Tag Archives: books

Pretty Good For A Girl CoverWe've just crossed into summer, so we thought it would be an appropriate time to direct you to this Summer Reading List over on Banjo Cafe. Murphy's book "Pretty Good For A Girl" graces it, along with three other banjo-centric books, and one about the Louvin Brothers.

Check it out!

5 Summer Must-Reads for Banjo Players

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I had a wonderful time attending the 27th International County Music Conference in Nashville this past weekend. You can see me hard at work in the picture below!

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to be hanging out with the people who write the books about country and bluegrass music. Bill Malone, who wrote Country Music, USA (and who is working on a biography of Mike Seeger); Wayne Daniel, who wrote Pickin’ On Peachtree: A History of Country Music in Atlanta; Nolan Porterfield, who wrote the definitive biography of Jimmy Rodgers; and of course Neil Rosenberg who wrote Bluegrass: A History, which was the subject of the panel I was on.

The Charles K. Wolfe Memorial Panel Discussion: Bluegrass: A History: It's History, Impact, and Future  Left to Right: Erika Brady, David Royko, Murphy, Kevin Kehrberg, Neil Rosenberg

The Charles K. Wolfe Memorial Panel Discussion: Bluegrass: A History: It's History, Impact, and Future Left to Right: Erika Brady, David Royko, Murphy, Kevin Kehrberg, Neil Rosenberg

I thought you might like to hear some of the titles of the papers that were presented:

Smiley Burnette: B Western Sidekick and Country Musician

Tex Ritter: From Folk Singer to Country Legend

The Song’s All Wrong: Why Musical Form Matters in Country Music

Minnie Pearl and William Faulker: Southern Music as Part of the Literary Renaissance

And a wonderful presentation by Bill Malone: In Honor of Mike Seeger: His Impact and Significance to Country Music

Don’t those make you want to come to the conference next year?

As I mentioned during my hard hour’s work on the panel (!), I reviewed Wayne Daniel’s book for Bluegrass Unlimited (years ago) and I was especially taken with his opening, which I remember well. He wrote, “If I had been blessed with an iota of musical talent this book would never have been written. I would have been too busy picking a guitar and singing country songs.” Love it, Wayne. I’m not sure what that had to do with Neil’s book, but it seemed relevant at the time.

Right now, I’m trying to finishing packing for my early morning departure to Lansing, Michigan, for the Midwest Banjo Camp, which is being held at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. Interestingly enough, Casey and the Dixie Bee-liners will be appearing close by on Friday and Saturday at the Niles Bluegrass Festival in Niles, Michigan. Weird to have her so close by, yet not be able to go see her!

So, in the interest of my actually being able to get a few hours of sleep before my alarm goes off at the ungodly (for me) hour of 6 a.m., I will close. [And I know all you hard-working early birds are rolling your eyes!] Hope I see some of you in Michigan. If not there, Kaufman Kamp is coming up soon!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

This morning, I am getting ready to head for Nashville for the International Country Music Conference which is being held at Belmont University. In past years I have presented papers (one on Sally Ann Forrester, one on Bessie Lee Mauldin—you can see I like to write about women with double first names!), but this year I am going to be part of a panel which will discuss Neil Rosenberg’s excellent book Bluegrass: A History.

Bluegrass: A History was first published in 1985, so this years marks its 25th anniversary. (Needless to say, if you do not have a copy, let your fingers do the walking RIGHT NOW over to Amazon and order one.) BAH, as Neil refers to it, is the only book, to my knowledge, to cover in detail the history of bluegrass music. And until fairly recently it was one of the few books that dealt with bluegrass in any way, shape, or form.

Nowadays, more books about bluegrass have found their way onto my book shelves and I thought, in honor of Bluegrass: A History, I would list some of these for you. I highly recommend them all.

The Music of Bill Monroe by Neil Rosenberg and Charles Wolfe (discography and text)

Finding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music by Mary Bufwack and Robert Oermann

Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe by Richard D. Smith

Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times by Dr. Ralph Stanley with Eddie Dean

The Bill Monroe Reader edited by Tom Ewing (collected articles about Monroe)

The Stonemans: An Appalachian Family and the Music That Shaped Their Lives by Ivan Tribe

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone: The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg

Come Hither to Go Yonder: Playing Bluegrass with Bill Monroe by Bob Black (banjo player with Monroe)

I Hear A Voice Calling: A Bluegrass Memoir by Gene Lowinger (fiddle player with Monroe)

I hope that sometime in the near (or far) future I can add to the list Pretty Good For a Girl: Pioneer Women in Bluegrass by Murphy Hicks Henry. (NOT PUBLISHED YET!!!!!)

There are a few others which I can’t find on my shelves right now and I’m out of time! Gotta finish packing, eat breakfast, and hit the road. Ten hours to Nashville! I’m taking my well-worn copy of BAH for Neil to sign. Better go put it in my suitcase right now or I’ll forget it. Happy Memorial Day weekend! Drive careful!

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

The book titled Banjo Camp! Learning, Picking, & Jamming with Bluegrass and Old-Time Greats has been out for about a year. It's a soft-cover, full color, 152 page publication that includes a CD. The reason I'm mentioning it now is that I just got around to buying a copy. The other reason is that I'm in it! You can find me on page 38, which is in the section talking about Kaufman Kamp, where I've taught for the last six years.

The general idea behind the book (which I admit I haven't read all of yet) is "banjo camp between two paper covers." It combines instruction, visits to various banjo camps around the country, student testimonials, plenty of pictures, and music and examples on the CD at the end. In my three paragraphs I talk about slow jams and their value to students at all levels.

Sample from "Banjo Camp!" book.

Sample from "Banjo Camp!" book.

The author, Zhenya Gene Senyak, writes from the perspective of a typical banjo camp student---adults who picked up the instrument later in life and now have the time and money to come to events like camps to develop their playing. The book contains lots of information, but mostly it's just fun to read something by and about other who are interested in the same thing we're all interested in: learning to play the banjo!