From The Side of the Road… what’s in a name?

In these polarized political times (please hold your comments), a new acronym has sprung up to describe politicians who don’t quite tow the party line: “RINO” and “DINO,” short for “Republican In Name Only,” or “Democrat In Name Only.” This is meant as a putdown within your own ideological ranks: a RINO can be a Republican who criticizes Donald Trump or who declines to take a loyalty pledge of some kind. A DINO might be a Democrat who is holding up legislation President Biden is trying to get passed.

This acronym-hurling has spilled over into bluegrass music, too, with the predictable ‘BINO’ being thrown about. I don’t think I need to tell you what that stands for. 

The “in name only” designation is meant to be a statement about purity, whether it be ideological, political, or musical. It’s designed to dismiss people’s independent streaks or deviations from the norm, and ultimately to question their credentials. I got to thinking that while we’re classifying people and questioning their faithfulness to whatever our cause happens to be, we could come up with lots of other “INO” categories within the world of bluegrass music. See if any of these ring true with your bluegrass standards and experience:

FINO – Fiddler in Name Only: This is someone, perhaps a celebrity, but it could be anyone for whom playing the fiddle is mainly a gimmick used as part of his/her musical image, without a lot of actual fiddle-playing to go with it, or at least not any you’d be anxious to hear. Holding the fiddle is really the important thing.

BINO – Unlike the “Bluegrass In Name Only” which I didn’t bother to spell out above, this refers to “Bus In Name Only.” This is any large motor home, RV, or other band transportation vehicle that the band members refer to as “the bus,” but which is nothing of the kind. For example, on a recent tour, I referred to a rented Ford Fusion as “the bus.”

SINO – Stage In Name Only: The word “stage” is used loosely in our business. It can sometimes be a flatbed trailer, sometimes the corner of a pizza place after some tables have been moved around, creating enough room for three people to stand. You have a five-piece band.

HINO – Hotel In Name Only: Hotel rooms are sometimes promised and agreed to, then it turns out that what was meant by the term is the more vague “accommodation,” which can range from a leaking camper, to the couch of someone’s living room where a pickin’ party is scheduled for just after your show. 

SINO – Songwriter In Name Only: A co-writer who, though he or she will get 50%, doesn’t actually contribute anything to the song beyond saying, “That’s strong, hoss!” every time you come up with a new line.

MINO – Manager In Name Only: A person who is clearly taking a manager’s percentage off the top, but who doesn’t seem to be doing any actual managing.

BAINO – Booking Agent In Name Only: Same as above. You’re listed on this agent’s roster, yet said “agent” has booked you exactly minus one gig in a year (sometime I’ll explain to you how that’s mathematically possible).

SPINO – Sound Person In Name Only: This is a sound engineer who is using the very latest digital equipment but still isn’t sure which instrument is on which channel.

STINO – Set Time In Name Only: This is when your set time on paper doesn’t even approach reality, due to the show running “a little behind.” The last band did an encore consisting of a medley of Orange Blossom Special and Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. That was followed by the slower-than-expected instrument raffle, followed by a severe thunderstorm.

GRINO – Green Room In Name Only: This is a hospitality room or area provided to artists, and much appreciated by them, but it is sometimes not a room and is almost never green. 

SWINO – Stage Wear In Name Only: When what a band wears on stage is exactly the same thing they wore earlier that day at the Wal-Mart, and could possibly double as pajamas or swim wear.

TINO – Tuner In Name Only: An electronic tuner with a dead battery.