I just have to brag on one of my mail order students that I met for the first time last week. Matthew is twelve years old, will be thirteen in May, and has been playing since he was seven and a half. His parents told me that he has worked a lot off the Murphy Method DVDs and videos. He was coming for a lesson so I could show him how to play the high part to “Randy Lynn Rag.” When I told his mom that we actually have that on video (More Advanced Earl) she said they’d buy the video but would come on up anyway so Matthew could meet me.
And what a pleasure that was! I am old enough to appreciate a well-mannered young person and Matthew certainly was that. He was polite, friendly, a little shy perhaps, but still easy to talk to, and he didn’t have a bit of that preteen attitude! He was dressed nicely in his dark unfaded bluejeans, black cowboy boots, and a belt with a great big silver buckle. He was playing a Stelling Red Fox with many signatures on the head.
But best of all was hearing him play. The first song he played was not one I had taught. It was “Midnight Rambler” from Steve Sparkman’s Stanley Style Banjo DVD. Even with all the work Matthew had put in on the Murphy Method tapes, his sound was pure Stanley! And he has a killer right hand. He anchors two fingers behind the bridge and pulls that great, treble-sounding Stanley tone. He also played “Kicking Mule” and “Daybreak in Dixie.”
We worked on the high part of “Randy Lynn Rag” which he picked up quickly, and also on the tuner part. That was a little harder and even I kept flubbing it up since I don’t play that song much. At the end of the lesson, our son Christopher came in to play some mandolin with us and Matthew showed him a couple of tunes he’d learned off of Chris’s Bill Monroe Mandolin DVD. Matthew closed out by playing yet another tune from Steve Sparkman’s DVD, this one with the strange title of “Booger Mule.” He played the heck out of it.
Next to Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley is my favorite of the pioneer banjo players and I felt happy knowing that Matthew was carrying on the tradition! You go, Matthew!
[Note from Casey: I LOVE "Booger Mule"! I learned off of Steve's CD (can't remember which one at the moment) and play it often. I've often thought about recording it when I make my next banjo album. And I'm definitely getting that DVD.]