Blue Yodel #9: Ask Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants

Welcome to the new and smarter Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants! With this installment we introduce Guest Artist With a Clue, Reader Questions, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, contests, prizes, and actual bluegrass facts.

Guest Artist With A Clue

Our first guest artist is fiddler extraordinaire Megan Lynch, who has won the Weiser National Fiddler’s Contest six times and plays with Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis when she’s not teaching fiddle at every major music camp, including her own.

Megan asks, “Which legendary fiddle player (bluegrass, country, or other) is also a legendary skateboarder, actually holding for a brief time a World Record in skateboard high jump?”

Place your answer in the comments section below and the first to get it right will win free downloads from the new Megan Lynch & Ned Luberecki Christmas album – now available in iTunes. Second prize is a standing ovation and signed photo by Mr. BGSP. Third prize is that capo you lost last Tuesday.

Reader Question

You can ask Mr. BGSP a question below in the Comments section. He will either answer it immediately or get back to you in the next column once the possum entrails have cooled.

Today’s Reader Question comes from Tony Bentley who asks:

Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

Who was Stringbean’s tailor early in his career?

Dear Tony,

Stringbean (David Akeman), whom Bill Monroe called “Stringbeans,” was an influential early country artist whose low-rider blue jeans set the tone for fashion forty years before the hip-hop fad took off.

The answer to your question is more than likely Nudie Cohn, the famous Nashville tailor for the Grand Ole Opry stars. The story goes that Stringbean tried on Little Jimmy Dickens’ pants one night at the Opry as a joke and wore them onstage. It became his signature wardrobe.

My favorite musical quote is from Stringbean. Talking about the banjo, he said, “There’s no money above the fifth fret.” He was also a fine ballplayer on Monroe’s baseball team.

 

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

A shout-out to Donald Teplyske of Alberta, Canada, who pointed out in Blue Yodel #8 that there is in fact a Banjo Bowl, a game played annually between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.

This is the description found in Wikipedia:

The Banjo Bowl moniker was coined by Blue Bombers board member David Asper in early 2004, inspired by an infamous comment made by Bomber’s placekicker Troy Westwood in the week prior to a 2003 Western Division Semi-final game between the two teams. Westwood was quoted in the media as saying that people from Regina were “a bunch of banjo-pickin’ inbreds.” He later apologized half-heartedly for those comments, saying that “the vast majority of the people in Saskatchewa have no idea how to play the banjo.”

 

Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

How come all bluegrass instruments are girl-shaped except the banjo?

—Single in Seattle

Dear Single in Seattle,

Before 1943 all bluegrass instruments were boy-shaped. The banjo is the only one that did not evolve into a higher form. This was in the days when the Blue Grass Music was a matriarchy led by Sally Ann Forrester. Sally Ann’s real name was Wilene “Billie” Forrester, but Monroe called her Sally Ann on stage so the audience would not confuse her with Bill. In retribution, Sally Ann played the accordion.

 

Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

I just graduated with a degree in the Blue Grass Music. Now what?

—Back Home in Indiana

Dear Back Home in Indiana,

There are many career options for those who have earned advanced degrees in the Blue Grass Music. The larger Blue Grass firms actively recruit partners at festivals and slow jams. However, there is a secret handshake and code word that you must know in order to be hired.

I am not at liberty to divulge these, but it was probably given to you in that sophomore-year class, “Kick Off Your Blue Grass Career” that you slept through. Starting annual salaries are in the high five-figure range (~ $539.21).

We do have room for a freelance fact-checker with Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants. The internship will cost you $500, but you’ll get lots of exposure—mostly to bug bites and road food.

 

Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

What is the best name ever in Blue Grass?

—John Doe

Dear John Doe,

Tough one. I would vote for either Ira Gitlin or Moondi Klein. Although a singer named Flatt is hard to beat. J.D. Crowe is the coolest name ever because it just is.

 

Be sure to make a guess at Megan’s question and let us know of any questions you may have (real or imagined) in the Comments section below. See you next time and remember—Keep your Smarty Pants On!

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at www.chrisstuart.com. On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.

  • Daniel Mullins

    I’ve got a good one for you Mr. BGSP! This is a tricky one.

    Q: Who was the first person to play dobro on a Bill Monroe record?????

    Good luck!

    • Dear Daniel,

      Great question. I had to put the “brain capo” on for this one, which means I cheated and Googled it on the Interweb. Can it be true that no one before BARBARA MANDRELL in 1984 played dobro on a Bill Monroe recording. He really did think it was no part of nothing, then.

      What’s interesting too is who the second dobro player was to play with Monroe. Anyone know?

      • Haha. That is one of my favorite bluegrass trivia questions. Most people would assume Uncle Josh, because even though Monroe LOATHED the instrument, I’ve heard (as have others) that he actually liked Josh’s playing of the instrument. That’s why I’m going to guess that Uncle Josh Graves was the second resophonic guitar player. I mean, he is second best to Barbara Mandrell! Hahaha. Jk jk.

        • In 1985, Mike Auldridge played dobro on “Remember the Cross” on the Bill Monroe and Stars of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame album.

          I’ve heard something recently that leads me to believe that Monroe wasn’t as anti-Dobro as we’ve assumed. I’m checking with the source again.

          • Nice! There is a great Two-For-One CD set which includes the Monroe albums Bill Monroe & Friends as well as the aforementioned Stars of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame album. It includes BOTH of these recordings of Monroe with dobro work by Mike Auldridge and Barbara Mandrell, as well as the Father singing with such great artists like Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, Waylon Jennings, The Country Gentlemen, Johnny Cash, and MORE! It’s a great set to add to your collection, and features some really special recordings.

  • Alvin Blaine

    Is it really a guess if I know the answer to Megen’s question?
    OK I’ll take a “guess” and say Mark O’Connor.

    • Dear Alvin,

      Congratulations! You win the Megan Lynch/Ned Luberecki xmas download! I’ll have Megan get in touch with you.

      Yes, it was Mark O’Connor. HIs 1990 album “On the Rampage” is composed of tunes all having to do with skateboarding.

      Thanks, Alvin!

      -Mr. BGSP

  • fdwil111

    The skateboarding fiddler was Eck Robinson who also invented the skateboard! He was a noted whittler and made the first skateboard from a pinetree. He declared himself a champion and only 90-years later was he challenged for that title.

    • Alvin Blaine

      I heard he was wearing a Confederate soldiers uniform when he road his skateboard.
      Is there any confirmation on that?

      • Alvin Blaine

        The above typo should be rode not road.. If I were to turn off my spell check it would probably be worse.

    • Dear Fred,

      You get major style points for this answer, so you win second prize! A standing ovation and signed photo of Mr. BGSP, suitable for storing in the garage.

      I think Eck taught Benny Thomasson to skateboard and Benny taught O’Connor.

      -Mr. BGSP

  • Stewart Evans

    I guess the answer isn’t Casey Driessen, but it should be. I mean, you tell me who looks more like someone who would play the fiddle while skateboarding, O’Connor or Driessen?