Chris Jones’ From The Side of the Road coming in book form

With the advent of the publication of Chris Jones‘ 500th column here at Bluegrass Today comes word that a selection of his previous contributions are set to be published in a book. Chris is working now on selecting which ones will be included, and writing introductions for various sections.

Chris noted the milestone of 500 columns last week, but we haven’t taken the opportunity to brag on him ourselves, until now. He has been with us since the launch of Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. Until his column began appearing, people in bluegrass knew him as a singer and songwriter, and for his hosting on SiriusXM. Though his humor did shine through over the air on occasion, not everyone recognized this side of his creative mind until it was in print every week.

And in recognizing this achievement, we want to emphasize the “every week” aspect of this effort. We all know people who are funny, and some who can come up with a clever riposte in the heat of a moment, but being clever and witty every seven days at some length, no matter what may be happening in your own life, is a very special skill worthy of note.

In discussing this with Chris yesterday, we spoke about how the idea for a bluegrass humor column first came up.

“I had been a lover of bluegrass music and humor writing most of my life, so it occurred to me to fuse the two. I had done some straight writing for publications like Bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Now, and I really enjoyed that, too, but when I started doing a regular column for Dan Miller’s Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, I took a humorous approach to it, while writing seriously on the subject of coming up with breaks for vocal songs.

I found that I really enjoyed doing that, so when Bluegrass Today started up, and I  was asked to find a way to contribute, I proposed a weekly bluegrass humor column, knowing there wasn’t any real precedent or model for it. It was an experiment. For that reason, I thought that if it really went well, it might be something I could sustain for a couple of years. I certainly never expected to be talking about this more than 12 years later.

The majority of the first columns were sort of in the ‘faux advice’ category, with the very first one being about IBMA World of Bluegrass ‘health tips.’ From there I tried to explore every aspect of bluegrass music, often from the professional musician’s perspective.

I have great reverence for bluegrass music as many do, but sometimes with reverence can come a certain amount of religiosity, and we have that in bluegrass music, which in turn leads us at times to take ourselves too seriously. I wanted to give us all a chance to laugh at ourselves, once a week, anyway.”

With the extra duties of book editing on his plate, Chris is going to cut back on his weekly column. He promises at least one new piece each month, and we will run encore editions on the other weeks. With 500 in the can, there is a wealth of material to choose from.

I recall a real highlight a few years ago at the World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, when Steve Martin was in attendance, and made a special point to find Chris and tell him that he reads the column regularly, and really enjoys it. That is high praise indeed, and I know that it was greatly appreciated.

Jones also pointed out that, with humor, not everyone will get the joke.

“You can’t do anything like this without offending a few people along the way. That was, of course, never intentional, and I’m generally very careful, but there was one North Carolina DJ who was definitely displeased with what I did, and said so repeatedly, and one reader who would wait for the second the column appeared, to make sure to post an instantaneous negative comment. He went on to stalk my social media pages as well to do the same. I had to learn that it simply goes with the territory and to have a thicker skin about it. That’s been rare, though, and In general, response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I love hearing from readers all over the world who come up to me at shows to let me know they like it.

There was a point at which i started to feel like it was getting hard to come up with brand new weekly ideas, but I think it was when I had written the 300th one, I just took it as a personal challenge to keep it going. After all, some of the columnists I admired like Mike Royko turned the in every single day for years. They were working with a broader range of potential subjects, but I knew it could be done.

I’m working on compiling a bunch of these into a book, with possible sequels, if there’s interest. If nothing else, it will be something to sell at the merch table, CD sales being what they are these days (a past column subject, naturally).

I’m incredibly thankful to Bluegrass Today for supporting me in this venture from Day 1, and for trusting me and giving me the free hand they have, and for just giving me the vehicle for something that has been very rewarding for me.”

Many congratulations to Chris Jones for his 500th column, and we can’t wait to see the book!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.