From The Side of the Road… movie tag lines for bluegrass standards

Last week we discussed movie taglines, those one or two sentence teasers meant to entice us to rush out (or in) to see the film. As I said, they can range from the overly sparse: “An Event” (Earthquake), to the plot-spoiling line that says a little too much; “Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States” (Day of the Dolphin — and really, who among us hasn’t unwittingly trained an assassin dolphin at some point?). Then there are the matter-of-fact yet vague taglines like the one for the horror movie, Tourist Trap: “Every year, young people disappear” (good to know). Clash of the Titans played it very safe with “Titans Will Clash.”

This week my plan was to apply this kind of marketing approach to standard bluegrass songs. Perhaps the absence of an effective tagline is the reason most of these songs weren’t million-sellers.

We could take the Day of the Dolphin approach for a song like Pretty Polly, for example, and give a little too much information: “Not realizing how creepy and dangerous he is, Pretty Polly took an ill-advised walk with a serial killer.”

Personally, though, I’d prefer something a little snappier: Pretty Polly: “She’s afraid of Little Willie’s ways—she SHOULD be.”

We probably should have one for Rocky Top, though it sold plenty and doesn’t really need our help: “Two strangers, one bearish cat-like woman, and a moonshine still. We may never see them again.”

When You Say Nothing at All – also a legitimate million-seller in no need of marketing assistance, but, drawing on the minimalist approach taken with Earthquake, this might work: “Shhh!”

Rock Salt and Nails: “Love has turned him bitter; now he wishes all women were squirrels and birds.”

Darling Corey (also called Dig a Hole in the Meadow): This song has always been a little mysterious to me. By the chorus, it seems that Darling Corey is already dead:

Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow
Dig a hole in the cold cold ground
Dig a hole dig a hole in the meadow
We’re gonna lay darling Corey down

This leaves the impression that the “highway robbers” referred to in the first verse wasted no time, even though we spend two verses trying to wake Corey up. In one of the verses, he asks Corey to wake up and get his gun. If the situation was this urgent, why not get his own gun? Anyway, this song creates a tagline challenge. We could go the plot-spoiler route:

“It was a day that turned deadly—start digging!”

This might leave more to the imagination:

“Unwanted visitors and a heavy sleeper—a dangerous combination!”

Or, perhaps:

“Wake up, darling Corey! There’s no time to . . . never mind.”

Then there’s the Dillards’ Dooley: “One ton is a whole lot of molasses.”

The classic guilt trip song, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, could use a tagline capturing the singer’s pitiful outlook: “The willow won’t be the only one weeping.” Or you could take the horror movie approach: “The groom is under the willow. In the ground. He may still be ALIVE!”

Legend of the Rebel Soldier: “A soldier has a lot of questions. He never gets answers.”

Merle Travis’ Dark as a Dungeon: “It’s darker than you think.”

Finally—and this one was another million-seller—in the spirit of the Clash of the Titans tagline:

Wreck of the Old 97: “Trains Will Wreck.”