The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 7


Friday Nights with Wisdom
By Bill Moffett

One of the jams?” The person I was chatting with reacted with astonishment when I suggested that a good way to meet other old-time players would be to attend one of the regular jams in the region. He had just moved to the area. “We haven’t been able to keep even one going,” he lamented about his previous community.

The Philadelphia area is blessed with several old-time jams, each having its own flavor. You can spend many Sundays in Malvern, Tuesdays in Chestnut Hill or Somerville, New Jersey, Wednesdays in Lambertville, New Jersey, and Thursdays in West Philadelphia. But Friday nights belong to Bill and Fritzi Wisdom in Bryn Mawr, whose old-time jam has been going for over a quarter-century. . . .

A Few Words of Wisdom from Bill and Fritzi: How to Start and Maintain an Old-Time Jam

1. Have a regular meeting time once a week. That way people don’t have to wonder whether or not there’s a jam on any given Friday.

2. Have a big enough space.

3. Encourage people to come and go when they want, to bring a friend, to bring tape recorders to help them learn the tunes, and to suggest tunes (which they may, but don’t have to, start).

4. Encourage both instrumental and instrumental-vocal tunes.

5. Encourage everyone to join in the chorus of songs, and those who know some verses to alternate singing with others who know verses.

6. Encourage non-musicians to come and sit in the back to listen, if they want.

7. Encourage a spirit of fun—jokes and (short) stories are allowed.

8. Discourage solos--we want as many people as possible to be able to join in the music.

9. Insist that people name the tune they want everyone to play, rather than just launching into it.

10. Establish communication with neighbors and others who may be affected. Early on, we sent a letter to every neighbor within earshot and to the local police, explaining what we were doing, and inviting them to join us. We included our phone number, asking them to call us if parking faux pas or excess noise bothered anyone.

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