Bluegrass Knowledge Test for 2017

Veteran readers of this Wednesday column may recall that around New Year’s Day (that is to say sometime between December 26th and the first day of Spring), I present an annual bluegrass knowledge test, known officially as the “Bluegrass Knowledge Test.”

The purpose of this low-pressure quiz is to give us a basis on which to classify ourselves on a scale of 1 to 5 on the Bluegrass Knowledge Scale (or “BKS”). After all, who doesn’t love being graded and classified? I recently got my credit score up to the level where I can now take out a loan sufficient enough to purchase a packet of black Sharpies for use at the merchandise table (I couldn’t get quite enough capital to get the gold ones), and I have to say it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling, unless that was just my foot falling asleep. The point is, we all love being tested; we’ve been conditioned this way since elementary school.

Like a credit score, if you feel dissatisfied with your BKS, you can always spend the next year improving it. This can be done by spending a week in a deserted cabin somewhere, doing nothing but reading the liner notes of Bear Family boxed sets. You could also get a job as a personal valet for Eddie Stubbs. If these solutions seem a little too life-altering, you could always buy my handy study guide for next year’s test (available now for $19.99, which if you order today, also includes a powerful LED flashlight capable of finding a lost pick in a bluegrass festival field or dark and dusty nightclub).

Below is a series of seven questions which range from the mind-numbingly simple, to the irritatingly challenging. Some are just confusing.

When you’re done, just use this handy key to assign yourself a rating (reprinted from earlier years):

If you answered 0 questions correctly:
You’re a 1: You know nothing about bluegrass music and don’t care. You just took the quiz because you have a lot of time on your hands, and The Voice doesn’t come on until 8:00.

You answered 2 or 3 correctly:
You’re a 2. You know next-to-nothing about bluegrass music, but probably have strong opinions about it anyway.

You answered 4 to 5 questions correctly:
You’re a 3: You know a lot about this music, but not enough to be annoying at parties.

You answered 6 questions correctly:
You’re a 4. You’re an expert. You’ve spent a lot of time listening to and absorbing information about bluegrass music. You probably have very few friends and are not very good at basketball.

You answered all questions correctly: you’re not fooling anyone; you’re Neil Rosenberg. Congratulations on your Hall of Fame induction, and why did you bother taking this test (again)?

2017 Bluegrass Knowledge Test

1. The Stanley Brothers’ first names are:

A. Ralph and Carter
B. Ralph and Norton
C. Rebe and Rabe
D. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

2. Why was Bill Monroe’s style of music called “bluegrass”?

A. The name “bebop” had already been taken by 1946
B. The music has a clear blues influence and is often played while standing on grass
C. Being a proud Kentuckian, Bill had named his band “The Blue Grass Boys”
D. It sounds so much better as a genre name than “Bromegrass” or “Fescue”

3. Alan Lomax once referred to bluegrass music as . . .

A. Folk music in overdrive
B. Folk music in overalls
C. Folk music but way better
D. Music that, like, you know, has the banjo and mandolin and stuff

4. In the chorus of Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms, the singer announces his intention to “lay around the shack” until what happens?

A. Someone pays him to do something more productive
B. The mail train comes back
C. The coal train comes back
D. The leisure suit comes back

5. Before Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe’s band, his previous banjo player had been . . .

A. Rudy Lyle
B. Robert Plant
C. Wayne Newton
D. Stringbean

6. Which of the following instruments has not been used on a Bill Monroe recording? (caution: trick question alert)

A. vibraphone
B. drums
C. dobro
D. oboe
E. electric guitar

7. The Dukes of Bluegrass were led by which banjo player?

A. Walter Hensley
B. Walter Cronkite
C. Walter Mitty
D. Boss Hogg

Answers (please don’t look before taking the quiz; the credit agencies don’t let you do that either):

1. A, 2.C, 3.A, 4.B, 5.D, 6.D, 7.A