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Chris Henry

This weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Connecticut with some of my best friends to play at a church in Greenwich. On Friday night, I had a late gig up near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and got back to Nashville past midnight. The alarm was set for 5:15 so we could get to the airport by 6:30 to catch our flight. I put on my three-piece suit and red tie, which is my uniform of choice these days, and Mike Bub picked me up about 5:45am. We went to get our favorite fiery fiddle, Shad Cobb, and met Brad Folk, formerly of the band Open Road, at the airport. We flew into LaGuardia, getting there about 1:00pm.

Keith Reed, also of Open Road and now bluegrass professor at Colorado College, met us at the airport. He had gotten a call from his wife's best friend's husband, Kevin, who is the music minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, asking if he could put together a band to play for their spring concert series. Keith's a great banjo picker and well-connected fellow and we were all looking forward to the trip even though that particular configuration of pickers had never all played together at the same time.

Shad, Bub, and I play a lot together in Nashville. Brad and Keith played for years together, and Brad and I have done a few shows together, so we were all confident that we could find the common ground and pick out some tunes and it would all work out. We all love traveling with Bub, who is a seasoned veteran and pro road-dog. He always seems prepared and is very resourceful, as well as being full of great stories to amuse everyone from his thirty plus years in bluegrass. Between Bub and Brad there were already a whole lot of laughs.

When we got to Greenwich, we headed straight to the church to check it out. It was a beautiful old granite building with a large, wooden, sanctuary featuring some of the finest stained glass windows I have ever seen. They had a gigantic pipe organ, which Kevin plays, behind the alter.

At that point we were all starving so we went and had a bite to eat at a local diner where Kevin joined us. After a good visit there, we headed back to the church for sound check. We were using just one mic, a large diaphragm condenser that Bub had brought, for all the instruments and vocals. Since it was such a great sounding room, that was plenty of reinforcement.

After deciding on "Pain in My Heart" as a good number, we launched right into it and from the get-go, we knew that the music was going to work out. Brad started singing and the grass was driving fine. Bub added the baritone and I added the tenor on the chorus and we had a powerful bluegrass trio and we were aces into the fiddle solo. Shad dug in and started stomping his foot and he rendered another heaping helping of the nail biting, intense, flawless fiddling. We got through another verse and chorus fine and then the only glitch was during the mandolin solo. Because there were no monitors, it was hard for everyone to hear exactly what was going on on some of the leads. I lifted the mandolin up to the microphone and charged impetuously out on the front side of the beat to play my break, and the beat ended up turned around because I had hit the gas so hard on it. Growing up picking with Mom and Dad, and Casey on the bass, I never had to think about where I was putting the beat because we were all so accustomed to the surging nature of leads that our family band played. I hadn't considered that we weren't playing in a circle where everyone can hear exactly what and where everyone else is playing. I was a little frazzled, but didn't say anything. We finished up all together and packed up the SUV and left for our lodging quarters.

We drove through some beautiful million-dollar neighborhoods and got to the residence of Steve and Sandy Waters who were part of the congregation. They had offered to put us up for the night - a generous and brave couple! They warmly greeted us and showed us each to our rooms and I took the opportunity to get some rest because I was already exhausted from the night before and traveling. Steve has one of the best collections of Yankee baseball memorabilia and in my room were great autographed pictures of different moments including Don Larson's perfect world series game.

I thought a long time about the mandolin break and what had happened, and why. I felt frustrated because I didn't feel like I had the communication skills to appropriately address the issue, and thought it was interesting that no one else said anything about it either. After a couple of hours of meditation on it, I figured it would be a good strategy to back off from where I frequently feel the leading edge of the beat to stay on the safe side. The rest of the guys spent the afternoon lounging and laughing in the Waters' back yard by the pool and I got some rest.

About 5:30 we were treated to a wonderful supper and had a good time visiting with the Waters discussing topics of local interest all the way to political fundraising. Mr. Waters had gone to Harvard Business School with Mitt Romney and it was neat to hear him talk about the presidential candidate as being just like he remembered him in school. It's unusual for us to be dining with folks who have ties to that world, so that was fun. It was the first time I can remember eating supper and having bread with a little plate for dipping olive oil like in fancy restaurants. We usually put butter on the bread, but I liked their way a lot too.

We finished up about 6:15 and Brad and I started tossing around numbers that we thought would come off all right, as well as a couple of gospel tunes we thought the folks would enjoy possibly singing along to. Bub, who has has so much experience with off-the-cuff stage shows, was confident we didn't need a set list, but Brad and I were a little nervous about the prospect, so we went ahead and dialed one in as well as we could.

When we got to the church, Kevin led us up to the music rehearsal room inside the large, four-story church complex. We hit a little bit of "Roll on, Buddy" and again felt good that the set would go well.

I went down to the sanctuary a little early so I could set up my computer to video the show. We were hoping to get some good footage in case we could use it for future bookings. There was a modest crowd seated already with more folks filing in.

Kevin gave us a nice introduction and Shad started us off on the fiddle with Old Joe Clark. It's a great tune, everybody knows it, it's up-beat, and has easy access to three-part harmony. They loved it! We were off to a good start and rolled through the set doing mostly traditional material. I sang "Walkin' West to Memphis", and Mike Bub took a great break on the bass. Keith expertly rendered a great version of "Sledd Ride" and that got a rousing response. We brought it up and slowed it down three or four times trying to vary the material as much as we could but still sticking to a good quotient of hard-driving hardcore bluegrass. Other numbers included "Close By", "Roustabout", "Voice of My Saviour", "The Luckiest Man Twas Born", "Sally Goodin'", "Rank Stranger", and we ended the set with a gospel medley of "I Saw the Light", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", and "I'll Fly Away". They gave us quite a nice bit of applause before we took a short break.

After stepping off stage, we all agreed we were happy and relieved that things had gone so well and had a glass of water after stepping outside into the courtyard for a few minutes. Kevin advised that we back away a little bit from the microphone because it was overdriving the system a little bit. That's a problem I have had for many years. Since I grew up playing and singing into a dynamic microphone, like an SM58, I never had to worry about overdriving the system and it was business as usual to be an inch or closer to the mic. With the larger diaphragm condensers, they are so sensitive that it's fine to stand a few inches or more away from them while singing and they'll pick up everything just fine.

We didn't plan out the whole next set because by that time were were confident we could pull it out of our back pockets. We played for another 30 minutes or so and ended up with a short version of "Orange Blossom Special" and invited the crowd to a reception with coffee and some snacks.

We were pleased to meet so many folks who hadn't seen much bluegrass and the responses were all very positive. I felt great that we had been able to pull it together and bring a good show to many folks who had never seen bluegrass live. When we had shook and howdied till all the folks left, we cut a trail back to the house, where I was happy to get back and relax.

The next day we went back to the church and met up with some of the folks in the choir who were having a picnic and we followed them out of town a little way to one of the congregation's lovely home and picked for about twenty minutes, had a good lunch, and sold about ten CDs. Since I do so much live streaming from my shows in Nashville I was happy to have a good number of 5X7 cards with all the contact information on them in case they want to tune in sometime to the show. We met a lot of nice folks and then cut out about an hour before we needed to be at the airport. We dropped Shad off at the Delta terminal and had good time visiting with Keith before catching our flight back to Tennessee.

So now, about 30,000 feet above probably somewhere like Kentucky or southern Pennsylvania, I'm writing this blog to share with you another adventure in the life of a bluegrass musician. We were able to rely on the core base of the music we all knew to put together a good show, pretty much on the fly, and spread the good gospel of bluegrass to Greenwich, Connecticut. I hope we can come back to pick again!

Chris Henry

We knew that if we were going to get a good seat for Earl's service at the Ryman Auditorium, getting there early was going to be a good idea. My girlfriend Sarah and I got there a little over an hour before 2pm, when it was scheduled to begin. I saw many bluegrass folks in a line for the friends and family entrance, and so we got in line behind our buddy David Grier and his father, Lamar, who was a banjo picker with Bill Monroe in the 60s. I had never met Lamar, but I have been hanging out a lot with David in the last year, picking and recording, so it was good to meet his dad.

About fifteen minutes later, the doors opened and we filed in and signed the guestbook. The floor was just starting to be filled with the people who were closer to Earl, and the balcony was open to the general public. After saying hello to Pete and Kitsy Kuykendall, and to Dan Hays, we got a seat right in front of the Griers. It was great because we had about an hour to wait, and between the Griers and Barbara Lamb (a great fiddler), there was enough levity to allow the time to pass quickly amongst the excellent people watching. The Griers were really funny to listen to. My favorite exchange was when banjo player Lamar kidded to his son David, "You're probably going to like this today, it'll be mostly banjo music." Guitar-player David fired back, "But when that G-Run comes in it's going to be like heaven!" On the pew next to the left, was Shawn Camp, and to the right on the next row was Alan O'Bryant and Sam Bush. It was good to see so many musicians there to honor the creator of the Big Twang. There were about ten very nice flower arrangements on the stage and Earl's banjo was standing up in the middle of the front of the stage while his closed casket was on the floor out front.

Eddie Stubbs was presiding and did a great job of setting the dignified tone of the event. He was playing the parts of MC, preacher, and reminiscer. Earl's regular preacher had not been able to attend because he was sick, so Eddie had the job of reading some Bible verses on comfort and talking about what a wonderful gift from God Earl was. Since so many of Earl's career highlights had come at the Ryman, the family thought it would be the perfect place to have his memorial, and they wanted it to be broadcast live on WSM 650, the radio station that had catapulted Earl into international stardom in the middle and late 40s.

Del McCoury and his band were the first folks to come out and sing. He was the first to talk about what an inspiration Earl was to him. They went into Take me in a Lifeboat, and you could really tell the were putting their whole hearts into the music. As Del's high tenor reverberated into the rafters of the Ryman, we were all beginning to realize the show was going to be special in that all the artists would be wanting to do their very best for Earl. All of the performances received standing ovations.

The next song was sung by Ricky Skaggs and the Whites. Ricky, who is so comfortable talking to an audience, told about when he was eight years old, and picking backstage at the Opry, how Earl had listened to him play and sing, and then invited his dad to bring him down to the television station for an audition to be on one of the Martha White Flatt and Scruggs shows. Ricky said "He didn't have to do that, but he did." One great example of a kind gesture that impacted country music in a large way with the beginning of Ricky's professional career. Ricky asked for a show of hands to see how many banjo pickers were in the audience. As so many hands went up he commented about how God had planted so many seeds with the gift of Earl's music. They sang Gone Home and I could definitely feel the spirit of the music all over when they sang the harmonies.

Bela Fleck came out after the Whites and did a solo banjo number. It was in a minor key and made use of the tuners in an interesting way. Afterwords, Bela read from his IPad some words he had written about Earl's influence on him. He talked about "hearing the truth" for the first time as a young kid in Queens. He told a couple of great stories. The first was about Earl driving at night through Atlanta back in the day that there were exactly 90 stoplights going through the city. The rest of the band was asleep when Earl started seeing sparks coming off of a dragging tailpipe. He pulled over and got a tow truck to come. After the tow truck driver asked Earl to get in and steer the car as it was towed backwards, the rest of the band started to wake up. Earl took the opportunity to pretend he was sleeping, and slumped over the wheel! The second was about himself speeding through Nashville one day and getting pulled over. The officer came up to the window and recognized Bela. After a brief exchange, the officer asked Bela who the greatest banjo player in the world was. He answered Earl Scruggs. The officer said, "That's right, now drive a little slower around here from now on." The audience roared with laughter.

There was some video played of the Foggy Mountain Boys, demonstrating Earl's unsurpassed creative and technical ability. It was good to see some clips of those old Martha White shows.

Charlie Daniels came out and spoke very nicely about getting his start in Nashville with the Earl Scruggs Revue. The reverence and respect with which he spoke was delivered with dignity and eloquence.

EmmyLou Harris sang a song and payed her respects.

John McEuen came out and spoke about his experiences with Earl. He said after he got the nerve to ask Earl to record on what would become the Circle album, he couldn't sleep the whole night because he was so excited. John played a clawhammer version of Soldiers Joy, and then Jim Mills and Mike Bub joined him on the instrumental Carolina Traveler.

Eddie Stubbs delivered a wonderful eulogy that included talking about his love of family; how he attended his son's baseball games; his religious commitment to Christianity; a wonderful personal memory of Earl telling Eddie he loved Lester; tidbits about Earl's love for food; and how many medical problems Earl had had, including two bad automobile accidents and a plane crash. Eddie said that one time Earl asked him if he had been playing his fiddle, and Eddie replied that he had not been and was so out of practice he would be embarrassed to play it in Earl's company. Earl replied "Well I'm the same way, why don't you come over and we'll practice!" Just another example of his humility and friendly good nature. After a quadruple bypass, Earl's diet needed to change, but one time at a party he found some good salty peanuts on the table and he told Eddie as he was in between Louise's line of sight to the table, "You stay right there, I don't want Louise to see!" Eddie also related another time at a party that Earl said to him "I better get a piece of that pie just in case someone might ask me my opinion about it."

Marty Stuart came out and played a little of You are my Flower on the guitar. For my money, there's no more beautiful piece of music in bluegrass than that tune. Marty talked with his usual good humor and candor about going to do a soundtrack for a movie with Johnny Cash. Johnny asked him who would be a good fit for the banjo, and Marty suggested Earl. The movie company was from out west and so there was some disparity between the two styles of production, in that the westerners weren't familiar with the Tennessee way and pace of doing things, and vice-versa. At one point while Earl was standing in front of a vending machine with a milk in one hand and a honey-bun in the other, the director flew out of the studio in an extremely agitated manner saying "The banjo player! The banjo player! We need the banjo player!" To which Earl calmly replied "If I see 'im, I'll tell 'im you're looking." Again the audience rolled with laughter.

Marty had a great trio singing with him, as well as Del McCoury adding some powerful G-runs on his rhythm guitar. Who Will Sing for Me was the number that Marty led using some classic vintage Lester Flatt style intonation in his voice. He was placing the notes slightly flat in a way that brings out a captivating and dynamic energy - a technique seldom heard in today's world of auto tune and American Idol. It was great.

The final song was introduced by Vince Gill. He was accompanied by Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs, and a piano player. In a very emotional way that brought tears welling up in his eyes, Vince spoke about how he had come to write the song and how the circumstances were similar in that his mom had to "lay down" a son as did the Scruggs family. He was able to pull through his emotions and sing very well.

At this point some closing words were spoken by Eddie, who did a wonderful job with the ceremony. On the ends of the middle pews was a banjo guard: Kristin Scott Benson, Bela, Trishka, O'Banyon, Sam Bush, Vince Gill, Noam Pikelny, Ned Lubereki, Dave Talbot, Charlie Cushman, Mike Bub, Tim O'Brien, and many others held their banjos in front of their faces like bluegrass marines as Earl's casket was moved outside. As the casket passed, the adjacent rows of guards crossed the necks of the their banjos. It was a beautiful and perfect way for Earl to make his farewell. His banjo was then carried out of the mother church - from the place where Earl had changed the world and brought the five string banjo with "lightning in a bottle" to millions of listeners. It was a true celebration and fitting memorial for a person who picked and sang with grace, brought joy to millions, lived with humility, and was well loved.

Don't forget to listen to WSM at 2 PM Central Time today. Earl Scruggs's memorial service at the Ryman Auditorium will be broadcast on the air, and also streamed on line!

Red

Red Henry
Great show tonight at the Station Inn in Nashville! Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass play from 8 to 11! Mighty Fine music guaranteed. Y'all come!
https://www.facebook.com/events/314700525259158/

Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass at The Station Inn!!
Wednesday, March 14 at 8:00pm at The Station Inn

Back in January I got a call, pretty much out of the blue, from the director of the bluegrass program at Colorado College, Keith Reed. I had met Keith at RockyGrass last year when I was teaching at the Academy and he mentioned that he wanted to get me up to Colorado Springs sometime to teach at the college. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to get out to Colorado Springs, see some mountains, meet and help some eager young bluegrass enthusiasts, and pick with Keith at the faculty concert.

I left a sunny and fairly warm Nashville and flew to Denver, and Keith scooped me up and we rode through snow dusted plains up to the campus to have a meal and meet with a couple of Keith's students. Keith, an excellent and solid Scruggs style player who had picked with Open Road for years, started teaching at the college about eight years ago and grew the program into a successful enterprise with about 20 students and three different ensembles.

That evening about 7 pm, we met about eight of Keith's students in one of the many music study rooms and I commenced a workshop for about an hour and a half. I've been teaching for about fifteen years, so I have done many workshops and private lessons, but it had been a while and my muscle memory for the experience was a little lethargic. But nevertheless, I set up my webcam to stream the workshop onto my Facebook page and plowed ahead. I figured it would be appropriate to give some background into my own influences and how I came to learn the music and play it the way I do. I always enjoy younger folks in workshops because frequently they have had heaping helpings of more contemporary bluegrass but haven't really studied the classics too much. At least one had heard of Frank Wakefield, so that was encouraging. Keith and I picked a couple of tunes - Bluegrass Breakdown and Farewell Blues.

I have been playing a lot in Nashville and so I really didn't think too much about it when I kicked off Bluegrass Breakdown at close to 180bpm. The students seemed entertained with the offering. There are many great styles of hardcore bluegrass mandolin, so I demonstrated, as best I could, tones of Red Henry, Bill Monroe, Frank Wakefield, David McLaughlin, and how my style was a mixture of those influences plus some innovations of my own like the circus-style ascending and descending blurs of mandolin motion (cheap licks as I like to call them), also integrating some unusual intervals that are more likely to be heard in eastern European, Klezmer, and Middle Eastern music.

Before long, one student asked me what I thought about Chris Thile. I expressed that beyond the obvious - his formidable technique, creativity, and overall contributions to the awareness of the mandolin in popular culture, he has an outstanding dedication to what he pursues, be it classical, or nuvo-grass, or the blend of pop and acoustic music in his most recent band. I also told them that he also provides me with a great contrast stylistically. If there were hundreds of young mandolin pickers who were all super deep in studying Monroe, then what I do would not be as unusual, so I appreciate that.

After dusting off two or three original mandolin tunes, I invited the students to pick, and we had two guitars, about four or five mandolin pickers, Keith on banjo, and a bass player. There was an excellent contingent of four young women, all very sharp and capable, with mandolins and so the gender balance was quite respectable. We started with a blues number which I figured was a good place to begin to get everyone improvising a little bit. At first go round, everyone played well, although with a couple of exceptions, fairly quietly. I like it when pickers really bear down and get good volume and projection out of their instruments. So, on the second round I asked them to all play as loud as they could, and they really could be heard a lot better the second time, and by my estimation, the music itself was more engaging and interesting. We sang some songs and passed some good fiddle tunes around for about a half hour with various students having to come and go as their hectic academic schedules allowed.

I demonstrated a few different guitar styles as well. The strums or licks of folks like Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, Carter Stanley, and David McLaughlin were something that they had not spent much time studying, so I was happy to help them add a few tools to their toolbox in terms of different guitar strums for different songs.

We had a little pizza and then went to relax for a while. That evening a friend of some of the students offered to have us over to pick some. So Keith and I went over and joined a few early 20s fellows playing an ice hockey game projected on to a white wall. We picked a couple in the kitchen, running over Groundspeed, which was going to be one of the tunes for the faculty concert the next night. The video game was finished and so we moved into the living room to pick some more. I was playing guitar, Keith was on banjo, and the most proficient mandolin student, Charlie, was picking his mandolin. Before long there were about twenty young folks in the room sitting wherever they could, a fairly large but well behaved snake being passed around, and three more mandolin pickers. We picked for about two hours and had a great time.

The next day we got to the college about noon, and had a great lunch from the cafeteria before Keith went to take a swim and I went to teach some one-on-one lessons. First up was Charlie, and he was a true sponge and quick on the pickup which is always great for lessons. We looked at staggered sixteenth notes like Bill Monroe used many times. I showed him how to play one sixteenth note with a downstroke, and then continue up the arpeggio on an upstroke, then a downstroke on every next note, and then how to change chords at the top to go to a C chord from G, and then also how to go from G to D and back down. He picked it right up.

Being curious about how I approached tremelo, I demonstrated how I pat my foot and play down-up-down-up for every foot pat so it keeps the tremelo even and uniform. He's got a good handle on what I might call the spastic tremelo which is more haphazard but when used properly can be powerful. The spastic tremelo is basically playing as fast as possible but without an even regularity to the pick strokes in relationship to the beat. I employ that technique myself frequently as well, it's more along the lines of Buzz Busby's style.

Next up was Mattie, a young woman that wanted to learn some practice techniques that would help here clean up her playing while developing speed. So I showed her my usual regimen of three patterns of the major scale in G and A. I start off with the regular two octave scale with alternating up and down pick strokes. Then we played two pick strokes (up and down) for each note up and down the scale, then triplets, and finally sixteenth notes. We did that in both G and A.

The next pattern I showed her was a little more complex. It starts on the first note in the scale then jumps up to the third note in the scale, then back to the second, then up to the fourth and so on. She picked it right up and we went through the permutations of one pick stroke through four pick strokes for each note in the scale. We did that in G and A.

Finally, when she had a good handle on all that we moved on to the hardest pattern which, in my experience, is the most beneficial for developing speed. It, like the previous scales is all up and down, starts by playing the first three notes in the scale, then going back to the first note and playing the next four notes in the scale, then back to the second note in the scale and playing three more scale notes, then going back to the third note in the scale and playing three more scale notes and so on all the way up and down. It's a lot easier to understand if you can hear it! We did that in G and A as well.

My third lesson was with Nicole, who wanted to learn some alternate up-the-neck picking ideas for one of her singing songs, so we picked Blue Night. She had an outstanding ability to pick up what I was showing her and in about a half hour's time she had a great handle on a difficult Bill Monroe-style break out of what I call first position, up-the-neck C. It was bluesy and melody based and was a good complement for her usual approach down low. I was tickled she was picking Monroe style so quickly.

The last lesson was with Esther, a final year student, who wanted to learn a particular strum pattern. She had been at the workshop the day before and had seen me do a strumming/picking rhythm lick but she didn't exactly know how to describe it or remind me what it was. So, I played this one and that one and she made leading suggestions such as "it connects to itself" and "it's more rounded", until finally we hit on something that was at least fairly close to what she was looking for. It was a rhythm lick that was very similar to the syncopated way Bill Monroe would frequently play on Muleskinner Blues or Rawhide. So we worked on getting the nuances and pick strokes until we were playing the same thing, and then I grabbed the guitar and sang the Rocky Road Blues so she could play her new rhythm lick, which she did quite well.

That evening was the faculty concert which was the main reason Keith had me fly out. There were opera singers, a wonderful harpist, and a wind ensemble among the other performers, and then Keith and I were scheduled to close out the show. About an hour before the concert we sat down and picked the tunes - Groundspeed and Sally Goodin. The arrangement was that he would kick off Groundspeed, and we'd both take a couple of breaks and then he would finish it and a similar deal with Sally Goodin' except I was starting and finishing that one. It was an interesting experience playing for that academic crowd. I'm not sure they were too familiar with bluegrass, but they laughed supportively when I invited them to get up and dance the buck 'n wing if they felt to inclined. We picked the tunes and they went off without a hitch. I had one of the students holding my Macbook so I could stream it to my Facebook page like I try to do whenever I can these days. The stream went out, we got a rousing applause at the end and then several of the other performers were favorably complementary towards our efforts which was especially nice considering the diversity in our musical paths.

After the concert we went to a local pub where two of the students have a regular gig. It was a tight spot, but comfortable with so many enthusiastic young listeners who were responding well and exchanging some good energy with everyone who was picking. I used my iPhone to look up a lyric I had forgotten to Roving Gambler, and we had some good trios on Sitting Alone in the Moonlight, All the Good Times Are Past and Gone. Keith let me pick his nice pre-war banjo for a tune and I picked one of my favorites, Clinch Mountain Backstep. It was interesting because as I was starting it off I was patting my foot on the off beat as I like to do sometimes, and due to the volume in the room, the guys picked up on the foot tap more than the melody and came in backwards, but it was quickly remedied and we had a good time with it. We picked until about eleven o'clock and headed for the house.

As I look out the plane window right now I see a whole lot of what I reckon is Kansas on the way back to Nashville. I'll get to town with a couple of hours to spare before heading to the Station Inn to sound check with Shawn Camp and his band. Till next time!

Folks, we just wanted to mention that we're starting the video editing for our upcoming harmony singing DVD, and it's looking (and sounding) good. Target date for availability is April 1st! We'll see if we make it!

Yes, folks, as we mentioned last week, Christopher's song "Walking West to Memphis" is up for the "Song of the Year" award at SPBGMA. (That's the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.) Everybody attending the convention is eligible to vote, so if you're going to SBBGMA, PLEASE VOTE!

"Walkin' West to Memphis" is getting lots of airplay, and is now #3 in the National Bluegrasss Survey in the new edition of Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine! I believe that's up from #4 in January.

For those who enjoy good songs and original mandopicking, here's Chris singing and playing W.W.T.M. with Shawn Camp at the Station Inn in Nashville:

Red

Yes, folks, we just found out that Christopher's great song "Walking West to Memphis" has been nominated as "Song of the "Year" in this year's SPBGMA Awards! The Gibson Brothers' first-class recording of the number has propelled it onto the bluegrass charts. If you're a SPBGMA member, please vote!

Murphy Henry

Okay, something short and banjo-ey.
 
I’m teaching Bob Mc tonight and I decide—totally out of the blue--to go over the chords to Jingle Bells. He’s not learning to play the song, I just wanted to do the chords because it’s Christmas and who wants to chord Jingle Bells in July? And the chorus of Jingle Bells (in the key of G), being familiar to most everyone, is a great song to use to learn to hear the A chord (the 2 chord).
 
So we’re chording along, me on the guitar and Bob in his cap...whoops, I mean Bob on the banjo. (Sorry, that was a ref to The Night Before Christmas in case you didn’t realize it...) And Bob is doing pretty well. Not perfect, but good enough. He was “hearing” where the A chord came in, which was the whole point of the exercise, so it didn’t matter so much to me that he occasionally missed the second C chord.
 
When we had chorded through the song many, many times we quit so I could expostulate. I said, “When you’re playing in the key of G, the A chord is almost always followed by the D chord. 99 and 44/100% of the time it is.”
 
And Bob, being Bob, immediately said, “Why?”

And me, being me, said, “Because.”
 
And Bob, being Bob, thought about that for a few seconds and then (wisely) said, “Okay. I’ll accept that.”
 
And I said, “Good thing, because I have no idea why that is. It just is.”
 
Just wanted you to know I do occasionally play the banjo and blog about the banjo!

Red Henry

Here's some bluegrass news from the Murphy Method -- Many thanks to all the International Bluegrass Music Association members who voted for Christopher's song "Walking West to Memphis" in the Song of the Year balloting! Last night, they announced that WWTM is one of 5 finalists! Y'all keep voting, and Murphy and I are looking forward to the IBMA Awards Show in late September.