From The Side of the Road… I’ll give you something to argue about!

Well, though it’s not acknowledged in all camps, the election of 2020 is behind us (pending the final vote count in Alaska, which I’m told to expect sometime next May), and I know you were probably hoping that you could once again have a relatively civil conversation with your grouchy Uncle Harry, and that Facebook would once again be the domain of food pictures and videos of cat-curling (if you don’t know, don’t ask).

No such luck.

People are fighting about politics as never before, because apparently that’s what we do now. Is there any way to make it stop? Probably not, but there may be a partial solution ideally catered to devotees of bluegrass music. 

I once suggested that the best way to get rid of a song that was in your head uninvited was to replace it with another equally catchy song. Some feel that the only real cure for a love lost is to find a new love (better looking than the previous one). In that spirit of substitution, I would advise replacing political arguments with something we used to be so good at arguing about: bluegrass music.

Remember the good old days? It was before social media, and there was music rather than political talk on AM radio. The IBMA World of Bluegrass was held in Owensboro, Bill Monroe was still alive, and while waiting for an Executive Inn elevator, we would engage in the time-honored tradition of bluegrass debate. Eventually the face-to-face argument moved to the parking lot, then to BGRASS-L, then to the IBMA-L, then to the Bluegrass Today comments section, then finally to Facebook, where it all went to die. One day we found out how our friends voted, and we grew to dislike each other for all new reasons, and the skill of bluegrass quarreling was lost like the G-chord with an open B string, gone like the life of a child when it turns its back on your mind, even.

Let’s revive it, and we can bring some of the same fervor and intolerance of other people’s views into the bluegrass arena that we currently use in our social media political discourse. I know you may feel rusty, but the skills would all come back. Besides, as with politics, you don’t need to know anything about the subject to hold strong opinions. I recommend just lobbing a few opinionated bombs, sprinkled with a healthy dose of falsehood, wait for the replies, and just take it from there. It will come naturally again in no time. Below are a few bluegrass argument starters for you just to get you going. Adding “share if you agree,” or “make this go viral” are optional:

  • Bluegrass music is music of the Appalachians, and the fact that Bill Monroe was from western Kentucky is just a fluke.
  • Bluegrass music should be called “Blue Grass” music because it was Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, and the grass itself is also “Blue Grass.” Either way, it should always be capitalized, or never capitalized, or something.
  • Earl Scruggs, not Bill Monroe, is the true Father of Bluegrass (Blue Grass) because the style would never exist without the 5-string banjo, played in the 3-finger style. Tony Rice’s Manzanita album should be considered bluegrass, however, because they had planned to have banjo on it.
  • Bill Monroe would have started bluegrass music with or without Earl Scruggs, because he almost hired Don Reno before Earl Scruggs (Some of these will be counter-arguments).
  • Only the bass player in a bluegrass band should be funny, and only if he or she is given a stage name like “Strip Whiffleberry,” or “Wink Outboard.”
  • Reno and Smiley were the first major artists in any style of music to use electric bass, therefore electric bass is a bluegrass instrument exclusively.
  • Reno and Smiley used electric bass and sometimes drums, therefore Reno & Smiley aren’t bluegrass.
  • Drums were used by most first generation bluegrass artists at one time or another, therefore drums are a bluegrass instrument and should have an IBMA award category.
  • Drums were used by most first generation bluegrass artists, therefore none of them should be considered bluegrass, and that includes Bill Monroe. The first and possibly only bluegrass band ever was Lawrence Lane and the Kentucky Grass.
  • The Stanley Brothers song Hey! Hey! Hey! actually had an additional “Hey!” in the song, therefore the title is incorrect and should be disqualified (from something). The second “Hey” should not have an exclamation point.
  • Bluegrass Gospel music must be performed as a quartet and with mandolin and guitar only, unless it’s performed by brothers or the Lewis Family. All other Christian-themed music should be called “Christian-themed music.”
  • Bill Monroe secretly loved the dobro, but pretended to dislike it because Flatt & Scruggs used it.
  • There are only three genuine Lloyd Loar mandolins in existence. The rest are fakes. The fake ones are actually better than the real ones.
  • True bluegrass guitar tone cannot be obtained without Brazilian Rosewood. The government doesn’t want you to have it because . . . oh wait, now we’re back to politics.