Kaufman Kamp: It’s Over!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Hard to believe but it's Saturday morning here in sunny Maryville, Tennessee, and Kaufman Kamp is over for another year! I'll be heading over to the campus of Maryville College in a little bit to pack up my unsold merch and then I'll be hitting the road. I've already gotten a text for Ben saying he'll be praying for me. I 'preciate that, Benny.

My dining hall pals, Dennis and Bill

My dining hall pals, Dennis and Bill

Yesterday was an easy day for me. I taught one private lesson and a two-hour intermediate class and I was done. I ate two meals in the dining hall with my banjo-picking buddies Dennis and Bill (pictured at right) and for supper we were joined by our banjo-picking buddy Earl (one of the Raleigh boys) who also builds banjos. He and Bill got into a deep conversation about lathes and how to carve a banjo neck. I just kept pecking away at my green beans.

BTW, Marty (also a Raleigh boy, more or less), if your ears were burning it was because we were talking about you! My contribution was the story about me giving you a guitar and singing lesson and telling you not to apologize for anything at a jam. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I realized that that was not something you would do. I said as much and Cheryl, in the next room, burst out laughing (Cheryl is Marty's wife.) Such a touching moment! And just so you know, we all agreed that you were a great guy.

And now, let me brag on my students who played on the student portion of the show last night. I hope they don't mind being called by name because it was all good. First, there was Roland, playing in the large Tune Of The Day class, a jam group that concentrates on playing a different tune everyday. Roland, a beginning banjo student, bravely took a break on I'll Fly Away in the Key of D, doing the Roly Polys in those hard-to-make four-finger vamp chords. He kept great time and never lost the roll. Good job, Roland!

Chase, an advanced banjo student who plays most excellently, changed instruments and played guitar and sang the Kris Kristoffereson song Darby's Castle, which definitely has more than three chords. Chase is somewhere between the ages of 17 and 21 and he surprised me in class by actually singing a song, Nine Pound Hammer. He also, surprisingly, added a low harmony part when I sang There's A Bluebird Singing In The Blue Ridge Mountains in the key of D. I just don't see many young men who are willing to sing in class. He did a great job of singing at the concert and had wonderful stage presence.

Last but certainly not least were Patty and Val and their all-female band. Both women were in one of my intermediate classes but on stage Patty played banjo and Val played guitar and sang. Interestingly enough, they performed There's a Bluebird Singing also, but they did it in the key of A. Patty was so nervous about her banjo break on this song, which was new to her, that I told her we could play it in class as one of our jam tunes. As soon as I started singing it in A, I realized how low that key was for me. I was worried that, on stage, this might be a key that was way too low for Val so I stopped the song to ask her. But then I realized she might be singing it high so I asked, "Are you singing this an octave higher than I am?" By Jove, she was! She sang a little bit to demonstrate and WOW! What a voice! Strong, and clear, and very high! So, I had her lead the singing in the class while all the students took made-up-on-the-spot breaks. That night, on stage, Patty nailed her break and Val belted out the song.

During intermission I looked for them so I could compliment them on their playing. I finally found them, of course, in the restroom! We had a lovely chat there! Also present was another woman from the class, Rita Three. I don't suppose I'll ever forget her name because when I was lining out the breaks for one of our first songs, I was trying to get everyone's name in my mind and, after I lined out the breaks, I asked her what her name was. She said, "Rita. Three." Meaning she was going to be the third person to take a break. Well, I thought she meant her name was Rita Three. Like Ralph Two. Or Dale Junior. By the time I realized my error, the name was engraved in my mind!

One other funny from the class. We were doing one of the three-chord songs, maybe I'll Fly Away and before we got started, but after we'd gone over the chords, I saw Jim reach for his Green Camp Book which has the words and chords to many of the songs. Naturally I said, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" And gave him the Evil Eye. He sheepishly put the book back. Everyone had a good chuckle at that, and after class I told him I hope he didn't mind me picking on him. He said he was fine with it, and in that moment, on the last day of camp, he just couldn't remember how to count to four!

As you can tell, I had a wonderful time at the camp and so did all the students that I talked to. Next year's Kaufman Kamp will be June 21-27. I'm not sure I'll be there (Steve likes to rotate teachers) but it is a wonderful, week-long camp that's well worth attending.

And I have to close on a sad note. I found out during camp that James Alan Shelton, long-time lead guitar player with Ralph Stanley died recently of pancreatic cancer. He was a great flatpicker in the style of George Shuffler and a kind and friendly man. I am so sorry he's gone. The online bluegrass magazine, Bluegrass Today, has many articles about him. Check it out.

Time for to eat oatmeal, read about Jamie and Claire, pack, and hit the road. I'm listening to a great book on tape, the autobiography of Carole King, read by Carole herself. It should make the miles fly by!

Thanks for reading my Kamp blogs and thanks for all the responses. I do read those, even if I don't usually respond. Love 'em, tho. Keep 'em coming!

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