Music and Video

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Imagine our surprise to find that someone recently posted an audio copy of our first vinyl LP, Riding Around On Saturday Night, on YouTube! (He did ask our permission first.) We got in touch with the guy and asked him to mention our publishing company, Arrandem Records (pronounced "R and M" for Red and Murphy!), and our licensing affiliate, SESAC, and to include a link to our website. After that, I didn't think too much about it. Our internet connection out here in the country is so slow, I rarely try to view anything on YouTube.


However, in April Red and I drove down to Florida to visit his mom and during that long haul I pulled out my iPhone and thought,  "What the heck. I'll look up that album on YouTube." WOW! Was I ever surprised! We sound pretty darn good! So we're providing the link so you can listen to it, too.


And I'm providing more information about the album that you could possibly want to read! I got a roll and couldn't stop!


Red and I and my sister Argen, who played bass, recorded Riding Around On Saturday Night on September 13, 14, and 15, 1976, at the Warehouse Recording Studios in Jacksonville, Florida, with the effervescent Tom Markham doing the engineering and mixing. We were living in Hawthorne, Florida, at the time and were doing a lot of playing at various clubs in the Jacksonville-Gainesville-Tallahassee area. We spent the three days before we went into the recording studio playing at the Coney Grove Bluegrass Festival in Cordele, Georgia. But we were also playing plenty of bar gigs: long hours, little money, but great practice! We played a little club called the Tin Lizzie on a Tuesday night from 7-11 pm for $75. On Friday nights they bumped us up to $90 to play from 9:30 til 1:30. A big gig for us was playing a whole weekend at a restaurant called the Blue Water Bay for $250 plus a nice seafood supper for each of us.


After all this playing, when we went into the studio we were a tight three-piece group. Red and I did most of the lead singing, with Argen doing an occasional number. When I sang lead, Argen would sing tenor, and Red would sing baritone. When Red sang lead, I would sing tenor and Argen would sometimes add a high baritone. I was pleased as punch when I re-listened to our vocals on this album and found that they were tight and strong. Much tighter and stronger than I remember!  I played banjo, of course, and Red played rhythm and lead guitar. Sometimes on our live shows I would take the guitar so Red could play mandolin or fiddle. On this album I played guitar on "Hey Good Looking" while Red played fiddle. On other songs, Red played guitar to start with and then dubbed in mandolin.


Being deeply under the influence of our friend Dale Crider's amazing songwriting abilities and the stories that our friend and idol Gamble Rogers told on stage, I was already writing the quirky personal songs that would become a big part of our show. "Riding Around On Saturday Night," "Vacation Veracities," "Grandmother's Song," and "Awful Nice of Jesus" are my original songs on this album.


So, here's some stuff about those songs. It's probably TMI but I want to get it down while I'm in the mood! (And thank you Kathy and Kristina for your close attention to my blogs! Very encouraging!)


"Grandmother's Song" was probably the first decent song I ever wrote. It was preceded by beginning efforts like "There's A Frog in the Pond" (about gigging frogs and eating frog legs), "The Star Trek Song," with lyrics like "Do you remember the time that Kirk was turned into a girl / The time that Bones got married to the Queen of the Hollow World,"  and "The Clarkesville Song" which ended with the line "I guess I'll go to Clarkesville and settle there a spell / Rest my weary body and help my Grandad plow his fields." I wrote that song while I was in college and I remember my grandmother quietly snorting with laughter when she heard that line. Later I realized that she knew from experience that plowing was not a restful activity, and, wise woman that she was, also knew that my 19-year-old self had no idea what a "weary body" really was!


Later, after Casey was born, I would write another "beginning level" song about Mama which was cute but which was filled with too many family references to be palatable to a general audience. The chorus, which described Mama rocking a baby to sleep while singing, started off thusly: "At night when prayers were said including 'thanks for all the trash cans'..." Perhaps this bears a modicum of explanation, as Gamble Rogers used to say.


There were five girls in our family (no boys), each two years apart, and for years Mama read a Bible story to us every night after which we all said our prayers and went to bed. Mama was always tolerant of our saying "thanks" for everything we could think of which often included "thanks for the trash cans to put over our heads." We would usually burst into little-girl laughter after we said this which pretty much ended prayers for the night. So I had to put that in the song! But what I liked especially about this little beginning song was the "hook" in the chorus. The first chorus ended with the line "With one girl in the bed, Mama sat and rocked the baby..." Then in subsequent choruses the line became "with two girls in the bed," then "with three girls in the bed" until all five of us were in the bed (not the same bed!) and Mama was rocking the "baby," which was her first grandchild, Casey!


I wrote one more Casey-specific song, "Casey's First Christmas," which was about us driving up from Florida to North Georgia for Christmas. It included the awesome line "The gravy was cold but the welcome was warm!" I also came up with the heartfelt line, "And Dad turned the tree on / While Mama was laughing / For Christmas had started / All the children were home." That still chokes me up. (Heck, maybe I need to record these early songs, just for fun!)



So, getting back to this album now after that self-indulgent trip down memory lane....."Grandmother's Song" and "Vacation Veracities" are both about personal family stuff, but they were somewhat stronger songs.


"Vacation Veracities" was originally called "The Florida Song" and was based on a Hicks' family vacation to Florida, where, as I say in the song, "Of all the sites to visit I think we missed just three!" Originally the song started out, "Well, we set out from Clarkesville /Gonna have ourselves a ball / Going down to Florida Land to see and do it all." I followed that with "But the people there weren't neighborly and no grits could I find / Whatever I thought of Florida, well I guess I changed my mind." Well! With us actually living in Florida, that line just wouldn't fly on an album we were hoping to sell to Floridians! So, as you will hear, I took out all references to Florida and made them generic. I kinda hate that now, because the song is slightly stronger as I originally wrote it, but, hey you can't piss off a whole state just for the sake of art!


The chorus of "The Florida Song/Vacation Veracities" is better crafted than the verses--my writing was improving. However, as far as I remember, we never performed this song on stage. It wasn't strong enough.


And it sure is good to see those ol' Northeast Georgia mountains

It's really good to know that they're still there

It sure is good to smell that ol' Northeast Georgia kudzu

And hear Northeast Georgia crickets in the air

I've seen a lot of places on the road while I was gone

Florida Land is nice but Northeast Georgia, I'm glad I'm coming home.


(Note: I got a postcard complaining about my kudzu reference from a doctor in Tallahassee who bought this album. He said that kudzu didn't have a smell. I maintained that it did. This was the beginning of an excellent friendship!)


"Grandmother's Song" was based on another family event. When my Granddaddy Hicks got really old and couldn't get out much, my four sisters and I would, on occasion, go over to his and Grandmother's house and sing for him. He did dearly love singing. As I tell it in the song, "Murphy plays the guitar, and Argen sings the lead, Nancy sings the tenor, while Claire sits there and reads." (Claire was not yet into singing with the rest of us, but she would eventually come around!) Then, "Laurie she just jumps on in where she can find a place, and Granddad sits there listening, a smile on his face." Laurie was actually fishing around for the baritone part--she became the first of us to sing that hard-to-find harmony part.


One night Grandmother was telling us how she used to love to hear Granddaddy sing tenor and how she loved to watch him lead the singing in the church. And then, she unknowingly gave me the "hook" for my not-yet-conceived-of song: She said that best of all she loved to hear him sing bass on "Amazing Grace," which as we all knew was his favorite song. And I remembered sitting beside him in church and hearing him sing bass and loving it myself. That all became fodder for the chorus of this song:


My Grandmother said she loved to hear his tenor

My Grandmother said she loved to watch him lead

But even more than those two put together

My Grandmother said she loved his bass on his favorite song

Amazing Grace.


And though we didn't do it on this album, we eventually started segueing into "Amazing Grace" at the end of my song, which made it stronger and more appealing to an audience.


"Riding Around On Saturday Night" was based on my high school experiences of doing just that: riding around on Saturday night. Which is what we did in our small town when we didn't have dates. (And the internet hadn't yet been invented!) However, our town was too small to even have a Dairy Queen, like the one pictured on the front of the album. What we had was a place called the "Humdinger" but, to tell the truth, I never was one of the Humdinger crowd. And as far as I recall, Sharon and Jane and I never, ever picked up any boys!


I was inspired to write this song after many listenings to a popular song of the time called "Biff the Purple Bear" on country radio but I'm not sure now exactly how I got from Biff to riding around. I do remember that "Biff" was a talking blues kind of song, and that Gamble Rogers often performed "talking blues" and that "Riding Around" started out as more of a "talking" kind of song but quickly evolved into a song with a melody, which is how it is performed here. On stage I often "talked it" more. Also on stage I always added a long, suggestive pause after the line about the guy with "a pair of Wingtips and jeans so tight that you could see the outline of his.......pause, pause, pause, pause, pause.......wallet in his back pocket." That usually got a laugh which made me feel like I wasn't the only one with a mischievous mind. The very last line of the song was a pretty good one: Riding around's a lot more fun when you don't ride so much!" That I knew from experience!  For when Mama would ask what my high school boyfriend and I would be doing on, say, a Sunday afternoon "date," I'd always say, "We're just going riding around." And perhaps there was some riding around, but that's not the part I remember!


My final original song in this album, "Awful Nice of Jesus," pulls from several Old Testament Bible stories I had pounded into my head growing up in the Clarkesville Baptist Church. I feel pretty sure I was introduced to these characters in the Beginner Sunday School Class and probably saw these stories "acted out" using a "flannel board."  Who could forget Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace? Or Daniel, who was tossed into the lion's den? Or Abraham preparing to kill his son Issac as a sacrifice before the "angel and the ram appeared"? That's pretty heavy stuff for a small girl. Still, these stories came in handy for this song, although I realize now that the song is way too "wordy" for an audience to understand at first listening. I thought that if I could understand the words, then everyone else could too! Duh! This song was not a particular favorite with crowds, although we did use it occasionally when we had to do a Sunday morning gospel set. I do still love the chorus, though.


He's my staff, my sword, my shield

He's the hub in the middle of my wheel

He's my lily of the crossroads when I'm too blind to see

He's my one and only piece of the rock

He's my man on the loading dock

'Twas awful nice of Jesus to come and rescue me.



Writing this, in our little house in Melrose, Florida, I experienced for the first time the songwriter's bliss of having words come unbidden to my mind. I'm pretty sure "lily of the crosswords" is a Gamble-ism and I'm sure "loading dock" is his, although I think my adding "man" to get "man on the loading dock" is clever. "Piece of the rock" probably came from that insurance commercial but I have no idea where "He's the hub in the middle of my wheel" came from. But I like it!


Okay, okay! Enough already! Just one more thing. When we recorded this I had been playing banjo for about three years. For the last two of those years I was playing "professionally," that is playing on stage and getting paid. And, as I said, Red and I were playing a lot. A four-hour bar gig is some pretty intense practice. I think I sound good! I land some awesome pull-offs, if I do say so myself. And as my brother-in-law Mike said, matter-of-factly, after offering high praise for the album when we were mixing it, "There are a few 'flinchers'..." I loved that word: "flinchers." Meaning that when you, the player, hear the mistake you made, you flinch. But after not hearing this album for almost 35 years, I find there are few flinchers now. Maybe I've forgotten what I was meaning to play so my "mistakes" sound good, or maybe I just have kinder ears. Whatever. I enjoyed listening to this album. And I hope you do too. Comments welcome on YouTube or on this blog!


And if you read this far: THANK YOU for indulging me in my trip down memory lane! It always helps to know I've got someone making the trip with me.





(This is just an image. Clicking on it will take you to the Kickstarter site where you can watch the video.)

Update: They made their goal!! So you should be able to buy the boxed set at some point in the not-too-distant future. I can't wait to hear it!

This is an incredibly worthy project seeking funding through Kickstarter. I pledged enough to get myself the boxed set. I know Murphy is going to pledge as well. Please help them out and make this happen. It is a treasure trove of Doc Watson (and family) recordings entirely self-produced from within the family.

There are some pretty awesome rewards, including (if you have deep pockets) Doc's braille hymnal and harmonica.

Here is part four of Chris's documentary on creativity. (Here, here, and here are the first three parts

Or, you can watch it On You Tube.

This last part focuses on personal experience in creativity, the value of mistakes, creativity of children, the power of words, cadence, rhythm, H.T. Odum, motivation for beginners, channeling frustration, community, using influences, the unconscious, and much more. New characters are Murphy Henry, Sarah Sellari, Red Henry, Marshall Wilborn, Chris Lovelace, and David McLaughlin. Also more great interview from Dale Crider, Peter Rowan, Grisman elder and younger, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Buddy Spicher, Amanda Contreras, Chris Scruggs, and many more. And watch out for Casey and Dalton making a brief cameo appearance - Enjoy!

Casey Henry

Here are a couple things that didn't make it into my first post about Banjo Camp North. I can't believe I forgot to include this picture:

A classic quote from Murphy

Banjo Camp North camper sporting a classic quote from Murphy.

I also can't believe I forgot to write down this guy's name!! I chalk it up to it being Sunday and I'd just finished teaching my last class and my brain had turned off... If you read this (guy in the picture) please comment and tell me who you are!! I sent the picture to Murphy and she said when she started reading the shirt she thought it was going to say "The first thing you have to do is tune the banjo," which would also make a pretty good shirt. But she thought this quote was funnier!

Next, here's a clip of me at the staff concert on Saturday night at camp. Joining me are Phil Zimmerman (mando), Kelly Stockwell (bass), and April Hobart (guitar and tenor vocal).

Last Saturday some old-time pickers and I had a good old-time session playing at North River Mills, West Virginia for their annual town festival. And just where is North River Mills? Well, when you first drive there, it seems like a long way from anywhere, but it's only about 8 miles from Capon Bridge. (That's METROPOLITAN Capon Bridge, WV.)

The musicians numbered about 15 at various times during the day, playing an assortment of instruments which included fiddle, 5-string viola, banjos, mandolins, pennywhistle, guitars, bass, a harmonica, and an accordian. No kidding, the accordian player played very well and unobtrusively, so he was welcome. Here's a photo of this relaxed session:

(Photo from the North River Mills Historical Society site-- thanks folks!)

And what did we play? We played tunes in the Key of D. We played Liberty, and Soldier's Joy, and Cowboy's Dream, and Yellow Rose of Texas, and Dubuque. We played several tunes I hadn't heard before but picked up (as everybody did) as we played them over and over-- that's what you do. Then we played lots more, including Forked Deer-- and here's a video of that tune, complete with the floor show, a gentleman who was quite a dancer:

(A note on old-time session etiquette: I started this tune, so I was the one who called "One more time!" near the end, so we'd all know when to quit.)

. . . . .

...I expect that we'll play there again next year. So if you're ever in this part of the country and would like to visit a place where (as far as I can see) not much ever happens, and it's good that way, drive through North River Mills. But don't blink-- you'll miss it!

Come next year. Bring an instrument. You don't have to be an expert. If you don't know the tune, just play rhythm. You just have to like to play!


Casey Henry

I was trolling around on YouTube yesterday and I found a couple videos from past shows that we haven't yet posted here. The first one is from Kaufman Kamp in June 2010. It features myself and Tim May playing "I Am A Pilgrim" with Pat Flynn. I actually really like my break on the song, which was totally off-the-cuff, so I thought I would share it.

This second video is from the American Revival Tour in November 2009. I'm sitting in with Uncle Earl on what was typically the final number in their set. We do the breaks to the song in an old-timey way, that is, fiddle and banjo playing at the same time. Therefore it's not so much that I like my break on this song, but I do like my outfit!

Chris Henry

Chris Henry

This video is the first single of the music from an upcoming album to be released before the end of the year.  Chris Lovelace and I have been making music quite a while in different genres.  We've been punk rockers, hip-hoppers, and now we're putting some of our favorite sounds together in what has been described by The Bluegrass Blog as "Alt-County".  I like that, not alt-country, but alt-county.  We're county fellers and though neither one of us grew up farming or hunting, we really do connect with the county vibe.  Chris has two daughters, Lilian and Evelyn, who are just starting kindergarten this year and you can see their initials on his shirt in some parts of the video.  I'm wearing a pin that my grandmother used to wear.

We were initially going to film the video in Luray Caverns. That was the location that the director who came down from New York, Liquid, had chosen. We got there and they said it was a no-go, so we started driving up and down some back roads until we saw a fellow out in a field with a metal detector.  He was looking for civil war stuff and we found out that he knew some bluegrass folks.  As I recall, I believe his wife had maybe sold a house to one of the Yates brothers and might have been related to Earl Taylor, so that was a good connection.  We asked him if he knew a good place to go and he said he had some land up the road.  I asked him if it was purty and he replied "Well, I think so."  And when we got there via a grass path off the main dirt road, it was pretty.  We shot the first part there and then cruised up the skyline drive and shot some footage looking out toward the Shenandoah Valley towards North Mountain, where Chris and I grew up. The last location, where the waterwall is, was in Sterling and I used to pass it going to work and always thought it would be a good scene for a music video.

Liquid rode the MegaBus down from up north and arrived at 5 in the morning in D.C.  I picked him up, late, at about 9 and we shot from about 12 to 8, having lunch in Luray.  We got back to the studio in Sterling and he finished editing about 4 in the morning and I took him back to D.C. and he caught about a 9AM bus back.  So it was a whirlwind 24 hours and Chris and I had a really good time making our first video.  Stay tuned for more Archetones music videos and an album to be release this fall!

Many of you may be familiar with this song, which Murphy wrote years ago and performed regularly on stage as part of the Red and Murphy set. This is the recording we made of it, I think from the first Red and Murphy and Their Excellent Children album. Murphy on banjo and lead vocal, Red on mandolin and baritone vocal, Casey on bass and tenor vocal, Chris on guitar. (Click on the title to listen.)

When My Mama Sang To Me

Look A-Yonder Comin\' CD coverCaseyHere's something nifty. An email about this CD just landed in my inbox. Titled Look A-Yonder Comin', It is from the Florida Folklife Collection and has live performances from the Florida Folk Festival. Leading off the disc is none other than Red and Murphy, with Tuck Tucker, playing and singing the Chubby Anthony classic "Georgia Bound." The year that it was taped was the first time Christopher (age 11, who you hear on mandolin) and I (Casey, on bass, age 14) played a real gig with our parents. I didn't know any tape existed of it, but here it is for all to hear. The CD has 18 cuts, including Bill Monroe playing "Big Mon." And best of all, it's free! You can download it, or they'll send you an actual CD. How cool is that?

CaseyHere are some video clips for your viewing pleasure.

First, here is a look at a slow jam from Kaufman Kamp a couple years back. I couldn't believe someone actually posted a slow jam, but it's kinda neat. I can only stand to hear about 45 seconds of it myself, but it will give you a good idea of what goes on: calling out chords so everyone can follow along.

Next, a blast from the past. Red and Murphy and Co. sing "Mtn. Laurel Man" from 1980. Murphy's sister Nancy sings the lead. I especially like the comments from Nancy's current students (she's a high school math teacher). My favorite one is "dude mrs pate".

Here are Chris and myself singing his song "One Foot In the Grave" at an IBMA showcase two years ago:

And here's us with our now-defunct band The Two-Stringers (in this case Tyler Grant and Casey Grimes) singing "Walkin' West to Memphis":