Picking and Dancing

Murphy Henry

So, last Friday we had a square dance in Front Royal, Va., with the Rivermont Ramblers Square Dance Club. I brought my banjo and I asked Nick and Janet to bring their guitars so we could practice "Hey Good Looking" which we are performing this weekend at our big square dance convention, commonly referred to as WASCA (Washington Area Square Dancers Cooperative Association). I wasn’t sure at what point in Friday’s dance we might sneak off to practice and as it turned out there was no sneaking off time because we were too busy dancing, visiting, and eating. So Nick suggested we take our instruments over to the Melting Pot, a pizza place we retire to without fail after our Rivermont dances for more eating. I was game and Janet is always ready to pick at the drop of a hat, so that was that.

When we got there, we had the whole back room to ourselves so it wasn’t like we’d be bothering anybody else who wanted to converse or just eat in peace and quiet. I had just finished my turkey sandwich when Nick said, “Are you ready to play?” Poor Janet had just started in on her pizza, but she jumped up and grabbed her guitar as I was getting out my banjo. That girl is ready!

Nick had just put new strings on his guitar so he was tuned a little low and had to bring it up to pitch. He did this by ear, as he hasn’t quite gotten used to these new-fangled things called tuners.

We started out with Hey Good Looking which I used to sing in G. My cold dropped it down three frets to E which suited Nick just fine since he doesn’t use a capo and plays lead and rhythm using barre chord formations. I told Janet to capo at the second fret and play out of D. And that the “off chord” would be an E shape. (A two chord if you need more info.) Nick wasn’t using the two chord at first (an F-sharp for him), but he liked the sound of it and said he had thought there was something missing. He took some nice lead guitar breaks while Janet held the rhythm steady and I added some “vamp diddlies” as Casey calls them.

With that song worked up to our satisfaction after a couple of passes through (unlike Lynn Morris I am not a big fan of practice!), we decided we were having so much fun that we’d play some more. We did Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Lonesome Road Blues, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, and my square dance song, Save Me A Square on the Floor. Nick also accidentally started playing Under the Double Eagle (in C) so I took a break and that was fun, since I don’t pick that one much. After we’d finished he said he hadn’t meant to play that, he’d meant to play Wildwood Flower! So we did that one too. We ended with I’ll Fly Away which had the other dancers singing along. I could have sung all night, but, alas, it was closing time and we had to go.

As I made the requisite pit stop in the little girls’ room I passed one of the guys who works at the Melting Pot. He had on a T-shirt that said, I swear, Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjo Music!*

It was a fitting ending to a fun evening and I thought, “I’ve got to blog about that.” So I did.

I leave tomorrow for the big WASCA convention where we will play Hey Good Looking at a fashion show for square dance attire. The last time I played for a fashion show I was in high school. I played piano for a 4-H club fashion show which was held on the stage of the old Clarkesville Elementary School. Ruby Dean Crider was our 4-H leader and Birdie Moss, as ever, was her dependable second in command. (These details are provided for the benefit of our Clarkesville, Georgia, readers who might remember the old school and those good folks. Are you there, Mark?)

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’m looking forward to dancing all day and all night. As I told Janet at her lesson, “I hope we have some time to do some picking.” She said, “Well, we will have if you can ever quit dancing long enough.” We’ll see!!!

* That reference, for you youngsters, is to the movie Deliverance which features men in canoes, paddling very fast, and lots of banjo music. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT watch this movie without your parents’ permission. It gets pretty raunchy. But the picking is very good. AND, by the way, one of the banjo players on the sound track, Eric Weisberg, will be at Mid-West Banjo Camp in June. I’m leading a jam with him. How cool is that????? I can’t wait!

4 thoughts on “Picking and Dancing

  1. Dave Eisenhuth

    Sounds like you are having the time of your life. We wish you and the rest o the attendees good luck in your upcoming nano camp. We really wanted to attend but unfortunately when it was announced based on yours and Casey’s advice I was not at that level yet. This only proves that you really care about your students and thier progress. Not just trying to put butts in seats. That is a very rare customer service these day and why your method, your family and your customer service is the best and why many of us will be life long misfits and students. I just hope you guys would get sick of the winter weather and open a location out west LOL But I am looking forward to the announcement of your next banjo camp as we will certainly be there

    Good Luck with your banjo camp


  2. Dave Eisenhuth

    I apologize foe the spelling on the above post. It is from my I phone and I thought picking was tough LOL

  3. Patty

    Last fall, I found (and bought) a shirt with the same message from a company that leads rafting trips down the Deschutes River in eastern OR.

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