I don’t want to alarm you about the passage of time, or, if I’m honest, I do want to alarm you about the passage of time, because it’s fun: The movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou came out almost 20 years ago!
It was a movie which helped raise the profile of bluegrass music, led to the transformation of I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow into a hit song, and thoroughly confused the public about George Clooney’s singing voice.
We’re really about due for another blockbuster movie that could advance the fortunes of our music. We don’t even care if it’s a good movie. If it could possibly lead to Larry Sparks singing John Deere Tractor (in a duet with Cardi B) on the Grammys, we’re all for it.
But are we perhaps thinking small? Wouldn’t a bluegrass TV series be even better? What about several of them? Often what’s needed, at least if you don’t have the Coen Brothers on your side, is simply a marketable idea or two. I’ve provided a few below. These are admittedly not terribly original, and you may recognize the series the ideas are inspired by, if “inspired” is really the word I’m looking for. Think of these as a starting place:
A high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque discovers he has terminal cancer, and in order to leave behind enough money for his family, he decides to use his chemical knowledge to develop and market a very potent form of meth amphetamine. In the process, though, he accidentally develops a material for picks which almost perfectly mimics tortoise shell. He runs afoul of the law, as one of the ingredients is a controlled substance, and a violent turf war with Blue Chip Picks ensues.
The Really High Voice
In four chairs facing away from the contestants, Bobby Osborne, Jamie Dailey, Alison Krauss, and Doyle Lawson listen to aspiring bluegrass singers perform loud and over-embellished versions of Mule Skinner Blues, Ruby, and the like. Any panelist impressed enough with the voice will spin his or her chair around and offer to be the contestant’s coach.
Keeping Up With the Vincents
This show follows the members of the various branches and generations of the mega-celebrity Vincent family, including Rhonda, Darrin, Herb, and Brian. The series covers, among other activities, Rhonda and Herb on a cruise, the weddings of Rhonda’s daughters to her band members, a look behind the scenes of the making of a Facebook Live video, and zany late-night activity aboard the Dailey and Vincent bus as it rolls through Nebraska.
Buck Dancing With the Stars
Award-winning Tennessee and North Carolina buck dancers are paired up with celebrities Gary Oldman, Barbara Streisand, Bette Midler, Bob Dylan, and Jon Voight, attempting to teach them to buck dance their way through various pop standards, with mixed success.
The Band Manager
A mild-mannered bluegrass band manager’s life of pursuing independent record deals and making social media posts for his clients is disrupted when he is recruited by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to infiltrate the operation of a notorious international dealer in illicit ivory and Brazillian rosewood.
Modern Family Band
The band may be modern but the music is traditional: The Bills of Monroe is an extended family Bill Monroe tribute band based in Monroe, North Carolina, or possibly Monroe, Wisconsin. It’s led by a hot 40-something Latina bass player named Bessie Lee Fernandez, her husband Bill on banjo, twin fiddles played by a gay couple, both named William, and one of the Bills’ cousins, a Chinese-American lead singer/guitar player from Rosine, Kentucky named Seamus “Edd” Epstein.
Big Band Theory
A famous bluegrass artist named Ricky Rakes adds a ninth member to his already large band, Kentucky Lightning, in the form of scientist/nerd, Sheldon “Chubby” Cooper, who plays fourth guitar in the band (un-miked), and is mainly hired to calculate the beats-per-minute of impossibly fast songs and inform any band members if they happen to pull ahead or fall behind.
Doctors and staff of a war zone Army hospital form a bluegrass band that practices while waiting for new patients to come in. They play everything in the key of B.