From The Side of the Road… bluegrass bandleader gift ideas

This is it: the home stretch of the holiday shopping season is upon us. If you’re reading this when it first hit the Bluegrass Today front page on Wednesday (morning edition), there are five more shopping days until Christmas, counting this one. By the way, what that means is there are five more days until Christmas. The term “shopping days” harkens back to the time when stores weren’t open every day, so it was a way of counting the days left when you could actually shop. We still use the phrase anyway, even though it’s now as expired as the carton of egg nog hiding behind the apple cider in your fridge.

Do you give holiday gifts to the bluegrass people in your life, like your band members, your agent, your manager, your sound engineer, your bodyguard? It’s not usually expected, which is good in a way: you’re off the hook if you don’t give gifts, and if you do, it’s thought of as something special.

Perhaps you may be wanting to be generous but feel stuck because of that one hard-to-buy-for mandolin player, which in turn leads you to decide to skip everybody (including your own children) so no one feels excluded. Tragically that one musician in your life has just wrecked Christmas.

After extensive discussion with a gift consultant, (a 6 year-old nephew) I’d like to offer a list of suggestions for various people in your bluegrass music life, at three different cost levels: low, medium, and high (just to be clear, I named those categories all by myself, without the use of the consultant):

Banjo player in your band:

  • Low: Set of strings
  • Medium: Two sets of strings
  • High: 1925 original Gibson RB-4  (If this is out of your price range: a four-bedroom house in Arizona. If it’s really out of your price range: 3 sets of strings and a toaster)

Guitar player/lead singer in your band:

  • Low: guitar pick taped inside Christmas card
  • Medium: Personalized guitar pick taped inside non-re-gifted Christmas card
  • High: Case of hair pomade

Fiddle player in your band:

  • Low: Rosin for bow
  • Medium: Horse hair for bow
  • High: A horse with a healthy-looking tail

Bass player in your band:

  • Low: Golf ball or baby shoe for bottom of endpin
  • Medium: T-shirt that says, “Hey! I’m in the band, too!”
  • High: Set of strings

Booking Agent:

  • Low: 10% of a box of chocolates
  • Medium: 15% of a box of Swiss chocolates
  • High: Wireless phone earpiece with “hint hint” written in card


  • Low: T-shirt that says, “Talk to me first”
  • Medium: A cake with “What is it you do again?” written in icing
  • High: Get manager to go out and buy own expensive gift

Promoter/Event Producer:

  • Low (for one who hasn’t booked your band since Bill Clinton’s first term): Re-gifted fruitcake
  • Medium (for one who has never booked you but for whom you’ve decided to dispense with all pride and suck up to anyway): A coffee table photography book of starving musicians in Hendersonville, TN
  • High (for one who books you regularly and even returns emails): A bronze plaque and two tickets for a week at a Caribbean resort

Your sound guy/gal:

  • Low: Ear plugs
  • Medium: A box of ear plugs and a 9 volt battery
  • High: Four counseling sessions with a therapist specializing in trauma and stress response

Record label head:

  • Low: Ear plugs
  • Medium: Small fruit basket
  • High: Deluxe fruit basket, to be charged to “gift debt account,” repayable at rate of .08% per gift given to you in return

Although it’s been said many times, many ways . . .