Find that Common Ground

Red Henry

Red Henry

As you may have been informed by now on this blog, we’re at the beach for a week. We made excellent arrangements for the Murphy Method orders to be taken care of back in Winchester, and here we are at the Florida seashore for several days. Life is hard.

Along with relaxing and getting enough sleep, one thing we do on vacation is pick. In the last two days we’re had several excellent picking sessions, the participants being (at various times and in different combinations) myself, Murphy, Casey, Christopher, my banjo-playing uncle John Hedgecoth, and Chris’s fiddle-playing girlfriend Jenny. The music’s been good, and it’s been a big help in getting in shape for shows we’re playing next weekend.

What songs do we play when we pick, and how do we go about it? Well, for one thing, since all the people here have known each other for a long time, we know quite a few of each others’ favorite songs and tunes, and we’re never at a loss for what to play. The material this week seems to be ranging from Bill Monroe, through lots of Chris’s original material (and mine too), to the Stanley Brothers. And we like the hard-core stuff. But just what does that mean?

Well, in the case of Bill Monroe material, it means that we’re not likely to play Uncle Pen or Love Come Home, but instead we’d play more intense, lesser-known things like Stoney Lonesome, On and On, and Brown County Breakdown. On the Stanley side, we’re not likely to play How Mountain Girls Can Love or Clinch Mountain Backstep (even though we really like those numbers), but instead we might pick Hard Times or sing Mother No Longer Awaits Me at Home. Maybe even Hey, Hey, Hey. Or even Please Papa, Don’t Whip Little Benny, one of the most cheerful numbers we know. It just depends on how far we want to get into the “deep catalog,” as they call it.

But what I was saying all this for was to point out that every jam session has its natural material. The people in each picking circle have a natural kind of bluegrass they like to play and are best at playing, and it’s very sensible and polite to find a “common ground” and play that kind of music when you’re with that group. You wouldn’t get into a newgrass session and try to sing hard-core three-chord numbers with complex harmonies, like Your Selfish Heart or I’m Waiting to Hear You Call Me Darling. You wouldn’t get into a beginning or intermediate-level session and try to play complex or obscure tunes, even if they are your favorites. Murphy Method students may play their favorite selections from our Slow Jam with Murphy and Casey or Picking Up the Pace DVDs. Suit your song-suggestions to the folks you’re with. The music will sound better, the musicians will be happier, and everybody will look forward to the next time! Find that Common Ground.

Posted in By Red, jamming on by .

About Red Henry

Began playing mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and banjo in 1967-69. I married Murphy in 1974. We led the Red & Murphy bluegrass band, playing professionally, from 1975-87. Since then I've handled the technical side of Murphy Method cassette, videotape, and DVD production. When you call I usually answer the phone, and I'm normally the one who sends out the orders.

One thought on “Find that Common Ground

  1. Martin Bacon

    Thanks Red,

    But what album can I find Little Benny on? I think that might be pretty deep into the catalog:)


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