Blue Yodel #20 – Ask Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants

Guest Artist Quiz and Prizes

This month’s guest artist is the rajah of the resophonic guitar, Rob Ickes. At an early age, Rob was kidnapped by pirates who left him on an island off the coast of California with nothing but a Dobro and a year’s supply of fish tacos. When the pirates returned, he could play Monkey Let the Hogs Out on the Dobro in 12 keys, but had only eaten half a taco. Rob credits this time for establishing his signature growl on the instrument, which sounds a lot like “Arrrrrrrrrr…”

The first person to correctly answer all three of Rob’s questions will win his latest solo release, Road Song, autographed by Rob with his left hand.

The first person to incorrectly answer any question will receive, as usual, a standing ovation and signed photo of Mr. BGSP—still unbought on eBay.

Rob asks:

1) Which well known Dobro player has an uncle who recorded with the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers?

2) What is the name of the uncle?

3) Who played Dobro with Roy Acuff before Brother Oswald?


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

From the new biographer of Mike Seeger by Bill C. Malone, Music from the True Vine: Mike Seeger’s Life & Musical Journey, comes some great stuff:

• In 1951, when Mike was 18, he took three months of classical guitar lessons from the great jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd.

• Grandpa Jones was the first musician Mike Seeger ever recorded. It was at New River Ranch, May 1, 1955. A week later Seeger recorded Bill Monroe at New River Ranch. Monroe responded to Mike’s asking him if he could record his set with, “I don’t care.”

• Mike met Hazel Dickens through her brother Robert who was a patient at the Mount Wilson Tuberculosis Hospital near Pikeville, Maryland. Mike was working at the hospital as a kitchen orderly as part of his alternative service as a conscientious objector during the Korean War.

The book is a thorough and engaging biography of Mike Seeger, who was as important a figure in the bluegrass scene of Baltimore and Washington, DC, in the 1950s as he would be in the national old-time scene of the ‘60s and later, and who may eventually be credited as being as influential a musician as his half-brother Pete. Highly recommended.


You Can Make This Stuff Up

[The first letter comes from an Eric and Leigh Gibson of Snyder Bend, Iowa—not the brothers of bluegrass fame, nor related to the brothers of bluegrass fame—Mr. BGSP legal dept.]

Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

My brother and I would like to get our identities back. The bluegrass Gibson brothers drove up one night in a bus with a bunch of their friends and stole our identities along with our website How can we get our identities and website back? Also, how can we get them to stop calling us with questions about rural life?

—Eric and Leigh Gibson of Snyder Bend, Iowa

Dear Eric and Leigh Gibson of Snyder Bend, Iowa,

This is not the first case of stolen identity the “Gibson Brothers” have participated in. Perhaps you remember the ‘70s bluegrass band the Gibb Brothers, who later recorded as the Bee Gees. Look at old photos of Maurice and Barry and you can see the resemblance. Unfortunately, your only two options at this point are 1) heckling them on Facebook where Eric often posts things like, “I pet my dog this morning,” whereupon he gets 3,000 encouraging comments and 42,000 likes, or 2) pies in the face. Might I suggest banana cream. I too have received calls from them and have found this to be the most effective reply.

—Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants


Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

I’ve now watched the Josh Williams birdie video on YouTube 13,579 times. My question is, what happened to the bird after the song ended?

—Tumblr in Temecula

Dear Tumblr in Temecula,

We’re told that the bird has retained an agent who is now booking him for large events. Apparently, this was not the first time the bird has pulled the stunt, but it’s the first time he was able to get it caught on video and posted to YouTube. He comes from a large show-business family and had an uncle who a few years ago had an unfortunate run-in with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson. Bands interested in booking the bird may contact the William Morris agency. His fees may now be out of bluegrass band affordability, however, as he is scheduled to appear at an LMFAO concert in August.


Dear Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants,

Who should I draft first in my 2012 Hot Stove Bluegrass League? And what is the official soft drink of Major League Bluegrass?

—Connie Minutiae (Owner, Wilmington Willies, Hot Stove Bluegrass League)

Dear Connie,

You can’t go wrong with perennial favorite Ron Stewart. He plays all the instruments, can sing, and has just signed a five-year, $10 million dollar contract with the Boxcars.

Diet Mountain Dew.


—Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants


Be sure to make a guess at Rob Ickes’ questions above and let us know of any questions you may have (real or imagined). See you next time and remember:

Keep your Smarty Pants On!

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About the Author

Chris Stuart

Chris Stuart is a writer and songwriter living in San Diego. He was the 2008 recipient of the IBMA Print Media Person of the Year award, co-writer of the 2009 IBMA Song of the Year, and past winner of the Merlefest Chris Austin Songwriting contest in bluegrass and gospel categories. You can follow him on Twitter @cvstuart, on Facebook, and at On Tuesdays you can find him having fish tacos at Roberto’s in Del Mar.

  • Willie Payne

    1 – Mike Auldridge
    2 – Elsworth Cozzins
    3 – Clell Summey

    • And it looks like we have a winner. I’m going to accept Cozzins, instead of Cozzens. . . close enough for a dobro player, as they say.

      Willie, if you could send your mailing address to or message me here, I can get it to Rob and you can expect your Road Song CD in the mail.

      Thanks to Mark and Charlie for getting it right also, just slightly later than Willie. WAnd Katy Daley had the right answers on my Facebook page. All three will get a signed photo of Mr. Blue Grass Smarty Pants if you email me your mailing addresses.

      Thanks for playing!


  • Mark Eaton

    Answers to the quiz:

    1. Mike Auldridge

    2. Ellsworth Cozzens

    3. Clell Summey

  • Charlie Campbell

    Mike Auldridge

    Ellsworth Cozzens

    Clell Summey

  • Mark Eaton

    You’re not going to throw out the misspelling from Willie? Chris, you’re just too nice. ;~)

    I would call this mid-level dobro trivia, give us something tougher in the future.

    But nowadays, you just don’t know who is “googling” when they join in on these contests…trivia questions ain’t what they uses to be! lol

  • Charlie Campbell

    Actually, the technical answer to question 3 is None.

    Clell was a steel guitar player, I don’t think he ever played a Dobro.

  • Charlie Campbell

    Actually as long as I am getting picky, I should correct my original answer again.

    The correct answers are:

    1) None

    2) None

    3) None

    You see Ellsworth’s work with Jimmie Rogers predated the Dobro, so he wasn’t Jimmie’s Dobro player, nor could he be Jimmie’s Dobro player (cause he wasn’t) who had a Dobro playing nephew. And as no one really played Dobro for Roy Acuff before Oswald, (in fact Oswald started on a National, not a Dobro) well that’s about it isn;t it?

  • Jack Lawrence

    In Colin Escott’s book, “The Grand Ole Opry, The Making of an American Icon,” there is a picture of Acuff’s band around the WSM microphone. In that photo Clell Summey is playing a Dobro.

    Jack Lawrence, journeyman guitarist

  • Willie Payne

    Since we’re getting picky, the first 2 questions are:

    1) Which well known Dobro player has an uncle who recorded with the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers?

    2) What is the name of the uncle?

    #1 doesn’t mention what the uncle played, just that he recorded with J R.

    #2 just asks for the name of the uncle, not what he played.

    Question #4 could have been “What is it about dobro players that makes them want to argue and discuss ad nauseum anything relating to the dobro?” But then we would have never had a winner! 🙂

    • It’s the open G tuning, which affects everyone afflicted with it.