I recently had the pleasure of teaching the bluegrass vocals class at the Augusta Heritage Center’s Bluegrass Week with a great singer, teacher, and long-time friend Dede Wyland. One morning, over a better-than-expected camp breakfast (I believe I opted for the French toast sticks), she related to us that her husband had a habit of explaining technical aspects of his job to her using bluegrass analogies that he figured she could relate to. She told him that she was capable of understanding these things without his necessarily having to put them in terms like, “It would be as if Charlie Monroe and Bill Monroe reunited without warning and Bill suddenly fired all the Blue Grass Boys.”
Personally, I’d love to have everything explained to me like this. I’d probably understand much more about the world we live in than I currently do. Below are some examples of analogies you can use that might help a bluegrass musician at least begin to understand what you’re talking about:
Dunkin’ Donuts’ plan to eliminate “Donuts” from their name:
It’s possible that Dunkin’ Donuts feels limited by the association with the donut, hoping to attract more customers who may not like donuts. It would be as if The Nashville Bluegrass Band decided that in order to attract more non-bluegrass fans, they should change their name to The Nashville Band. Or, if they also felt the word “Nashville” was geographically limiting, they could just call themselves The Band, but I guess that name has already been taken.
Apple’s elimination of the headphone jack in iPhone 7, necessitating wireless earbuds:
It’s like they decided the mandolin strap was no longer needed, so they eliminated the endpin, but they happen to sell a special stand that holds your mandolin in place for you so you don’t have to use a strap. Or, if you’re Red Rector, you don’t care because who needs a strap anyway?
This one was inspired by a recent discussion with Alan Munde: The infield fly rule in baseball, in which the batter is called out automatically by the umpire when there’s a pop fly within the infield, and there are at least 2 runners on base with less than two outs (it would take an entire separate column to explain this):
You know how when Orange Blossom Special is played, it’s almost always as a show-closer? Well, the infield fly rule is like a festival M.C. declaring your set to be automatically over if you start to play Orange Blossom Special at any point in the show when there is a band coming on after you, and you’ve already played two or more songs. You don’t even need to play the tune; simply announce that you’re going to play it, and your show is officially over, and you’re free to leave the stage.
The British government’s decision to exit the European Union, or “Brexit”:
It’s like when a lead singer leaves a band because he’s is tired of having to clear all decisions through the group. Having a solo career would offer some autonomy and a chance to play his own music, form his own band, and have the freedom to reject other musicians if he didn’t want to play with them. Unfortunately, leaving the band requires a period of negotiations because the lead singer was an equal partner and had invested money in the sound system, and the band’s web site. Plus he still has a lot of his junk scattered around the bus, and some of the other band members are still living in his house.This leads to some tense times on the road for a while.
The hiring and subsequent firing of Anthony Scaramucci as the president’s communications director:
It would be like Alison Krauss, in the space of ten days, hiring a new, charismatic but abrasive guitar player, prompting Barry Bales to quit immediately. This guitar player begins publicly and obscenely running down Jerry Douglas, who is subsequently fired and replaced by Rob Ickes, whose first move is to talk Alison into firing the new guitar player, the very guy who paved the way for him to get the job in the first place.
Please remember, for those who occasionally take me literally, that the above is a work of fantasy (do I really need to say this?), and is not meant at all to compare Jerry Douglas to Reince Priebus, Alison Krauss to Donald Trump, or Rob Ickes to that other guy. I know all those people (the bluegrass ones), and they’re not at all like those other people, though personally I would stand in line to patronize an Alison Krauss Hotel and Casino. And there really should be a “Krauss Tower” in Champaign, IL.
And with that disclaimer, I will end this right here. It’s a little like closing with I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow, then leaving the building right away to catch a train (perhaps I’ll die upon this train).