Learning By Ear

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Murphy blogs every month over on Banjo Hangout, and we will be cross-posting these blogs so they'll be all here in one place. This first one was originally posted Friday, August 23, 2013.

Hi, I'm Murphy Henry! And welcome to my first article for Banjo  Hangout. You might have heard of my method of teaching--The Murphy Method. (I like alliteration!) We teach by ear. We do not use any tablature or written music, ever. We teach all the bluegrass instruments but, because I'm a banjo player, we are perhaps best known for our banjo instruction.

My bona fides? You want bona fides? Oh, ye, of little faith. (Yes, I was raised Baptist! In Georgia.) I am one of three women included in the book Masters of the 5-String Banjo by Trischka and Wernick. (The other two? Lynn Morris and Alison Brown.) I started playing banjo in 1973 and have recorded seven actual vinyl LPs (and numerous cassettes, eight-tracks, and CDs) with my husband Red and our band. I have taught at numerous banjo camps across the country including the Tennessee Banjo Institute and the Maryland Banjo Academy. And for years I wrote the On The Road column for Banjo Newsletter. (I still write the General Store column for Bluegrass Unlimited.) Will that do ya? If not, there's always Google!  ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We were back in the saddle last night after a week's layoff due to my cold and also to my trip to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to talk about my book. (That's another whole blog!)

We were seven strong counting me. For the second time we welcomed David, one of Casey's beginning students. He knows the Big Three plus Cumberland Gap and I Saw the Light. When we would play one of David's songs, I would have all the banjos play the lead together, very slowly, so that David could ease his way into group playing. Strength in numbers, you know! Then, I'd ask David if he was willing to play solo and kick the song off. He's an extremely good sport so he always said yes. Then we would go around the circle and everyone would play. Scott, Jon, and I were all playing banjo. This, of course, gave David a chance to hear other people playing the song and his comments were interesting. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I wish I could use one of Betty's colorful expressions about her banjo playing for the title of this blog, but she would kill me. In fact, right after she said what she said, she looked right at me with a steely glare and said, "You better not use that in the blog!" To which I could only reply, "Yes, ma'am!"

Some of Betty's frustration centered around John Hardy. She has been playing it slowly and without inflection, as Casey and I both insist that beginning students do. But, as Betty said, when she hears the rest of us play John Hardy in the jam it sounds like a completely different tune! I know what she means. And it's not the speed that makes it sound different (although the speed does play a part), it's more the inflection or the bounce, as we say in the banjo world.

Let me try to explain.  ...continue reading

Red Henry

Folks, I recently participated in couple of picking sessions that showed something about what to do--and what not to do-- in a jam. Let's call them Jam Session #1 and Jam Session #2.

Jam Session #1 was the good old Thursday evening session at Linda's Mercantile fruit stand, run by David and Linda Lay on U.S. 522 a mile or so north of Winchester. Everybody's welcome, so we always have a mix of talent. There are folks who've only been playing a little while, and folks who've been playing all their (long) lives. There are folks who know just a few tunes, and folks who know lots. So when I go pick at Linda's, I know that I'll be fitting in with a dozen or fifteen other pickers of widely varying experience and musical skill.

Usually during the evening at Linda's, I'll sing two or three songs as well as backing up and taking breaks on everybody else's numbers. What's important when playing at Linda's? At least a few things, such as:

(a.) When it's your turn to sing, pick out a song that LOTS OF PEOPLE KNOW. They'll be playing along in back of you, so make sure that you sing a song they know and can play along with. And DON'T PLAY TOO FAST. Then everybody can play along together, and the music sounds good. And the pickers (as well as the audience) like it.

(b.) When you are playing lead or backup on someone else's song or tune, always remember the K.I.S.S. principle of bluegrass music: Keep It Simple, Stupid! When play your break on a number with a wide variety of pickers, that is not the time to show how hot a player you are and how many notes you can pick. It is the time to play AS PLAINLY AND CLEARLY AS POSSIBLE so that everybody can hear what you are doing and play along. That's the way to keep the picking session sounding good.

Now, let's consider Jam Session #2. This session happened to include just three people, at an old-time music gathering where the rest of the folks were taking a supper break. The instruments present were a fiddle played by a good player, a guitar played by a non-guitar specialist, and a mandolin played by me. So, as one of just two lead players it was my turn to pick out every other tune. I selected interesting but well-known numbers that sounded good even in such a small group, and were easy for the guitar player to back up even though guitar wasn't his best instrument.

BUT... when the fiddle player picked out tunes to play, they were not like that. They were some of the fiddler's favorite rare, obscure, "unsquare" tunes, which neither I nor the guitarist knew or could play well. By the time we'd gone through each tune several times I had learned the basics of it, but the effect of a learning mandolin player and a hesitant guitar player meant that the tunes sounded a lot weaker, and to me (at least) were much less satisfying to play, than the tunes I had picked out specifically to avoid that situation and help us all sound good. I thought that the fiddle player lacked good manners.

So whatever session you're in, YOU use good manners. Pick tunes that the other musicians can play, and play them in such a way as to make it easy for the others to play along. Sometimes in advanced sessions, this means that you can play about anything you want any way you want to, even without announcing the name of the tune. But in other sessions, it means that you have to pay attention to the other musicians and help make everybody sound good. Think about it.


Murphy Henry

If you are a Murphy Method banjo student (especially a beginner), then you are already acquainted with the music of Doug Dillard. He wrote Banjo in the Hollow! You also probably know the Dillards (Doug, his brother Rodney on guitar, Dean Webb on mandolin, and Mitch Jayne on bass) from their appearances on the Andy Griffith show as the Darling Family. The Dillard biography, Everybody on the Truck, notes that while the boys were enthusiastic about landing a job on the show, they were “reluctant to appear on television as ignorant hillbillies.” Having grown up in the Ozark mountains in Missouri, Rodney, in particular, wanted to make sure that they “weren’t going to be making fun of the people they grew up with.” And in spite of the long-lasting appeal of their performances on the show, years later Rodney still had reservations about accepting the role. But there is no telling how many fans of the show were first introduced to bluegrass and banjo playing through the music of the Dillards.

I came into the music of the Dillards in a sideways fashion. I sorta married into it. Red and his banjo-playing uncle John Hedgecoth were big Dillards fans, since the Dillards' albums—Back Porch Bluegrass (Elektra, 1963) and Live, Almost (Elektra, 1964)—were some of the few bluegrass albums that were commercially available in Jacksonville, Florida, in the early sixties. And, of course, now that I want to write about those albums, I can’t find them anywhere! I guess I put them in a safe place. Or they are in a parallel universe. Nevertheless, thanks to Google, I can report some of the song titles. From Back Porch Bluegrass: Banjo in the Hollow, Doug’s Tune, Hickory Hollow (all written by Doug), Dueling Banjos (one of the pre-Deliverance arrangements), Old Home Place, and Dooley.

And from Live, Almost! (whose cover pictured Rodney Dillard lying “dead” in front of the other band members, Dean Webb, Mitch Jayne, and Doug): Old Blue, Walking Down the Line, I’ll Never See My Home Again, Dixie Breakdown, Pretty Polly, and Sinkin’ Creek (which I taught, while John played it, on our original Melodic cassette series!) This album also featured some of Mitch Jayne’s humorous stories, from which Red borrowed liberally before coming up with his own assortment. These include Mitch’s story about the song “Old Blue.” My favorite lines from that story (uttered often by Red when we used to sing “Old Blue”) was when Mitch was saying that the Dillards had a “lot different attitude about dogs than they do in Los Angeles...we don’t put rhinestone collars on them too much. If there was a rhinestone collar to spare around the house, it went on Mommy.”

The Dillards also recorded a third album for Elektra in 1965, Pickin’ and Fiddlin' with Byron Berline. I actually have that vinyl copy in hand. Since it didn’t have any singing on it, it was never one of my faves, although I think Red and John liked it a lot and learned a bunch of tunes off of it which they would trot out in the late hours of a picking party. Songs like Hamilton County, Fisher’s Hornpipe, Tom and Jerry, Cotton Patch Rag, Durang’s Hornpipe, Wagoner, Sally Johnson, Crazy Creek, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (not the nursery rhyme!). Good songs, all, but I still can’t play a banjo or fiddle lead to any of them!

Doug eventually left the Dillards and teamed up with Gene Clark, playing more of a folk-rock-county music. From their album The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark I particularly liked Git It On Brother (a funky arrangement of Flatt and Scruggs' Get In Line, Brother) and She Darked the Sun. Other Dillard and Clark classics included Don’t Come Rollin’ and With Care From Someone.

I write about albums because I don’t have but one personal Doug Dillard story to tell. I met him at one of the early IBMA Trade Shows in Owensboro. We had just come out with our first video, Beginning Banjo Volume One, which kicked off with Banjo in the Hollow. I was all excited to tell Doug about using his tune and introduced myself to him and dragged him over to our booth to see a clip of it. He was real sweet about it and seemed interested, which I appreciated. As I remember it, we had been trying to get hold of his publisher so we could pay the royalties for using his song. After meeting Doug personally, I think his publisher called us!

I was fortunate to get to see the Dillards play several times. Once at IBMA, once at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, and once at the Hiawassee Fair in Hiawassee, Georgia. I also got to see Doug play with his own Doug Dillard Band, which featured Ginger Boatwright on guitar and lead vocals. I saw them play in Alaska and at the Tennessee Banjo Institute. And I saw the Dillards from afar, sitting in the audience in the Ryman Auditorium when they were inducted into the IBMA Hall of Honor in 2009. I’m not sure but I think Mitch Jayne said, when he stepped up to the mike to accept the award, “I thought we were going to have to die to get in here.” It was a near thing, for now both he and Doug are gone. I’m so glad they made it in. Casey had her picture taken with Doug at the pre-awards party. She keeps it up in her house now, in her office, right across from her Big Earl poster.

It’s sad to lose two such amazing banjo players in such a short period of time. But we still have their music. If you’ve not heard much of Doug’s playing, get on the internet and buy some of it! I think those first two albums are on CD now, and if not, vinyl copies are still out there. And I highly recommend the book Everybody on the Truck: The Story of the Dillards by Lee Grant with the Original Dillards. It’s short, easy to read, and packed with inside information. And pictures!

John Hartford was good friends with Doug and Rodney and they played together early on, pre-Dillards, in a band called the Dixie Ramblers. I can imagine John and Doug, on Heaven’s Bright Shore, uncasing the fiddle and the five and kicking back for a joyous musical reunion. I treasure the thought.

Harmony Singing Made Easy Cover

The Murphy Method, known world-wide for its “learn music by ear” teaching, now turns its attention to harmony singing. On Harmony Singing Made Easy we teach you to sing harmony by ear. It’s the easiest method ever.


On this brand new DVD, Murphy and friends Bill Evans, Janet Beazley, and Chris Stuart join together to sing some beautiful trios and quartets. First you hear the three (or four) voices blending together, then you hear each harmony part sung separately. You learn your part by singing along with us. With three separate parts to choose from, you can pick the one that best suits your voice.


One creative approach we have taken is that we sing several songs in three different keys so no matter what your vocal range (female or male, high or low) you can try your hand at singing the lead part. We provide keys to fit high voices, middle-range voices, and low voices. Sometimes the men (Bill, Chris) take the lead; sometimes the women (Murphy, Janet) take the lead. The harmony parts are then worked out to fit the lead voice. With the choice of three keys, you can also find a harmony part to suit your voice.


For instance, Murphy sings Will the Circle Be Unbroken in the key of A, while Janet adds the tenor part (above the lead) and Bill adds the baritone part (below the lead).
Then Janet sings the lead to Will the Circle in the key of C while Murphy adds the baritone (below the lead) and Bill provides the low tenor (below the baritone).


Finally Bill takes a turn singing the lead to Circle in the key of E (a pretty low key for this song) while Murphy adds the tenor (above the lead) and Janet comes in on the high baritone (above the tenor).


We also use this same approach—three different keys—for Bury Me Beneath the Willow and All the Good Times are Past and Gone.


For the song Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky we use just one vocal arrangement with Chris singing lead in the key of G while Murphy sings tenor and Bill adds the baritone. Amazing Grace and Over in the Gloryland are done as quartets so you bass singers can have a chance to get in on the action!


Along the way we offer some helpful hints such as “What key do I sing in?” “How do I find my harmony part?” and “How can I get a good blend?” At the very end Murphy and Bill break out their banjos for a rousing quartet version of Over in the Gloryland. Very entertaining!
If you’ve been wondering how to sing harmony, we’ve made it as easy as possible. Or as we say in Virginia, “It’s as easy as pie.”


Order your Harmony Singing Made Easy DVD today and join in the fun!


Songs: Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, All the Good Times Are Past and Gone, Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky, Amazing Grace, Over in the Gloryland.

Murphy Henry

Just a quickie here, folks, to let you know that our second Murphy Method Intermediate Banjo Camp was a rousing success! Sixteen students gathered in Winchester under the watchful eyes of Casey and me to play and play and play! They also did some learning, but I think the playing was the big hit of the weekend. After all, our motto is “Less talk, more playing!”


Intermediate Banjo Campers

Intermediate Banjo Campers

One of the surprise hits of the weekend was the singing of Barry, one of our LA students. (And I don’t mean Lower Alabama!) I’ve known Barry from meeting him at many camps over the years and I had no idea he knew so many songs and could sing so well. And since I caught a cold and could not sing (arrrgh!), he stepped into the breach and really helped out. His song choices were excellent—just plain old three-chord songs, but ones that were a bit unusual. The ones I remember are:

Let Those Brown Eyes Smile At Me
Long Black Veil
Your Love Is Like a Flower
Little Cabin Home on the Hill
Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane

(Help me out, Barry! There was another one about drinking and the one you sang Sunday that had the word “Wander” in it....my brain is muzzy today!)

Barry also played the banjo as he sang and did the kickoffs to all these songs! The rest of the class then had the opportunity to improvise breaks to the songs, on the spot, and play them solo while everyone else vamped. (But only if they wanted to.)

Jim also came through with some good sing-along songs like Worried Man and I Saw the Light. And on Saturday and Sunday Zac came in to be our guitar man. Nothing like playing Blue Ridge Cabin Home fifty times at a very slow pace, is there Zac? He also played banjo on our Saturday night concert and did a bang up job. Bob Van Metre came in to play bass and provide some comic relief with his off-the-cuff remarks...he also provided the medicinal Jack Daniels and I am forever in his debt for that. I still couldn’t sing but I didn’t feel so bad about it!

If I had to describe what we did during the weekend with one word it would be “improvise.” We divided the class into Beginning Intermediates and more Advanced Intermediates and both sections worked hard on improvising. The BI’s learned about it from the ground up—finding basic licks to use in simple three-chord songs and then using those same licks over and over to play more songs. The AI’s improvised to Barry’s and Jim’s songs and to the version of East Va. Blues I managed to croak out. (Not pretty!) Everyone did fantastic, and no one’s break was the same. The AI’s also improvised a break, on the spot, to Bluegrass Breakdown, altho Roy (back again from England) later said he was just copying me. Hey, that still counts! You were doing it on the fly.

There is much more to tell, but I’m out of time. I’d love it if some of you students would chime in with your impressions.

We are already looking forward to next year’s camp which will be this same weekend in March (we hope). Mark your calendars! We picked up great ideas from the students for improvements we can make for next year and we are already laying the groundwork to implement some of them.

Thanks to everyone for making our second Intermediate Banjo Camp such a great one. And don’t forget about our Murphy Method Beginner Camp this October!!!! See you there.

Folks, the Murphy Method Banjo Camp is coming up this weekend here in Winchester, and guess who is Casey's designated babysitter for the weekend! So while all the Murphy Method students are having fun learning banjo licks from Murphy and Casey and having fun playing together, the youngest banjo player in the family (Dalton Henry, age 7 months) and I will be having fun playing together too!

The music involved, of course, might be a little different. For the Murphy Method students, it will be Banjo in the Hollow and Cripple Creek and tunes like that. For Dalton and myself, the music will include "Go Tell Aunt Roady" and "Way Down Yonder in the Paw-Paw Patch." But a good time will be had by all!


Back in January I got a call, pretty much out of the blue, from the director of the bluegrass program at Colorado College, Keith Reed. I had met Keith at RockyGrass last year when I was teaching at the Academy and he mentioned that he wanted to get me up to Colorado Springs sometime to teach at the college. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to get out to Colorado Springs, see some mountains, meet and help some eager young bluegrass enthusiasts, and pick with Keith at the faculty concert.

I left a sunny and fairly warm Nashville and flew to Denver, and Keith scooped me up and we rode through snow dusted plains up to the campus to have a meal and meet with a couple of Keith's students. Keith, an excellent and solid Scruggs style player who had picked with Open Road for years, started teaching at the college about eight years ago and grew the program into a successful enterprise with about 20 students and three different ensembles.

That evening about 7 pm, we met about eight of Keith's students in one of the many music study rooms and I commenced a workshop for about an hour and a half. I've been teaching for about fifteen years, so I have done many workshops and private lessons, but it had been a while and my muscle memory for the experience was a little lethargic. But nevertheless, I set up my webcam to stream the workshop onto my Facebook page and plowed ahead. I figured it would be appropriate to give some background into my own influences and how I came to learn the music and play it the way I do. I always enjoy younger folks in workshops because frequently they have had heaping helpings of more contemporary bluegrass but haven't really studied the classics too much. At least one had heard of Frank Wakefield, so that was encouraging. Keith and I picked a couple of tunes - Bluegrass Breakdown and Farewell Blues.

I have been playing a lot in Nashville and so I really didn't think too much about it when I kicked off Bluegrass Breakdown at close to 180bpm. The students seemed entertained with the offering. There are many great styles of hardcore bluegrass mandolin, so I demonstrated, as best I could, tones of Red Henry, Bill Monroe, Frank Wakefield, David McLaughlin, and how my style was a mixture of those influences plus some innovations of my own like the circus-style ascending and descending blurs of mandolin motion (cheap licks as I like to call them), also integrating some unusual intervals that are more likely to be heard in eastern European, Klezmer, and Middle Eastern music.

Before long, one student asked me what I thought about Chris Thile. I expressed that beyond the obvious - his formidable technique, creativity, and overall contributions to the awareness of the mandolin in popular culture, he has an outstanding dedication to what he pursues, be it classical, or nuvo-grass, or the blend of pop and acoustic music in his most recent band. I also told them that he also provides me with a great contrast stylistically. If there were hundreds of young mandolin pickers who were all super deep in studying Monroe, then what I do would not be as unusual, so I appreciate that.

After dusting off two or three original mandolin tunes, I invited the students to pick, and we had two guitars, about four or five mandolin pickers, Keith on banjo, and a bass player. There was an excellent contingent of four young women, all very sharp and capable, with mandolins and so the gender balance was quite respectable. We started with a blues number which I figured was a good place to begin to get everyone improvising a little bit. At first go round, everyone played well, although with a couple of exceptions, fairly quietly. I like it when pickers really bear down and get good volume and projection out of their instruments. So, on the second round I asked them to all play as loud as they could, and they really could be heard a lot better the second time, and by my estimation, the music itself was more engaging and interesting. We sang some songs and passed some good fiddle tunes around for about a half hour with various students having to come and go as their hectic academic schedules allowed.

I demonstrated a few different guitar styles as well. The strums or licks of folks like Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, Carter Stanley, and David McLaughlin were something that they had not spent much time studying, so I was happy to help them add a few tools to their toolbox in terms of different guitar strums for different songs.

We had a little pizza and then went to relax for a while. That evening a friend of some of the students offered to have us over to pick some. So Keith and I went over and joined a few early 20s fellows playing an ice hockey game projected on to a white wall. We picked a couple in the kitchen, running over Groundspeed, which was going to be one of the tunes for the faculty concert the next night. The video game was finished and so we moved into the living room to pick some more. I was playing guitar, Keith was on banjo, and the most proficient mandolin student, Charlie, was picking his mandolin. Before long there were about twenty young folks in the room sitting wherever they could, a fairly large but well behaved snake being passed around, and three more mandolin pickers. We picked for about two hours and had a great time.

The next day we got to the college about noon, and had a great lunch from the cafeteria before Keith went to take a swim and I went to teach some one-on-one lessons. First up was Charlie, and he was a true sponge and quick on the pickup which is always great for lessons. We looked at staggered sixteenth notes like Bill Monroe used many times. I showed him how to play one sixteenth note with a downstroke, and then continue up the arpeggio on an upstroke, then a downstroke on every next note, and then how to change chords at the top to go to a C chord from G, and then also how to go from G to D and back down. He picked it right up.

Being curious about how I approached tremelo, I demonstrated how I pat my foot and play down-up-down-up for every foot pat so it keeps the tremelo even and uniform. He's got a good handle on what I might call the spastic tremelo which is more haphazard but when used properly can be powerful. The spastic tremelo is basically playing as fast as possible but without an even regularity to the pick strokes in relationship to the beat. I employ that technique myself frequently as well, it's more along the lines of Buzz Busby's style.

Next up was Mattie, a young woman that wanted to learn some practice techniques that would help here clean up her playing while developing speed. So I showed her my usual regimen of three patterns of the major scale in G and A. I start off with the regular two octave scale with alternating up and down pick strokes. Then we played two pick strokes (up and down) for each note up and down the scale, then triplets, and finally sixteenth notes. We did that in both G and A.

The next pattern I showed her was a little more complex. It starts on the first note in the scale then jumps up to the third note in the scale, then back to the second, then up to the fourth and so on. She picked it right up and we went through the permutations of one pick stroke through four pick strokes for each note in the scale. We did that in G and A.

Finally, when she had a good handle on all that we moved on to the hardest pattern which, in my experience, is the most beneficial for developing speed. It, like the previous scales is all up and down, starts by playing the first three notes in the scale, then going back to the first note and playing the next four notes in the scale, then back to the second note in the scale and playing three more scale notes, then going back to the third note in the scale and playing three more scale notes and so on all the way up and down. It's a lot easier to understand if you can hear it! We did that in G and A as well.

My third lesson was with Nicole, who wanted to learn some alternate up-the-neck picking ideas for one of her singing songs, so we picked Blue Night. She had an outstanding ability to pick up what I was showing her and in about a half hour's time she had a great handle on a difficult Bill Monroe-style break out of what I call first position, up-the-neck C. It was bluesy and melody based and was a good complement for her usual approach down low. I was tickled she was picking Monroe style so quickly.

The last lesson was with Esther, a final year student, who wanted to learn a particular strum pattern. She had been at the workshop the day before and had seen me do a strumming/picking rhythm lick but she didn't exactly know how to describe it or remind me what it was. So, I played this one and that one and she made leading suggestions such as "it connects to itself" and "it's more rounded", until finally we hit on something that was at least fairly close to what she was looking for. It was a rhythm lick that was very similar to the syncopated way Bill Monroe would frequently play on Muleskinner Blues or Rawhide. So we worked on getting the nuances and pick strokes until we were playing the same thing, and then I grabbed the guitar and sang the Rocky Road Blues so she could play her new rhythm lick, which she did quite well.

That evening was the faculty concert which was the main reason Keith had me fly out. There were opera singers, a wonderful harpist, and a wind ensemble among the other performers, and then Keith and I were scheduled to close out the show. About an hour before the concert we sat down and picked the tunes - Groundspeed and Sally Goodin. The arrangement was that he would kick off Groundspeed, and we'd both take a couple of breaks and then he would finish it and a similar deal with Sally Goodin' except I was starting and finishing that one. It was an interesting experience playing for that academic crowd. I'm not sure they were too familiar with bluegrass, but they laughed supportively when I invited them to get up and dance the buck 'n wing if they felt to inclined. We picked the tunes and they went off without a hitch. I had one of the students holding my Macbook so I could stream it to my Facebook page like I try to do whenever I can these days. The stream went out, we got a rousing applause at the end and then several of the other performers were favorably complementary towards our efforts which was especially nice considering the diversity in our musical paths.

After the concert we went to a local pub where two of the students have a regular gig. It was a tight spot, but comfortable with so many enthusiastic young listeners who were responding well and exchanging some good energy with everyone who was picking. I used my iPhone to look up a lyric I had forgotten to Roving Gambler, and we had some good trios on Sitting Alone in the Moonlight, All the Good Times Are Past and Gone. Keith let me pick his nice pre-war banjo for a tune and I picked one of my favorites, Clinch Mountain Backstep. It was interesting because as I was starting it off I was patting my foot on the off beat as I like to do sometimes, and due to the volume in the room, the guys picked up on the foot tap more than the melody and came in backwards, but it was quickly remedied and we had a good time with it. We picked until about eleven o'clock and headed for the house.

As I look out the plane window right now I see a whole lot of what I reckon is Kansas on the way back to Nashville. I'll get to town with a couple of hours to spare before heading to the Station Inn to sound check with Shawn Camp and his band. Till next time!

Murphy Henry

Now that I’ve told you about content of the Harmony Singing DVD, let me tell you about the fun stuff! I picked Janet Beazley and Chris Stuart up at the airport on Saturday night about 7:45. I’d originally told them I’d meet them curbside, but of course by the time I’d made the almost two-hour trip (primed by a Starbucks Tall Americano and oatmeal cookie!) I needed the visit the “loo” as they say in Jolly Olde England. So I met them inside at baggage. I’d told them they could use our instruments, so all they had was two suitcases. (“And no merch!” as they both exclaimed.)

When we stepped outside the terminal, they were both stunned by the cold (22 degrees) which was made even colder by the brisk wind which was making the flags stand straight out. Yikes! We didn’t waste any time getting in the car and cranking up the heat.

I figured they would want to eat something so I told them they had three choices: eat junk food at the airport, eat fast food when we got to Winchester (about an hour’s drive), or wait till we got home and eat some of the food I had fixed. Bless their hearts, they opted to eat at home.

With Janet in the front seat, she and I talked all the way home, with Chris occasionally chiming in from somewhere in the back. She and I had met (and bonded) a few years ago at Mid-West Banjo Camp over a beer at a local tavern and the book Eat, Pray, Love. Deeply engrossed in conversation, we didn’t realize a huge summer thunderstorm had arisen and that we were due back on campus to perform real soon. The only thing to do was to make a dash for it through the pouring rain with lightning flashing all around and “thunder roaring, bursting in the clouds.” We arrived at our dorm drenched to the skin and looking liked drowned rats. We had just time to towel our hair day and change clothes before jumping on stage to sing Love Come Home as a duet. It sounded great. We’ve been buddies ever since.

Arriving back at the house, I warmed up bowls of a slow-cooker roast/stew I had concocted based on my friend Robyn’s recipe which included dumping in a bottle of beer and ¼ cup of brown sugar to the roast and adding onion, carrots, apple, apricots, prunes, and cranberries. By the time I’d added all that there was no room for the sweet potatoes! So it goes. They said it was yummy and I had to agree! (Could have used a tad more salt...)

Meanwhile Bill Evans was making his way to the house in his rental car. (He’d flown in earlier in the week to visit his sister in Richmond and to do a banjo workshop.) I called him and he said he’d be there at precisely 10:26. So of course, at 10:27 I called and told him he was late! He had a good excuse: he was almost in sight of the house when he found the road blocked and a “blue light special” (police cars) surrounding a truck which had run off the road and had “fetched up” with its front tires in the lake. The cops had rerouted him up the mountain which was taking longer than he had expected. I was aghast at the police cars because Chris and Janet and I had passed that same truck on our way in. (No police cars at the time.) I had laughed about it because there was a can of beer sitting by the truck and had said, laughingly, “Welcome to our hillbilly subdivision!” The truck looked abandoned and I certainly didn’t think anyone was in it. (And I hope to goodness I was right). But still, I realized as Bill was telling the story that we should have stopped to make sure.

Anyhow, Bill arrived safe and sound, and joined us in our evening meal and conversation. We batted around a few ideas for the DVD, talked about what time we’d like to start filming (11ish) and then....what do you think we four banjo pickers did? Did we rehearse? Did we break out four old fives and get down with some Earl? Some Ralph? Some Sonny Osborne (one of Bill’s favorites)? No, we did not. Sad to say, being the Baby Boomers that we are, we all went straight to bed. (Okay, Bill probably stayed up a while and did Facebook and email from his bedroom.) But, maybe, being Baby Boomers, we just realized that we had work to do tomorrow and that the RESPONSIBLE thing to do, was get a good night’s rest. I prefer to think of it that way!

And now, as my grandmother would say, “Mouse is run, my story’s done.” At least as much as I can tell now. Now it’s time to go record a few extra introductory clips for the DVD. When you get the DVD, you can check closely to see if you can tell which ones I added today! The clothes will be the same, the earrings and necklace with be the same, but the hair never turns out the same way twice!