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

  • Randy Gregg

    Why are the choices numbered 1 through 5 (or 6) but the answers are designated A through F? I didn’t pick any of those letters, so I guess I got them all wrong.

  • Chris Jones

    Sorry about that, Randy. I had letters originally, but it ended up being published as numbers. They’re trying to fix that. An extra curveball, I guess.

  • Chris Jones

    It should be:
    1:5, 2:6, 3:3, 4:1, 5:2, 6:4, 7:5

    Confusing enough?

    • Chris Jones

      The answer key is fixed now.

  • So is the #1 answer to#6 just an urban legend? I’d like to hear more about this in a fiture artocal.

    • Donald Teplyske

      I just assumed that #6’s answer was truly #1 and Chris just hasn’t had time to correct his error. NI wonder if there is any truth to the rumour that upon the occasion of his first intimate experience with a woman, Mr Monroe stated, “And now we’d like to do a number for you called the ‘Muleskinner Blues’”.

  • Alisha-Bear

    Your “scale” is certainly accurate! I got a 4, and yes, I listen a lot and absorb a lot. And, yes, I have very few friends. And, no, I cannot play basketball. And, yes, I am VERY annoying a parties!! Bingo Chris!! 🙂

    • Chris Jones

      I’m proud of you, Alisha. Basketball skills are overrated.

  • Ralph Schut

    Oh no, I thought I was in India, now I seem to find my new found rosy self in Newfoundland? More confusing than the questions themselves 😀 I always knew us Europeans were freaks when it comes to theory . . . I loved the comment on the lack of red meat in your diet – at least that’s one thing that won’t happen to me any time soon 🙂 Cheers Chris, I love your blog!

  • Michael Prewitt

    Well, I got 8.5 questions correct.
    Oh, wait a sec, Neil (you know, Rosenberg) just called me with a common misconception about Earl Taylor, I’ll get back with you after I get him straightened out…

  • janice brooks

    in the middle here. I goofed on the Lawson question

  • kenneth schroeder

    I can’t believe I got 6 out of 7.WOW I must be a bluegrass genius and I don’t even know who Neil Rosenberg is. I do have to admitt I guessed at 3 of them, but that’s what got me through high school.
    Keep up your great work.Just love “Bluegrass Junction” especially the classic section on Fridays and Sundays.
    Thanks Chris, your the best.

  • Michael Abrams

    In an interview with Bill Keith, on the Tony Trischka site, Keith says Monroe said “New York has the worst donuts.” Do you have some counter evidence that the story is only myth?

  • Chris Jones

    Don T.and Michael A. , I put the Monroe bagel answer as #4 on purpose, because at least I’ve heard Bill Monroe say that. The bagel story is strictly bluegrass urban legend. I’ve never heard it quoted the same way twice, so who knows what he said, if anything. You’ve got to have at least one or two trick questions on a test like this, otherwise everyone would be Neil Rosenberg, which would be confusing and awkward.

    Michael P., was that the Earl Taylor who used to play with the Beatles?

  • Dick Bowden

    Chris, once again you have failed to include the ULTIMATE bluegrass trivia question, and I’m getting impatient for you to include it!

    Who was the Blue Grass Boy Bill Monroe introduced as “he’s from the state of Maine, and he’s a wonderful trouper!”

    i. Fred Pike
    ii. Jimmy Cox
    iii. Roland White
    iv. Clarence White
    v. Tim Sample
    vi. Al Hawkes

    Of course, EVERYONE knows Monroe introduced another Blue Grass Boy, “he’s the onliest Blue Grass Boy from the state of Westconsin, Mark Hembree!”

    You gotta know this stuff, you know. The names of all the Blue Grass Boys, and the state they’re from…

  • Chris Jones

    I’m going with Roland White on that. Next year, we should get really challenging and ask what position Jim Shumate played on the Blue Grass Boys baseball team. Remember our theory that Birch was the 3rd base coach?