Tip Jar Jam: Back In The Saddle Again!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

ASIDE: (Putting this first so you'll read it!) Dan and I have recently started working on playing melody-based breaks. (He had met my prerequisites: being able to play Roly Poly breaks in the jam in the key of G and the key of open C and knowing the core Scruggs repertoire and being able to play that in the jam.) But Tuesday, at our second lesson on playing the melody, we ran into a snag. His assignment had been to work up a melody-based break to the Crawdad Song. He tried and he came up with something he thought was "correct." He thought he was hearing the melody of the Crawdad Song but, in fact, he was not. Short version: I told him he needed to listen to the song more than 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 times. I told him he needed to listen to it 50 or 100 times. So, bless his heart, he programmed the song to repeat on his iPod and listened to that one song for the entire 45 minutes he was exercising at the gym. (Rowing, I think he said.) Then last night at the jam, one day after his lesson and his Crawdad Song-binge at the gym, he played his melody-based version of the Crawdad Song. And we heard it and, behold, it was good! When I congratulated Dan on his break he said, "What you said about listening was the key. I listened to it so much I got sick of it. But now I know how it goes." My reply? "YES! If you're sick of it, you'll know it!" And his playing showed that he DID know it and he DID hear it. Happy, happy teacher! I'm excited about this new teaching venture and will be sure to keep you posted!

Now, to the blog! 

First, my excuses for not blogging much lately. Last week I went to Nashville to see son Chris for an early birthday visit. The Wednesday before that, we jammed but I had a cold, could not sing a note, and didn't feel like writing! Which is too bad because I had a great title for the blog. After Kasey had played a lightning-fast version of Salt Creek Chuck said, "I thought this was a slow jam!" Me too! She played so fast that I had trouble keeping up on rhythm guitar!

So, it's great to be back in the saddle again! Last night we welcomed Betty, who'd been out sick for several weeks, Diane, who'd been off taking care of her family, and the entire Campbell family, Amber, Jason, Drew, and Rhys. Stalwart jammers Chuck and Dan rounded out the group. My idea was to ease Betty back into jamming but she took off on Cripple Creek like a house a-fire! Whoa, girl! We then stayed in the key of G, holding off on going to C till Dan could get there because I wanted him to practice his open C breaks. (He's my guinea pig!) I'd finally found a use for the Doug Dillard roll he likes (1215 in various two-finger chords). It works nicely in the V chord (G) moving to the I chord (C). [Questions? I'll show you at camp!]

Thank goodness Chuck was there to be our G Singer, with Diane, Amber, and me [not I!] adding the harmony. We mixed the singing songs in with the instrumentals, doing I Saw The Light, Two Dollar Bill, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, John Hardy, Lonesome Road Blues, and Bury Me Beneath The Willow. (I have to laugh when I remember that I referred to that last song with the one-word title "Willer." Chuck knew what I meant but Jason was confused. We finally straightened it out when he said he'd thought I'd said, "Wilbur"!) Then Dan arrived and we did the aforementioned (good word!) Crawdad Song in G before moving to the Key of C for some womyn singing.

For our C singing, Dan stayed in open position (no capo) while Drew and Betty capoed up five. Diane led off with Circle, then Amber followed with I'll Fly Away, then Diane sang Blue Ridge Cabin Home which I irreverently called "The Half-Eaten Calf," mocking that first line "Well beaten path." That, too, confused Jason and Amber who thought I was referring to some new song we'd started doing in their absence! Dan did so well on his open C breaks--using that Doug Dillard lick on Blue Ridge Cabin Home--that Rhys (our young fiddler) actually gave him a thumbs up! Using real thumbs!

Speaking of Rhys reminds me of his brother Drew. Usually in the jam Drew is as "good as gold," as Mama used to say. But this one time I heard him doing some really weird and loud vamping. So I looked over at him, caught his eye, and mouthed, "Stop that." Instead of stopping--as anyone else would have done--he shrugs his shoulders and mouths back, "What?" So I was forced into saying loudly, "STOP DOING THAT!" Which caused Jason and Amber to look at me and then each other as if to say, "What's that about?" I was laughing so hard at Drew there was no way I could tell them, but afterwards I explained. Jason then said, "Welcome to my world!" Drew protested saying, "I didn't know what you were saying!" To which I responded, "If you see my mouth moving, I'm telling you to stop whatever you're doing!" Drew takes all this in with a good humor.

Our last four numbers were Soldier's Joy, Old Joe Clark, Katy Daley, and Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms, all done capoed up two. Soldier's Joy cropped up because the Campbells are looking for a good stage number for the second round of competition in "Apple Blossom's Got Talent." They won their first round with Old Joe Clark. I had suggested Foggy Mountain Breakdown, thinking it a sure-fire winner, but they weren't too keen on it. So during Amber's lesson before the jam she had said that she and Rhys had been playing Soldier's Joy in unison (mandolin and fiddle) and they really liked it. Rhys wanted to do it in the competition. I said, "Let me add the banjo in and we'll see what it sounds like." They liked the sound a lot, so I immediately texted Casey, who was giving Drew his banjo lesson right then, and asked her if she could show him the break to Solder's Joy. "Ok!" was her response.

When we played Soldier's Joy in the jam, Jason added the rhythm guitar, and Dan joined me in playing the banjo. It sounded pretty darn good. There's just something about those old fiddle tunes that is conducive to group playing. I liked the sound so much that we did Old Joe Clark in much the same way. Everybody played it together to start with and then I called for "Guitars!" and then "Fiddle and mandolin!" and then "Banjos" and finally, again, "Everybody!"

Then we had two minutes left so I sang a short version of Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arm and we were done. Or as Jason pointed out, we were actually two minutes over! 9:04. But a good time was had by all!

We will be jamming next Wednesday, February 18, 7-9. Y'all come!

FESTIVAL ALERT! And hey, here's an upcoming festival that you might like to attend. On February 27 and 28, the Washington, D.C., Bluegrass Union is holding an indoor festival at Tyson's Corner. Casey and I will be there with our Murphy Method booth both Friday and Saturday. On Saturday, Patuxent Records is having a CD release party for their Patuxent Banjo Project. Casey and I both played on this and will be part of the celebration on Saturday. Other banjo players who will be on hand include Roni Stoneman, Bill Emerson, Eddie Adcock, Tom Adams, Gina Clowes (a former student!) and about 20 more! Check out this link for more info. See you there!

One thought on “Tip Jar Jam: Back In The Saddle Again!

  1. Diane

    I recorded Soldier’s Joy from my ankle during the session and one of my friends Catherine Frye Richardson saw Dan playing. I posted it on Facebook and frankly, my dear, the group sounds amazing! Find me on Facebook to hear it. I think I have it published as Public so anyone can. Search for Diane M Bishop. Thanks for being my music family. =)

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