The Misfits at Dalton’s Shop

Murphy HenryAs you saw on our November 3rd Blog, my good friend and banjo-playing buddy Dalton Brill died on October 29. I've been teaching at Dalton's combination Barber Shop and Musician's Shop since we moved to Winchester in 1986. As I told the folks at Dalton's funeral, our friend David McLaughlin had been instrumental (no pun intended!) in getting us to move to Virginia from Florida and one of his hooks was that he knew a place where I could teach banjo. David said it was just down the street from his house on the Olde Towne Mall.

So when Red and I drove to Winchester to check things out, we went by the shop and met Dalton. He was very gracious, as I learned he always was. I told him I'd heard he had an opening for a banjo teacher. He told me that he'd never had anyone teaching at his shop before, but he was willing to give it a try. We negotiated lesson prices and a commission for him and I was all set. It wasn't until years later when Dalton and I were reminiscing about our first meeting that I found out that Dalton didn't know me from Adam's house cat and that David had never said anything to him about my teaching there! But, as usual, Dalton rose to the occasion---being the Southern Gentleman that he was---and wanting to spare me any embarrassment, he just said sure, I could teach there. He was just hoping I could actually play the banjo!

What he didn't tell me was that his dog Shotzie---a Doberman pinscher---stayed in the back room during the day (and in the shop at night), and that I'd have to walk through there to get into the shop (unless I wanted to come in the front door and walk past all the men waiting for haircuts). I'm afraid of dogs in general (and men getting haircuts in particular), so I opted instead for crawling through a window into my teaching space. (The window was an indoor old-fashioned type that slid up and was low to the ground so it wasn't hard to do.) Dalton later told me that he got a real kick out of seeing me crawling thought that window. I guess it was sorta funny looking!

Dalton was pretty much solely responsible for all the students who started lessons with me to begin with. Not only did he run an ad in the paper, he also corralled any of his customers who showed the slightest interest in guitar or banjo. I've written about Dalton several times in Banjo Newsletter (those columns are collected in my book....) and maybe we'll post those later.

Murphy's Misfits---the first group of my students to jam together---originated in his shop and as you can see from the pictures posted on Monday, the tradition continues. The current group of unofficial Misfits (I haven't told them they are Misfits yet!) is, left to right: Chick, Steve, Bob Van, Mark, Susan, and Bob Mc. I'm the short person in the front in the green Kaufman Kamp T-shirt with the STELLING BANJO.

In the hour and a half jam we had on Saturday, we played six tunes: Banjo in the Hollow, Cripple Creek, Boil Them Cabbage, Cumberland Gap, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and I Saw The Light. Everybody did great! We actually had NO train wrecks. I was so proud of all the students. I'm hoping to make this a regular monthly affair. We'll see! I can't stress enough how important it is to LEARN YOUR VAMP CHORDS. That's what making jamming possible. Who knows? Maybe you can stop by Winchester and join us sometime. After all, Carol Lombardo came all the way from Alaska!