Tag Archives: kaufman kamp

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I mentioned in my last Kamp blog that I was going to listen to Carole King's memoir, A Natural Woman, on the long ride home. Well, I did. Carole reads it herself and it is excellent in every way. I highly recommend it.

But coming on the tail-end of my Kamp experience, I was surprised as all get out to hear her talking about improvising! So I grabbed my car pencil and marked down the location on Disc 5 and have just transcribed, word for word, what she said. I think it's that important. (To keep things legal, I give a citation at the end of the quote.)

First of all, for you non-boomers, Carole King is a fabulous songwriter, piano player, and performing artist. Her album Tapestry is probably her most famous personal recording. Her songwriting credits are legion and include You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman (Aretha recorded this) and Come On, Baby, Do The Locomotion With Me (recorded by Little Eva, who was Carole's babysitter at the time!). ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Hard to believe but it's Saturday morning here in sunny Maryville, Tennessee, and Kaufman Kamp is over for another year! I'll be heading over to the campus of Maryville College in a little bit to pack up my unsold merch and then I'll be hitting the road. I've already gotten a text for Ben saying he'll be praying for me. I 'preciate that, Benny.

My dining hall pals, Dennis and Bill

My dining hall pals, Dennis and Bill

Yesterday was an easy day for me. I taught one private lesson and a two-hour intermediate class and I was done. I ate two meals in the dining hall with my banjo-picking buddies Dennis and Bill (pictured at right) and for supper we were joined by our banjo-picking buddy Earl (one of the Raleigh boys) who also builds banjos. He and Bill got into a deep conversation about lathes and how to carve a banjo neck. I just kept pecking away at my green beans.

BTW, Marty (also a Raleigh boy, more or less), if your ears were burning it was because we were talking about you! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Steve Kaufman always lets the instructors have Friday morning off while the campers participate in the band scramble so I had a lovely sleep in!

Yesterday was a busy day at camp with one class scramble, one regular class, one private lesson, and another Master class. For the class scramble each instructor gets to pick any music-related topic in the world to talk about for two hours and any of the students can attend. Naturally, I chose to talk about my book! As I walked into the building where my teaching room in, I met one of my beginning students coming out. He said he'd wanted to attend my Scramble but when he got up there, it was all women, so he thought he'd go somewhere else. I told that to the women when I got up there, and one of them said, "Now he knows how we feel!" I spent a wonderful two hours talking about the women in my book with other women who actually know something about bluegrass. That made it much more fun for me.

I'm feeling a sermon coming on, so if you're already a member of the choir, you can skim this part--or go to sleep which is what I frequently did when I was in the choir! ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I got pulled over by the Po-leece last night! As Red says in one of his stage raps about Clermont Hosford, "I saw those red and blue lights blinking in my rearview mirror and I figured it was as good a time as any to take a break!"

It was about eleven o'clock p.m. and I was driving back to the hotel having successfully performed a four-song set of blistering bluegrass with my "merry chicas." (That is a shout out to the DVD grandson Dalton is currently enthralled with, "Robinita Hood And Her Band Of Merry Chicas.") I had stopped en route to go Krogering and pick up some Ben and Jerry's and was eager to get back "home" and chow down.

So, I've just about reached the red light where I will turn left to go into the hotel complex when I notice the aforementioned colorful display. There is no doubt in my mind that the lights are for me, so make the turn and find a place in the parking lot to pull over. I roll my window down and the cop was there immediately. Very young, very cute, very serious. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Just back "home" (hotel!) from my day of teaching where I pretty much Blue-Ridge-Cabin-Homed my intermediate classes to death today. In the morning class, we worked on first position Roly Polys, getting all the way through two upgrades: the tag lick; a hammer-on in the C lick, and the D lick from Foggy Mountain Breakdown. In the afternoon class I didn't think I could bear another hour of Roly Polys, so we did an up-the-neck break to BRCH. (Blue Ridge Cabin Home! I don't even want to write it anymore!) It included the choke lick and an up-the-neck tag lick and was rather successful, if I do say so myself. After learning all that, we had 20 minutes left in the class and since everyone was too tired to learn anything else (and I was too tired to teach anything else!) we played Foggy Mountain Breakdown in G and I Saw The Light in A and let folks take solo breaks.

Here's something funny from the morning class. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Well, after I busted my tail to write that awesome blog this morning, I could NOT get my laptop to connect to the hotel Wi Fi even after the guy at the lobby counter said he had made it work. NOT! So, when I went into my first class I asked for help ("Any computer geeks in here?") and Colby (the handsome young guy in the red shirt) hooked me up with the Maryville college internet or wifi or whatever and so I sent the blog to Casey before class started. WHEW!

Now my teaching day is over and I am back at the hotel, where I myownself hooked my computer up the the hotel wifi. YEEHAW!

The banjo bag I carry to class.

The banjo bag I carry to class.

The teaching today went great. I showed the beginners how to do the basic Roly Polys to Blue Ridge Cabin Home and then added one upgrade to the G lick--a slide and pinches at the end. They were an exceptionally good beginning group, 14 strong (and I don't say that just because they will be reading this!), and they caught on fast. We also did some basic vamping to the song (using open G and barre C and D) and that also went well. I will see them again on Wednesday and we'll add some upgrades and also try the Roly Polys with a new song. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Good morning, Constant Readers! Today is Monday, June 16, the first day of Kaufman Kamp. Steve Kaufman told us last night at the Meet and Greet that this was their 19th year! Wow! I have taught here for probably six or seven years, maybe more, and Steve and his wife Donna Dixon run a fabulous camp and have in their 19 years worked out almost all of the "bugs."

I wasn't sure I'd have time to blog this morning, but apparently the Universe thought differently and woke me up first at 5:45 for yet another nature call and then again at 6:15 when a big truck in the parking lot right outside my window at the hotel cranked up to head back to Mississippi. (I could easily read his license plate when I looked out my window!)

So I'm sitting here in my pink pajama gown, drinking coffee, eating dried organic apricots and preparing to meet the day. ...continue reading

Murphy Henry

Howdy, all! Especially all y’all who have kept dropping by the blog to see if anything new has been posted. My summer resolution is to blog more! We’ll see if that happens. However, since I finally—after 10 years of hard but intermittent work—sent off the manuscript for my book about Women in Bluegrass, I do have slightly more time on my hands! Of course, I also have a grandson.....!


This year, my 10th at Kaufman Kamp, was excellent as always. (I highly recommend the Kamp for those of you who want to immerse yourself in banjo—or any of the bluegrass instruments—for a whole week.) I missed my cohort Casey (good alliteration there!) but had a good time finding other teachers and students to hang out with. (Thank you, Dennis for the lovely supper and conversation!)


Two of the first people I hooked up with when I arrived on Sunday for the staff meeting and dinner (supper to me) were Sally Jones and Missy Raines. Sally (and husband Chris) also had their beautiful daughter Joanna, age 8, with them. I decided, pretty much on the spot, to ask Sally, Missy, and Joanna to perform with me during my 20 minutes of fame at the instructor’s concert. (Kauf Kamp has a concert every night of the week.) Of course, I asked Sally beforehand if Joanna might be willing to perform and she was quite willing! Sally said she, Joanna, could sing Little Cabin Home on the Hill. In the key of D! I later realized we needed another lead instrument and asked banjo player Cindy Studdard, who was running sound for the show as she has for years, to pick with us. So there we had it: an all-girl band! A fitting tribute to the completion of my Women in Bluegrass manuscript!


Of course, you have to understand that we’d NEVER played together before. And I am loathe to practice. So, in typical Murphy Fashion, we gathered “backstage” (which is to say, outside) before that night’s show to run through some songs. Now, if you’re not gonna practice, then my rule is, you have to pick tunes that everybody already knows. No original stuff that has weird chords. I don’t like chord charts on stage, nor words. So, I’d picked out Lonesome Road Blues (instrumental opener), Banjo Picking Girl, Joanna’s song, and When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (group participation for the closer). There are no encores at Kaufman Kamp as Steve pointedly reminded us at the staff meeting. It makes the concert run too long.


I hadn’t exactly told Sally what time to arrive for “practice” so since Cindy and Missy and I were there ahead of her, we starting running through the songs. I had played banjo on stage with Cindy at other Kauf Kamps (and she can really bear down!) but had never sung with her. I had, in fact, planned to sing with Sally. But, since Sally wasn’t there yet, Cindy offered to jump in on the tenor (“if you want me to”) and damn if we didn’t sound good! We were cranking it! Having Missy, an IBMA Bass Player of the Year for many years, on bass wasn’t hurting us either!


Then Sally and Joanna showed up and Sally uncased her guitar, and I was in for another surprise. She is a kick-ass guitar player! (Sorry for all the cussing, but there is just no better way to describe these things.) Wow! I was blown away. That girl puts some muscle into her rhythm playing! I later found out she’d played for three years with Harley Allen, son of Red Allen. (You’ll either understand that or you won’t. If not, go listen to Red Allen with J.D. Crowe or Red Allen with Frank Wakefield, or Red Allen with the Osborne Brothers!) In addition to playing guitar, she also added a high baritone. (Check out our Harmony Singing DVD if these harmony parts sound confusing.) Voila! “Three-part harmony, oh how sweet to me....” (From one of my own songs!)


We ran through Little Cabin Home on the Hill with Jo (Sally sang harmony) and we were done with practice. Now came waiting around to perform. Always a pain, but it’s part of the biz....


When our time came to go (ha!), we hit the stage with Lonesome Road Blues (garnering spontaneous applause for Cindy’s break which I then had to try to out-do while still looking pleased that she was playing so well....!), and followed that with Banjo Picking Girl. Sally introduced Joanna who stepped up to the mike like a pro. I asked her what key she was gonna sing in, and, with no hesitation, she said, into the mike, “D.” My kick-off didn’t sound much like what we’d rehearsed (the one time) but she made her entrance perfectly! She was great!
Then it was time for our closer. I never know what I’m going to say on stage when I’m introducing a song, but I found myself falling back into some really old stage patter about being “raised Baptist.” Then I found myself talking about the songs we used to sing in church. (This was even older patter.) I said I really liked the songs from the Broadman Hymnal, especially all the blood songs like Washed in the Blood, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood, Nothing But the Blood, and Power in the Blood. Great songs! I also said that I loved the up-tempo songs we sang at night, like Uncloudy Day, I’ll Fly Away (technically not in the Broadman), and On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand, and of course When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. Then I said I did NOT like many of the songs we sang during the Sunday morning service because they sounded too “Episcopalian.” (Meaning they weren’t peppy enough.) I said, “Songs like Love Divine All Loves Excelling, and All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, and Holy, Holy Holy.” Sally, who up till this point had been listening patiently (and quietly), could hold out no longer. She stepped up to the mike and said, “I like Holy, Holy, Holy. I had it sung at my wedding.” I said, “You’re kidding.” “No,” she says, “seriously. At my wedding.” I was speechless.


Well, by then the audience is in stitches and up on stage we are pretty much falling apart laughing. Sally goes, “You can’t write stage patter like this!” So true! Which is one thing that makes playing bluegrass so much fun. You just never know what will happen! Yet there was more...


As we prepared to launch into When the Roll is Called Up Yonder, I told the audience that on the chorus we were going to sing it Baptist style with a retard on the end. Of course I pronounced it “RE-tard” which made everybody laugh. And when I responded, “Oh? Did I say it wrong?” they laughed even harder. Sally’s right: you can’t plan stuff like that.


And on that note we kicked off the song, sang three verses and three choruses, took our bows, and left the stage to large applause. And no encore. Missy had threatened to shout out, “Have you enjoyed the Lewis Family!” (a la Pop Lewis) at the end of the song so the banjo could kick off one more chorus (a la Little Roy) but she decided not to. Good decision. You don’t want to peeve Mister Steve! (What a great line! I was looking for a nice way to say that, and look what I thought of!)


Anyhow, as my grandmother used to say, “Mouse is run, my story’s done!” Thanks for reading! And don’t forget our own Murphy Method Beginners Banjo Camp coming up October 26, 27, and 28. “More picking, less talking!” See you there!


Casey Henry

So I'm here in Maryville, Tenn., for one more day. This morning we have all to ourselves because the campers are doing the band scramble. The previous years I've taught her at Kaufman Kamp I've been in charge of the Scramble, so had to get up extra early on this day. But I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying being able to get some work done in my room this a.m.

My concert spot was last night and I asked some absolutely wonderful people to accompany me: Jim Hurst on guitar, Andrew Collins on mandolin, Adam Masters on fiddle, and Kathy Chiavola singing harmony (she would have been playing guitar as well except that she broke her left hand and it's in a cast!). Jim, Kathy, and I had a great little trio going and we gave the campers some plain-old traditional bluegrass which, as it turns out, is not heard much on the concerts here. Here was the set list:

Wandering Boy

Turkey in the Straw (banjo-fiddle duet)

Weary Heart You Stole Away

Dixie Breakdown

East Virginia Blues

The audience here is great and pretty much loves everything everybody does. It always makes you feel good! No doubt pictures and/or videos of the songs will pop up on the internet. I'll post them when I find them.

Then a little later on in the night I played a banjo-fiddle tune medley with Stacy Phillips, who is teaching bluegrass fiddle this week. It was "Elzick's Farewell," "Farewell Trion," and "Tennessee Waggoner." (I'm not really sure about the spelling of any of those!) The first tune was in A minor, the second two in C. There was a funny little moment when I joined Stacy on stage. It was just the two of us, sitting kind of facing each other. As he was introducing me he said "I'd like to ask two people to accompany me on this next tune." In my head I was thinking, "But we only practiced it with just fiddle and banjo...who else is going to play...and there are only two chairs..." and then Stacy continued: "One of them doesn't do much, just gets carried around all day." And then I got it! He was talking about my Little Boy bump and it was really funny!

But the whole point of this post was supposed to be to post the instructor photos from the week, which are below (click on pictures for larger versions):

2011 Kamp Instructors

That's me in the front row between Janet and Gary. Front Row Left to Right: Janet Davis, Casey Henry, Gary Davis, Barry Mitterhoff 2nd Row: Mike Kaufman, Mike Witcher 3rd Row: Conny Ottway, Keith Yoder, Stacy Phillips, Kathy Chiavola, Jeff Scroggins 4th Row: Joel Landsberg, Jens Kruger, 5th Row: Jim Hurst, Emory Lester, Adam Masters, Andrew Collins 6th Row: Steve Kaufman, David Harvey Back 2 Rows: Ivan Rosenberg, Don Stiernberg, Jeff Jenkins, Uwe Kruger, Mark Cosgrove, Dan Crary, Clint Mullican, Alan Bibey and Beppe Gambetta

2011 Kamp Instructors (silly picture)

And here we are being silly. It was a couple years ago that we started doing a silly instructor picture. Don't know whose idea that was...

Casey Henry

I come to you yet again from the campus of Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee, where I'm teaching at Kaufman Kamp. It's my eighth year here (I think...it's a little hard to keep track...) and this year I got a promotion from banjo/mandolin/fiddle/guitar 101 instructor and slow jam leader to regular banjo instructor. For the first time this year I get to see all levels of banjo students and it is great!

Yesterday I saw the beginners and the advanced class. (I so want to call them the "advanceds." I don't think that's really a word but it should be.) I taught the beginners the high break to "Boil Them Cabbage Down" and then we vamped to it. I taught the advanced class a slightly obscure Earl Scruggs tune called "Silver Eagle" (he recorded it with the Scruggs Revue) and we vamped to that, and then talked about some little backup licks they can throw into their vamping to spice it up a little. Unfortunately "Silver Eagle" is not on any of the Murphy Method DVDs, so no potential sales there, darn it, but they all seemed to like the tune.

thumbtack banjo

Here's some impromptu bulletin board art that I noticed yesterday in my dorm while I was waiting for the elevator. I didn't make this thumbtack banjo, but I thought it was pretty cute!

Today I see two intermediate classes and, as usual, although I see them in a mere 75 minutes I have not yet decided what we're going to do. I typically make that decision once I see who is in the class and what they already know. I have some possibilities in mind, though, that include a high break to "Blue Ridge Cabin Home",  "Salty Dog," maybe some simple backup licks. You'll notice that all those choices ARE on the DVDs. I think people like to be able to take home with them the things that they've learned at camp. And I like them to buy DVDs, so that's a win-win right there.

It was three years ago, from this very dorm building, that I wrote our very first blog posts. In the three years since we've written about everything from banjo lessons and jamming to gigs and touring to mandolin bridge making and flying airplanes. You'll do doubt have noticed that we've lost a little steam in the last few months. We've gone from posting to every single day (how did we DO that??) to three days a week, to once a week if we're lucky. One reason for this is that we've already written a LOT about the topics relevant to teaching and learning bluegrass by ear, so we don't want to repeat ourselves. Another reason is that summertime is just SO busy it's hard to make the time to sit down and write. And as I pointed out to one of our students, no one pays us to blog, so everything we do that someone is giving us money to do (like record lessons and send out orders and play gigs and write magazine columns) gets done before blogging. But we certainly have no plans to discontinue blogging, so we'll keep on posting sporadically with news and tales from our playing and teaching experiences and we hope that you'll keep on reading!