I’m just back from a lovely weekend in Charlton, Massachusetts, making my first appearance at Banjo Camp North, where I was able spend some quality time hanging out with my buddy, Bill Evans. Somehow we remain friends even though we totally disagree about right-hand position and using a continuous roll to play banjo backup!
We do, however, enjoy performing together so we helped each other out during the faculty concert on Friday where we played "Clinch Mountain Backstep" and "Come Back to Me Little Darling" (Bill’s tunes) and "M and M Blues" and "Bury Me Beneath the Willow" (my tunes). We also managed to work in a bit of humor which included Bill playing some crazy, off-the-wall melodic break in the middle of "Willow" and me grabbing his banjo neck and muting his strings with my hand. He then made some lame excuse saying, “But it’s my style” to which I responded, “Yeah, but I don’t like it and this is my tune!” The audience just howled. All in fun, of course.
Helping us out were Pete Kelley on bass, Phil Zimmerman playing killer Monroe-style mandolin, Dick Bowden on guitar, and Alan Kaufman on fiddle. A total tip of the hat to these guys who had never heard "M and M Blues" before. In fact as I was introducing the song, Bill was talking to the band, telling them the arrangement, and clueing them into the fact that there were stops on the chorus! When I took my banjo break (which was Earl’s first break to Foggy Mountain Special), Bill twinned me. It was awesome. Bill can twin just about anything. Which is why I had chosen "Willow", just so Bill could twin it.
Saturday night Tony Trischka played in faculty concert and Bill and I had pulled up folding chairs to sit together in the back of the audience. When Tony sat down to play, however, we couldn’t see his hands so we got up and walked to the side of the room so we could see better. Well.....when Tony was done (the Finnish polka he played was particularly amazing) we walked back to our seats only to find that Riley Baugus (the great clawhammer player from North Carolina) was sitting in my seat. Bill was all for pulling up another chair but I said “Watch this. I’m gonna make Riley move.”
So I walk up to Riley and say, “You’re sitting in my seat.” Riley looks up sort of startled and I could tell he was fixing to say something but I continued on. I said, “You’re from North Carolina. [Dramatic pause.] You know what you have to do.” And, sure enough, he got up and gave me his seat. I knew he would. He’s a Good Boy From The South. It was hysterical! As I sat down (gracefully) I looked over at Bill and he has this disbelieving look on his face like “How did that happen?” And I’m laughing so hard I’ve got tears in my eyes. One reason I knew this would work was that on Riley’s part of the show Friday he was kind enough to mention that he was happy to see me way up here in Massachusetts. He said he liked talking to me because I didn’t have an accent!
I will close with a great quote from Bill. As we were watching the show Friday night he said, “When someone sits down to play you know it’s either gonna be very interesting and innovative or it’s gonna be old-time.” I’m not sure what that means regarding our own playing since we stood up!
Okay, I’m not quite done. There’s one more quote. This from one of the students who was there. I didn’t get his name but I think he had some of our Murphy Method DVDs. He said he’d enjoyed hearing me play and being in the classes and the slow jam. He then said, “I didn’t know you would be so nice.” I took that in the spirit it was offered, as a sincere compliment.
And finally as I was sitting down in the dining hall for our final lunch, director Mike Holmes says to me, “So, who should I hire next year, you or Casey?” (Casey has taught at Banjo Camp North several times and the people up there love her!) At first I said, “Hire Casey!” But then I quickly rethought that and walked over to him and said, “Hire us both! We can be your only mother-daughter duo. It’s a great selling point!” Being the canny New England businessperson that he is, he said he’d think about it! So, we’ll see. Check out Banjo Camp North on line and make your plans to be there next year!