Or worse, has anyone ever suggested to you that you know nothing about bluegrass music?
I can say from personal experience that, more often than not, listeners to my show on Sirius XM think I know way more about bluegrass music than I really do, and they proceed to ask me obscure questions about the music that I haven’t a clue how to answer. I try to explain that it may sometimes appear as if I know a lot, because I naturally talk about the things that I do know something about, and carefully steer clear of subjects that I’m ignorant of (e.g., Bessie Lee Mauldin’s favorite color, or the make of bus driven by The Bluegrass Alliance in 1972).
Imagine if a radio host decided to take the opposite approach, in effect advertising his or her ignorance: “That was Reno and Smiley with Barefoot Nellie. I have no clue where they got that song, nor do I know a thing about Reno and Smiley, and frankly I’m not that interested.” I suppose somewhere someone has had a show like this (and may still), but I wouldn’t recommend listening to it.
What we really need in bluegrass music is a systematic way to measure and quantify our bluegrass knowledge, say, on a 1 to 5 scale. The number could be easily arrived at after a person takes a standardized test. Then, I could just say to my listeners: “I wouldn’t know that, I’m only a ‘3’ on the BKS (Bluegrass Knowledge Scale).” Or someone could say about another person: “Don’t ask him. He’s only a 1.”
Here then, is a proposed bluegrass music test. Please consider this a rough draft, since it entailed only about 10 minutes of actual forethought and research. Perhaps an IBMA committee could be formed to revise it. Below will be a ranking system based on the number of correct answers. Note that the questions become more and more difficult as you proceed through the test.
Bluegrass Knowledge Test (please use a number 2 pencil, and place your completed test in the box at the front of the room labelled “Chiquita Bananas”):
1. Bill Monroe called his band “The Blue Grass Boys” because
- He owned a profitable grass seed business on the side
- He was from Kentucky
- “…and his Orchestra” was already being used
- The name of Bill Monroe’s band was actually “The Blue Cross Boys”
2. Jimmy Martin’s real name was:
- Clyde Moody
- John Deutschendorfer
- Jimmy Martin
- Theodore Roosevelt
3. When Larry Sparks left Ralph Stanley’s band to form his own group, he was replaced by:
- Tony Rice
- John Deutschendorfer
- Roy Lee Centers
- Gerald Ford
- Ralph Stanley
4. Molly and Tenbrooks are/were:
- A sister duo who toured with Uncle Dave Macon after their hit record Possum-eatin’ Dandy in 1933
- The accounting firm in charge of counting the IBMA ballots
- Two racehorses, one of whom died and was buried in a “coffin ready-made” (you just can’t get good coffins ready-made for a horse anymore)
- The wives of The Delmore Brothers
5. Earl Taylor’s band name was “Earl Taylor and…”:
- The Stoney Mountain Boys
- The Cumberland River Gap Ramblers
- IInd Tyme Out
6. On the tune Get Up John, Bill Monroe’s mandolin is crossed-tuned this way (low to high):
- G/G# D/D# A/A E/G#
- A/F# D/D A/A A/E
- A/A A/A A/A A/A
- 3/4 4/4 5/3 N/A
- It isn’t cross-tuned, it’s just out of tune because it’s a mandolin
7. The correct second half of the second line of the third verse of Old Home Place by Mitch Jayne and Dean Webb is as follows: “Well the girl ran off with somebody else…”:
- “The taverns took all my pay”
- “The tariffs took all my pay”
- “The sheriff took all my pigs”
- “The tyrants took all my hay”
1: B, 2:C, 3:C, 4:C, 5:A, 6:B, 7:A
Here’s how you rank:
If you answered 0 questions correctly:
You’re a 1: You know nothing about bluegrass music and don’t care. You just took the quiz because you have a lot of time on your hands.
You answered 2 or 3 correctly:
You’re a 2. You know next-to-nothing about bluegrass music. You might consider becoming a disc jockey, MC, or pursuing some other white collar bluegrass profession (if only there were any of those).
You answered 4 to 5 questions correctly:
You’re a 3: You know a lot about this music, but not enough to be annoying at parties.
You answered 6 questions correctly:
You’re a 4. You’re an expert. You’ve spent a lot of time listening to and absorbing information about bluegrass music. You probably have very few friends and are not very good at basketball.
You answered all questions correctly:
You’re not fooling anyone: You’re Neil Rosenberg, and why did you bother taking this test?
Well, there it is. If you got a high number, try not to rub it in our faces. If you’re disappointed in your performance, you’re permitted to take the test again next year. Or maybe rather than worrying about elevating your number, you could just learn to play the banjo, learn a foreign language, or go create some jobs.
The IBMA committee is forming as we speak.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Chris Jones wears many hats in his bluegrass career. In addition to leading his own band, with whom he tours and records, Jones is an award-winning broadcaster and songwriter.
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