Bluegrass Band Name Game – part 2

Before I continue this series on band self-management, and its sub-series on naming your bluegrass band, it might be useful to review some of what was discussed last week. A few recent trends in bluegrass music have also been called to my attention since last week, and I wanted to address those too: one such trend is the recent proliferation of bands with “Town” or “Towne” as a last name, and this has caused the need for an additional column in our modern bluegrass band name kit (see below).

Other trends I’ve recently become aware of are the providing of bottled water backstage at bluegrass festivals (just in time for bottled water to fall out of favor among the eco-conscious), and the slow but steady disappearance of the mullet and the bolo tie (could we please have a moment of silence?). I won’t address either of these trends until some time in July, if ever. There will also be no mention whatsoever of the financial crisis in Greece.

For review purposes, and for easy reference, here are the band naming methods I listed last week:

  1. The “Something Somethings”
  2. The Modern Bluegrass Band Name Kit
  3. The Abstract
  4. The Intentionally Over-generic
  5. The Misspelled Words

We covered 1 and 2, last week; this week we’ll take up 3, The Abstract, plus categories 4 and 5, if space permits. As a reminder, here were the common name categories from the Modern Bluegrass Band Name Kit, and you’ll note that I’ve added several important new ones at the bottom that I hadn’t thought of last week:

Column A: Column B:
Blue Ridge
Bluegrass (how did I miss that?)
Grass (like “Mountain”, this gets to be in 2 columns)

As you will recall, you choose a name from column A, then a name from column B, and presto, you’ve just named your band. Call the photographer to book the band photo session.

The “Something Town” band names, however, as mentioned above, made me aware of a glaring omission. “Town” really represents a third category, necessitating a column C, which includes related words, which are sort of location or destination words, for lack of a better description. You then are free to combine words from column A or B with column C (but not both A and B, or you end up with names like “Blue River Town”…wait a minute, I kind of like that. Just do whatever you want to.

Column C is short, but here’s what we have in the more common form:

Countye (to be covered further in “The Misspelled Words” category)

Less common column C examples, but possibly useful for the more urban or progressive bands:

School District

So, combining A with C (the more common forms), we get names like “Carolina County,” “Lonesome Town,” and “Grass City.” Combining B and C, we get: “Ridge County,” “River City” and “Grassville.” Some discretion is needed, though, in order to avoid names like “Highway City,” “Lost County” (sounds like a surveying problem) and “Drifting Borderline” (wars are started over those).

Moving past the kit system (and aren’t we all relieved?), let’s examine category 3: The Abstract. This is a fun way to name your band, because it’s so free-form, but I would caution you that it also causes tremendous headaches in a group decision situation.

The abstract name can be a single word, like “Timepiece,” or multiple words like “Scary Donuts” (that one is real). Needless to say, I discourage traditional bluegrass bands from going this route. Picture a band of five guys in hats and blue suits, getting ready to step up to the microphone and launch into “Your Love is Like a Flower,” when you hear the MC say: “Get ready for some hard drivin’ bluegrass from our very own ‘Wrench Blister’!!” For a jamgrass or progressive bluegrass band, this works perfectly well.

If you’re not much of an abstract thinker or free-associator, just find an object in the room (unless you’re in a hospital or an adult bookstore) and use that to start, something like  “Plaque” or “Thermostat.” This word can either stand alone, or you can add a second word on either side of your first word, and for this I would recommend just looking in your refrigerator, which will then yield combinations like “Plaque Bacon,” or “Carrot Thermostat.” My theory has always been that the band “String Cheese Incident” used this look-in-the-fridge method. If you want something with a more rural feel, which may better reflect your music, choose your words while somewhere in the great outdoors: “Cow Cloud” or “Raindrop Bark” make decent band names, the latter especially if your band is based in the Pacific Northwest.

One thing we haven’t discussed, which relates to both abstract names, and names using “The Kit,” is the use of additional words like “Stringband,” “Band,” or simply “Bluegrass.” These are third words in your band name which are entirely optional, and which have tended to follow trends. For example, in the 1970s there were countless “Stringbands” out there. Musically these bands ranged from traditional to progressive to actual old time string bands. Most of these bands smoked a lot of marijuana, but that’s another story. Then one day, 90% of these bands just dropped “Stringband” from their name, and no one seemed to mind or notice, including the bands themselves.

Then for a while there were a lot of “Something Something Band” names popping up, or “Something Something Bluegrass,” or even “Something Something Bluegrass Band.” In the end, most bands found these additional words redundant or unnecessary, and efficiency and brevity won out. One of the reasons for this, as band members soon discovered, is that no matter what you name your band, most fans are just going to call the band by the name of the band leader anyway, adding the word “and them” to his or her name, so in other words, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver becomes “Doyle and Them,” The Lonesome River Band is “Sammy and them,” etc.

Now you can understand the real appeal of the abstract name. Why not?

Well, I’m sorry to again report that I’m out of time and space to explore the final categories: “The Intentionally Over-generic,” and the “Misspelled Words.” I give you my solemn promise that we’ll wrap those up next week, otherwise it’ll start to feel like we’re beating a dead horse. Hmm, “Dead Horse” has a good ring to it. “Goodbye Old Pal” or “Molly and Tenbrooks” could be theme songs. Now, if I just wander over to the refrigerator, we might just turn that into “Dead Horse Broccoli.” Now booking dates for 2012.

Also next week: Is a road musician’s diet consisting entirely of jello and tortilla chips healthier than you think? And: the return of the 8-track tape to bluegrass product tables.