Wow! We had 12 people at the jam last night: Betty, Kathy G, Ben, Kasey, Steph, Diane, Gregg, David, Chuck (sitting on the floor!), Rhys, Drew, Amber, and Jason. This broke down into 3 guitars, 7 banjos, 1 fiddle, and 1 mandolin. Ben swapped his banjo for the bass early on and with me pounding my Martin we managed to keep folks in line!
We were sorely missing our buddy Bob Van who has landed his butt in the hospital. In his honor we set up his picking chair and put a roll of duct tape in it. The duct tape is in honor of Bobby always saying something like, "I hope we don't play Salt Creek." Which forces me to say, "Why don't we play Salt Creek!" At which point he growls, "Where's the duct tape?" meaning he needs to have his mouth taped shut so he won't say anything else stupid! We will keep your chair and duct tape there, Bobby, until you get back. We love your ornery old hide!
We started off gently with our "party pieces," Banjo In The Hollow, Cripple Creek, I Saw The Light, and Blue Ridge Cabin Home, all in G. And thanks to Chuck for being our "G" singer! Then we moved on up to C, for some womyn singing: I'll Fly Away (Kathy), Two Dollar Bill (me), and Circle (Diane). Then I realized, once again, that I had cheated Kasey out of singing her song, I Saw The Light, which we'd already done. (Girl, you gotta get a new song!) But Diane reminded me that Kasey used to sing Rocky Top in C. At first I demurred, saying the chords were too hard for the whole group, but then I thought, "Why not let Kasey sing it as a 'show' piece?"
And with that, Kasey and I started our little pre-playing dance:
Me: Okay, Kasey, why don't you sing Rocky Top?
Kasey: Okay.....Wait! Do I have to kick it off?
Kasey: Okay....Wait! Do I have to take all the breaks?
Me: Yes, nobody else plays it.
Kasey: Oh, okay. Wait! What are the verses? Smoggy smoke, corn, strangers, and what else?
Me: I have no idea. I'll know it when you get to it. Oh, yeah, 'trapped like a duck in a pen.'"
Kasey: Okay....Wait! What is that F lick?
Me: No clue. Just kick it off and it will come to you. Are you going to play bass, Ben?
And away we went, mostly just me and Kasey, because Ben totally chickened out. ("I didn't want to ruin it," he said afterwards.) Kasey's singing is better and stronger than ever (she is in her school chorus) and her playing keeps improving, too. She got a round of applause when she finished.
The Crawdad Song seemed to be a hit so I sang that again. The banjo players did a great job with their Roly Polys, and I noticed that Kasey had, in fact, played the entire break to Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms. I asked her if she did that on purpose and she said yes! Wow. Never thought of that! Good job, Kasey!
Two of the pickers were sporting new banjos. Gregg has a brand- spanking new Stelling Sunflower and Drew has upgraded to a high-end Deering Goodtime. What a difference that makes in the sound of their playing. Folks, it's so much easier if you've got a quality instrument!
We closed out with a round of John Hardy, which is still at the "I can play it fine at home" stage for some of the jammers. As every Murphy Method student in the world knows, there is a world of difference between playing it at home and playing it in the jam! And it's not just the speed. It's everything--"the roar of the grease paint; the smell of the crowd!" It's harder in the jam, which is why jams are so important. They put the pressure on.
David mentioned that he was still playing John Hardy "flat," and that that is the way his Excellent Teacher (Casey!) said he should be playing it. [And by "flat" he didn't mean "flat in pitch." Read on.] Betty had said the same thing when she first tried to play John Hardy in the jam. She said the jam version "didn't sound like the same tune" she was playing. And what David and Betty both meant is that their versions had no "bounce." But bounce is tricky. If you try to put it in too early, you will flat-out screw up your playing. Why? Because bounce requires not only "hearing" the tune "bouncy," it requires being able to move your fingers in the tiny increments it takes to replicate the bounce you are hearing. In short: putting in the bounce is hard. Casey and I both think "bouncing" a tune is too hard for beginners. Therefore our mandate: Play it without the bounce! The bounce will come later. Betty can testify to that. As David and Gregg will be able to soon!
Goodness! How did I get off on that tirade? Perhaps it was the imaginary tea party Dalton and Casey and I just finished in the back of the Windstar. Our guests were Winnie The Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger, who, of course, bounced in. Tigger is always bouncing. So perhaps my brain made that weird connection, who knows?
We'll will be jamming next TUESDAY, November 18, and next WEDNESDAY, November 19, 7-9. Y'all come! The jam is open to all Murphy Method students. Suggested donation is $20. There will be NO JAM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 26.
* This title is a spin-off from a Mother Goose poem about the four seasons which starts with "Spring is showery, flowery, bowery." Dalton and I got into a game in which I would make up rhymes about people and stuffed animals (and pacifiers) and write the rhymes on a paper plate. Thus, "Dalton is bouncy, flouncy, jouncy" and Gran is "sweet, neat, pete." They didn't have to make sense, they just had to rhyme! I had to save them to my phone Notes so I could remember them!