Picking and Dancing

Murphy Henry

I’m just back from a big weekend of kicking up my heels at the West Virginia Square Dance Convention in Buckhannon. “And this is relevant to bluegrass how?” you might be asking. Well, since I spent this past year learning to dance the man’s part, not only did I dance some with my friend and student Janet Moore, but when we got back “home” after the dance we entertained our friends by playing music (banjo and guitar) in the lobby of our hotel.

Here are some of the songs we played:

Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Lonesome Road Blues
Old Joe Clark
John Hardy
Down Yonder
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
I’ll Fly Away
When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder
Amazing Grace
Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Battle Hymn of the Republic (in C)
Rocky Top
Country Roads
In The Pines
Mansion Over the Hilltop
Kicking Mule
You Are My Sunshine
This Land Is Your Land
Save Me A Square on the Floor (my square dance song)
I Saw The Light
Chinese Breakdown (in C)

Murphy jamming it up at the square dance!

Murphy jamming it up at the square dance! (Photo by Bonnie Pollock)

Janet and I had rehearsed most of these songs many times, but "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (which was a request) we’d only gone over once, just messing around, and "In the Pines" (another request) we’d never played together. And I’m telling you, Janet is so gutsy! When I take one of these requests all she says is, “Where do I put my capo?” Of course, if it’s the Key of C, she might make a small face because she still hates making that F chord, but she goes ahead and does it anyhow. And she has a very good ear for hearing chord changes, so that helps enormously. In fact, that’s what makes it possible for us to try unrehearsed material. Which is part of the fun of playing for me.

Janet holding down that rhythm guitar.

Janet holding down that rhythm guitar. (Photo by Bonnie Pollock.)

New to our “show” this time was Janet’s singing. She sings very well and knows the words to most of the standards. I’d only planned for us to sing in unison but she was singing so strong that on "Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms" I switched to the tenor and we had a real bluegrass duet! That worked so well that I also tried it on "You Are My Sunshine" which sounded so good that Janet’s husband Kenney jumped up and applauded!

Word of our Friday night picking spread through the crowd at the dance and we had folks coming up on Saturday and asking, “Will you be playing tonight?” Which is always flattering. One woman said to me, “My friend told me that you and your daughter were playing banjo and guitar at the hotel.” Oh, my! Did Janet (who is about my age) ever love that!

So many thanks to our square dancing friends for listening, for requesting tunes, and especially to Ron for bringing the Wild Turkey!

9 thoughts on “Picking and Dancing

  1. Janet

    I had so much fun pickin’ with you this weekend. I feel like I am getting better at this, but I know I still have a long way to go. I think if it makes you feel good, do it. And it sure does make me feel good. I only wish my parents were still with me to see how far I have come. And that is thanks to you, Murphy, and The Murphy Method.
    Dancing this weekend was good too. It is always so much fun at the WV convention. Seems like everything we do, practice is involved. That is how we become better at what we do. So I will keep up my practicing the guitar, and make myself feel good at the same time.

  2. Steve (in Japan)

    Hi Martha,

    I’ve been in and out of Japan since serving military duty here in 1962. I blame it all on Judo. That’s what got me started. My wife is Japanese and my two children were born in Kawasaki. My son, Ken, was born in Feb. ’93 and my daughter, Jimi, in Oct. ’94. I wanted to return to Honolulu in the spring of ’95 and we did. I taught Japanese language classes at private schools and as a part-time teacher for the State in adult education. Plain and simple, household economics forced us to return to the Kanagawa Prectrue in the spring of ’97. -con’t-

  3. Steve (in Japan)

    I started with TMM in July ’07. I’m at the front of my 5th year with TMM now and just starting to feel comfortable and confident with what I know about the banjo. I play with my children at home and just started jamming at a place called Clubhouse Nonnon in the Tsujido section of Fujisawa.

  4. Steve (in Japan)

    (Hi Martha continued)

    At Nonnon the jams are what you might call a scramble. The host looks out at the tables and selects the players and they go up and stand side-by-side in front of the 5 or 6 mics with the base in back.

  5. Steve (in Japan)

    Hi Martha and thanks. Sorry about the bits and pieces. I had a little more that I wanted to say but I can’t say it because I already had said it in the blog you wrote to me. It was lenghy and the time-out rule caught up to me. Now I can’t use the same words. I think that’s it. Thanks again for asking about me. If you have any questions about any of the bluegrass folks here let me know and I’ll try to get the info for you.
    All the best to you. Take care.


  6. Martin Bacon

    Hi Steve. We are interested. Maybe Murphy would let you blog about your very distant MM experience.

    All the best,


  7. Steve (in Japan)

    Thanks, Marty, I’m a little worn down right now, but as soon as my son gets accepted to college I’ll do my best to keep my family of friends in the TMM community updated as to what goes on in the bluegrass world here. Ken graduated in March and we planned on him applying to the U. of Hawaii then after some serious calculation(s) we realized, “Uh oh, here is affordable.” Because of the system in Japan, he’s lost a year. He can’t start until April 2012. However, the process of applying has started. It’s more than just submitting an applicaton form with transcripts here to enter college. Written papers, a recomendation, a presentation and an inteviews are required, but fortunately he’s been an outstanding student at Aletheia High, so he’s off to a good start.

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