By Murphy

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The great J.D. Crowe passed away on December 24, 2021, at 84 years old. He was the biggest influence on my banjo playing right after Earl Scruggs. I spent literally hours trying to get my pull-offs to sound like his. I learned many of his classic songs including "Train 45" and "Blackjack" and his break to "Crying Holy." I was fortunate to get to meet him in 2003 when both of us were teaching at a banjo camp in California. Casey was there too, as a camp helper and gofer. In one of my classes, I needed her to help me by playing guitar, so I sent a runner down the hill to fetch her. The runner came back empty handed. No Casey! Why not? She was helping J.D. Crowe in his class! Or maybe she was just attending his class. At any rate, she would not budge. Not even for her Mama! How could I fault her for that? It was J.D. Crowe!!! Of course, I wrote about the experience. Rereading this now makes me happy that I got to know J.D. just a little bit, and sad that he is gone. I offer this now as my tribute to him. Rest in peace, J.D.

 

WHAT WOULD J.D. DO?
(Reprinted with permission from Banjo Newsletter magazine)

I’ve been a fan of J.D. Crowe all my bluegrass life. The first banjo break I ever learned from a record was J.D.’s break to “Somehow Tonight” on the Rambling Boy album. So it seems amazing that a few weeks ago, at the J.D. Crowe Banjo Camp in Northern California, which was organized by Bill Evans, I was playing guitar and singing “Somehow Tonight” while J.D. picked the banjo. Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Bill Evans!

By then, Sunday afternoon, I had gotten pretty used to being around J.D. and was no longer petrified to pick with him or talk to him. I had gotten “thrown into the fire,” so to speak, at our first rehearsal when I had to join J.D. in picking “Train 45” with him sitting not five feet in front of me. Bill Evans was picking too, but I can handle Bill. Our styles are completely different. (Did I hear you murmuring “thank god,” Bill? Tsk, tsk tsk.) But I had learned to pick “Train 45” from a Crowe recording and was still basically playing it “like J.D. done it.” That works fine as long as J.D. is not in the room with you doing the same thing only better! Fortunately J.D. has a way of making you feel comfortable in a picking situation. He’s relaxed, easy going, takes everything in stride, likes to kid around, and is actually very supportive of the other players. In California-speak, his aura is kind. I suppose it’s significant that the song “Little Drummer Boy” is coming to mind as I write this: “Then He smiled at me, pah-rump-a-pum-pum, me and my drum.” Make the obvious substitution and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how I felt.

Meanwhile, J.D’s son David, 23, who had come along to handle CD sales, had fallen asleep in his chair. As we left the house, I kidded David about falling asleep while his dad was playing. “Aw,” he said, “I hear him pick “Train 45” all the time. Besides, it’s after midnight in God’s country.” “God’s country” is how David would refer to Kentucky, his home state, all weekend. Pretty soon I found myself asking him, “What time is it in God’s country, David?”

In the title of this column I asked the question “What would J.D. do?” Here’s one illustrative answer. Laurie Lewis (bass), Tom Rozum (mandolin), Alan Senuake (guitar), and Chad Manning (fiddle) were serving as the backup band for the two concerts we would be giving. (Some backup band!) At rehearsal, after they ran through “Sin City,” “I’ll Stay Around,” “Blackjack,” and “Old Home Place” with J.D. someone suggested that Laurie sing “Crying Holy.” She was willing, with one caveat: “I’ll have to sing it in D.” Implicit in that response (I think) was the knowledge that J.D. had recorded the song in B, which meant he was playing out of G position. Now, his kickoff—a killer kickoff—is the defining element in the song. To play in D—whether he played in D position or C position—he’d have to change the kickoff. (Or capo up seven frets, which I didn’t think he’d do.) What he did speaks volumes about his character and the way he views the music: he never hesitated for a moment. He just grabbed his capo, put it on at the second fret and starting working up a new kickoff out of C position. It took a few tries until he was satisfied, but when he had it, it was outstanding. I was so impressed. You see, with J.D., the overall band sound comes first. And he always defers to the singer.

Shift now to Sunday afternoon. Camp is winding down. I am teaching the Beginning Level class. All weekend we have been working on vamping I, IV, and V chords in different keys. Without a capo. Today we were learning to vamp to “Old Home Place” in the Key of G because it’s a J.D. Crowe standard and has two “off” chords in it: A and B. (Or as Janet Davis might say, “A II chord and a III chord.”) Normally I sing while the students vamp, but I have to keep things interesting for me, too, so I decided to play a banjo break. (And pretend I was J.D.!) Then I had an epiphany. (It was Sunday, you know. Epiphanies are allowed.) We had a group session coming up with J.D. What if J.D. himself were to play “Old Home Place” and the students were to vamp along? Then they could all go home and say that they’d played with J.D. Crowe. I got tears in my eyes just thinking about it! The students loved the idea! I cautioned them: “I’ll have to clear it with Bill and with J.D.” They understood.

I figured it would be okay with Bill. He is one of the most enthusiastic and cooperative people I’ve ever worked with. J.D., team player that he is, said it would be okay with him. I told him he’d have to play it really slow for the beginners. He understood. So, all the teachers, including Ron Block and Casey Henry, are sitting in front of the whole camp; everyone has their banjos out. I have the guitar. I tell the students what they are going to do (vamp), then I turn to J.D. and say (I loved this part!), “Kick it off, J.D.” “How fast do you want it?” he says. I strum the guitar really slowly. He immediately says, “No, that’s too fast!” I told you he’s a kidder. We arrive at a tempo and he kicks it off. I sing the first verse. Everyone is vamping. When it comes to the end of the verse, I listen expectantly for that classic Crowe fill in. Nothing. “Aren’t you going to put in some fill in?” I ask petulantly. “Oh,” says J.D., “you want me to do some fill in?” “Yes!” “Do it again,” he says firmly. “It’s been ten long years since I left my home....” And then J.D. is all over the neck with That Signature Sound. And Bill, Ron, Casey, and I are about to split our faces grinning because it sounds SO GOOD and we are playing with J.D. Crowe. The students are in hog heaven because THEY are playing with J.D. Crowe, and J.D. is handling all this collective worship with much dignity. He’s just doing his job, calmly and serenely, playing the banjo. Is this guy classy or what?

Shift now to Monday night and our concert at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. I was going to do my original song “Fried Chicken.” As part of the song, when I get to the chorus, the band yells “fried chicken!” with me. I had done the song at the concert on Saturday night, and when I came off stage, J.D. told me that I should have yelled “fried rabbit!” (It’s a Southern thing...) So Monday night I was on stage doing the song with Laurie, Tom, and Chad while the rest of the musicians were in the warm-up room behind the stage. When I got to the chorus, I noticed the audience was really cracking up over the shouts of “fried chicken.” But it wasn’t until the last chorus when I heard shouts of “fried rabbit!” that I knew that J.D., the trickster, had been up to something. Unbeknownst to me, he and the other players—Bill Evans, Alan Senauke, and, if you can believe this, David Grisman!—had snuck out during the song, crouched down behind a low wall at the back of the stage, and had been popping up yelling “fried rabbit” and then popping back down. That’s why the audience was in hysterics. It was exactly like something you would see on Hee Haw! To think I have lived long enough to be pranked upon by J.D. Crowe. I owe you, J.D. Watch your back!

When it was time to fly home, Bill dropped J.D., David, and me off at the airport. As Bill was trying to slide into a parking spot, I heard David softly singing the Mickey Mouse song: “Now it’s time to say goodbye....” and I finished it up with “to all our family.” I honestly felt like I was leaving part of my family. There were big hugs all the way around: David, Bill, J.D. David had given me three of J.D.’s CDs, and I had given David (if you can believe this) my Beginning Banjo DVD! (He’d told me he was learning to play the banjo.)

Since I’ve been home I’ve been wearing out my Jimmy Martin “Big and Country Instrumentals” album and my J.D. Crowe “Live in Japan” CD. What a weekend! As we say here in the Shenandoah Valley, J.D. is “a prince of a fellow.” Or as banjo picking Jim Fee would say, “He’s a dandy!” Thankyoubillevans, thankyoubillevans, thankyoubillevans. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

“Your jams are kind.” Okay, that’s not a question. One of my students said that to me recently and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. I consider it to be high praise. I want my jams to be a place where students feel comfortable and supported. Goodness knows it’s hard enough to scrounge up the courage to take your instrument out of the house and play with other people. So, it’s nice to know that when you mess up, people at the jam are going to offer positive feedback: “Good try!” “You really hung in there!” “You were able to come back in after you missed a lick!” At our Murphy Method jams everyone encourages and everyone gets encouraged!

And now a real question from Rick, who came to our Intermediate Camp a few years ago:

“What is the best way to go about connecting the chords?  In essence, what I am trying to say is how do you lead from one chord to another?”

I emailed him, asking for some clarification, and Rick said he was talking about the vamp chords in the F and D shapes, and moving from G to C or C to D or D to G by using certain notes. Unfortunately, I had to tell him that was too hard to explain on paper. I suggested he might find some answers on Casey’s DVD Beyond Vamping: Fancy Banjo Backup. I also suggested he and I might try a Zoom lesson to talk about this in person. Then he wrote back and said he had Casey’s DVD and had learned a lot from it. He said he’d also learned a lot from our Amazing Grace DVD. I was impressed with that because I think the arrangement of “Amazing Grace” on that DVD is one of the hardest breaks I’ve ever taught. Rick said he could now take the licks I taught in Amazing Grace and move them to different keys and to different strings. Yeah! You go, Rick! We’re planning on setting up a Zoom lesson to talk about all this “face to face.”

One more:

Dion L writes, “I don't have a question for you but rather a statement. I use the Misfits and Improvising DVDs to learn the banjo. When I started I had not one smidgin of musical experience at the age of 80 years. I take my inspiration from Barry Abernathy and you. It has taken me 8 years to be able to jam at medium pace. It is only now that I pretty much know when a chord change is coming and what chord it will be. My ear has started to come into its own in the last year. I can hear what is going on with most of the instruments except the fiddle. I don't know if I am progressing in a normal manner or way too slow. I never look at tabs but I do look up songs with chords, then apply what you have taught me to the banjo. I hope that's not cheating. Whatever, it has been--and is--a wonderful experience. Thank you so much.”

You are welcome, Dion. I think you’re progressing at a completely normal pace. The important thing is you’re hanging in there! And looking up the chords is not cheating. I had to use a chord book when I was first learning the ukulele! In the fourth grade. Eventually the sounds got into my head, and I didn’t have to look. I’m sure the more you play, the easier it will get to hear the chords.

You have questions? I have answers! Or, at least I’ll try to answer. Send your questions to themurphymethod@gmail.com.

And there you have it! Or as the late great Sonny Osborne said, “Case closed!”

PS: Hope to see some of you at our Intermediate Banjo Camp, April 8-10. Lots of answers there!

PPS: And don’t forget our Buy One, Get One Free Sale  going on now through Christmas!

Murphy

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I’m sure you all have heard by now of the passing of the great banjo player
Sonny Osborne. As a tribute to Sonny, I’m writing an article for Bluegrass
Unlimited magazine based on Sonny’s Banjo Newsletter column. It was
called “Keep on The Sonny Side,” and every month Sonny answered
questions that readers would send in.

So…… that gave me the idea that I could follow in his footsteps and do the
same thing. So we’re gonna give this a try. And since “Keep On The Murphy
Side” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, we’re just gonna call it, “Ask
Murphy.”

If you have a question you want to ask me, email it to
themurphymethod@gmail.com. If you do NOT want me to use your
name in my answer, please say so, otherwise I will assume that it’s okay.

Sonny said in his first column, “Any questions you would will ask, I’ll try to
answer.” I’m not sure I can be that bold, but I will try to answer any
questions relating to learning by ear, banjos, bluegrass, jam sessions, and
my book about women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl. Looking forward
to hearing from you!

Also: I still have room for a few more students. Either online (Zoom or Skype) or in person. Email me at murphybanjo@gmail.com  or text 540-533-9685. Beginners most welcome. I also teach guitar and beginning mandolin.

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Seven people standing on stage playing fiddles, and one person playing guitar

Murphy (in the pink plaid shirt) playing fiddle with the Advanced Fiddle Class

Well, it’s been years since I blogged [Editor's note: it has actually been one year, four months, and ten days.] but since I just spend 5 days being a fiddle student at the Augusta Heritage October Old-Time Retreat in Elkins, W.Va., I thought I’d relive the experience by telling you about it. It was such a reversal, me being a student instead of a teacher. And on an instrument with which I have had such a tempestuous on-off relationship for decades.

Three of my banjo students were also going to go, but two of them couldn’t make it, so it was just me and Dano, who was going to take the vocal class.

I signed up for the Advanced Fiddle Class, not because I feel like I’m an advanced fiddler (I still call myself a hacker) but because I figured that, as a professional musician, at least I’d be able to keep up. However, I found myself hanging on by my fingernails! It was an odd feeling to be the slowest student in the group. (Although I’ll confess, I had already had that humbling experience when I started doing yoga 5 years ago.)

It was a small class, just 6 students, most of us over 60. On the first day, our teacher, the twenty-something Tessa Dillion (who is a fabulous fiddler), played 4 tunes for us (all very fast!) and said this is what we’d be learning during the 4-day camp. Yikes! Three of them I’d never heard, and the fourth, “Salt River” (known in bluegrass as “Salt Creek,”) didn’t sound anything like the version I teach. In fact, having the banjo version in my head actually made it harder to learn.

Luckily, Tessa was teaching by ear (yay!) and she broke down the tunes into small phrases and she played them slow and she even told us where to put our fingers. But, dang, even the names for the fingers were confusing! I use the words index, middle, and ring and she used the words first, second, third. So, when she said “third finger,” I had trouble making my ring finger move. By the time I figured out what my third finger was and got it in place, she had already moved on to another note!

Of course, if I really got lost, I had no trouble asking her to go over the phrase again, because that’s what I want my students to do. Tessa always did it willingly and graciously and slowly. I was, however, the only student who ever asked her to explain something again. After class she told me she was glad I spoke up. She said there were probably other students who needed to go over it again, too. That made me feel good.

So, in two hours of instruction I learned the whole of “Wilson’s Hornpipe.” I use the term “learned” loosely. Fortunately, at the end of class, Tessa played the whole tune slowly for us to record on our phones. And it was a good thing she did because, when I got up the next morning to review the tune before class, I had completely forgotten it! So there I am, standing in my room in my pajamas, ear buds in, listening to the tune and trying to pluck out the notes on the fiddle without using the bow because it’s 6:30 am and I don’t want to disturb anyone. It was slow going. I did have some muscle memory from all the reps in class, but there were many notes that I was still having to guess at. And that drove me crazy!

By 9:30, we were back in class, playing the tune together slowly. That helped. I was beginning to get a tiny feel for it. But now, it was time to learn another one! “Salt River”! The next day, we learned yet another whose name escapes me right now. And each day my brain was tireder and foggier because Dano and I had found a little spot where we could play some bluegrass (him on banjo and me on guitar) and we stayed up till about 11 every night jamming. A few students and even a couple of instructors slithered over to the dark side and joined us, and several folks stopped by to listen. The camp coordinator actually gave us a plug one morning and referred to that spot as the “Bluegrass Alcove”!

I kept practicing the fiddle tunes in my room, even using the bow after I figured everyone was awake. And it would be a great end to this story to have me say that I finally learned the tunes and could play them well. But the truth is, by Sunday morning, when each class went on stage to showcase a tune that they’d learned, I was still struggling to remember all the notes in the first tune, which is the one we were going to play. Sometimes I had them, and sometimes I didn’t. And I absolutely could not play it fast.

Still, I got on stage with my classmates, and with Tessa on guitar, I gave it my best shot. The thing that saved me was my joy of being on stage and my ability to keep going when I made a mistake. The strongest fiddlers pulled us through and we sounded fine.

It’s going to take a lot more woodshedding for me to be able to play those tunes! We’ll see if I make the time to practice them. If I don’t, well, I did play a lot of fiddle in the class and think I’m a better fiddler for that. And for now, that’s enough.

I don’t remember who sent me this photo of Janet Davis and me, but
apparently this was (or is?) an exhibit at the American Banjo Museum in
Oklahoma City, Okla. I knew nothing about it! I am honored, however, to
have been featured. If anyone knows anything about this, please let us
know! The museum includes banjos of all types, not just the five-string.
Here’s the link to their site: https://americanbanjomuseum.com/

I thought I’d add a word or two here to Casey’s always-excellent newsletter, just to let you know how we’re faring at Murphy Method headquarters (aka Our House) during this stay-at-home time.

I’m missing my Tip Jar Jam! I miss hearing David sing In The Pines with the “woo woos” at the end, just like Bill Monroe done it. 😉 I miss singing Where The Soul Of A Woman Never Dies with Kathy. I even miss hearing Banjo In The Hollow!

Both Casey and I were bummed to have to cancel our Intermediate Camp this month. We had so much fun stuff planned: Geoff Stelling, The Fly Birds, Karaoke, Gregg and Chuck’s band (back by popular demand!), food from Bonnie Blue, a singing workshop with David McLaughlin, jamming, Murphy and Casey’s Sunday Morning Gospel Show. We still have our fingers crossed for our July Women’s Camp, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Like many of you, I am mourning the loss of John Prine. The Tip Jar Jammers are already planning a John Prine Night when we get back together. We were already occasionally doing Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, Souvenirs, Spanish Pipedream (aka Blow Up Your TV), and Paradise. Now some of the Jammers, having time on their hands, are learning other Prine songs so we can celebrate his life.

On the non-musical front, Red and I killed quite a few hours re-watching all the Harry Potter movies and now I’m rereading all the books. Just finished Goblet of Fire this morning. Now my TV time is taken up with the new season of Dr. Who, which I am somewhat ambivalent about.

I’m also trying to keep focused on the biography of Maybelle Carter I started writing in January. But, I’ll admit, it’s hard to find the energy. So, I try to be kind to myself and just do what I can do.

Also, like many of you, I’m getting really good at using the Zoom app! I’ve found the “mute button” and the “gallery view”! I use Zoom to take online yoga, which I love. Now if the poses are too hard (Firefly? Plow? Shoulder Stand?), I can revert to Child’s Pose and nobody can see me! I’m also trying to walk almost every day, which is easier now that it’s warmer. I’ve discovered listening to Podcasts on my phone with earbuds makes me more likely to get out the door, so I feel very “with it,” being able to do all these complicated techy things. Yesterday, I listened to an interview with Iris Dement and I remembered how much I love her music. Might have to download her latest album, IDK.

Since Red and I are some of the “olds” (a term my niece came up with and I have embraced), we are being extry careful about going out and when we have to go out, we wear our masks and carry hand sanitizer. And when we come back in, we wash our hands like crazy. Thankfully, we are able to limit our trips to town because my former banjo and guitar student turned singer/songwriter Kasey Smelser is doing our grocery shopping. She leaves them on the front porch and then we visit from six feet away! Thank you, Kasey!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go online and order a T-shirt that says, “May Birthday 2020. The one when we were quarantined.”

And then it’s time to Maybelle. I hope. Well, maybe after lunch. Or after my nap…

Stay safe, y’all.

This post originally appeared on Banjo Hangout. This is the third installment in The Adventures of Peg and Jill. If you need to catch up here are part 1 and part 2.

Peg tripped lightly up the steps to Jill’s teaching place, banjo in hand. She was feeling good about her practice this week. She hadn’t been able to play two hours every day as she had planned because of her “damn job” but she was excited about learning the first song on the DVD. She knew Jill would be pleased with her.

She was early so she sat down to wait in the adjoining room. She frowned when she noticed the velvet picture of Jesus praying on a hillside hanging on the wall. “I didn’t know Jill was religious,” she thought. “Not with that empty Stroh’s can sitting on the mantle. Who drinks Stroh’s?”

Settling down on the couch, she recognized the voice of Bob, the student she’d met last week, talking to Jill about something in the teaching room.   ...continue reading

(This post originally appeared on Banjo Hangout.)

Thanks for all the favorable comments on my story, “The First Banjo Lesson.” I’m glad so many of you could relate to it. As you know, learning to play the banjo, especially as an adult, is no easy task. Here, in this second installment, we follow Peg as she continues her banjo lessons with her teacher Jill. Comments welcome.

The Further Adventures of Peg and Jill: Banjo Lesson #2

Slowly Peg walked up the steps of the old house where she took her banjo lessons. She had not had a good week of practice and she was afraid Jill was going to yell at her.

She didn’t feel any better when she heard Jill saying to the student in front of her, “Dammit, Bob, you missed that C chord again. How long have we been working on this?”

“I just can’t hear it,” came the reply. “There’s no damn melody.”

“I don’t care if there isn’t any damn melody. Memorize the damn pattern. Come on in Peg. We’re done.”

Peg cautiously entered the room to see a man with a thick head of grey hair putting his guitar in the case.

“Peg, this is Bob. Bob, Peg,” said Jill, getting up out of her chair. “Go ahead and sit down, Peg, and get your banjo out. I’ll be right back.” ...continue reading

(This post originally appeared on Banjo Hangout.)

Preface

I've been teaching banjo for over forty years and based on what I’ve seen most students go through many of the same experiences when they first encounter The Murphy Method. They walk away from that first lesson believing that they are the only ones who have trouble remembering things, or that they are the only ones who question my way of teaching. In the following story, I decided to get creative and explore the inside of a student's brain. Let me know what you think. There could be more….

The First Banjo Lesson

Peg was sixty years old and had never played an instrument before. Now she found herself sitting in a large, funky-decorated room, awkwardly holding her new banjo and facing Jill, a woman she’d only talked to on the phone.

From the woman’s short grey hair, Peg guessed they were about the same age. As she looked at Jill across the small space between them, Peg’s stomach churned with fear. Why in God’s name had she thought she should learn to play the banjo?

She was startled to hear Jill say, “What made you want to learn to play the banjo?”

How could she explain the thrill she had felt when she first heard a banjo at Girl Scout camp? There were always plenty of guitars around but one year an older camper had brought a banjo. Peg was smitten with the girl—her first and only girl crush—and the banjo. The crush had faded after camp but her fascination with the banjo had remained. Why had it taken her almost forty years to gather up the courage to try to play it? Life, thought Peg. Life got in the way.

“I’ve always liked the sound,” she said. That was lame but it seemed to satisfy Jill who said, “Oh, okay. Do you have any picks?” ...continue reading

The release of the new Murphy Method HD-DVDs prompted the following conversation between Sweet Murphy and Grouchy Murphy:

Sweet Murphy to Grouchy Murphy: Aren’t you excited about the new DVDs? In HD? They look great!

Grouchy Murphy: Hell, no. Do you honestly think I can get excited about teaching all these songs again, on camera? At my age? The first time I taught ‘em my hair was still brown.

new beginning banjo 1Sweet Murphy: But your white hair looks so……so, uh…..so fetching! That’s how it looks! Fetching!

Grouchy Murphy: Bite me. One thing I was happy about was moving Foggy Mountain Breakdown to Volume 2. Why I EVER thought Foggy Mountain Breakdown was a tune for a beginner I’ll never know.

Sweet Murphy: Well, you were young at the time and all excited about this new way of teaching. And everybody wants to learn Foggy Mountain Breakdown.

Grouchy Murphy: Well, now they’ll just have to wait till they have a little more experience, won’t they? They won’t get it till Volume 2.

Sweet M: You do know that they don’t have to wait, don’t you? That they can actually learn the songs in any order they choose?

Grouchy M: DON’T SAY THAT! I HATE THAT! They are supposed to learn the songs in the order I teach them on the DVDs.

Sweet M: Calm down! You do realize that you can’t control everything. You’ve done your job. You presented the songs in the best way possible. Now, let it go.

Grouchy M: But it will be so much easier for them if they just do what I tell them.

Sweet M: Why you old softie! You do care!

Grouchy M: Of course I care. Did you ever doubt it?

Sweet M: Well, yes. It wasn’t looking real good a few sentences ago.

new beginning banjo 2Grouchy M: It just makes me mad that I’ve figured out this way for people to actually learn to play the banjo. Yet, they can’t even stick to the simple program of learning the damn songs in order. Why are you laughing?

Sweet M (still chuckling): I’m sorry but you know we were raised Baptist and the picture of Jesus chewing out his disciples for not being able to watch with him for just ONE HOUR popped into my mind. Not that I think you’re Jesus…

Grouchy M: Very funny. Like you’re some saint.

Sweet M: Well, it just doesn’t upset me when people act like people. Of course they think they know better than you. You’re just the teacher. OMG, remember that time, at banjo camp? When this guy came up to you? After the faculty concert? And said he was surprised to see that you could play so well?

Grouchy M: OMG yeah! That was weird. What did I say to him?

Sweet M: Oh, I remember. You were in your best grouchy mood. Probably hadn’t had much sleep. You said, “Now, why would you think that?” He said, “Because we only get to hear you play slow on the DVDs.”

Grouchy M: Just shoot me. Do you think he would have said that to any of the guy teachers? Tony Trischka?

Sweet M: Don’t get started on that. I might have to join you. But back to the new DVDs. We’re supposed to be celebrating their release. I know you swore you’d never re-record these, and here they are, re-recorded. By you!

Grouchy M: Ha! I guess that old saying is right. “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Her your plans.” All I know is that it just came to me one day that I should do this. If you believe in Divine Intervention or a Guiding Light or Putting Your Hand In The Hand, this was it. So I done it.

new beginning banjo 3Sweet M: Stop talking that way. It’s silly. I like the way you worked in some of the new stuff you’ve been teaching, like the Roly Polys.

Grouchy M: Yeah, that worked out well. That IS one of my best new discoveries: how to teach improvising to beginners. I’m rather proud of that.

Sweet M: As you should be. And I like the way you pointed out the tricky spots in the songs. Those places where your local students have shown a remarkable tendency to screw up.

Grouchy M: Yeah, that will probably help some of the students. The ones who don’t write the damn stuff down. That really makes me mad. They are just shooting themselves in the foot.

Sweet M: Yeah and I know you wanted to say, “They’re just pulling a Gene Wooten.” But that wouldn’t be nice and besides Gene, bless his Dobro-picking heart, is gone.

Grouchy M: Well, thanks for saying it for me. Gene’s probably Up There Somewhere laughing his ass off. All I can say is, the ones who write the stuff down cannot play. It mostly makes me sad. I’m usually their last chance, for some reason, and they blow it.

Sweet M: Softie, softie! Are you turning into me? What’s that big word? The one we’ve been trying to remember? About how everything turns into its opposite?

Grouchy M: You’ve been watching way too much American Pie! You’re starting to talk like Band Camp Girl. I can’t remember that fracking word. Let me Google it.

Sweet M: And you’ve been watching way too much Battlestar Galactica.

Grouchy M: Got it. It’s “enantiodromia.” I can’t pronounce it.

Sweet M: Me neither. But it’s a cool idea.

Grouchy M: I don’t want to turn into you!

Sweet M: And I don’t want to turn into you! Hello! We are supposed to be talking about the New High Def DVDs.

Grouchy M: All I can say is that I’m glad it’s over. And I’m very happy they turned out so well. Some of my best work. Those are probably the last DVDs I will shoot. Turning it over to the Next Generation.

Sweet M: I did notice you said “probably.”

Grouchy M: Well, saying “never” didn’t work out too well, did it?

Sweet M: Got any parting words? You know folks don’t read long blogs like they used to.

Grouchy M: I am glad we included the vamping to all the songs. Glad Christopher was around to help us out. He definitely raised the glamor factor.

Sweet M: He’s also a rather good picker. And singer. He was playing with Peter Rowan at Merlefest this past weekend, wasn’t he?

Grouchy M: Oh, yeah. He’s walking in High Cotton.

Sweet M: What the heck does that even mean?

Grouchy M: I guess if the cotton is high, that means you’ve got a good crop. You know our Granddaddy was a cotton farmer, don’t you?

Sweet M: Yes, I know that. Focus, please. DVDs. Tell them about the counting off.

Grouchy M: Oh, alright! I counted off each song so the students can hear better what beat to come in on.

Sweet M: And THAT is a convoluted sentence.

Grouchy M: Oh, shut up! It’s hard to talk about that crap. That’s why I teach BY EAR. I counted the songs off. The End. (Stephen King ref.) It never occurred to me to count off before. It seemed too “hoity toity.” And I’m a terrible counter. Just ask Casey. Or Chris. I thought the students could hear what I was hearing in my head. My bad! All better now.

Sweet M: Thank you. And now go do something that makes you less grouchy. I don’t know what that would be.

Grouchy M: I do. I’m going back to my other writing. I’m digging into my college history and writing about that. That’s when I found bluegrass. Or, it found me.

Sweet M: You make it sound like it was a religious experience.

Grouchy M: I guess it was. It changed my life. I didn’t get the Name Change though. Guess I’m no Saul of Tarsus….

Sweet M: We are so out of here. Thanks for reading this far. And there you have it!

Grouchy M: Hey, that is MY line….

Sweet M: Go, go. We’re done. Buy the DVDs. Selah.