Howdy, all! Especially all y’all who have kept dropping by the blog to see if anything new has been posted. My summer resolution is to blog more! We’ll see if that happens. However, since I finally—after 10 years of hard but intermittent work—sent off the manuscript for my book about Women in Bluegrass, I do have slightly more time on my hands! Of course, I also have a grandson.....!
This year, my 10th at Kaufman Kamp, was excellent as always. (I highly recommend the Kamp for those of you who want to immerse yourself in banjo—or any of the bluegrass instruments—for a whole week.) I missed my cohort Casey (good alliteration there!) but had a good time finding other teachers and students to hang out with. (Thank you, Dennis for the lovely supper and conversation!)
Two of the first people I hooked up with when I arrived on Sunday for the staff meeting and dinner (supper to me) were Sally Jones and Missy Raines. Sally (and husband Chris) also had their beautiful daughter Joanna, age 8, with them. I decided, pretty much on the spot, to ask Sally, Missy, and Joanna to perform with me during my 20 minutes of fame at the instructor’s concert. (Kauf Kamp has a concert every night of the week.) Of course, I asked Sally beforehand if Joanna might be willing to perform and she was quite willing! Sally said she, Joanna, could sing Little Cabin Home on the Hill. In the key of D! I later realized we needed another lead instrument and asked banjo player Cindy Studdard, who was running sound for the show as she has for years, to pick with us. So there we had it: an all-girl band! A fitting tribute to the completion of my Women in Bluegrass manuscript!
Of course, you have to understand that we’d NEVER played together before. And I am loathe to practice. So, in typical Murphy Fashion, we gathered “backstage” (which is to say, outside) before that night’s show to run through some songs. Now, if you’re not gonna practice, then my rule is, you have to pick tunes that everybody already knows. No original stuff that has weird chords. I don’t like chord charts on stage, nor words. So, I’d picked out Lonesome Road Blues (instrumental opener), Banjo Picking Girl, Joanna’s song, and When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (group participation for the closer). There are no encores at Kaufman Kamp as Steve pointedly reminded us at the staff meeting. It makes the concert run too long.
I hadn’t exactly told Sally what time to arrive for “practice” so since Cindy and Missy and I were there ahead of her, we starting running through the songs. I had played banjo on stage with Cindy at other Kauf Kamps (and she can really bear down!) but had never sung with her. I had, in fact, planned to sing with Sally. But, since Sally wasn’t there yet, Cindy offered to jump in on the tenor (“if you want me to”) and damn if we didn’t sound good! We were cranking it! Having Missy, an IBMA Bass Player of the Year for many years, on bass wasn’t hurting us either!
Then Sally and Joanna showed up and Sally uncased her guitar, and I was in for another surprise. She is a kick-ass guitar player! (Sorry for all the cussing, but there is just no better way to describe these things.) Wow! I was blown away. That girl puts some muscle into her rhythm playing! I later found out she’d played for three years with Harley Allen, son of Red Allen. (You’ll either understand that or you won’t. If not, go listen to Red Allen with J.D. Crowe or Red Allen with Frank Wakefield, or Red Allen with the Osborne Brothers!) In addition to playing guitar, she also added a high baritone. (Check out our Harmony Singing DVD if these harmony parts sound confusing.) Voila! “Three-part harmony, oh how sweet to me....” (From one of my own songs!)
We ran through Little Cabin Home on the Hill with Jo (Sally sang harmony) and we were done with practice. Now came waiting around to perform. Always a pain, but it’s part of the biz....
When our time came to go (ha!), we hit the stage with Lonesome Road Blues (garnering spontaneous applause for Cindy’s break which I then had to try to out-do while still looking pleased that she was playing so well....!), and followed that with Banjo Picking Girl. Sally introduced Joanna who stepped up to the mike like a pro. I asked her what key she was gonna sing in, and, with no hesitation, she said, into the mike, “D.” My kick-off didn’t sound much like what we’d rehearsed (the one time) but she made her entrance perfectly! She was great!
Then it was time for our closer. I never know what I’m going to say on stage when I’m introducing a song, but I found myself falling back into some really old stage patter about being “raised Baptist.” Then I found myself talking about the songs we used to sing in church. (This was even older patter.) I said I really liked the songs from the Broadman Hymnal, especially all the blood songs like Washed in the Blood, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood, Nothing But the Blood, and Power in the Blood. Great songs! I also said that I loved the up-tempo songs we sang at night, like Uncloudy Day, I’ll Fly Away (technically not in the Broadman), and On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand, and of course When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. Then I said I did NOT like many of the songs we sang during the Sunday morning service because they sounded too “Episcopalian.” (Meaning they weren’t peppy enough.) I said, “Songs like Love Divine All Loves Excelling, and All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, and Holy, Holy Holy.” Sally, who up till this point had been listening patiently (and quietly), could hold out no longer. She stepped up to the mike and said, “I like Holy, Holy, Holy. I had it sung at my wedding.” I said, “You’re kidding.” “No,” she says, “seriously. At my wedding.” I was speechless.
Well, by then the audience is in stitches and up on stage we are pretty much falling apart laughing. Sally goes, “You can’t write stage patter like this!” So true! Which is one thing that makes playing bluegrass so much fun. You just never know what will happen! Yet there was more...
As we prepared to launch into When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I told the audience that on the chorus we were going to sing it Baptist style with a retard on the end. Of course I pronounced it “RE-tard” which made everybody laugh. And when I responded, “Oh? Did I say it wrong?” they laughed even harder. Sally’s right: you can’t plan stuff like that.
And on that note we kicked off the song, sang three verses and three choruses, took our bows, and left the stage to large applause. And no encore. Missy had threatened to shout out, “Have you enjoyed the Lewis Family!” (a la Pop Lewis) at the end of the song so the banjo could kick off one more chorus (a la Little Roy) but she decided not to. Good decision. You don’t want to peeve Mister Steve! (What a great line! I was looking for a nice way to say that, and look what I thought of!)
Anyhow, as my grandmother used to say, “Mouse is run, my story’s done!” Thanks for reading! And don’t forget our own Murphy Method Beginners Banjo Camp coming up October 26, 27, and 28. “More picking, less talking!” See you there!