Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We did a lot of great jamming last night but the funniest part of the jam was when two of our doctors started talking about hip replacement surgery. I'm sure I'll get the details wrong (and you docs can laugh) but I think the conversation centered on the trendy new anterior approach--in which you only have to split the muscle--and the old-fashioned posterior approach in which the muscle is actually cut. Then, mercifully, the topic morphed into music and medicine when one of the doctors said he had recently played my M and M Blues CD in the "OR" (doc-speak for Operating Room). From there the conversation took a nose-dive into "songs you don't want to hear played in the OR," such as "I Saw The Light" or "Bury Me Beneath The Willow." Maybe you had to be there but was really funny at the time. I said, "Keep it coming, folks, it's all fodder for the blog."

We had a nicely balanced jam last night with three guitars and three banjos, three womyn (Kathy G, Steph, and moi) and three men (David, Gregg, and Chuck). There were also three lead singers. And--I just realized this--it was the third of December. (Which brings to mind that classic opening line to Ode To Billy Joe: "It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty Delta day....") But I digress. ...continue reading

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By Dalton Henry

This last weekend, my mama Casey and my gran Murphy were teaching lots of people to play at their banjo camp. That meant that my granddaddy Red and I had the house and yard all to ourselves! We had fun.

We play a lot indoors. I like to make things with Play-Doh, which is an exciting new invention that I just learned about. Here I am at the table, having a great time making a mess with the gooshy stuff. (Granddaddy says that "gooshy" is a useful and respectable word.)

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We played in the yard, too. One of my favorites games with Granddaddy is the "Flying Baby." I ask for it over and over and over and over. Here is how I fly!


When we got back inside, Granddaddy showed me a surprise: a Big Box. A REALLY Big Box. It was a lot bigger than I was. So I got into it, and started turning it over and standing it back up from the inside. I turned the box over on its sides, and turned it back up. I turned it on its ends, and then back up. I got Granddaddy to close the box, so I had my own house and pretended to be a wild animal. I played in the box for a long time!

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So, we had a good time for three whole days. I hope that all the banjo students had as good a time as we did. Granddaddy says that he may be able to move by Wednesday. Bye!



Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Here's the list of new custom lessons I've been churning out for the last month. As always, these can be ordered over on my website.

  • Golden Slippers (in G) (I) Watch clip. - I've played this tune forever and I really do like it. I'm kind of surprised it took someone this long to request a lesson on it.
  • Grandma's Feather Bed (in C) (I) Watch clip. - This is an arrangement designed to play while you sing it.
  • Peace In The Valley (in C) (I) Watch clip. - This one was tricky. It's slow, plus it's in waltz time. I opted just to play the melody with very few fill-in notes.
  • Randall Collins (I) Watch clip. - This is a Norman Blake song and boy, oh boy, were the chords tricky! Break is not so bad, though.
  • Sally Ann (Low Break) (NOT Earl's arrangement!) (I) Watch clip. - This arrangement goes along with the sung version of this tune (NOT Earl's instrumental arrangement of it!!).
  • Sittin' On Top Of The World (with minor chord) (I) Watch clip. - This old bluegrass standard is sometimes played with an E-minor chord, sometimes not. This version has the minor.
  • White Freightliner Kickoff Break (I) Watch clip. 2nd Break Watch clip. - I really, really enjoyed learning these two breaks and teaching them. Classic Crowe all the way.


Due to circumstances beyond our control, Murphy will NOT be speaking in Decatur, IL on Saturday, April 12th. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

Chris Henry will be playing with Peter Rowan on the following dates in VA and NC and then heading to Australia for a month!

Friday, Feb 21st - Court Square Theater - Harrisonburg, VA
Saturday, Feb 22nd - Aycock Auditorium (at UNCG)- Greensboro, NC

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If you need more details about any of the Australian dates Peter's website is woefully lacking. Try contacting Chris directly.

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Here are the new custom lessons I've worked up lately. Some really interesting tunes here, including the "Car Talk" theme song (which is titled "Dawggy Mountain Breakdown"). As always, you can order these on my website.

  • Amazing Grace (Murphy's break from the "Picking Up The Pace" DVD) (I) Watch clip.
  • Dawggy Mountain Breakdown (Car Talk Theme Song) (A) Watch clip.
  • Good Woman's Love (Bill Monroe) (I) Watch clip.
  • I Guess I'll Go On Dreaming (Red Allen) (I) Watch clip.
  • I'll Go Steppin' Too (Flatt and Scruggs) (I) Watch clip.
  • I'm Using My Bible For A Roadmap (Reno arrangement) (I) Watch clip.
  • Southern Flavor (Bill Monroe) (A) Watch clip.
  • They Are Holding Up The Ladder (I) Watch clip.
  • Thirty Years Of Farming (I) Watch clip.
  • You Could Be Happy (Snow Patrol) (I) Watch clip.

Casey Henry

Casey Henry

Since it's release a couple years back Red and Chris's CD Centerville Road has only been available in person at performances. Now, at long last, you can get it through our website. It's got lots of great music and can testify that it holds up to repeated listening. My son would ONLY listen to this CD in the car for an entire YEAR, and I still didn't get tired of it! I'm playing banjo on about half the cuts. John Hedgecoth takes the five on the rest while I switch to bass. Mike Bub handles the rest of the bass duties. Good original and traditional music here.


Bluegrass Unlimited magazine published an absolutely fabulous review of Murphy's book Pretty Good for A Girl: Women in Bluegrass in their September issue.

Read it here on the BU site.

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.


The Murphy Method's very first Women's Banjo Camp is under way! The campers are already enjoying their first workshops with Murphy and Casey. Meanwhile Red, the designated babysitter, is hard at work giving Dalton his afternoon nap!