Bluegrass dream analysis redux

This column from Chris Jones is a reprise of one from March 2012 – with a new introductory paragraph.

Some time ago, I published a list of topics for bluegrass music camp elective classes that, based on trial and unmistakable error, were deemed colossal failures (for example, very few attended this class: “How to Book Your Band From Prison: Making the Most of Your One Phone Call”). I didn’t, however, say that the topics couldn’t be discussed in this column.

One of them in particular, though it hasn’t exactly been of interest to me, has kind of been thrust on me over the years: namely, bluegrass dream analysis.

I say it’s been thrust on me because people that I work with are forever sharing their bluegrass-related dreams with me, though I’ve done my best to give as little encouragement as I can. My attempts to steer the conversation elsewhere always turn out to be futile. It will usually go something like this:

Musician A: “I had this amazing bluegrass dream last night.”

Me: “I’ll bet that was interesting. Can you believe Davis missed that 3-pointer for Kentucky yesterday?”

Musician A: “You see, I was backstage at the IBMA Fanfest, except it was being held in a large treehouse. Rhonda Vincent was there, wearing a lime green toga and commenting on the quality of the chips and salsa…”

And it goes on from there for the next 20 minutes, culminating in the big question at the end: “What do you think it means?”

The easy answer, of course, is: “You shouldn’t have gone to Taco Bell at 1:00 AM”, but that seems rude, so I do my best to provide some analysis.

I finally broke down and did some reading (about ten minutes’ worth) about dream analysis. I relied heavily on the classic work on the subject, You’re Less Nutty Than You Think: Dreams and Their Meanings, by Dr. Jan Broodje.

Dr. Broodje explains that there are several dream “archetypes”; themes that recur commonly in dreams and that are experienced by many different people.

We’re all familiar with at least a few of these: the flying dream, the swimming dream, the dream where you’re naked in a crowd of people (usually the wrong people), the student dream in which you can’t find the classroom for the big final exam, or the one in which you’re forced to do a juggling act with sharp tools at a Kokomo, Indiana Holiday Inn (maybe that’s just me who has that one).

Bluegrass-related dreams are sometimes variations on these archetypes, but with a bluegrass theme, because it’s either our profession or hobby, and it’s a big part of our lives. For example, the bluegrass musician’s version of the student anxiety dream goes something like this: You’re due to play at a bluegrass festival at 3:30. It’s 3:27, Ray Davis is about to bring you on, and you realize your banjo is missing. Then you realize that you don’t even play the banjo.

There’s rarely a bluegrass version of the flying dream. The closest equivalent is riding really fast on a Silver Eagle bus. In the really exhilarating version, the bus starts flying, a la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Then it runs out of diesel fuel.

Most bluegrass dreams, however, don’t fit into the classic categories, but I’ve still been able to use some of Dr. Broodje’s wisdom to analyze a few of them. Here are some that have been told to me against my will:

Dream 1: “I was playing on stage with Bill Monroe at the Ryman Auditorium with the classic 1946-47 band. They were all there: Lester, Earl, Chubby Wise and Cedric Rainwater. They had all the instruments covered, so I was holding a dobro. Then Monroe said ‘Do I look like Roy Acuff to you? I hate those things. There’s an accordion in my dressing room, boy. Go get it.’ I went backstage to try and find it, but I found that I was in a dark and confusing maze, and once I finally found the accordion and made my way back, the band had all changed. Rudy Lyle was playing banjo, Mac Wiseman was on guitar, and the bass was being played by a large teddy bear. I tried to play along, but all my accordion would play was that song from Titanic.

Analysis: You feel you’re capable of greatness, but you’re not sure where you fit in. You’re obedient with authority figures, you have a lousy sense of direction, and you have a subconscious desire to play accordion with Celine Dion. You may also have unresolved issues with your mother.


Dream 2: “I was living in a town I didn’t recognize, but Frank Wakefield was the mayor. I was married to Charlize Theron and we had three kids I also didn’t recognize, but one looked a lot like an 8 year-old Marshall Willborn. We lived in a huge Victorian house, and I was a famous bluegrass musician, but I had no idea why (I can only assume the house payments were made by Charlize).”

Analysis: I have no idea what this means, but I would encourage you to have this dream more often.


Dream 3: “I wandered again to my home in the mountains…”

Analysis: Let me guess: was this the place where in youth’s early dawn you were happy and free? Did you look for your friends but never could find them? This is known as “The Rank Stranger Archetype.” Find a good tenor singer for this dream.


Dream 4: I walked into a Cracker Barrel, which for some reason was in Norway. I was with my parents, who were actually James King and Shania Twain. All of the waiters appeared to be Darrin Vincent. I was guided to my table by Sierra Hull, who was wearing a purple snowmobile suit. Darrin poured me some coffee and asked if I wanted the special, and I said “Only if it is special”. He doubled over laughing, then returned 10 minutes later with what appeared to be a possum crepe. The only souvenirs in the store were University of Tennessee T-shirts, and toy parrots that repeat back what you say to them, except in Norwegian.

Analysis: I have no idea what this means.


Dream 5: I was playing in a band I used to be in, and we arrived at a dingy club in Wichita, where the stage was lit only by one small green spotlight. Everyone in the place looked like characters from a dark David Lynch movie. The manager said, “I’m sorry if it’s a little dead in here tonight. We had a shooting in here this week.” I replied, “That’s okay, there was a shooting here the week we played here last year, and we did okay.” She said, “Yeah, but that one was in the parking lot. This time it was on the dance floor. Good to have you guys back.”

Analysis: Okay, I’ll admit that this was my dream, except that it wasn’t a dream at all. It actually happened, and it was a little dead that night.


Well, that’s the best I can do. Feel free to comment below, but please don’t ask me to analyze any of your dreams. I’m retiring from that as of today.