Camps

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Our regular Tuesday Tip Jar Jam was canceled this week so I could go up to Elkins, West Virginia, and give a talk about my book, Pretty Good For A Girl. I also played in a concert that night with another band of "Merry Chicas" that included Casey, Laurie Lewis, Kathy Kallick, Tammy Rogers, Sharon Gilchrist, and Mary Burdette. "My, my, my" as the song goes! I was accompanied on my trip by my friend and "personal assistant," Kathy Holliday, who is the Best Book Seller Ever and a great road-tripping buddy. We talked all the way up, and all the way back. And on the way back we also Ate Chocolate and Drank Cokes! Yippee!

The book talk went great. IMHO, it's finally shaping up now since I've given it a number of times. I've finally figured out that I do better sitting down with "my banjo on my knee" and just talking. When I run out of things to say or feel like I'm "yammering," I punctuate the talk with a song. This time, Casey joined me on stage so we had the full force of two banjos! As one of our songs, I got the audience to sing along with us on "Worried Gal," in the women's key of C and asked them to pay attention to how difficult it was to actually remember to sing the word "gal" instead of "man," which is the more conventional way to sing this (and the way the Carter Family sang it).

After being immersed in a book talk and an all-female band, I'm feeling my feminist oats! I was so proud that Laurie Lewis called me a "firebrand." High praise, indeed! ...continue reading

Murphy and Casey appeared at the after-lunch roundup during Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, July 29, 2014. "Lonesome Road Blues" was the first tune ever recorded by a woman playing Scruggs-style banjo. That woman as Roni Stoneman.

Tuesday evening during Bluegrass Week all the female instructors played a set at the evening concert. What a fun show! Here is "Banjo Pickin' Girl". Murphy and Casey Henry (banjos), Kathy Kallick (guitar), Mary Burdette (bass), Laurie Lewis and Tammy Rogers (fiddles), Sharon Gilchrist (mandolin).

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Instead of blogging about last night's Tip Jar Jam (wonderful though it was with Kathy H, Kristina, Heather, and David), I thought I would share some thoughts from our second Women's Banjo Camp, which was totally amazing. We're already looking forward to next year, July 24-26, 2015.

Women's Banjo Campers 2014

Women's Banjo Campers 2014 (Thanks to Peggy for the photo!)

Michigan Sue, who also attended our Beginning Banjo Camp last fall, thoughtfully provided me with today's title. Sue has made a lot of progress in the nine months since "Baby Banjo Camp" and I congratulated her on it. Whereupon she uttered this amazing sentence: "It finally dawned on me to start listening to bluegrass! It's made a huge difference." I thought that was profound so I grabbed a marker and wrote it down. Another woman added that she had been listening to bluegrass on Sirius Radio in the car "all the time" and pointed out, "It soaks into you!" Indeed it does! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I mentioned in my last Kamp blog that I was going to listen to Carole King's memoir, A Natural Woman, on the long ride home. Well, I did. Carole reads it herself and it is excellent in every way. I highly recommend it.

But coming on the tail-end of my Kamp experience, I was surprised as all get out to hear her talking about improvising! So I grabbed my car pencil and marked down the location on Disc 5 and have just transcribed, word for word, what she said. I think it's that important. (To keep things legal, I give a citation at the end of the quote.)

First of all, for you non-boomers, Carole King is a fabulous songwriter, piano player, and performing artist. Her album Tapestry is probably her most famous personal recording. Her songwriting credits are legion and include You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman (Aretha recorded this) and Come On, Baby, Do The Locomotion With Me (recorded by Little Eva, who was Carole's babysitter at the time!). ...continue reading

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! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Steve Kaufman always lets the instructors have Friday morning off while the campers participate in the band scramble so I had a lovely sleep in!

Yesterday was a busy day at camp with one class scramble, one regular class, one private lesson, and another Master class. For the class scramble each instructor gets to pick any music-related topic in the world to talk about for two hours and any of the students can attend. Naturally, I chose to talk about my book! As I walked into the building where my teaching room in, I met one of my beginning students coming out. He said he'd wanted to attend my Scramble but when he got up there, it was all women, so he thought he'd go somewhere else. I told that to the women when I got up there, and one of them said, "Now he knows how we feel!" I spent a wonderful two hours talking about the women in my book with other women who actually know something about bluegrass. That made it much more fun for me.

I'm feeling a sermon coming on, so if you're already a member of the choir, you can skim this part--or go to sleep which is what I frequently did when I was in the choir! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I got pulled over by the Po-leece last night! As Red says in one of his stage raps about Clermont Hosford, "I saw those red and blue lights blinking in my rearview mirror and I figured it was as good a time as any to take a break!"

It was about eleven o'clock p.m. and I was driving back to the hotel having successfully performed a four-song set of blistering bluegrass with my "merry chicas." (That is a shout out to the DVD grandson Dalton is currently enthralled with, "Robinita Hood And Her Band Of Merry Chicas.") I had stopped en route to go Krogering and pick up some Ben and Jerry's and was eager to get back "home" and chow down.

So, I've just about reached the red light where I will turn left to go into the hotel complex when I notice the aforementioned colorful display. There is no doubt in my mind that the lights are for me, so make the turn and find a place in the parking lot to pull over. I roll my window down and the cop was there immediately. Very young, very cute, very serious. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Just back "home" (hotel!) from my day of teaching where I pretty much Blue-Ridge-Cabin-Homed my intermediate classes to death today. In the morning class, we worked on first position Roly Polys, getting all the way through two upgrades: the tag lick; a hammer-on in the C lick, and the D lick from Foggy Mountain Breakdown. In the afternoon class I didn't think I could bear another hour of Roly Polys, so we did an up-the-neck break to BRCH. (Blue Ridge Cabin Home! I don't even want to write it anymore!) It included the choke lick and an up-the-neck tag lick and was rather successful, if I do say so myself. After learning all that, we had 20 minutes left in the class and since everyone was too tired to learn anything else (and I was too tired to teach anything else!) we played Foggy Mountain Breakdown in G and I Saw The Light in A and let folks take solo breaks.

Here's something funny from the morning class. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well, after I busted my tail to write that awesome blog this morning, I could NOT get my laptop to connect to the hotel Wi Fi even after the guy at the lobby counter said he had made it work. NOT! So, when I went into my first class I asked for help ("Any computer geeks in here?") and Colby (the handsome young guy in the red shirt) hooked me up with the Maryville college internet or wifi or whatever and so I sent the blog to Casey before class started. WHEW!

Now my teaching day is over and I am back at the hotel, where I myownself hooked my computer up the the hotel wifi. YEEHAW!

The banjo bag I carry to class.

The banjo bag I carry to class.

The teaching today went great. I showed the beginners how to do the basic Roly Polys to Blue Ridge Cabin Home and then added one upgrade to the G lick--a slide and pinches at the end. They were an exceptionally good beginning group, 14 strong (and I don't say that just because they will be reading this!), and they caught on fast. We also did some basic vamping to the song (using open G and barre C and D) and that also went well. I will see them again on Wednesday and we'll add some upgrades and also try the Roly Polys with a new song. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Good morning, Constant Readers! Today is Monday, June 16, the first day of Kaufman Kamp. Steve Kaufman told us last night at the Meet and Greet that this was their 19th year! Wow! I have taught here for probably six or seven years, maybe more, and Steve and his wife Donna Dixon run a fabulous camp and have in their 19 years worked out almost all of the "bugs."

I wasn't sure I'd have time to blog this morning, but apparently the Universe thought differently and woke me up first at 5:45 for yet another nature call and then again at 6:15 when a big truck in the parking lot right outside my window at the hotel cranked up to head back to Mississippi. (I could easily read his license plate when I looked out my window!)

So I'm sitting here in my pink pajama gown, drinking coffee, eating dried organic apricots and preparing to meet the day. ...continue reading