2013 Bluegrass Knowledge Test

Chris JonesWell, it’s that time of year again (isn’t it always?).

I really had no follow-up to that statement; it just seemed like a snappy way to begin this column. It’s at least safe to say that it’s a time of year again. It’s that awkward post-holiday time. A time for paying bills without money, a time for finding yourself a year older and not an hour richer . . . Excuse me, I’m suddenly quoting Ebenezer Scrooge.

What it really is time for is our annual Bluegrass Knowledge Test, which I’ve been promising and failing to deliver now for weeks, possibly months.

This is a tradition that began over a year ago (or it will be a tradition as soon as we do it more than once), in which we try to test and quantify our knowledge of bluegrass music.

You may have forgotten exactly how the BKS (Bluegrass Knowledge Scale) works. I forgot how it works almost immediately after I made it up. Fortunately, it was archived, so you’ll find it pasted below. It will either be that or my Aunt Nellie’s pumpkin bread recipe from 1948 (I don’t always label these things correctly when I save them).

We decided after much deliberation (four minutes) to rank bluegrass knowledge on a simple scale of 1 to 5, based on how many questions were answered correctly. Here, from the last test, is the key to what each number ranking means:

If you answer 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 answer 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 answer 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 answer 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 answer all questions correctly: You’re not fooling anyone: You’re Neil Rosenberg, and why did you bother taking this test?

A note about that last classification: if you think you might be Neil Rosenberg, but are unsure, look around you: Are you on the rocky shores of the Atlantic? Are you surrounded by warm and friendly people with an accent you wish you had? Is it a half an hour later than anywhere else in North America? Is there a brutally cold wind outside? Chances are, you’re in Newfoundland, and you are in fact Neil Rosenberg. Would you consider signing my Music of Bill Monroe book? Thanks.

After you finish the test below, simply refer back to the key above. If you took the test the last time, you may find that you’ve improved your ranking. On the other hand, perhaps your score will be lower than before. This may be a sign that your knowledge of bluegrass music is slowly slipping away. This could be the result of listening to jazz, or it may just be a lack of red meat in the diet.

Here then is the Bluegrass Knowledge Test, 2013:

  1. Before the term “bluegrass music” was coined, what was the music called?
    1. Zydeco
    2. White Bebop
    3. Henry
    4. Picky-picky, singy-singy
    5. It wasn’t called anything


  2. Since Jimmy Martin passed away, who has since claimed to be heir to the title of “The King of Bluegrass”?
    1. Bobby Osborne
    2. Jimmy Martin Jr.
    3. James King
    4. Jody King
    5. Prince Charles
    6. None of the above


  3. Blue Moon of Kentucky was written and recorded by Bill Monroe. What famous pop singer had the most well-known cover of the song:
    1. Justin Bieber
    2. Tom Waits
    3. Elvis Presley
    4. Bette Midler
    5. Prince Charles


  4. Hylo Brown is:
    1. A bluegrass crooner, known for his two-octave version of The Prisoner’s Song
    2. A bluegrass crooner, known for his three-octave version of The Banana Boat Song
    3. One of the color’s in Martha Stewart’s paint catalogue, that falls in between “chestnut soufflé” and “braised sienna.”
    4. A utility infielder for the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
    5. Inventor of the first soft-shell instrument case made entirely out of marshmallows


  5. The original name of “Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver” was:
    1. “Doyle Lawson and Mercury”
    2. “Doyle Lawson and Foxfire”
    3. “The New Quicksilver”
    4. “Doyle Lawson and His Merry Band of Stout Yeomen”
    5. “Doyle and Them”
    6. “The Country Gentlemen”


  6. When Bill Monroe ate a bagel for the first time he said:
    1. “That’s the chewiest doughnut I ever ate, and it ain’t a bit sweet”
    2. “Oy! I send you out for bagels, and this is what you bring back?”
    3. “That’s the soggiest bagel I ever ate. Are you sure this isn’t a doughnut?”
    4. “And now we’d like to do a number for you called the ‘Muleskinner Blues’”
    5. “I believe I’m going to write a tune for the mandolin called the “Everything Bagel”


  7. In the song Pretty Polly, Little Willie goes to the jailhouse and announces, “I’ve killed Pretty Polly and I’m trying to get away,” because:
    1. The jailer and his staff were known for being extremely slow and not that bright
    2. Little Willie, for all his other personal flaws, could run a two minute mile, and just wanted to taunt the law
    3. Little Willie, in addition to being a deeply insecure sociopath, was also really, really dumb
    4. In 18th century northern Ireland, where the song is thought to have originated, a “jailhouse” actually referred to either an outhouse or a post office
    5. Your guess is as good as mine


That concludes our Bluegrass Knowledge Test. We’ll take this up again in January (or maybe March) of 2014. I hope you were able to bring your BKS number up this past year. If not, I still like you, but stop calling my show to correct me about stuff.

Answers:  1:5, 2:6, 3:3, 4:1, 5:2, 6:4, 7:5