Tag Archives: banjo camp north

Murphy Henry

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!

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).

Casey Henry

I was lucky enough to get to spend last weekend teaching at Banjo Camp North. (I posted a couple photos and comments over on my Twitter feed.) It was my third time teaching there and I have to say it was my best camp yet. One thing I like about the camp is the intersection of bluegrass and old-time players. I’ve met several people there, who I just love, who I never would have crossed paths with otherwise: Mac Benford, Lorraine and Bennett Hammond, Howie Burson. Riley Baugus was there. He’s an amazing old-time player who I’ve met a couple times but never really had a chance to get to know. Also Bruce Molsky, who is possibly my favorite all-around musician. I had a free period so I sat in on his class and learned a clawhammer version of “Mississippi Sawyer.”

Casey Henry, Tony Trischka, Bill Evans, Jacob Bernard

Casey Henry, Tony Trischka, and Bill Evans, with Jacob Bernard, who I think was the youngest student at camp. He's soaking up the banjo like a sponge, and is super-cute to boot. (Photo by Daniel Bernard)

On the bluegrass side we had Tony Trischka, Bill Evans, Rich Stillman (who are both fellow Kel Kroydon endorsers), Janet Davis, Janet Beazley, Jim Mills, and many more. My great friends Kelly and Bruce Stockwell (another of the bluegrass instructors) picked Bill and me up at the airport and brought us to camp. The camp is outside of a small town and culinary options are limited. We ate supper at Cracker Barrel, and the next morning found us eating breakfast there as well. It did at least give me a chance to use up the gift cards I’d gotten as Christmas presents from students (which I’d been carrying around in my wallet for a year and a half!).

I taught classes on playing in C without a capo, fancy up-the-neck Scruggs backup, vamping and beginning backup, and “Theme Time.” (The class was actually titled “Learn a tune by ear” but I think I would have had more takers if I’d said what tune I was going to teach. How could I know that, though, until I saw who showed up at the class?)

My last class was supposed to be about using the capo to play in different keys, but only one guy showed up (it was raining and he had been in the same room the class before, so he decided to stay). He already knew his way around the capo, so we did a 75-minute private lesson instead. It certainly worked out luckily for him that no one else was there!

There is late-night jamming (instructor-led until 11:00 p.m. and thereafter on your own) and often there is some bluegrass/old-time crossover there, too. This year we got a preview of The Banjo Project documentary, which will be shown on PBS this fall. It is a truly great historical look at banjo styles and players. Be sure not to miss it.

The whole camp has a laid-back, easy-going attitude and is just a fun place to hang out. I highly recommend it to all students! Dedicated Murphy Method learner Marty Bacon was there. He won his trip there in the Banjo Hangout drawing. What did you think of camp, Marty?

Casey HenryA fabulous time was had by all at last weekend's Banjo Camp North. I had the pleasure of teaching there for the second year in a row, and, knowing in advance what to expect, I brought foam to put on the hard camp bed. That made everything better!

Other instructors there for the weekend were Tony Trischka, Bill Keith, Janet Davis, Bruce Stockwell, Mac Benford, Lorraine Hammond, Rich Stillman (a fellow Kel Kroydon endorser), and many, many more. There are many stories to share, but I'll pull out just a couple (so as not to spoil my next Banjo Newsletter article for you).

Saturday at the camp there was some free time before dinner, so Tom Mirisola of the American Made Banjo Company asked me and Rich Stillman to come to his booth to do a little impromptu jamming. We had a brief little session playing our KK banjos. One of our mail-order students, Robbin, was there with her purple KK banjo (the only purple one in the world!). She bravely jumped right into the fray and took a break on "Salt Creek." I immediately recognized it as the one off of Beginning Banjo Volume 2! I love to see the Murphy Method put into action and I was proud that she pulled off such a great break!

Tony Trischka was there for the first day and half of camp, and although I didn't get to attend any of his workshops (since I was teaching myself), he is always delightful to be around. I was especially flattered that he complimented me on my tune Real Women Drive Trucks, mentioning my unusual use of the Keith tuners. When I released that CD back in 2000, Mike Seeger wrote me a letter saying that the use of the tuners was new to him as well. I still have that letter on my bulletin board over my desk.

Here's one picture from camp: Casey Henry, Tony Trischka, Kelly Stockwell

Casey, Tony, and Kelly

Casey HenryToday is the first day of Banjo Camp North 2009 in Groton, Mass. This is my second year teaching at this event. This camp is one where lots of different workshops are offered simultaneously and students can choose which to attend. I'm teaching on subjects such as "Vamping and Beginning Backup," "Playing Up The Neck for Beginners," "Playing in Waltz Time," "What to do in a Jam Session," and "Scruggs-style Backup." Camps like this are the perfect place to work out material for future DVD releases. I'll be trying out some material in the Scruggs-style backup class that may make it onto our next banjo video. I'll have a full report next week.

I have to say, events like this make me wish I had an iphone (12 days and counting...) so I wouldn't have to lug my whole computer up there in order to check my email every day!