Chris Jones – Reader Mail

It seems that I have again stirred up a firestorm of controversy with the last two or three columns about certain kinds of private engagements. I guess if I’m honest it’s more of a smoldering campfire of controversy than a firestorm, but we’ve just been through a harrowing political season in which all controversies are automatically referred to as “firestorms of controversy,” so it seemed like the thing to say.

Whatever the legal classification of the controversy may be, let’s just say that a few people were bugged by some things I wrote. They told me in fairly blunt terms in the emails below.

After I discouraged bands from playing the annual convention of the NAAHS, the North American Association of the Hyper-Sensitive, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear from the president of that organization:

 

Dear Mr. Jones,

I read with dismay your column last week in which you discouraged bands from playing at our annual convention, going so far as to suggest we are so uptight that we would be offended by the lyrics to bluegrass songs.

Speaking for the more than 62 members of NAAHS, I find your suggestion insensitive, uninformed, and hurtful to our membership. 

I think it’s really sad that you would encourage bands to play the conventions of organizations that do nothing but shower you with money, food, gifts, and even physical attention of a romantic nature, but would shun worthy and serious groups like ours that are devoted to a legitimate common interest. I have to ask myself: what kind of shallow hedonists are you musicians?

(note: I had a ready answer to that one, but she seemed to be asking herself, so I let it go)

And by the way, I do find bluegrass lyrics violent and offensive. Before you brought it up, I had never listened to the words at all. The songs just sounded happy to me. Thanks for ruining it for everyone.

Very disappointing, Mr. Jones!

Sincerely, 

Lucinda Krabkow
Interim President, North American Association of the Hyper-Sensitive
“That’s Not Funny!”   Since 1987

 

Dear Ms. Krabkow,

Does this mean that our booking for 2013 is off? Just checking.

All the best,

Chris

 

Then there was this, from a musician who felt that I was potentially costing him work:

 

Chris,

I was really bothered by your previous column which cast a negative light on playing exactly the kinds of gigs which are our bread and butter (last week we were actually paid in bread and butter). My band, “Lonesome Turnip,” plays over 100 conventions a year. The rest of our work is made up of a handful of gigs, that range from weddings, funerals, a small weekly gig we have at a local candle shop, and a recent KFC grand opening. All of this work is important to us, and  to have you putting it down is insulting and has put us in a bad position with some of our potential employers.

I just got off the phone with the president of the Pork Eaters Alliance of Kansas (PEAK), and I had to reassure him that we still plan to play their convention this coming spring, that we still respect their organization, and that we still like pork products. 

If this kind of work dries up, I may have to go back to grinding out a living playing bluegrass festivals, cruises, and arts council concerts. It’s not a pretty picture.

Mark Waterville
Lonesome Turnip 

Dear Mark,

First of all, if you read my column last week, you’ll see that I was actually encouraging convention work, just guarding against a few organizations that I’d had some bad experiences with.

It is true that I discouraged bluegrass bands from playing conventions in general two weeks ago, but let me make an important point here: This is a humor column (or is supposed to be). This means that much of what I say shouldn’t be taken literally or even seriously. In case you hadn’t figured it out, the organizations I referred to last week, like the Association of People Who Love Showering Bluegrass Musicians With Money, aren’t real (too bad). And, if we want to get technical about it, you aren’t even real, and our exchange is not actually happening. It’s all a dream. You’ll probably wake up in about an hour and realize that you just missed your flight 4:20 flight to Pittsburgh. I’m sorry, but you only have yourself to blame.

Your imaginary friend, Chris

 

Finally, I wasn’t surprised to hear from one of these guys:

 

Mr. Jones,

I’m the recently reelected president of the Association of Grumpy Old White Guys (AGOWG). I read your little column last week, and I thought it was pathetic. Sorry to be blunt, but I no longer care what anyone thinks, if I ever did, so I guess I’m not really sorry. 

 If you don’t want to play our convention, that’s just fine. We didn’t like your band anyway. You were too expensive, you spent too much time at our buffet, and I don’t know what you call that music you were playing, but it sure wasn’t bluegrass! I know that’s true because there hasn’t been any real bluegrass played since Jimmy Martin left Bill Monroe’s band in the early ‘50s.

I’ve hated all your columns, and I’ll be looking forward to hating next week’s.

Yours truly,

Johnny Heisskopf

 

Dear Johnny,

Does this mean that our 2013 booking is off?

Chris

 

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving

  • Lisa Jacobi

    Hey Christopher Jones- Great timing on these essays. They are a real help. Our band Playing On The Planet could use a little more of your expertise:

    This week we were approached by the Georgia Distillers and Bootleggers Association to play at their 2013 convention. We won’t be told the location until the night before. And since we can’t compute travel costs without knowing the mileage involved, should we try to cover the unexpected expense by padding the amount we WILL spend on black spray paint for our bus headlights — and of course the paint remover?

    GDABA is excited about using a bluegrass band this year, but we won’t be receiving “play for food” benefits… which for any bluegrass band is unheard of. Apparently we are replacing the Reggae band that they booked last year. That band was a total bust because they hardly ever got out of their smoke filled VW Camper Van — and when they did, all they wanted to do was hang out at the food buffet. Can you offer a strategy to right this wrong? Should we avoid using our band acronym POTplanet?

    Finally, as you and the Knight-Riders know, it’s not easy using conventions as a way to make those festival booking paychecks stretch from weekend-to-weekend. So thank you for these weekly column of yours, they are an inspiration to bands everywhere. Have you ever thought about trying your hand at humor-writing?

    your friend,

    LxoJ

  • Chris Jones

    If I can just correct you, that’s “Knight-Ridder,” not “Knight-Rider” My stepmother gave us that name (she was in the newspaper business, although she worked for Gannett).