2020 Bluegrass Knowledge Test

It’s our annual quiz week. Before we begin, though, I’d like to rewind to Christmas Eve. The scene is a typical American household, but with an important twist: Little Billy and Lila are tucked all snug in their beds, but they can’t sleep. Their father checks in to offer some reassurance: “Are you having trouble sleeping? I was exactly the same way when I was your age: too excited about Santa’s arrival.” Lila, the more precocious of the two, replies, “Oh Dad, we’re not thinking of Santa Claus, though I’m sure he’ll bring us some nice things and all; we just realized it’s almost January, and Bluegrass Today will be running the annual Bluegrass Knowledge Test, and this year we’ve both really studied hard. Did you know that Sonny Osborne started playing banjo with Bill Monroe after, not before Rudy Lyle? Or that Bill Clifton was Dixie Hall’s sponsor when she immigrated to America? I think this is the year I’m going to get ALL the questions right and be classified as ‘Neil Rosenberg.’ I REALLY think this is the year, Daddy!” The father, trying to conceal his concern about how these children were raised, replies, “I understand. The test will be here before you know it. Meanwhile, there’s Christmas to celebrate, and Santa might skip our house if the children in it are still awake, consumed with the fine points of bluegrass trivia. Goodnight, kids.”

Well, Lila and Billy, the waiting is now officially over. It’s time for the 2020 Bluegrass Knowledge Test (BKT). These questions cover a broad range of topics from . . . actually it’s a pretty narrow range. They’ll start off easy, and then get progressively more difficult, finally leaving everyone in the dust but dedicated bluegrass nerds.

You can classify yourself as follows, based on your number of correct answers:

If you got 0 to 1 correct answer, your Bluegrass Knowledge Ranking (BKR) is 1. You know zilch about bluegrass, but you’re probably more knowledgeable about practical things like carpentry, knitting, or sheep parasites.

2 to 3 correct answers: you’re ranking is 2. You know a little bit about this music, enough to correct others and get into arguments about bluegrass on social media.

4 to 5 correct: You’re a 3. You know quite a bit about bluegrass, but not enough to annoy your friends. You can also correct others about the music but you’ll actually be right.

6 correct: Congratulations! You’re a 4, a legitimate bluegrass music expert. You’ve probably spent more money than you should on vintage instruments.

7 correct: Once again, you’re Neil Rosenberg. I hope you’re making it through the Newfoundland winter okay.

Good luck!

1 – In addition to the bass, the fiddle, the guitar, the mandolin, sometimes the dobro, most bluegrass bands include which instrument:

A: The harp
B: The banjo
C: The vibraphone
D: The stethoscope

2 – In the late 1970s, Pete Wernick, Tim O’Brien, Nick Forster, and Charles Sawtelle formed a band in Colorado and named it after a commercial flour additive. The name was . . .

A: Bromate
B: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
C: Baking Soda
D: Hot Rize

3 – Before Bill Monroe joined the Grand Ole Opry, he and his brother Charlie Monroe were employed by Chicago’s WLS National Barn Dance, not as musicians, but as . . .

A: Dancers
B: Magicians
C: Paramedics
D: Bouncers

4 – Both the fiddle and the mandolin are tuned . . .

A: Recreationally
B: Approximately
C: In fifths
D: At last

5 – The California bluegrass band, The Hillmen, was originally called . . .

A: The Hillwomen
B: The California Goldenseals
C: The Golden State Boys
D: The Guys Who Are Planning to Change Their Band Name Very Soon

6 – Complete this line from the chorus of Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt’s Little Cabin Home on the Hill: “Just listen to the rain beat . . .”

A: Just listen to it, will you? Beating and beating and beating, all night long with the beating
B: On my window pane
C: On my fevered brain
D: Guilty feet ain’t got no rhythm

7 – On the Stanley Brothers’ 1946 recording of Molly and Tenbrooks, who is singing lead?

A: Ralph Stanley
B: Carter Stanley
C: Pee Wee Lambert
D: Pee Wee King
E: Nat King Cole

Answer key: