From The Side of the Road… top bluegrass exit strategies

Well, it’s the heart of summer; it’s extremely hot in many places, and our thoughts turn naturally to death. This may seem a little morbid, but this is a column about bluegrass music, after all. Aside from the moment when George Clooney lip-synced Dan Tyminski in a major motion picture, many of us consider bluegrass music’s post-Beverly Hillbillies crowning moment to be the time Ralph Stanley sang Oh Death on the Grammys.

Yes, in the pop music world, summer means the release of shallow, breezy love songs (think SiriusXM’s Yacht Rock channel). In our world, however, it just means more songs about death that are just slightly more uptempo. We love the subject, and my thoughts began to turn to how bluegrass musicians might prefer to leave this world. 

Almost no professional bluegrass musicians retire—many can’t afford to—or if they do, it’s a loose definition of “retired” that usually involves taking some gigs anyway if they pay enough. Then there are the reunion shows. This leaves lots of possibilities open for interesting ways to kick the bucket in true bluegrass style.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a top 10-style list. I say “style” because the phrase “Top 10 List” may still be owned by the David Letterman organization. This will be a top 11 list, anyway.

Here then, just for summertime, are the top 11 favorite ways for bluegrass musicians to die:

11 – In a moving bus, preferably not while driving

10 – In a moving festival golf cart, preferably while driving

9 – From catfish-related food poisoning

8 – On stage, in the middle of a CD commercial

7 – Choking on a piece of chicken while receiving an IBMA distinguished achievement award

6 – While singing the high note in Kentucky Waltz

5 – Drowning in a river after being thrown into it by someone named Willie

4 – Surrounded by family and friends, none of whom were on the guest list

3 – In the studio, just after the producer says, “I need one more for me.”

2 – In the arms of Rosa Lee McFall

1 – Of natural causes, while sleeping, after having actually retired (it could happen)

Happy summer!