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JUST PLAY!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

We just got through playing a pleasant, informal performance with our friends David and Scott. It was quite a contrast to the usual stand-up gig, where we'd have a listening audience and play through a sound system (which we'd have to provide). Instead, the four of us were sitting together under an awning on a large deck, in the midst of a private party at a big lake-house. We were scheduled to play three sets like that. Simple to play? Yes, in a way, but the whole gig provided an illustration of how experienced musicians play together.

Murphy played banjo and Scott was playng guitar, and he and Murphy shared most of the lead singing. They sang songs covering quite a bit of ground, from Reno & Smiley to the Stanley Brothers to Bill Monroe, and a few old gospel songs as well.

David and I switched off on mandolin and fiddle. But I hadn't played much fiddle in a few months. This meant, for one thing, that I needed to get back in practice on fiddle right there while playing it-- I was a bit rusty at first, but I just played, and waited for my proficiency to come back. And by about the second set, it did. Did my rustiness matter? No, it didn't, since few people in the crowd were really listening, and even those were not musical experts.

This brings up a good point: When you're playing music in public, even if you don't think you're playing well on a particular day, JUST PLAY. Just KEEP GOING. Very few of the people listening will be able to tell that you're out of practice or having a hard time playing, unless YOU signal it to them. And they don't want to listen to someone who is obviously uncomfortable playing, either. So just enjoy what you're doing, or act like it, and the listeners will never know your music isn't as perfect as you'd like. JUST PLAY.

And also, when people aren't paying much attention, don't let it bother you. Don't let the lack of applause get to you, especially if you're in an easy performing situation, like ours. The people will like what you're doing, and you're not hired, in a case like this, to put on a show. You're there to provide bluegrass music in the background. JUST PLAY.

Part way through the show, David and I decided to trade instruments. I handed him the fiddle, and before I could get out my mandolin, he handed me his own that he'd been playing-- a 1923 F-5, with somebody's signature on the label. This is fun.

So I just played the mandolin for a while, and then more fiddle, and all four of us had a good time (I certainly didn't have to act that part!). We ended up the last set with Scott singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" (the old hymnbook version) and Murphy singing "Travellin' That Highway Home". And then we did indeed travel the highway home. I wish every gig I'd played was this easy!

Red



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www.murphymethod.com/red2.html

Playing Since: 1969
Interests:
[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 www.murphymethod.com/redbridge.html) 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 www.murphymethod.com .

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