Misfit Jam

Murphy HenryWe had our biggest crowd ever at the jam tonight: Mark, Bob Mc, and Logan on banjos; Sandy on fiddle, Bob Van on bass, and Ellen (and me) on guitars. (We missed you Susan!)

Here is our song list:

Cripple Creek
I Saw the Light
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Redwing (Sandy and Logan)
John Hardy
Blue Ridge Cabin Home
Boil Them Cabbage

Normally I like to start a jam with “Banjo in the Hollow” but that’s not a good fiddle tune, hence the steadfast, ever-popular “Cripple Creek.” (Which, I might add, we do in G. Most fiddlers play it in A, but Sandy knows her break in G. Did I teach her that?)

Actually, even with “Cripple Creek” we got off to a rocky start. So rocky that Sandy asked, “Are we going to play any other tunes tonight?” To which I replied, “No, we’re going to play ‘Cripple Creek’ for an hour!” All in good humor, of course. It was only by the time we hit “Boil Them Cabbage” that the group as a whole was begining to click and to sound warmed up. And of course, then it was time to quit!

Which brings up the eternal question, “Why can I play a song well some nights but not other nights?” And its twin sister, “Why can I play this song fine at home, but not in the jam?” We had a lot of that going on tonight and I have NO idea why. I can only say, as I said to them, that it happens to the professionals too. Perhaps not as much on the instrumental parts of a song (we’re pretty good at faking that when we get lost!) but forgetting the words is always humiliating. Not, perhaps, if you're playing a show for friends (and can make a joke out of it) or a party (when no one is listening) but when you’re doing a really important event and you forget the words. Whew! That’s rough. All this to say, I really do know how you feel when you can’t remember your break. Been there, done that. It’s awful. All you can do is get back up on the horse. It will get better.

Logan (age 16) was playing exceptionally well tonight. (And so were you, Sandy! <G>) In addition to the aforementioned “Redwing” which he’s just learned, he also played tasty high breaks to “I Saw the Light” and “John Hardy,” Earl’s break to “Blue Ridge Cabin Home,” and then, to totally show off (at my request), Don Reno’s “Dixie Breakdown.”

When the jam was officially over at 8 pm, Sandy and I played a few twin fiddle tunes (with Bob Van on guitar) for the folks as they were packing up. We gave ‘em “Golden Slippers,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Down Yonder.” I could have fiddled all night, but we didn’t want to wear out our welcome. Better to leave ‘em wanting more! And better to leave you wanting more too!

One thought on “Misfit Jam

  1. MarkZ

    I apologize to my fellow “jam-ees” for my atrocious playing last night, and to Murphy, our Esteemed Leader. Don’t know where my fingers and head were — when I can’t even make the right hand pick Cripple Creek, I’m up the Creek so to speak……..and since that was our first song AND I was kicking it off, it was definitely down hill from there for me. Specific sorry’s to Bob Mc for messing him up as well on Cripple Creek. And I even managed to loose our Anchor Bass Bob Van on one of the songs, so sorry to BV also (although Murphy assured us that if things go awry in a jam, it’s almost ALWAYS the bass player’s fault ;>)

    It was a lot of fun playing for the first time with a fiddle — thanks for hanging in there with us, Sandy.

    At the end of the session, while I was moaning and groaning about how badly I played (after sounding much better in my last practice session with Ellen), Murphy suggested that maybe next time we should start with a warm up song that everyone plays together. I think that’s a great idea, and it will definitely lower my anxiety level compared to playing a cold solo break. Can’t guarantee that it will result in playing better on my end, but one thing I’ve definitely learned so far is that when I get nervous (translate that to “sitting in front of Murphy trying to play”), I’m useless as a banjo picker.

    All that said, jamming is (overall) a blast, and exactly why I wanted to learn the banjo. As always, many, many thanks, Murphy, for being a great instructor.


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