Tag Archives: murphy’s misfits

Red Henry

This last weekend was the Murphy Method Banjo Camp, run and taught by Murphy and Casey. This particular camp was just for beginning players. The campers were all real good folks, and everybody had a fine time.

And so, what did Red, the aged, tottering, grizzled patriarch of the family, do for the weekend? As previously noted, he took care of Casey's baby, namely Dalton Henry, who is two months old and mighty cute. Even if he couldn't stay awake for Halloween.

I mentioned before that Dalton is a beginning banjo player, because he can't help it. But there's more he can't help doing too, over the next few years, which includes learning to talk. And how children learn that is HIGHLY relevant to learning to play music.

How does a child learn to talk? By listening and imitating people whom he hears. When you see the slogan "Talk to your baby!" it's important, because babies have to hear words before they can say them. A baby listens and listens before it learns to talk.

And would anyone say that a baby should learn to READ before it starts to talk? Of course not. That'd be ridiculous.

So what does this have to do with bluegrass? Only everything. If you're learning to make sounds (play music, that is), learn those sounds-- the notes-- BY EAR. Then practice. A lot. As Murphy says, "Listen, listen, listen, and play, play, play."

Don't try to learn to play bluegrass music from a piece of paper. Do you want to know what the notes should sound like? Yes. Can paper show you that? No.

Casey won't make little Dalton read before he can talk. That's not how people learn!

Take a hint.


Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Greetings from Florida! Our whole family is down here celebrating Red’s mom’s 85th birthday. Last night Casey cooked the most stupendous birthday supper for us, complete with an Italian Cream birthday cake. This morning she made poppy seed muffins. I could make this whole blog about the food that Casey has cooked, but instead will now turn my attention to telling you about the second jam with my newest group of Misfits.

You may recall that last time we had four students present: Zach, Judy, Randy, and Matt. This time Matt was sick (dare I say he was sick of learning “Boil Them Cabbage Down”?) but the others were present along with Kim and Bill on bass. Along with an audience of Zach’s parents, his aunt, and his little cousin.

Zach had had his lesson the hour before the jam and I took my requisite Nature break before we got started. This time when I returned to the room, the students were at least talking to each other. Or maybe it was just Kim, breaking the ice.

My goal at this jam was to get us through Foggy Mountain Breakdown. By now, everyone had learned it even though I’d just showed most of them the vamp chords a few days earlier. (I will have to say that my new idea to have the students actually memorize the vamp chords to these first songs is really working well. Wish I’d thought of that years ago.)

We started out with that tired and true favorite Banjo in the Hollow. (NOTE: did I just type “tired and true”?? Yes, I did! Hmmm, I guess, as my brother-in-law says, “Freud lives!” I meant, of course, tried and true!) Again, I had Zach kick off all the songs—rather than letting everyone have a turn--because, again, it adds some structure and consistency to the format. And he does such a good job. We followed that with Cripple Creek and Boil Them Cabbage. I wish I could report some fireworks or major meltdowns (just for the drama) but, from my point of view, everyone played very well. (I’m sure all of them would tell a different story!) No, they didn’t play perfectly, and yes, everyone missed a few vamp chords, and Randy did have to adjust the timing on his entrance to Cripple Creek (reverting back to his original version rather than the Earl Way he was trying to work in), but all in all everyone seemed to understand the gist of the songs and recover from their mistakes which is all I am ever looking for in a Misfit jam.

We skipped Cumberland Gap (which seems to always get short shrift) in order to get to Foggy Mountain Breakdown. After we played it slow, I turned Zach loose for a Very Fast Version which he managed to hold together until his third break when he rushed through that open fourth string note at the beginning of the D lick and ended up finishing before I did. I told him there was no prize for getting there first and he just grinned. He was playing his new Gold Star banjo and his playing has really taken a jump since he moved up from his starter instrument.

We had just enough time left to slide in I Saw The Light, which we did as an instrumental. So all in all, we got through five songs. And a great big Thank You to Bill, whose bass playing was a welcome addition.

I am so proud of all these students not only for the hard work they do on their own time, but for their willingness come to out and lay it all on the line (as the Kendalls sang in “The Pittsburgh Stealers”) in front of the other students. As the old gospel song says, “There’s no hiding place down here!”

And now it’s time for Casey and me (not I!) to take a beach walk. Wish you were here!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Last week four of my students participated in their first-ever jam. Each student has been playing for about a year and, amazingly enough, knows roughly the same songs. (Guess which ones?) They all have been introduced to vamping (F shape only, following my latest inclination to teach vamping that way first). And they all know I’m blogging about them! Zach and Matt are teenagers, while Judy and Randy are in what we might call middle part of their lives. Previous to the jam, they did not know each other, although Judy and Randy have back-to-back lessons and have played a couple of songs together as sort of a trial jam.

Zach had his hour lesson before the jam so he was well warmed up. Folks started coming in on the tail-end of his time and I told them to make themselves comfy while I took a short break. When I came back into the studio, everyone was sitting in the chairs I’d lined up but it was weird. It was completely quiet. No talking, no noodling. All four of them looked like deer caught in the headlights. Terrified is perhaps too mild a word.

As I got my banjo out, I assured them that everything was gonna be okay. That’d we’d play through the first song, Cripple Creek, all together so everyone could relax (at least a little) and no one would feel like they were on the spot. Then I had them practice their vamping together--which they all knew—while I played the banjo. Everything was smooth, so I put down the banjo and got out the guitar. They were going to fly solo.

I asked Zach to start, since he was already warmed up. My original idea was to take turns with the starting but everyone did so well with Zach leading off that I decided to let him start all the tunes and sort of preserve an order they could depend on. One less thing to worry about.

Everyone played the song one time through, and cleanly passed to the next person. In clear violation of my own stated policy (what are rules if not to be broken?) I told them that if they absolutely could not keep going when they messed up that we would stop and let them start again. This being their first jam, I thought nothing would be gained by having them sitting there, embarrassed, and not being able to recover from a mistake. That can come later. (The embarrassment and the recovering!)

They were lined up in this order, Zach, Randy, Judy, Matt, and for the first couple of songs we just stopped cold after Matt got done. Later on, I had Zach pick back up when Matt finished his break. But at first I was trying to make things as easy as possible.

We played though Cripple Creek, its sister song Banjo in the Hollow, then Cumberland Gap, and Boil Them Cabbage Down. Matt was just learning Cabbage, and didn’t quite have it down, so he just vamped. And seemed content to do so.

This was about the smoothest first jam I’ve ever been a part of. Of course they are all excellent, serious students who practice and do their part. But I like to think that I prepared them better than I have prepared students in the past. (Check out “We Are Jamming” from my book if you want to hear how my first-ever student jam went! I had so much to learn!)

One thing I am doing differently in my teaching is that I am encouraging the beginners to memorize those first few chord patterns. We’ve been starting with Cripple Creek and I show it to them a measure at a time (four beats) and get them to memorize it. Of course they are memorizing it WHILE THEY ARE PLAYING IT, which is considerably different from trying to memorize a chord pattern from paper. We talk about the “off” beat, find that, and then I tell them the first measure is GGCG and we vamp it. Then we do the next measure—GGDG—the same way. Then we put the two together. At this point, I’ve not even played the banjo with them. But now, I bring out the banjo and show them where to come in, and off we go! (Note: all these vamp chords are taught on the Vamping DVD!)

We learn the B part the same way, then put the two parts together. After they are comfy with that, then I show them how to come in after the vamping. (Leave off the last beat of G and get in there!)

I follow Cripple Creek with Banjo in the Hollow, because the A part chords exactly the same way. I used to think the B part was too hard to chord—CGCGCGDG—all that flipping back and forth between C and G, but the students seem to do fine with it. Boil Them Cabbage, Cumberland Gap, I Saw the Light, and Do Lord all follow and, so far, everybody is doing really well.

And this is the neat part: as some point they stop counting and start listening and hearing the changes. And you know I love that! I’ll keep you posted on future progress, but right now I am one happy teacher! Happy, girl, that’s me!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Okay, this is so funny I have to tell it first before I forget how it went.

So in the middle of “Old Joe Clark” I catch Logan yawning. After the song is over, I say something to him about being tired. Before he can even respond Bob Van barks, “What time did you get up this morning, boy?”

I immediately say to Logan, “Don’t answer that!” Because I know where Bob is going.

Logan, ignoring my advice (!), boldly says, “Four o’clock.”

I’m going like, “Way to go, Logan!” And everybody is laughing.

Then, Logan takes it a step further and says to Bob, just as brassy as can be, “What time did YOU get up?”

The rest of us are holding our sides with laughter. What happened to the quiet young man who usually shows up at the jam?

Bob says, “Quarter till four.”

More laughter. I figure Bob is just one-upping Logan in that oh-so-masculine way. Then Bob says, “My alarm didn’t go off.”

Susan, Ellen, Mark, and I are now hysterical with laughter. I’m thinking, “This jam is SO worth it!”

But Logan wasn’t done for the evening. Before our last song, “Wagon Wheel,” I was looking around for my piece of paper with the words on it. I asked Logan to look in a stack of papers that was near him. He came up with several pages of sheet music which he was looking at. Bob, standing nearby with the bass, could see them too.

“What kind of music is that?” Bob asks. (Like Logan would know.)

Logan answers, man-style, “Ukulele music.”

I’m thinking, “Huh?” (I actually thought it was music to “Loveliest Night of the Year” that a fiddle student had brought in.)

Bob goes, “How do you know that?”

Logan says, “Because I’m the Bluegrass Master!”

The rest of us burst out laughing.

Then Bob, obviously consumed with curiosity, says, “Now really. How did you know that?”

(And frankly I was wondering that too. I thought maybe it had some 4-string chord shapes in little boxes over the words and notes.)

Logan replies, “It says so right here on the music. For ukulele.”

So, the unusual tunes we played tonight were “Sally Goodwin” and “Old Home Place” (from the Easy Songs DVD—might as well get in a plug!)

Logan had learned the high and low breaks to “Sally Goodwin” (off Advanced Earl) and he did a great job. Susan (who was the inspiration for Logan’s learning it) and Logan haven’t gotten to where they can switch breaks yet—which is hard—so they just played everything they knew to play (AABB high, AABB low) and then we quit!

Interestingly enough, Logan was “hearing” the B part the same wrong way I first heard it, but we got that straightened out. I hope to blog further about my own trials and tribulations with “Sally Goodwin” when I find a good long stretch of time. (Which I used today to go Christmas shopping!) Right now Logan hates the tune (even after listening to Earl! Sacrilege!). I told him that I believe over time he’ll just learn to love it. And told him to listen to J.D. Crowe’s version. His next challenge is “Ground Speed.” He’s making noises about wanting to play professionally so we are Seriously Studying Earl. I’ll keep you posted! (He’s definitely getting the humor thing down! Which is essential for going on the road....)

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

I’d like to thank Logan for providing the humor in the following story.

So, we’re playing “I’ll Fly Away” with four banjos. We’re doing it as a singing song, as it is most often done in bluegrass. However, since there are times when it is done as an instrumental (usually by bands trying to stretch their material to fill out a Sunday morning gospel set), I teach both the verse and the chorus on the Amazing Grace DVD.

So Bob Mc kicked it off, playing both the verse and the chorus, and Bobby came in with the singing. Logan took the next break, playing only the verse, from whence the resulting confusion arose. Bobby, trouper that he is, jumped right in on the next verse, thereby averting disaster. Mark took the next break (improvising) and since Logan had muddied the waters, he didn’t really know what to do, so he played the verse, hesitated slightly I thought, and when I nodded, went ahead on with the chorus. Bobby sang another verse. Then Susan came in (improvising, and making good use of the “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arm” lick, I might add) and she played just the verse. Bobby sang an extra chorus and we were done.

But things had not gone smoothly, and I felt obliged to explain. I did it succinctly with four words: “It’s all Logan’s fault.”

Then I asked Logan if he knew what I was talking about. Actually he did. He said, “Bob played the verse and chorus and I just played the verse.” “Right,” I said, “Why did you do that?” And he said, “I thought he messed up.” I was dumbfounded. (But not so dumbfounded that I didn’t grab pen and paper and copy down what he said.) “So what did you think about the break Mark took?” I asked. “He’s doing it wrong, too,” replied Logan. Out came my pen again. “Do you want to write the whole blog, Logan?” I asked. Then I queried, “And what about Susan?” “She did it right.”

By this time everyone is hysterical with laughter.

Then Logan says, “But usually in a jam you just play the verse.”

And I said, “He does have a leg to stand on there.”

Then Susan says, “But what about the thing about playing your break the same way the first person plays it?”

And I said, “Yeah, that’s the leg he doesn’t have to stand on.”

I continued on with illuminating remarks: “Logan, you should have done what Bob did, even if you thought it was wrong.” And then I explained about the song sometimes being done as an instrumental, where verse and chorus are both needed. But I said, “In this jam, even when we’re doing it as a singing song, we’ll play both verse and chorus so you all can practice both of them.”

Also, I failed to mention, because I never thought of it, that if there are large numbers of pickers in a jam, sometimes the jam leader will indicate split breaks, simply by nodding her head at the next player after someone has played the verse. This would mean “go ahead and play the chorus.” Of course, you could misinterpret and play the verse again, but that wouldn’t be a big deal. Either the singer would start singing, or the jam leader would nod to the next person in line, and this time probably yell, “Chorus!” At least that’s what I would do. Or if I thought of it early on, I’d say, “Since there are so many of us, let’s split the breaks, verse, then chorus.” A little organization sometimes helps.

Remember, although there are conventional ways of doing things in a jam, none of this stuff is set in stone. There’s always room for improvising on the fly! Nevertheless, whatever that first person does, go thou and do likewise!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

As Yukon Cornelius says in that seasonal DVD Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, it wasn’t a fit night out for man, woman, nor beast. (I am paraphrasing, of course...) Still and yet, Susan, Bob Mc, Mark, Ellen, and Bobby Van braved the rain and fog and deer (not red-nosed, which would make them way easier to see at night!) to come jam. And a good time was had!

The quote of the night is from Mark. We were fixing to play “John Hardy,” and he was going to kick it off, so I told him to play it through twice. So what did he do? He played it through once and passed it to Bob Mc. Which completely threw Bob off stride and we ground to a halt. Train wreck! So what did Mark have to say? “In my head, I played it twice!” Priceless! (And to be completely fair, it wasn’t really Mark’s fault that Bob missed his entrance, even though Mark graciously took the heat. In a jam, you’ve got to be ready at all times to take the lead. What if somebody breaks a string? The song must go on!
Other numbers we did:

Cripple Creek

I Saw The Light

Foggy Mountain Breakdown

I’ll Fly Away

Sally Goodwin (played by Susan, who did an excellent job)

Mary Dear (sung by Bobby—same chord progression as Blue Ridge Cabin Home)

Lonesome Road Blues

I’ll have to commend Bobby on “Mary Dear.” The last time we did it, he ended the song before two of the players got to take breaks. That always makes me so uncomfortable when anyone gets left out break-wise, probably because I hate it so much when I get left out! So I had jumped on his case about that...I mean I gently explained that perhaps there was another way he could have done it. And by golly, tonight he kept singing verse after verse until everybody had taken a break.

Then I explained to everybody that when a song is that long and that slow, one way to handle the break situation is to split the breaks, with one person taking the first half and the next person taking the second half. I always like doing that because there is usually a little spark of connection between the two people making the trade off. Both people have to be alert and aware that this break splitting can happen. It’s just one of those cool bluegrass moves. Just one more reason to love this great music!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We were light again tonight, just Logan, Susan, Bob Van (on guitar tonight), and me, so we delved into some songs we don’t normally play: Mary Dear, Sally Goodwin, Earl’s Breakdown, Salt Creek, Little Cabin Home on the Hill, and the tried and true Lonesome Road Blues.

We actually started with LRB and when Logan missed the ending lick, I turned the mistake into a teaching opportunity. (He actually finished at the right time, on the right note, but he’d messed up the timing getting there and Earl’s ending on LRB is one of those things that just has to be played right!) So after a brief skirmish between Logan and me (Me: Wrong! Logan: No, it wasn’t! Me: Yes, it was! Bob: When will you learn to keep your mouth shut?), all three of us banjo pickers played it together, and sure enough, Logan was out of time. And Susan was bobbling a bit too, although she readily admitted it. So we played the ending through several times till we all were playing in perfect unison which always makes me happy, happy, happy!

Mary Dear and Little Cabin Home were new songs to Susan, and I am proud to say she improvised breaks to both of them. Were they perfect the first time through? No, they weren’t, but, by golly, they were pretty close, and she left the jam saying something like, “I think I’m beginning to see the light.”

We did Salt Creek because Susan likes it so much, and after we finished Logan declared that he did NOT like it. So, of course I said, “Well, in that case we’ll have to play it at every jam session!” He then declared that if we did, he would switch to guitar and practice his F chord. I said, “Fine.” Furthermore, he had the audacity to say, “Nobody ever plays Salt Creek anyway.” To which I replied, “And how many jam sessions have you been to?” Then he said, “Well, nobody has recorded it.” To which I replied, “Right. Only Tony Rice with J.D. Crowe, and Doc Watson, and Bill Keith with Bill Monroe.” Then I added, “Don’t mess with me, Logan. I know a hundred times more about this stuff than you do.” To which he replied something like, “Huh.” You can tell from this spirited exchange that we are, in fact, good friends.

Such good friends that he text-messaged me from school this morning. (They were on a field trip.)

From Logan: Murphy—can you play “nashville blues”?? earl does an awesome version but it sounds really hard.

From me: Yes. Not 2 hard. Have 2 retune.

From Logan: ahhhh is it played frequently? I may wanna learn it if it isnt too hard cuz i like it.

From me: Not played often. U can learn.

So when he arrived at his lesson, I retuned the banjo and played a little bit of it for him. He recognized that the licks were easy—standard Scruggs rolls—but he appreciated the fact that detuning is not something people like to do in a jam, and that the chords (in the key of D-minor) would be too hard for most jammers. So he cheerfully passed on learning Nashville Blues and we moved on to a guitar break for Lonesome Road Blues.

And you gotta love this: While Logan is taking his banjo lesson, Bob Van is changing the strings on Logan’s guitar, with strings that I have provided. And Logan is using Bob’s guitar to take the guitar part of his lesson.
It takes a village....I’m thinking free tickets for life to any concert Logan ever plays!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

Before I tell you about the jam (we had nine people total!) here is a note from Marty, emailed under the heading “Martin’s Musings”.

Halloween in my neighborhood is always a zoo. Because I was afraid my cat would get out with the frequent door opening required for the hundreds and hundreds of kids that come by, I decided not to waste the time and just sat on the porch with a bowl full of candy (that I had to repeatedly refill) and played the banjo. I got 2 1/2 hours of practice and everyone who came seemed to like it and I had to play with others listening. That turned out pretty good. I figured if the kids could pretend to be ghosts, goblins and witches, I could pretend to be a banjo player.

He does have a way with words! (And can now vamp reliably on the off beat!)

But on to the jam. Present tonight were Logan, Mark, Ellen, Bob Mc, Josh, Susan, Bob Van, and the Fabulous Ruth Steelman. I saw Josh bring his fiddle in, so as I was rushing around trying to find chairs for everyone, I stuck my head back in the studio and said, “Everybody put their capos on so we can play in A,” thinking that would be easiest for Josh. Well, as it turned out, Josh had spent all week learning to play our tunes in G! But after all those banjos (five!) had capoed and tuned, it was just too much trouble to uncapo and retune, so we stayed in A.

Our song list (all in A):

Cripple Creek

Blue Ridge Cabin Home (“Can you sing that in A?” I said to Bobby. “We’re gonna find out,” he replied.)

John Hardy
I’ll Fly Away
Boil Them Cabbage
Old Joe Clark
Old Joe Clark (really fast by Logan and Ruth)
Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Wagon Wheel

I told the group we’d do “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in A just so I could see Bobby try to find the F# minor! (And durn if he didn’t hit it perfectly the first time!)

A good time was had by all and at times we laughed ourselves silly, but I’ve been teaching non-stop since 2 pm, it’s now 9 pm as I write this, and I haven’t had my supper. Or lunch. (Unless you count Starbucks and a cookie!) To paraphrase Woody Guthrie, “I want my supper and I want it now!” I’m thinking Triscuit and cheese...unless I scramble some eggs and make toast with homemade apple butter. Hmmm....decisions, decisions!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We had four banjos at the jam tonight, one guitar, one mandolin, and no bass, Bob Van having decided—again-- that it was more important for him to go to a Trustee’s meeting at his church than play with us. Present were Mark, Ellen, Bob Mc, Susan, Logan, and Josh, who was apparently not scared off by us last week but came back for more!

Our song list:

Cripple Creek
I Saw the Light
John Hardy
Two Dollar Bill

At which point I decided not to sing anymore because it was killing my voice since these songs are all too low for me in G and singing over four banjos is hard even if they are vamping as quietly as they can, and Bob Van is supposed to be doing the singing anyhow.

So next we did:

When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder (as an instrumental)
Lonesome Road Blues
Old Joe Clark

And finished off with “Wagon Wheel” on which I had to sing because I had told Ellen, yes, I could sing and play the fiddle at the same time. Which I did, but it wasn’t pretty! Ellen, however, kindly waxed ecstatic when the song was over, saying, “I was sitting here in between the fiddle and the mandolin and I just felt....” At which point I added, “Like shooting yourself.” To which Josh, on mandolin, shook his head up and down and grinned in agreement. Then Ellen said, “No! It was wonderful!” And Josh looked at me and said, “Easy audience.” And I agreed! That’s the best kind!

I cannot say we were playing our best tonight (which I totally blame on the absence of the bass) but we did have some good moments such as when Mark and Susan ended “Old Joe Clark” up the neck together in perfect sync and when Logan inserted a bit of “Yankee Doodle” into the middle of the up-the-neck break to “Lonesome Road Blues.” He stole it from Earl, of course, who did it in “Bugle Call Rag” but I’d never thought of using it in LRB! Good move, Logan! Logan also played some nice guitar leads to “Old Joe Clark” and “John Hardy.”

As you may know, Casey starts her three-week tour with The Dixie Bee-Liners tonight (Thursday, the 29th) in Raleigh. I hope you all will be able to see the band somewhere along their route. They do a great show and have some terrific original material and a wonderful new album, “Susanville.” If you do see them, feel free to post your impressions in the comment section of the blog. Red and I plan to see them at the Birchmere on Monday, November 2. If you’re there, come up and say howdy!

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

We had some new faces at the jam tonight. Joining Bob Van, Bob Mc, and Susan were Josh, on mandolin, and Bill on bass. So with Bobby on bass, we actually had “stereo” basses.

With this combo we did:

A five song medley to start with: BITH, CC, Cabbage, FMB, and John Hardy. (This of course was hardly fair to a nascent bass player so for the next song we did....

Blue Ridge Cabin Home



When the Roll is Called Up Yonder


I’ll Fly Away

Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms

And we ended with “Lonesome Road Blues” since Ellen wasn’t here to lead us in “Wagon Wheel.”

The phrase “Big Chess Game” came up, compliments of Josh, when we were talking about “Willow.” Bobby asked if he should start with the chorus. I said, “You’re the singer. Start wherever you like. We’ll follow you.”

Then I explained (not for the first time) that in a jam you have to pay attention to what the singer is doing. If Bobby started with the chorus would he:

(a)        expect someone to take a break after that or would he

(b) sing the first verse and then another chorus and expect someone to take a break after that?

At which point Susan said, “You have to be a mind reader!”

I said, “No, but you have to be alert to possibilities.”

To which Josh replied, “It’s like a big chess game.”

So after Susan’s kickoff, Bobby sang “Willow,” starting with chorus/verse/chorus, gave a break to Bob, sang another verse, gave a break to Josh, sang a third verse and ended the song. I told Susan if I had been playing the banjo, I would have been hoping that Bobby would sing another verse or another chorus so I could get TWO breaks. Susan said she was glad to only get the one. Bobby said, “Just catch my eye anytime you want another break. I’ll keep singing as long as anybody is picking!” I said, “I’d be catching your eye and pointing at myself going ‘Me! Me!’” (But of course that was all hooey. When I was starting on banjo, I did want all the breaks I could get, but was way too Southern to put myself forward like that.)

After we played “Circle” we examined some of the thinking that was going on. There were only two lead players here: Susan and Josh. And “Circle” can have as many as four verses. So, when Bobby finished the third verse (I will follow close behind her...), I’m thinking, “Will he end the song here, since Susan, who kicked off the song, has already taken two breaks, and Josh has had one, or will he leave a space for a break and then sing a fourth verse?”

As it turned out, he wanted to sing the fourth verse. (Bobby: “I’ve worked hard to learn those words so I want to sing it every chance I get so I won’t forget them!”) So I gave the nod to Josh, who jumped right in on a second break. (Josh  plays enough on his own to be familiar with the jamming ropes, even if mandolin isn’t his primary instrument.) He took the break. Afterwards, I asked him what he was thinking. He said he, too, was wondering how many verses Bobby would sing, and knew he might get the nod to take a break. See? You’ve got to stay on your toes all the time!

Before I close, I have to brag on Susan who improvised a break to “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” I was so proud of her! “How did you feel about it?” I asked, which drew a laugh. She said, “I felt good! The Method works!” I said, “Well, it helps that you have practiced so much and of course the jam sessions really help.” (I’m thinking now of Field of Dreams—maybe since I saw it again on TV recently—and the phrase, “If you build it, he will come.” The ol’ leap of faith....) Sometimes you’ve just got to believe.