Tag Archives: ipod

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Many thanks to Marty (giver of the awesome iPod) for supplying today’s blog. He has most kindly said I could use any of his emails for blogs at any time. Casey and I are on a short mother-daughter vacation which begins with a Chuck Berry in concert in St. Louis! Slight bluegrass connection: Chuck Berry has said that he got the idea for his song “Maybelline” from the old fiddle tune “Ida Red,” which Bob Wills recorded. (Okay, so Bob Wills is western swing, but close enough!)

Small note about Marty: he has now been playing the banjo for just about a year. I met him last year at the IBMA FanFest where he bought some DVDs. We had our first live lesson around the first of November and he’s been off and running ever since.

Dear Murphy,

I am probably wasting your time but I just had to share. I had a big music weekend. Saturday at 3 PM I went to see the Grass Cats. They played “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and I thought, "I can do that." That night I went to see the Greencards and they did a very credible version of “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” and I thought, "I can do that."

Tonight I went to see Missy Raines and she was great (but mostly not too bluegrassy). Her Dobro player is awesome (Mike Witcher). The group that preceded her was Tommy Edwards (also a very fine musician) and his banjo player was Stan Brown who was great and apparently he played in the 1980s with Bill Monroe. They played a song which I can't remember the name but it was really “Your Love is Like a Flower” and I thought, "I can do that."

And I played “Bury Me Beneath the Willow” with my wife Cheryl playing the hammered dulcimer and it was real music and she said I vamped reliably on the off beat. Also tonight I played with one of my nurse’s daughters. She is a fine classical bass player but playing G, C, and D was no problem and she's got rhythm so, boy, with just a banjo and the bass the room just filled up with real music. It was great fun and we played a lot of the songs I know. I need to learn all that backup stuff Stan Brown was doing but I guess I should be sure about vamping on the off beat first. 🙂


Murphy Henry
A quick recap so you’ll understand the story: Recently, Marty, one of my banjo students, gave me an iPod loaded with over 900 songs. (As he put it, “Some of the songs are there because I really like them and some because I thought you would and some are just there.”) I am listening to them in alphabetical order, to make sure I don’t miss any, and Marty is getting a kick out of what he calls my “obsessive compulsive” behavior. 


Below are several of our recent email exchanges which eventually have something to do with banjo playing. The Cheryl mentioned is Marty’s wife who in another guise as Lynnette Kent writes romance novels! I’ve read three so far and have really enjoyed them. (Especially When Sparks Fly, the one about the firefighter!) 

Dear Marty, 

I made it thru a lot of the D's on the iPod. But somehow the damn thing got on “scramble,” so I had to listen to some songs OUT OF ORDER!!!! But I did hear "Jerusalem’s Choir" and just loved it! 

The one I LOATHED was "Do You Love As Good As You Look" by the Bellemy Brothers. I thought it was completely tasteless and demeaning to women and was surprised to find it on your iPod. Undoubtedly an oversight on your part. (I'm assuming that I can speak frankly? I did try to tone it down. Next time I'll tell you how I really feel.<G>) 

Dear Murphy,

Okay, I made up for “Do You Love As Good As You Look” with “Did I Shave My Legs For This.” How come you didn't comment on "Trashy Women" by Confederate Railroad? <G> In my defense, Cheryl really likes that song. (I think it is sung tongue in cheek.) Kane's River was a heck of a group to my ear so I am glad you liked “Jerusalem's Choir.” Julie Elkins [his other banjo teacher] has a great voice and unlike me, she's got timing down.

Dear Marty, 

Yeah, I did like “Did I Shave My Legs for This.” Thanks for that. And of course I haven't gotten to "Trashy Women" because it's in the T's! I'm intrigued that Cheryl likes "Do You Love...." I agree that it's (probably) tongue in cheek but still was too over the line for little ole moi....  

Dear Murphy, 

Actually I meant that she likes “Trashy Women,” not “Do You Love ...” and when I mentioned your objections her response was obviously, "Well, Martin, don't you see the difference?" To which I replied, “Cheryl, I just want to vamp properly on the offbeat.” 

And that, dear readers, is simply classic!

Murphy HenrySo, one of my students gave me an iPod for my birthday! How cool is that? It came programmed with 989 tunes! I’ve never had one before, so now I feel all 21st century.

I was worried at first about the song selection. How could he possibly know what I like? He is a banjo student so I had visions of getting the entire Flatt and Scruggs oeuvre. Or perhaps 900+ bluegrass numbers. Nevertheless, I was anxious to embrace this new-fangled listening device.

But first, I had to figure out how to make it work. I could make it come on, but I couldn’t hear it. So I looked for the volume button. Finally I figured out that I probably needed to charge the battery. So I did that.

Meanwhile, I sent an email to my student, thanking him for the iPod and telling him I was looking forward to using it. He wrote back saying he was glad it got there and mentioning that it came fully charged.

Hmmm, that was puzzling. How was I supposed to hear it?

I went back to the box it came in, looking for enlightenment. There I found a secret compartment containing—you guessed it—ear buds. I put them in, and viola! Sound. It had been there all along.

Now I could hear the first offering, Across the Great Divide by Nancy Griffith. Yeah! Great song! And the second, Running Against the Wind by Bob Seeger. Love it! One of my faves. Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie was up next, and while I knew of the title, I’d never heard it and didn’t realize it is a talking blues (about garbage) and funny as hell. Soon I figured out that the titles were in alphabetical order. So I got to hear All My Ex’s Live in Texas, Amanda, American Woman, Amie, Angel From Montgomery (by Bonnie Raitt), and Anticipation by Carly Simon, which I am sorry to say brought to mind the Heinz Ketchup commercial. All these were well-known, much-loved songs.

Then there was At Seventeen by Janis Ian. This number with its beautifully crafted lyrics was unknown to me. It starts off with the line “I learned the truth at seventeen that love was meant for beauty queens” and finishes by dedicating the song to “those whose names were never called when choosing sides for basketball.” I’ve never heard anyone capture the experience of the not-so-popular high school girls with so much veracity and compassion. What a song! I doubt if I would have ever heard it if not for this amazing iPod.

Shortly after that we were into the B’s with Back in the Goodle Days by John Hartford, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and oh crud! Now I’ve done something so I can’t see the list of songs anymore! (And I am getting a prompt that says “Connect to power.”) Oh well, I’ll just tell you about two more.

I laughed out loud when Big Bad John (by Jimmy Dean) came on, and then I sang along, pretty much remembering all the words including the ending “at the bottom of the mine lies a big, big man.”

And then there was Blue Ridge Cabin Home. By Flatt and Scruggs. Just what I’d been dreading. Only because I’ve been singing that song for my students for years. I’ve been Blue-Ridge-Cabin-Homed to death. But it’d been a while since I’d heard Lester ’n Earl lay into it. Ohmygoodness! It was unbelievable! In fact, if it weren’t for the family nature of this blog I would use much stronger language. It is pretty much The Perfect Bluegrass Song. What Eddie Stubbs calls “the real deal.” I just kept listening to it over and over. Lester’s singing is perfect, Curly Seckler’s tenor is perfect, Earl’s banjo breaks are both perfect, his backup is perfect, the fiddle and the dobro are perfect. I remembered why I love Flatt and Scruggs so much.

Not content with experiencing this much joy on my own, I brought my iPod into Logan’s lesson so I could make him listen to Earl’s backup and then learn it. Fortunately, Logan already had this song on his own iPod! And had been listening to it intensely. So there we were both listening to Earl on our individual iPods. And not only was Logan able to learn several of those licks, he was able to play them in the jam later on. It was ethereal! And if it hadn’t been for this amazing iPod, the surely would not have happened.

So, now I’m into the C’s. As I travel through the alphabet I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with other beloved songs as well as seeing what other treasures are awaiting me. (I hope Set ‘Em Joe And Play Walking The Floor and Walk Right In are on there, but I’m not peeking!) And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go charge up my iPod.

PS: I’d been wondering what the correct words to the chorus of BRCH are. I now know. I share them for your edification.
It was the prepositions and adverbs that were tripping me up.

Oh I love those hills of old Virginia
From those blue ridge hills I did roam.
When I die won’t you bury me in the mountain
Far away near my blue ridge mountain home.

And there you have it!