Mr. Jimmy is my son’s banjo teacher. We love Mr. Jimmy in a way I cannot easily express here on the written page. The man is a what you are picturing “a banjo teaching Mr. Jimmy” to be. He wears the same pair of jeans and the same t-shirt every week. We named his t-shirt the Monday shirt because our lessons are on Mondays and he’s always wearing it. One week we rescheduled for Thursday and Mr. Jimmy had on a different shirt. No belt. Hikes up those jeans every time he stands up. Over 70 years old. Has foot problems, so he goes barefoot in the house. Dips. As in keeps his spit can on the floor next to his chair so he can lean over and spit his dip juice from time to time. Clean shaven and neat. Hard of hearing. Writes out music by hand – in tableture form – and gives it to my boy for practice.
Probably, just maybe, one of the best banjo players living currently. Earl Scruggs is the Godfather of three finger picking. Hubert Davis learned banjo from Earl Scruggs and Mr. Jimmy learned banjo from Hubert Davis. Met Earl Scruggs. Travelled the country. Made it as a professional banjo player. And now teaches little guys like mine in his old age.
The whole reason I am telling you about Mr. Jimmy is because of who he is to my sons. Our lives are just better because of our Mondays with Mr. Jimmy. Every week when I pull up in that driveway, Mr. Jimmy stands on his porch, waves to us, and yells out, “You bring me a banjo picker? Is that my Kelly? I ain’t heard no good banjo pickin’ since y’all left me here last week!” And Kelly beams.
“Come play me a tune, Mr. Kelly Belly! Those girls gonna be chasin’ you in no time! Momma, those girls chasin’ Kelly here yet? Gonna be no time at all, he gonna have ’em after him with his banjo pickin’.” “How you doin’ Key (that’s my older son that comes to read and listen most weeks). You doin’ all right?”
My boys look forward to seeing this man every single week because he is encouraging, respectful, and joyful to be around. He shares music with these that will carry music into the next generations. He builds them up. Engages. Is present for them. Shares wisdom through his interactions. The man makes them feel good about themselves. If only all teachers could do these things.
I mean, “You don’t want them gettin’ flusterated. They won’t want to keep goin’ if it ain’t fun no more. Gotta give ’em somethin’ from the start to feel good about. Start ’em with a song. That way they can feel good and have something to play. Those books, they start with all those scales and stuff. It ain’t no fun. And then they quit. No, I want don’t want Kelly gettin’ no flusterated. He’s a right good little banjo picker. Ain’t ya’ Kelly? You a good banjo picker? Course you are!”
I mean, is there a better way to start the Mondays? I really don’t see it to be possible.
Especially if you’re Kelly.