Intermediate Banjo Camp: Get Ready to Jam!

Murphy Henry

Casey and I are both getting excited about our upcoming Intermediate Banjo Camp (March 22-24). This will be our third Intermediate Camp and, following suggestions from last year’s attendees, we have a new location--the Courtyard Marriott in Winchester (so everyone can stay in the same place)—and we have asked a couple of our professional musician friends—Scott Brannon, guitar, and Steve Spence, bass--to be on hand for the late night jamming. (Something Casey and I can’t do and still be energetic enough to teach the next day!)


Scott and Steve will also be joining Casey and me to play in the Friday and Saturday night concerts. That should warm them up for the jamming! Scott and Steve won’t exactly be leading the jam but they will be present to provide excellent rhythm and sing or harmonize if necessary. And Steve did say he would be willing to “wheelhoss” the jam if the situation needed it. On the other hand, if the jam is flowing just fine, he and Scott will just sit back, play, and enjoy!
Now a word or two about the fellers:


Scott Brannon, from Martinsburg, West Virginia, has been leading his own Scott Brannon Band for years and has a number of recordings out. He has a wonderful, smooth, deep voice and loves to sing the old songs, especially those done by Charlie Moore and Reno and Smiley. He can also cut loose on some Stanley Brothers numbers, too, and Riding on That Midnight Train, How Mountain Girls Can Love, and If I Lose are several of my favorites. His rhythm guitar playing is impeccable and that means it’s G-O-O-D, good! He’s an easy-to-get-along with kind of guy and you will love picking with him. I had the opportunity to play with him lots of times when we were both members of Dalton Brill’s Wildcats. Scott was kind enough to put up with my fiddle playing (very rough and barely serviceable although I believe I did get a little better over the years) and in return I often served as his beer “getter.”


Steve Spence was managing editor at Bluegrass Unlimited for years, and made the phone call to me 25 years ago asking me to write the General Store column for the magazine. (Thanks, Steve!) Early on he played banjo in a band with his sibs and father, the Spence Kids, which later became the Grass Reflection. More recently he played bass with Cliff Waldron. He, too, is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and he loves, loves, loves bluegrass and playing bluegrass. He knows lots of the old songs and both he and Scott can tell many a story about the old days and the old players.


In the last couple of years, Red and I have played few local gigs with Steve and Scott and have thoroughly enjoyed it. These are the kind of guys who know all the songs in the “Deep Bluegrass Catalog” (as Eddie Stubbs calls it), know all the “pitiful” and “poor pitiful” songs that Red and I like to sing so well (Please, Papa, Don’t Whip Little Benny, Flood of 57, Rank Strangers, White Dove, etc etc etc), and aren’t afraid to tackle something they have never heard, either. Steve is awesome at adding a third harmony part below my lead, something that is a rare talent.


So, have I bragged on these guys enough? Can you tell I’m really looking forward to picking with them? I sure hope so!


And, for those of you who have already signed up and are arriving early, don’t forget the Tip Jar Jam Thursday night, from 7-9. That will be held in my teaching digs, and Casey will provide the address.


Also, both Casey and I are available for private lessons on the days before and after the camp. Contact us to get your slot!


And we still have a few slots open, if you haven’t signed up for the camp yet. Contact Casey about that. Looking forward to seeing you all real soon!