn, that's a lot of work. Wasn't bad if I must say so. Little light on the chicken, and little dry, but edible.

Getting old sucks ...

Thanks for all the calls and concerns.


And his latest:

Good morning all,

I'm feel pretty good this AM, thought I'd better do this before I forget about it (again). Obviously I'm not good at texting and or a "Chatty Kathy" on the telephone so this is the easiest way to reach the most people at one setting.

Just a few words of thanks and praise to all who continue to pray for me and send cards, e-mails, phone calls, etc as to my health status. Thanks for everything.

I don't feel bad, just very little energy to work with. I have three (3) more radiation treatments and that will be over with for some period (most of the hair on my head is gone, so don't have a problem keeping it combed).

I will probably start the chemotherapy treatments (regiment of pills at this time) next week.

Life goes on, you just have to play the hand you are dealt and make the best of it. Again thanks for all the thought and prayers from everyone. I'll try to keep everyone posted as to the progress (or lack of) as things develop.

Have a good one,



I put that above line in italics because I thought that captured Bob's philosophy of life. All thoughts and prayers appreciated. "Prayer bells of heaven, oh how sweetly they ring...."