Tag Archives: shows

Chris Henry

This weekend, I had the opportunity to go to Connecticut with some of my best friends to play at a church in Greenwich. On Friday night, I had a late gig up near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, and got back to Nashville past midnight. The alarm was set for 5:15 so we could get to the airport by 6:30 to catch our flight. I put on my three-piece suit and red tie, which is my uniform of choice these days, and Mike Bub picked me up about 5:45am. We went to get our favorite fiery fiddle, Shad Cobb, and met Brad Folk, formerly of the band Open Road, at the airport. We flew into LaGuardia, getting there about 1:00pm.

Keith Reed, also of Open Road and now bluegrass professor at Colorado College, met us at the airport. He had gotten a call from his wife's best friend's husband, Kevin, who is the music minister at the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich, asking if he could put together a band to play for their spring concert series. Keith's a great banjo picker and well-connected fellow and we were all looking forward to the trip even though that particular configuration of pickers had never all played together at the same time.

Shad, Bub, and I play a lot together in Nashville. Brad and Keith played for years together, and Brad and I have done a few shows together, so we were all confident that we could find the common ground and pick out some tunes and it would all work out. We all love traveling with Bub, who is a seasoned veteran and pro road-dog. He always seems prepared and is very resourceful, as well as being full of great stories to amuse everyone from his thirty plus years in bluegrass. Between Bub and Brad there were already a whole lot of laughs.

When we got to Greenwich, we headed straight to the church to check it out. It was a beautiful old granite building with a large, wooden, sanctuary featuring some of the finest stained glass windows I have ever seen. They had a gigantic pipe organ, which Kevin plays, behind the alter.

At that point we were all starving so we went and had a bite to eat at a local diner where Kevin joined us. After a good visit there, we headed back to the church for sound check. We were using just one mic, a large diaphragm condenser that Bub had brought, for all the instruments and vocals. Since it was such a great sounding room, that was plenty of reinforcement.

After deciding on "Pain in My Heart" as a good number, we launched right into it and from the get-go, we knew that the music was going to work out. Brad started singing and the grass was driving fine. Bub added the baritone and I added the tenor on the chorus and we had a powerful bluegrass trio and we were aces into the fiddle solo. Shad dug in and started stomping his foot and he rendered another heaping helping of the nail biting, intense, flawless fiddling. We got through another verse and chorus fine and then the only glitch was during the mandolin solo. Because there were no monitors, it was hard for everyone to hear exactly what was going on on some of the leads. I lifted the mandolin up to the microphone and charged impetuously out on the front side of the beat to play my break, and the beat ended up turned around because I had hit the gas so hard on it. Growing up picking with Mom and Dad, and Casey on the bass, I never had to think about where I was putting the beat because we were all so accustomed to the surging nature of leads that our family band played. I hadn't considered that we weren't playing in a circle where everyone can hear exactly what and where everyone else is playing. I was a little frazzled, but didn't say anything. We finished up all together and packed up the SUV and left for our lodging quarters.

We drove through some beautiful million-dollar neighborhoods and got to the residence of Steve and Sandy Waters who were part of the congregation. They had offered to put us up for the night - a generous and brave couple! They warmly greeted us and showed us each to our rooms and I took the opportunity to get some rest because I was already exhausted from the night before and traveling. Steve has one of the best collections of Yankee baseball memorabilia and in my room were great autographed pictures of different moments including Don Larson's perfect world series game.

I thought a long time about the mandolin break and what had happened, and why. I felt frustrated because I didn't feel like I had the communication skills to appropriately address the issue, and thought it was interesting that no one else said anything about it either. After a couple of hours of meditation on it, I figured it would be a good strategy to back off from where I frequently feel the leading edge of the beat to stay on the safe side. The rest of the guys spent the afternoon lounging and laughing in the Waters' back yard by the pool and I got some rest.

About 5:30 we were treated to a wonderful supper and had a good time visiting with the Waters discussing topics of local interest all the way to political fundraising. Mr. Waters had gone to Harvard Business School with Mitt Romney and it was neat to hear him talk about the presidential candidate as being just like he remembered him in school. It's unusual for us to be dining with folks who have ties to that world, so that was fun. It was the first time I can remember eating supper and having bread with a little plate for dipping olive oil like in fancy restaurants. We usually put butter on the bread, but I liked their way a lot too.

We finished up about 6:15 and Brad and I started tossing around numbers that we thought would come off all right, as well as a couple of gospel tunes we thought the folks would enjoy possibly singing along to. Bub, who has has so much experience with off-the-cuff stage shows, was confident we didn't need a set list, but Brad and I were a little nervous about the prospect, so we went ahead and dialed one in as well as we could.

When we got to the church, Kevin led us up to the music rehearsal room inside the large, four-story church complex. We hit a little bit of "Roll on, Buddy" and again felt good that the set would go well.

I went down to the sanctuary a little early so I could set up my computer to video the show. We were hoping to get some good footage in case we could use it for future bookings. There was a modest crowd seated already with more folks filing in.

Kevin gave us a nice introduction and Shad started us off on the fiddle with Old Joe Clark. It's a great tune, everybody knows it, it's up-beat, and has easy access to three-part harmony. They loved it! We were off to a good start and rolled through the set doing mostly traditional material. I sang "Walkin' West to Memphis", and Mike Bub took a great break on the bass. Keith expertly rendered a great version of "Sledd Ride" and that got a rousing response. We brought it up and slowed it down three or four times trying to vary the material as much as we could but still sticking to a good quotient of hard-driving hardcore bluegrass. Other numbers included "Close By", "Roustabout", "Voice of My Saviour", "The Luckiest Man Twas Born", "Sally Goodin'", "Rank Stranger", and we ended the set with a gospel medley of "I Saw the Light", "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", and "I'll Fly Away". They gave us quite a nice bit of applause before we took a short break.

After stepping off stage, we all agreed we were happy and relieved that things had gone so well and had a glass of water after stepping outside into the courtyard for a few minutes. Kevin advised that we back away a little bit from the microphone because it was overdriving the system a little bit. That's a problem I have had for many years. Since I grew up playing and singing into a dynamic microphone, like an SM58, I never had to worry about overdriving the system and it was business as usual to be an inch or closer to the mic. With the larger diaphragm condensers, they are so sensitive that it's fine to stand a few inches or more away from them while singing and they'll pick up everything just fine.

We didn't plan out the whole next set because by that time were were confident we could pull it out of our back pockets. We played for another 30 minutes or so and ended up with a short version of "Orange Blossom Special" and invited the crowd to a reception with coffee and some snacks.

We were pleased to meet so many folks who hadn't seen much bluegrass and the responses were all very positive. I felt great that we had been able to pull it together and bring a good show to many folks who had never seen bluegrass live. When we had shook and howdied till all the folks left, we cut a trail back to the house, where I was happy to get back and relax.

The next day we went back to the church and met up with some of the folks in the choir who were having a picnic and we followed them out of town a little way to one of the congregation's lovely home and picked for about twenty minutes, had a good lunch, and sold about ten CDs. Since I do so much live streaming from my shows in Nashville I was happy to have a good number of 5X7 cards with all the contact information on them in case they want to tune in sometime to the show. We met a lot of nice folks and then cut out about an hour before we needed to be at the airport. We dropped Shad off at the Delta terminal and had good time visiting with Keith before catching our flight back to Tennessee.

So now, about 30,000 feet above probably somewhere like Kentucky or southern Pennsylvania, I'm writing this blog to share with you another adventure in the life of a bluegrass musician. We were able to rely on the core base of the music we all knew to put together a good show, pretty much on the fly, and spread the good gospel of bluegrass to Greenwich, Connecticut. I hope we can come back to pick again!

I just wanted to share a picture with all of you. This was taken when Chris and I went over to a Frank Wakefield concert at Garrett Park, Maryland, several weeks ago. I had no idea this photo existed until a day or two ago, when I found it on Frank's Facebook page. Click on the pic:

...as you can see, we were having quite a time. Or, to "talk backwards" and put it in Wakefield-ese, Frank and "Leeroy" and "White" didn't play no music. We didn't have no fun. And you can't see it right in this picture!


Red Henry

Folks, I haven't blogged yet this week, and there's a good reason: You, our Murphy Method customers, have responded so well to our ongoing telephone sale that I haven't had time in the morning to even write a few paragraphs. If you are looking for a gift for your Murphy Method family member, remember our special price of 4 DVDs for just $75.00! Murphy Method DVDs are a great Christmas gift for yourself, too! Take a look on our site to see what you'd like to order, and call us toll-free at 800-227-2357. The sale runs for 8 more days, until Saturday, Dec. 13th!

Our band (Murphy, myself, Christopher, and Cousin David) is going out this afternoon to play the first of this year's Christmas parties. This is a large party held at a local church, and we're looking forward to playing music. A good time will be had by all!

Red Henry

I'm just back from Hiawassee, Georgia, where I was one of the judges at the Georgia State Fiddlers Convention. There were contests for fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, Dobro, and other instruments, so we did probably 15 hours of judging over two days.

The judges, along with contest MC Barry Palmer and friends, played a set of music each day-- after all, since we were judging the contest, we needed to show that we could play! Our Saturday set went real well (no surprise, since the five people on stage probably had 150 or 200 years of professional musical experience between them), and afterwards I was talking with Chuck Nation, another of the judges, about how much fun our set was. Chuck expresses himself very well, and he commented about playing in a band: "The difference between amateurs and professionals, is that amateurs are competing with each other, and professionals are helping each other." Well said!

I've talked about it before on this blog, but Chuck's comment really put it down plainly where we can understand it. If you're playing in a group-- on stage or off-- are you listening? Are you trying every second to help the BAND (not just yourself) sound as good as possible? Are you playing so as to support the other musicians, not just to make yourself sound good? Your level of proficiency doesn't matter, and plenty of people who can play well don't play in a professional manner, in this respect!

You may be an amateur player, but you can play in a professional way. Think about it.


Red Henry

Again this year, for I-don't-know-how-many-years-in-a-row, we set up a booth for the IBMA Fan Fair. The Nashville Convention Center was a busy place, with plenty of bands, dealers, instrument makers, and fans on hand for the weekend. After Lynn Morris won an IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award (see Casey's post just below) and her husband Marshall Wilburn was voted Bass Player of the Year, we were especially proud to be offering Lynn's clawhammer-instruction DVDs and Marshall's bass-teaching DVDs as well.

Red Henry at the Murphy Method IBMA booth.

Red Henry at the Murphy Method IBMA booth.

Casey and I and our friend, festival promoter Patty Pullen, were our on-site staff for the weekend. Folks were picking up Murphy Method DVDs all across the board-- banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, and Dobro too. It was a good weekend for us, and it was great to see so many of our DVDs going home with our Murphy Method students, many of whom we met this weekend for the first time.

A special highlight of the trip for me was watching Casey playing banjo for the Dixie Bee-Liners in their showcase set on Friday. The room was full, the band was "on," and the music was Mighty Fine. (They'd played some showcases after midnight earlier in the week, but I didn't manage to stay up that late!)

I ought to send some special thanks to Bob Fehr and the Martin Guitar folks for setting out so many nice new guitars for people to play-- there was a particularly-amazing "sunburst" D-28 that showed how Martin is making them as well as ever-- and also to Stan Werbin of Elderly Instruments, who invited me to play the A-5 mandolin. (More on that later.)

If you've never been to IBMA, you might like to be there sometime. Think about it.


Red Henry

Last Saturday I had a good time playing music with family and friends in the gazebo. And, you may ask, just where is that particular gazebo? Well, it's some distance from here. It's on the town square in Clarkesville, Georgia. And, in spite of some rain, we all had a good time.

The band for this occasion included, along with myself on mandolin, my old friend and now brother-in-law Mike Johnson, on banjo; Murphy's #3 sister (and Mike's wife) Argen Hicks, on bass; Murphy's #4 sister, excellent singer/songwriter Nancy Pate on guitar; and our friend, multi-instrumentalist Barry Palmer on fiddle. What did we do? We just played music. Well, we did run over some numbers at Argen and Mike's house beforehand. That was fun, too. Then we went over to the middle of town and set up at the gazebo and played our first set.

Now, I've talked before about how good it is when people are really playing together. This can happen immediately, as is did at that party I talked about a few days ago, or it can happen because everybody listens and adapts. On this particular day we had a group that hadn't ever played together before, and I think we all played with slightly different natural rhythms. When we started practicing back at the house we sounded a bit loose, but by the time we started up at the gazebo, we sounded pretty tight. So how did this happen? It happened because everybody there was a very experienced performer and knew what to do. Everyone was listening and adapting to everyone else, one song after another, and in a short time we were really playing together well.

You don't have to be a professional picker to do this. You don't have to have played for 20 (or 30, or 40) years to listen to everyone else and adapt to their rhythm and play what sounds good.

As soon as you are able to play in a group, you can start listening to the other pickers (in fact, those two things go together). You can start listening to the other instruments and to the vocals, and follow your ears in trying to play (or not play) things that help the whole group sound good. If there's a banjo or guitar player drowning everybody out you usually can't help that, but if that player is YOU, then you can. Whatever instrument you're playing, try to play steadily and supportively to the others. (Sometimes this means scarcely playing at all, during other leads or vocals.) When it comes time for you to take a lead, think about it ahead of time-- stop playing for a few beats if you need to, to set up your hands and brain to start playing the break at the right time-- and then keep listening to the rhythm while you're playing your lead. That way, whether you're playing lead or backup, you'll be playing together with the others. And that can help them do the same thing (more on that later).

Happy picking!


Red Henry

The title for this blog may seem strange, but it's pretty important. As I mentioned before, Christopher and I played a party Saturday night before last, and we had two fine musicians with us-- Mike Munford and Ira Gitlin. All four of us fit together perfectly, and our band dynamics-- making the instrument leads stand out, putting the vocals out front, adapting the backup every moment to make the lead sound its best-- were excellent.

During our first set break, Ira commented on this. He knew how rare it is for everybody in a band to be paying attention and always playing so as to make the lead instrument or vocal sound its best. He knew how very often, even with good musicians, the guitar player will be showing off his fancy bass runs, or the harmony singers will pay little attention to the lead singer, or the lead singer will be drowned out by a banjo player who's playing lead all the time, all over everybody else's vocals and instruments. But the four of us were playing TOGETHER-- not just playing the same song at the same time, but listening to each other and playing together. And it was good.

You can pay attention to this too, whenever you're playing music with other people. Is someone else singing a song? Make sure you're not the one drowning him (or her) out. Is somebody else playing a lead break? Listen to that person, and play some gentle backup as appropriate to make the lead sound good. LISTEN all the time, and do whatever your ears tell you to, to make the music always sound as good as it can. That way, you won't be just playing the song at the same time-- you'll be playing it together.

Red Henry

You know, there are some things in early bluegrass recordings that are impossible to beat. One of our favorites is on Flatt and Scruggs's early version of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, where the whole band (except for Earl) is playing the "wrong" chord.

Let's review the chords in FMB: you start out with eight beats of G, and then you go to an E chord for a certain number of beats. Nowadays, most folks change to an E-minor chord for four beats, to match what the banjo is playing. That's how Murphy teaches it, because it's what almost everybody plays now. But on that old Flatt & Scruggs record, the band plays SIX beats of E-MAJOR! It's a wild and woolly sound. It's incredible. It's a hair-raising moment. It's lions and tigers and bears...

Murphy and I have played FMB with that 6-beat E-major chord for over 30 years. The first time we played FMB that way was at Diamond Jim's, a bar in Gainesville Florida. When we heard how the E-major sounded, we both about fell off the stage. Oh, my.

Not many other people play Foggy Mountain Breakdown that way. However, Christopher and I found a couple of people who do, when we were playing for a party in Baltimore last Saturday night. I was playing mandolin. Chris was playing guitar. Our band for the evening was a couple of outstanding area musicians, Mike Mumford on banjo and Ira Gitlin on bass. And guess what? When Mike kicked off FMB and hit that first E chord, EVERYBODY went to the E-major chord. For six beats. Automatically. It was a wild and woolly sound. It was incredible.

Listen back to that old Flatt & Scruggs record a few times, and then try it yourself. It's great. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Red Henry

We've had some requests in the last few years for us to make our old Red and Murphy and Co. LP records available again. In this day and age, we plan to post the tracks for inexpensive download on our website.

Here's a look at our band. We played bluegrass full-time for 11 years, mostly around the Southeast in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, but also playing festivals up the Atlantic seaboard as far as Canada.

This photo of Murphy and myself with her singing-and-songwriting sister Nancy dates from 1979 (There's a lot of nostalgia here. Those were 'tight' times. By the end of the recession in 1981-2, most of these instruments were gone!):


-and this one is of our big six-piece band in 1985 (Tuck Tucker, Bill Baker, Bob Higginbotham, Nancy Pate, Murphy, and myself):


These are the seven LP albums we made in the olden days, and the year each one was released. (The albums all featured a lot of original material, and as you can tell from this list, most of them were named for one of Murphy's songs!):

"Riding Around on Saturday Night"
, 1977

"Fast Picks and Hot Licks", 1978

"Pall Mall Reds", 1979

"My Everyday Silver is Plastic", 1980

"I Ain't Domesticated Yet", 1981

"Just Remember Where You Could Be", 1983

"Real Time Reel", 1985

-and in addition, we produced two family band cassette tapes by Red and Murphy with their Excellent Children, Casey and Chris:

"Granny Don't Dance", about 1994

"My Dixie Home", about 1995.

As I mentioned, we'd like to post this music on our site so that it will be easily available. That's the plan, and we hope to be moving on it this year. So this is just a "heads-up" for all you Red and Murphy fans out there, that some Mighty Fine bluegrass music is going to be heard for the first time in a long while!


Red Henry

Red Henry

Folks, I just thought you'd like to see this photo of Red & Chris and Their All-Star Band performing with Dale Crider at the Florida Folk Festival a couple of weekends ago:

(Pickers: Jenny Leigh, Chris Henry, Barb Johnson, Dale Crider, Red Henry, John Hedgedcoth.) As you can see, we have a good time playing music with Dale. That's because he's such a great performer with plenty of charisma on stage, and his shows are always unpredictable. Dale's an entertaining MC, and he's liable to bring out lots of his original songs, and he may put a song in a different arrangement or in a different key from the last time we played it. He may even change into a new key, or change the tempo from 3/4 to 4/4 in the middle of a song, so we have to be on our toes. So enjoy this action shot!