Tag Archives: susan

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

As some of you may know, our musician friends David and Linda Lay host a jam session every Thursday night at their Vegetable Stand on Route 522 North in Winchester. (Shout out: Organic fruits and veggies and grass feed beef! Check ‘em out!) Susan had gone once or twice last year and sent in a blog report. She was Very Brave to go (since she’d only been playing a little more than a year) and found the experience “challenging” to say the least. (There were also some good parts.)

The past few months she and I have been working hard on jamming protocol: how to look up after every chorus to see if you are going to get a break, what the heck IS the chorus and how do you distinguish it from the verse, how to be alert for the upcoming ending. She is making Great Strides and things are Coming Together.

So, last Thursday she went to the jam again. Her first words in an email (subject line: I Did It!) were: I suggested a tune ("I Saw the Light") at the Vegetable Stand Jam, kicked it off with a banjo break, then vamped to Linda Lay's singing of the tune!

She followed that energetic opening with:

I got there a little after 7 and left a little after 8, with my tune being the last one I played. I stood up and vamped and rolled chords to every tune that was played and knew most of them or had heard them at Nancy's jam.

When I asked for more info like what key did Linda sing in and the names of some of the tunes she replied:

Since we had just played a tune in A, I asked her if she wanted G or A; she said that she couldn't sing in either of those keys and laughed. But by that time, I had basically kicked it off in A, so in A she sang. What was so cool, is that up until that time the "audience" just sang along limply to the tunes  that they knew. When we started “I Saw The Light” the crowd really started to sing with energy and volume!

As to other keys, for the hour I stayed, the tunes were in G and A (capo second fret, of course). No C or D or E, however I did see something that I'd never seen before: a man playing guitar, capo 3, using the E-chord shape as G!

I knew it was going to be a good night when they kicked the jam off with "Fireball Mail," but I didn't take a break due to it being a hair too fast for me. Also, being the first song, I needed to settle in a little.

Names of Tunes ?!?!?!?! Was I supposed to remember names of tunes ?!?!?!?! I recognized them, that was about all—"I'll Fly Away" was one. These folks like to sing a lot of gospel stuff which is why I suggested “I Saw The Light.”

Anyway, you may call me Earl Scruggs! a.k.a. Susan 🙂

And there you have it! Susan, I am so proud of you and all the “grunt” work  you have put into learning to jam. Way to go! Other students: Go thou and do likewise! <G>

Murphy Henry

Murphy Henry

This from Susan, one of my Wednesday night Misfits:

I survived my first REAL jam session! My terror and anxiety were definite obstacles, but I stuck it out 'til the end! I knew NONE of the tunes. The jammers played standing up, mostly in the key of A, and definitely up to tempo. Since my anxiety dropped my IQ by at least 50 points, it took me about 45 minutes to calm down enough to think in any useful manner.

The first 45 minutes consisted of me only being able to think of moving my Key of G vamping chords up two frets. Vamp-vamp. I did not like the sound. Vamp-vamp, too high for my taste, vamp-vamp, but what to do? Vamp-vamp-vamp. New unfamiliar tune. Darn. Vamp-vamp. Oh, no, the guitar player I am following is confused about the chords, and I can't see any other guitar player's hand. Vamp-vamp. OK, move to another position so I can see a guitarist's hand. Move, vamp, move, vamp. Hope no one can actually hear me! Vamp-vamp.

Okay, just LOOK like you know what you are doing, hands in a position that LOOKS legitimate and facial expression relaxed. Vamp-vamp-vamp. Hold it! The Key of A!!! All I have to do is capo up 2 frets and play Key of G shapes! YES!!! Clamp on the capo and touch up the tuning and then relax into familiar territory.

WHAT?!? Is that an A chord I see him making? Oh, no! Now what? I only know G, C, D, F and E minor! Fantasy: Bang a guitarist on the head with my banjo and snatch up his guitar (which I've played for years) and nail EVERY chord known to man on the thing just so that I don't have to feel so incompetent! Back to reality: Think, THINK, T H I N K -- an A chord....... gotta be on this banjo somewhere......... Hmmmm. GOT IT! Bar the 2nd fret! Yes, anxiety must be subsiding somewhat. I'm beginning to remember the alphabet! WHEW!!!

Okay, let's get just a quiet roll going, nothing fancy, just stay on the correct chords and keep the correct timing. Timing. Are the jammers OFF or am I OFF. Hmmmm, timing has rarely been my issue in music, but, hey, I COULD be OFF, I guess. Still not sure, but I think that they are OFF!!!! How am I supposed to follow THAT?!? New unfamiliar tune. The guitarist I am following decides to call it a night. Here we go again. Where is someone I can follow? That guy over there looks like he knows what he is doing. He sees me watching his fretting hand like a panther getting ready to pounce. He quickly changes from first position chords to bar chords, just to throw me off, no doubt. (Or is that just me being paranoid?) Ha! You can't shake me off so quickly. I can follow those chords just as easily! And so the jam goes. I played no hot licks, just felt licked, until next Thursday when I try it all again.

[OR NOT, since Susan just signed up to attend Augusta Heritage! Where there is plenty of “real” jamming!]

Post script, jam details from Susan: There were around 18 people, mostly men. 1 mandolin, 2 fiddles, 1 bass, 3 banjos, 11 guitars. I didn't know any of the tunes/songs, so I can't list them. I did not know any of the players, however one lady did show up with her guitar that I knew from the dulcimer jam group, and we did talk awhile.

Post post script from Murphy: When talking with Susan about this jam before she attended she said, “I’m looking to be terrified again.” Guess she was right! It takes a lot of bravery to do what Susan did and I am so proud of her!