Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Just got finished with Logan’s lesson. I’ve got him on a pretty strong diet of Earl Scruggs’ classics and for tonight he was supposed to learn “Groundspeed.” Of course he hates it. (He’s never heard Earl’s version so he hasn’t got the sound in his head and he can’t hear the melody. And I couldn’t find a CD with "Groundspeed" on it in my collection.)

Right before he started to play, I remembered that Red was going to glue Logan’s fifth string tuner in because it keeps falling out, and Logan has a gig coming up next week. (This is the village raising the child...) So I gave Logan’s banjo to Red, and let Logan play Dalton’s banjo. As I handed it to him I said, “Dalton never played ‘Groundspeed', so it’s not in this banjo.” Quick as a wink Logan replied, “So if I screw up, it’s not my fault. It’s the banjo’s fault.”

Bada bing! Good one, Logan!

If I’d been thinking as quick as Logan, I would have taken the banjo back, played “Groundspeed” on it, and then handed it back to Logan and said, “It’s in there now. Get it out!”

Actually, he didn’t do too badly. His biggest problem was that syncopated D lick. I told him it was related to the D lick we use in “John Hardy,” and that they are interchangeable, so we spent some time interchanging them. And then we spent some time just playing the “Groundspeed” D lick over and over, together, while Bob Van played a D chord—with alternating bass strings—on the guitar. After two or three minutes of that, Logan was beginning to get the feel of it. It is truly an awesome lick and I’m sure that once Logan has command of it, he’ll just learn to love it. Which is what Lester Flatt said about “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.” The group didn’t like it too well to begin with, but after it sold a couple of million copies, they just learned to love it!

By the way, Happy Birthday to my cute little Mama. She turns 85 today!

4 thoughts on “Groundspeed

  1. Martin Bacon

    Janet Davis has Foggy Mountain Banjo for less than what it should cost to glue in a 5th string tuner and Groundspeed is the 1st tune on that album. It is a greeeaaat!!!! album as Tony Tiger would say. Tell Logan that since it takes a village to raise a banjo player, that that will be my contribution. I will ship it to you today.


  2. Lefty5string

    such a great tune, i wonder why i never find anyone that knows it. Its like the black sheep of the F&S library. Seems like it took me a long time to discover it too though. That song needs a better marketing agent!

  3. Red Henry

    Ah, yes. Earl’s tune “Groundspeed”, written when he was flying his own plane around the country — another ‘Flying and Picking’ entry!


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