The following is a column which was originally posted last Christmas Day. You probably didn’t read it at the time. I know I didn’t.
Since I managed to pound one out last Christmas Day, I decided I was entitled to take Christmas Eve off this year. I didn’t ask for permission. That’s the kind of rogue, mavericky staff member I’ve become here. It may affect my Christmas bonus (last year it was a used DVD of Frosty: the Berryville Years — older bluegrass fans in Virginia will get that, but they may not laugh anyway; I don’t blame them), but I’ll risk it.
Here, then, is The Column of Christmas Past:
I had originally planned to take this day off, even after the conversation I’d had yesterday with Bluegrass Today’s editor-in-chief and headline-writer extraordinaire, John Lawless:
John: “You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose.”
Me: “If quite convenient, sir.”
John: “It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair. If I were to stop half a crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used . . .”
And on it went from there. We’ll have a matinee showing at 3:00 p.m. today, with Jonny Mizzone cast in the role of Tiny Tim, and Alison Krauss appearing as the Ghost of Christmas past.
John is normally a very agreeable person, but I could see that holiday stress was getting to him. So, given what I detected as a frosty attitude about time off on Christmas Day, and the fact that I had taken last week off as it is (due to a “stomach virus”), I felt the only way to preserve my fifteen bob a week salary and maintain good relations with Roanoke would be to turn in a Christmas Day column.
To be honest, it’s hard to write an appropriate and relevant piece for Christmas Day itself, especially while I’m busy hanging stockings by the chimney with care, and working hard on my impression of Bing Crosby singing Oh Death.
The more I thought about it, though, the more the idea appealed to me (writing this, not Bing Crosby singing Oh Death), because I realized that almost no one would actually read it anyway. Everyone is either busy doing family Christmas things, or they’re already worn out by their family, in which case they’re out taking in Home Alone 9: Lost in Raleigh, or whatever movies just opened today.
This, at last, would be my chance to say something really controversial and get away with it. Something along these lines:
People that use the presence of drums as a litmus test for bluegrass purity (i.e., drums = failed test) should note that a lot of early 50s Bill Monroe recordings like On and On, In the Pines, and Wheel Hoss had a drummer on them. The fact that the drummer was also the bass player (Ernie Newton), who was playing both parts simultaneously, doesn’t make those recordings any less drummy. It just means he should have been paid double for those sessions. Newton, when asked about this once, merely replied, “I played my best for him, pa-rumpa-pum-pum.”
I could also get some personal confessions off my chest:
A number of years ago, I counseled a band member of mine to be less honest.
To give some background to that statement, he had been at the wheel of our sumptuously appointed Chevy conversion van (named “Irene”) and was pulled over by the state highway patrol in Texas somewhere in the middle of the night. We had a tail light that had been out for the entire tour, but touring schedules being what they are, we had never bothered to replace it. The trooper said, “did you know you have a tail light out?” and my band member replied, “yeah, we’ve been meaning to get that fixed for a long time.” It was of course, the honest and right thing to say; I told him why I thought it was the wrong thing to say. He was too decent to say to me, “Or, Mr. Blurred Ethical Lines, you could have just fixed your dumb tail light!” He was right; I was wrong. Later I wrote out a big check to the State of Texas.
Okay, I feel so much better now. If you’re still reading this (if you ever were), have a wonderful and blessed Christmas Day. Don’t believe that story about the L-tryptophan, or the N-Kryptonite, or whatever it is in turkey that’s supposed to make you drowsy. When you eat a giant plate of food, sit in a warm house, and watch a football game between two teams that mean nothing to you, you’re going to get a little sleepy. Just go with it. Pleasant dreams.
Next week we’ll have a countdown or list of something-or-other.