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Flying and Picking (4)

Friday, January 22, 2010


Red Henry
Red Henry

Well, folks, on our Murphy Method blog (  ) Murphy contributed a 'picking and flying' column yesterday, about Earl Scruggs's great tune "Groundspeed", and I figure I'll continue the trend. Thinking about Earl flying around the country in his nice twin-engined airplane reminded me of an anecdote I've heard about Earl and Doc Watson.

Now, if you are flying an airplane in the clouds, or any time you can't see, you're flying on the instruments. This is because nobody's sense of balance is good enough to tell, if they can't see outside, whether the airplane is upside-down, or rightside-up, or in a dive, or a climb-- your sense of balance will fool you, every time. After a minute or so your body begins sending you false signals, and the airplane gets out of control. But I heard of once when someone was able to fly straight and level without seeing anything, and it wasn't a pilot who did it.

This story may not be true, but it ought to be. The story is that Earl took Doc Watson up in his plane one day. Of course Doc cannot see, but he has a mighty good sense of physical touch and coordination. Well, Earl flew the airplane up high, leveled off, and then turned the controls over to Doc for a while. It turned out that Doc, without being able to see either the world outside or the airplane's instruments, was able to keep flying straight and level.

Now folks, that's phenomenal. I never heard of anybody else being able to do it. But if it was anybody, it would have been someone like Doc, who'd never touched an airplane's controls before but is the best guitar player in the world.

And like I said, if the story's not true, it ought to be!




Flying and Picking (3)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 1 comment

Jan. 13th, 2010-- Solo Day!

Thursday, January 14, 2010 3 comments

Flying and Picking (2)

Friday, January 8, 2010 1 comment

Flying and Picking (1)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 2 comments

Learning from Bill -- By Ear!

Saturday, December 19, 2009 2 comments

Allen Shelton: BAND PLAYER

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 1 comment

Students-- and Teachers!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 5 comments

Good "Lesson Manners"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 6 comments

Your Teacher Will Know!

Friday, October 16, 2009 2 comments

A Trip to the Mountains

Thursday, October 8, 2009 3 comments

A Local Jam Session that Works

Monday, September 28, 2009 4 comments

No Excuse!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009 1 comment

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Playing Since: 1969
[Teaching] [Jamming] [Socializing] [Helping]

Occupation: Musician

My Instruments:
Past banjos:
S.S. Stewart Thoroughbred open-back, 1969-1973;
Epiphone Alhambra with Mike Johnson neck, 1970-1981;
Gibson ball-bearing Granada with Mike Johnson neck, 1973-75;
Fender Concertone, 1973-76; (Yes, I wish I had them all back);
Present banjos:
1937 TB-11 which I converted in 1978 with a Ryan ring and my first H&F 5-string neck (my daughter Casey has this one now, and she put
a Huber ring in it);
H&F Mastertone copy I made in 1984;
H&F Mastertone copy I put together in 2005

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Created 11/14/2007
Last Visit 10/11/2020

I started playing mandolin in 1967 and banjo in 1969. Spent 4+ years 1970-75 in the Air Force, flying C-141's.

Much of my career since then was with our Red and Murphy bluegrass band, led by myself and my wife, the talented picker, teacher, and writer Murphy Henry. From 1975 to 1986 we performed music full time, touring extensively in the United States and in Canada. Murphy and I have produced seven LPs and four CDs. These include my first mandolin CD, "Bluegrass Mandolin and Other Trouble", a father-and-son CD with my son Christopher, entitled "Red and Chris", and a new mandolin CD, "Helton Creek." All three CDs received excellent reviews in the bluegrass trade publications, and "Helton Creek" made the 'Best of 2007' list in "Bluegrass Now" magazine, as well as receiving excellent reviews in "Bluegrass Unlimited," "Bluegrass Breakdown," and "Vintage Guitar."

During our full-time Bluegrass years we appeared at bluegrass festivals from Florida to Winfield, Kansas, to Nova Scotia, on many TV shows including TNN’s "Fire on the Mountain", NBC’s "Today Show", and the PBS "Natural Bluegrass Jam", and also on numerous radio shows including "The Liberty Flyer".

I also built 10 banjos, 1978-85, all Mastertone-style with Steve Ryan or Bill Sullivan tone rings, and all on Bill Sullivan rims except for three conversions (a TB-11, a TB-2, and a TB-3). In 2007 Murphy brought the last one I made home again when she contacted the owner, bought the banjo back, and gave it to me for Father's Day (walnut neck with H&F inlay, Bill Sullivan rim and tone ring, chrome-plated hardware with Presto tailpiece) .

In the last five years I've been making one-piece maple mandolin bridges (see the bridge page at and am marketing them on line. I'm experimenting with banjo bridges as well, but have not produced a marketable model because all banjos seem to like a slightly different bridge for their very best sound.

Since 1987, Murphy and I have concentrated on running our family business, the Murphy Method, offering by-ear bluegrass instruction. We started out in 1982 with tapes for banjo, but have since expanded to cover all the bluegrass instruments. Check our site at .

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