From The Side of the Road… writing bluegrass songs about bluegrass

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but bluegrass songs about bluegrass are more popular than ever. They seem to get airplay and the charts continue to be full of them. What’s not to like? It’s the music we love about the music we love, written and played by the people we love, or in some cases used to love.

Would you like to try your hand at writing one of these chart-toppers yourself, but are feeling that they’ve all been written by the experts already? Not so! Just as there are hundreds of ways to express lost love, longing for home, or throwing girls into rivers, there are countless ways to write about, and capitalize on our love for the music.

I’d like to offer some ideas for you, completely free of charge (though I wouldn’t complain if offered 50% of the publishing). First, it might be helpful to break these songs down into sub-genres.

I can think of four of them, but you might come up with more:

Tributes to bluegrass radio, DJs, and specific radio networks or shows

I’m not saying these are necessarily designed to get as much radio airplay as possible, but hey, if it works out that way, who would complain?

Recent offerings include the straight-to-the-point Bluegrass Radio, and songs with titles taken from Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction shows, including, well, Bluegrass Junction, as well as Derailed, and True Grass.

These are strong entries in the category, but there are still untapped Bluegrass Junction shows that might make good song ideas, like “Hand-Picked,” or “Track-by-track.” Or what about shows that pay tribute to the two largest bluegrass syndicators: “Knee Deep in Bluegrass,” or “Into the Blue?” Potential lyrics for “Hand-picked” are already flowing. Here’s a possible chorus:

My bluegrass is hand-picked
No machine can do the job
It’s got drive and feeling
Just listen to it throb

(you can think of some of these lines as placeholders)

What about songs that mention some of these DJs by name? Here are a few ideas:

  • “Cindy Baucom is a Goddess”
  • “Kyle Cantrell, My Good Friend”
  • “I Want To Bear Terry Herd’s Children”

I’ll admit that I wrote a bluegrass DJ song myself several years ago (how self-serving!). It was really more of a short song about a short song. It was called Bluegrass DJs 1:33, but everyone just called it Bluegrass DJs, which wasn’t much of a title, and it probably had too many in-jokes in it. “So why would we take your advice?” you might be asking, and it’s a valid question.

Other bluegrass songs about bluegrass sub-genres:

The list of bluegrass things

In this genre we have the recent entry, Country Boy, Banjo, and Flattop Guitar, just as one example. There are lots of other possibilities here, though:

  • “City Boy, Sound Engineer, and Electric Upright Bass”
  • “Banjo, Mandolin, and a 12-pack”
  • “Two Fiddles, Three Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Bass, Dobro, and a Really Large Payroll”

Or the more abstract:

  • “Banjo, Strawberry, and Used Bowling Shoe”

The bluegrass protest song

These are the “why are you wrecking our music?” kinds of songs, the latest example being True Grass, already mentioned above. This was inspired by (and even refers to) Murder on Music Row, the Larry Cordle/Larry Shell classic, which was really about the state of country music, but the bluegrass protest song is a growing sub-genre all its own now.

A Far Cry From Lester and Earl is another in this category.

Some other bluegrass protest songs that are waiting to be written:

  • “They Just Don’t Play ‘Em Like They Used To”
  • “They Just Don’t Write Songs About How They Don’t Play ‘Em Like They Used to Anymore”
  • “You Call That Bluegrass? Yuck!”

Finally there’s this relatively new sub-genre:

Putting bluegrass music in various orifices

Put Some Bluegrass in my Ear is one of these that comes to mind, and it’s true that this may be a somewhat limited category (at least in polite company), but there are still some promising options here. Note that these are merely song ideas, not literal suggestions, so please don’t try these activities at home:

  • “Put a Fiddle Tune Up My Nose”
  • “I Want More Mountain Music in My Mouth”
  • “Spray Some Flatt & Scruggs in my Eye”

When you feel like you’ve run out of ideas, and if you have some musical versatility, you might consider branching out into reggae songs about reggae, electronic dance music songs about electronic dance music, etc. There are already quite a few disco songs about disco; they were way ahead of us in this area.