It’s bluegrass knowledge quiz time again. That time generally falls around the 1st of the year but can also happen as late as Groundhog Day, Passover, or Father’s Day. In any case, here in 2022 that time is now. I present one of these annually as a way for you to evaluate your familiarity with the music we love.
I’ve received some criticism in recent years from a review panel composed of bluegrass industry people who were really grasping for ways to spend time during the pandemic. The panel accused my quizzes of being “shallow,” “silly,” and “potentially corrupt.” I can accept the first two, but I’m just baffled by the third. What makes something “potentially” corrupt? It implies that it isn’t corrupt yet, but could become so at an unspecified later time. Clearly it isn’t corrupt now, because I would have to be gaining something—financially or otherwise—for that to be the case. So what then would change to make it something I could derive some ill-gotten gain from? Perhaps it could happen if Neil Rosenberg started sending me money for invoking his name every year. Who’s to say he isn’t already doing this?
It was also suggested that I reform the grading system and clarify the meaning of each grade. Caving to pressure, then, I’m reworking the categories, and participants will receive a letter grade, rather than a numerical ranking. I’m also not planning to mention Neil Rosenberg at all this year, and I won’t say anything about what a great piece of work his and Charles K. Wolfe’s The Music of Bill Monroe is.
The quiz will remain just as shallow and silly as before, however. I have my principles.
The name “Bluegrass Knowledge Test” had also begun to sound stodgy and dated (very 2014), so we’re now going to simply call it “The Bluegrass Quiz.”
Before we get to the quiz, here is the new grading system explained:
Seven correct answers earns you an “A”: you are a full-fledged bluegrass expert (read: “geek”). If someone spouts some questionable bluegrass information on Facebook or some other medium known for questionable information, you are well within your rights to chime in with a haughty, “I beg to differ,” and people should pay attention, even if they won’t.
Five or six correct answers gets you a “B” rating: You’re clearly well-versed in this music and probably know which racehorse died, Molly or Tenbrooks, if not the specific cause of death. People find you a bit of a know-it-all but you carry it well. At least you’re not part of the reviled “bluegrass elite” as those with A ratings and a basement full of vintage instruments sometimes are.
Three or four right: You’ve earned a “C.” You know just enough about the music to be humbled by how much there is to know. You love the music, and you know that Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs used to play in Bill Monroe’s band; you just don’t know when or what songs they did. Isn’t that enough? You have the potential to score higher in future quizzes, but you may or may not bother.
One or two right: You’ve been graded a “D,” and that’s being generous. You know a thing or two, sure, but you also probably spell Alison Krauss’ name with two Ls and think the Stanley Brothers’ first names were “Ralph and Harpo.” You’re ideally suited to make some of the Facebook posts mentioned above. After all, who’s to say what’s true and what isn’t, anyway? This is music. Let’s enjoy it!
Zero right: “F,” I’m sorry to say. There’s probably some other kind of music you know about that the rest of us are completely ignorant of (early ’80s ska?), Feel free to just change the subject. Otherwise, better luck next year.
As in past years, the questions will start easy and get progressively more difficult.
1. The correct name of Ralph Stanley’s band was:
A. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Clan
B. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys
C. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch River Breeder Reactors
D. Ralph Stanley and the Weeknd
E. Ralph Stanley and Clinch
2. The “Little Cabin Home on the Hill” . . .
A. Is a real place in western Kentucky
B. Is a euphemism for a house of ill-repute, which is also a euphemism
C. Is a song co-written and recorded by Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt
D. Is a song co-written by Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt but never recorded until Sturgill Simpson put it on his Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2 album with a fourth verse and bridge added
E. Was recently featured on the show Love It or List It
3. Fox On the Run was written and first recorded by . . .
A. The Lovin’ Spoonful
B. Manfred Mann
C. Bill Emerson and Cliff Waldron
D. Tom T. Hall
E. Lawrence Welk
4. The mandolin is tuned . . .
A. In pairs
B. In fifths
D. With great difficulty
E. All of the above
5. In the mid-1950s, Flatt & Scruggs added an instrument to their lineup which had never been used in Bill Monroe’s band. It was . . .
A. A snare drum
B. An octave banjo
C. An oboe
D. A dobro
E. A leg
6. Correctly complete the following line from the song You Don’t Know My Mind: Honey You Don’t Know My Mind. . .
A . . . Or anybody else’s mind for that matter
B.. . . I’m lonesome all the time
C. . . You’ve climbed up the wrong pine
D. . . And I don’t know my mind, does anybody here know my mind?
E. . . The plans we made have gone astray
7. Before Mac Wiseman played with Flatt & Scruggs or Bill Monroe, he played bass for which country female vocalist in the 1940s:
A. Peggy Lee
B. Patsy Cline
C. Molly O’Day
D. Sandra Day O’Connor
E. Sinead O’Connor
1:B, 2:C, 3:B, 4:E, 5:D, 6:B, 7:C