This will be my last column before Halloween, so let me reiterate what you’ve probably already heard in countless public service announcements (“PSAs” to radio people, or people who just don’t have the time to say “Public Service Announcements”): Please eat candy corn responsibly.
Ah Halloween! As Andy Williams sang it, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” (unless I’m thinking of a different holiday). It’s a time for letting our kids beg door-to-door, bingeing on candy, cutting yourself while carving pumpkins, and of course, the costume party.
You may be attending one of these in the coming week. You may be invited to, or might even host a Halloween pickin’ party, in which, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear someone singing How Mountain Girls Can Love while dressed as Darth Vader.
Coming up with an appropriate yet original costume for this kind of event is always a challenge. It seems to me that if Halloween is being fused with bluegrass music as a party concept, you need to come up with some kind of bluegrass-oriented costume.
One year I tried to be unpredictable and decided to go as a bluegrass D.J. I even bought a wig that said “D.J” on the package. Clearly the wigmaker was thinking more Howard Stern than Bill Knowlton, but I decided to go with it anyway.
Another year, I attended a costume party and costume contest at The Station Inn in Nashville. Ron Stewart and I dressed up as Jim and Jesse, and for added authenticity we wore Jim and Jesse’s actual jackets. My wife Sally went as Porter Wagoner and one of her Petticoat Junction bandmates, Robin Roller (Thixton) went as Dolly Parton. We all lost in our contest bid to Petticoat Junction bandleader Andrea Roberts, who dressed as a very convincing Wilma Lee Cooper. It seemed only right for her to beat us since she was our source for the Jim and Jesse jackets in the first place.
To come up with a decent bluegrass costume, you need to come up with something a little bit unique, something that won’t be duplicated by several other people at the party. At any given event like this, you’re bound to have two or three Jimmy Martins (this only requires a fancy cowboy hat and a brocade jacket), a few random Foggy Mountain Boys (hat, string tie), and who hasn’t been to a Halloween bluegrass party that isn’t full of people dressed as Birch Monroe?
To put your individual stamp on the festivities, consider looking outside the realm of famous bluegrass artists (think outside the bus), and perhaps dress as a luthier, a booking agent, or even an IBMA staff member, or you could dress up as a member of the Earls of Leicester dressing as a member of the Foggy Mountain Boys. Or, if you just can’t be bothered, buy the Kim Kardashian costume at Party Central and be done with it.
If you have the interest and the time, here are a few specific bluegrass Halloween costume ideas:
Bluegrass artists or musicians others might not have thought of:
- Bill Napier
- Rudy Lyle
- Rex Gosdin
Non-performers who are nevertheless essential to the production of bluegrass events:
- Surly sound engineer
- Friendly sound engineer
- Self-important festival parking lot attendant
- Singing bus driver
- Paul Schiminger
Inanimate bluegrass objects:
- Banjo case
- Guitar strap (recommended for thinner people)
- Upright bass flight case (recommended for heavier people)
- Capo (recommended for very small people)
Finally, for high school or college aged partygoers, who are most interested in the social connection aspect of Halloween:
- Sexy fiddle player
- Sexy booking agent
- Sexy Molly O’Day
- Sexy Little Roy Lewis
- Sexy Carlton Haney