Misfit Jam

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We were light again tonight, just Logan, Susan, Bob Van (on guitar tonight), and me, so we delved into some songs we don’t normally play: Mary Dear, Sally Goodwin, Earl’s Breakdown, Salt Creek, Little Cabin Home on the Hill, and the tried and true Lonesome Road Blues.

We actually started with LRB and when Logan missed the ending lick, I turned the mistake into a teaching opportunity. (He actually finished at the right time, on the right note, but he’d messed up the timing getting there and Earl’s ending on LRB is one of those things that just has to be played right!) So after a brief skirmish between Logan and me (Me: Wrong! Logan: No, it wasn’t! Me: Yes, it was! Bob: When will you learn to keep your mouth shut?), all three of us banjo pickers played it together, and sure enough, Logan was out of time. And Susan was bobbling a bit too, although she readily admitted it. So we played the ending through several times till we all were playing in perfect unison which always makes me happy, happy, happy!

Mary Dear and Little Cabin Home were new songs to Susan, and I am proud to say she improvised breaks to both of them. Were they perfect the first time through? No, they weren’t, but, by golly, they were pretty close, and she left the jam saying something like, “I think I’m beginning to see the light.”

We did Salt Creek because Susan likes it so much, and after we finished Logan declared that he did NOT like it. So, of course I said, “Well, in that case we’ll have to play it at every jam session!” He then declared that if we did, he would switch to guitar and practice his F chord. I said, “Fine.” Furthermore, he had the audacity to say, “Nobody ever plays Salt Creek anyway.” To which I replied, “And how many jam sessions have you been to?” Then he said, “Well, nobody has recorded it.” To which I replied, “Right. Only Tony Rice with J.D. Crowe, and Doc Watson, and Bill Keith with Bill Monroe.” Then I added, “Don’t mess with me, Logan. I know a hundred times more about this stuff than you do.” To which he replied something like, “Huh.” You can tell from this spirited exchange that we are, in fact, good friends.

Such good friends that he text-messaged me from school this morning. (They were on a field trip.)

From Logan: Murphy—can you play “nashville blues”?? earl does an awesome version but it sounds really hard.

From me: Yes. Not 2 hard. Have 2 retune.

From Logan: ahhhh is it played frequently? I may wanna learn it if it isnt too hard cuz i like it.

From me: Not played often. U can learn.

So when he arrived at his lesson, I retuned the banjo and played a little bit of it for him. He recognized that the licks were easy—standard Scruggs rolls—but he appreciated the fact that detuning is not something people like to do in a jam, and that the chords (in the key of D-minor) would be too hard for most jammers. So he cheerfully passed on learning Nashville Blues and we moved on to a guitar break for Lonesome Road Blues.

And you gotta love this: While Logan is taking his banjo lesson, Bob Van is changing the strings on Logan’s guitar, with strings that I have provided. And Logan is using Bob’s guitar to take the guitar part of his lesson.
It takes a village....I’m thinking free tickets for life to any concert Logan ever plays!

One thought on “Misfit Jam

  1. Steve

    I heard a parking lot jam at the AKUS concert at Merriweather last year, they played Salt Creek. I’m with Susan..I really like this song and its worth practicing.

    Alan Munde also recorded it on his “Festival Favorites”

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