From The Side of the Road… a revised Bluegrass Quiz, following complaints

This is the first time there’s been a need for a quiz follow-up, but it seems some issues have arisen:

For one thing, it was brought to my attention by a reader we’ll call “Lee” (I prefer to maintain reader anonymity) that my Fox On the Run question was inaccurate because I had used the word “written” in the question, when in fact the song wasn’t written by any member of the band Manfred Mann, but was instead written for Manfred Mann by Tony Hazzard, a songwriter from Liverpool who also wrote songs for Herman’s Hermits, the Yardbirds, and others.

Hazzard also wrote Ha! Ha! Said the Clown for Manfred Mann. Perhaps if fate had played itself out differently, Ha! Ha! Said the Clown could have been worked up by Bill Emerson and become one of our bluegrass standards. 

From the second verse of Ha Ha! Said the Clown:

Wonder why I hit the sky when she blows me a kiss
In a while run a mile, I’m regretting all this

(again with the running theme)

The point here is that this left one of my quiz questions tainted, making the results unreliable as a completely accurate gauge of bluegrass expertise.

Then there were complaints that the quiz was too easy. One reader/journalist we’ll call “T. Goldsmith” said, “Is that all you got?” Another reader said, “This version of your quiz is too easy. I’m not used to getting 100% in anything.”

Personally I’d be thrilled to get 100% in something, especially if I wasn’t used to it, but I understand the desire for a challenge.

Then on the other hand, some felt the test was too difficult. One reader said that fellow band members had become condescending and disrespectful after learning of his score of 2. When he attempts to make musical suggestions in rehearsal now, they reply, “Yeah, whatever, dummy.”

There was also a random request for a Del McCoury question.

To address all of these concerns, I’ve decided to provide not one but two revised quizzes. It’s fitting that in this world so deeply divided over vaccines, Donald Trump, and the Columbia vs. Decca recordings of Blue Moon of Kentucky, that we should have two separate quizzes, one very easy and the other very difficult. People can pre-classify themselves as “bluegrass know-it-all” or “mostly disinterested fan” ahead of time before choosing which quiz to take.

The good news here, if there is any, is that if you completely fail the tough one, you have a pretty good chance of acing the easy one. You can always say you didn’t want to be the kind of person who would take the “know-it-all” one anyway, mumbling something under your breath about “bluegrass elitists.”

If you’re worried this weekly column will soon just devolve into a weekly quiz, you’re right to be concerned. The fact is, my masters at Bluegrass Today have been encouraging more quizzes in the hopes that The New York Times will purchase the quiz feature for seven figures as they did Wordle last week. The Times has declined to comment or even pretend to be interested.

Okay, here are the revised quizzes. These will have only five questions per test and only four possible answers. We’ll start with the easy one. As always, cheating by Googling is just a silly thing to do.

1. Bill Monroe named his band “The Blue Grass Boys” after . . .

A. The state of Kentucky, “The Blue Grass State”

B. Rejecting “The Band of Blue Grass Ruhks”

C. Grass

D. The style of music they were playing

2. In the bluegrass style, the 5-string banjo is most often played with

A. A mute

B. An assurance that the player will stop after 9:00 p.m., if it’s in a residential area

C. A thumb pick and two finger picks

D. An impending divorce

In the song I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow, what has the man seen?

A. A large quantity of sorrow

B. Trouble all his days

C. A Coen Brothers movie

D. The morning burning golden on the mountain in the skies

3. Fill in the blank: “The high __________ sound”

A. . . .ly obscure

B. Pleasant

C. Lonesome

D. Screaming

4. Flatt & Scruggs’ first names were . . .

A. Jim and Jesse

B. Molly and Tenbrooks

C. Reeb and Rabe

D. Lester and Earl

And now, for the experts:

1. Dave Evans co-wrote the song One Loaf of Bread with . . .

A. Lowell Varney

B. Lowell George

C. Landon Messer

D. Henry Mancini

2. In 1945, Lester Flatt expressed the opinion to Bill Monroe that he didn’t need to replace Dave Akeman (“Stringbean”) with another banjo player primarily because . . .

A. He thought Stringbean was irreplaceable

B. He was just so sick of all that banjo in the show. Sick of it, I tell you!

C. He hadn’t yet heard Earl Scruggs play Dear Old Dixie

D. He was hoping Bill would hire an accordion player to replace Sally Ann Forrester

3. At one point early in his career, Ralph Stanley wasn’t 100% sure he wanted to pursue music full time, and instead considered a career in . . .

A. Veterinary medicine

B. Local government

C. Coal mining

D. Casino ownership

4. In the 1950s, the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover moved to Boston, where, among other places, they performed regularly at a place called . . .

A. The Combat Zone

B. The Parker House

C. The Hillbilly Hideaway

D. The Hillbilly Ranch

5. In the early 1960s, after playing with Bill Monroe, Del McCoury moved briefly to California where he played with a band called The Golden State Boys. That band later changed its name to . . .

A. The Golden State Warriors

B. The Hillmen

C. The Bluegrass Cardinals

D. The California Bluegrass Fellows

Answer keys:

Test 1:

1:A, 2:C, 3:B, 4:C, 5:D

Test 2:

1:C, 2:C, 3:A, 4:D, 5:B