Least Important Bluegrass Stories of 2012

Chris JonesI hope it’s been a wonderful holiday season for you so far. The date of this column’s publication being January 2nd, let me be the first to wish you a very happy Ninth Day of Christmas. Yes, in spite of Bluegrass Today and Rhonda Vincent’s recent “Twelve Days of Christmas” in reverse, Christmas Day is actually the First Day of Christmas, which means that today you should be giving your true love “nine ladies dancing,” if you care about the relationship at all.

I have to say that I take exception to this tradition because I can’t envision the circumstances under which my wife would approve of the giving or receiving of nine ladies dancing, or the appearance of nine ladies dancing in our home by any other means, for that matter. It just wouldn’t go over.

Really, you have to wonder about that whole list of gifts for your “true love.” It seems to be dominated by fowl in different forms, or gifts of actual human beings, which we nowadays tend to classify as human trafficking (not very Christmasy). What are the chances that the “nine ladies dancing” or the “eight maids a-milking” have their immigration papers in order? Slim, I’m betting. On the other hand, the “twelve drummers drumming” (so popular in bluegrass circles) are probably all in the union but still desperate for the gig.

For me this is all just a reminder, that, even though I love the Christmas season, I find it has left me with more troubling and difficult-to-answer questions again, like:

  • Why do two different Christmas songs contain the phrase “mistletoe hung where you can see” (see: Holly Jolly Christmas and Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree)? Are people in the habit of hanging mistletoe where you can’t see?
  • Even after a fresh round of polling results, why do over 67% of Americans still believe that “Auld Lang Syne” means “Old String Cheese”?
  • Why aren’t people more disturbed by the appearance of a random talking (and nosy) snowman in the chorus of Winter Wonderland?
  • Did Barry Manilow really record Joni Mitchell’s River on one of his four Christmas albums, or did I just dream that? (Note to self: no egg nog right before bed).
  • What’s causing that weird buzzing sound in my D string?

Most of these are unanswerable questions right now, although I did do a small amount of research on the mistletoe question. It turns out that the mistletoe seed was thought to be spread through bird dung, and that the word itself, translated from the original old English (unless I’m thinking of Icelandic) actually means “dung twig” (or “poop stick” in more polite company). From now on, I too will be hanging mistletoe where you can’t see. I did not make that up, I promise.

I’m still completely baffled by the other questions, especially that D string buzz.

This is the time of year, though, that we love to both look ahead and look back, an activity that often causes neck strain, so we sit down and watch football for a while ’till it feels better.

Right now, I’m not interested in looking forward. I’ve already broken my only New Year’s Resolution (which was to eat more Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), so I’m already feeling kind of ho-hum about 2013. I’d rather reflect back on what was really a significant year in many ways.

Over the past week, you’ve no doubt heard various countdowns and lists of the “Most Important People” of 2012, the “Biggest News Stories of 2012,” etc. Yes, of course it was a big year, what with the world not ending, the Obama Administration not ending, and the celebrity status of Kim Kardashian not ending. Some major things didn’t happen in 2012.

In the world of bluegrass, of course, 2012 had many major stories, most of them sad, with the passing of some of the music’s most important instrumental pioneers and innovators topping the list.

But what about the less important stories of 2012? The ones that either changed nothing, involved people or issues we’ve never heard of, or were just insignificant by their very nature. I don’t think these get the coverage they deserve.

With that in mind, here is my submission for bluegrass music’s Least Important Stories of 2012:

  1.  The IBMA defeated a resolution to shuffle up the name of the organization to Music Association of Bluegrass, International. The theory behind the proposal was that this created the convenient acronym “MABI,” which sounds like “MAYBE.” There were two “yes” votes on the IBMA board, with four abstentions.
  2. Citing “differences in personal priorities” the band Drifting Ridge had a sudden breakup (these “differences” reportedly led to a band brawl, with one weapon drawn but not fired), splitting into two bands: Drifting Ridge County and The New Drifting Ridge, featuring Vincent Redmond. Their band vehicle was sold at blue book value. Mr. Redmond was the owner of the P.A.
  3. The research firm of Clifton, Clinton, Clapton, and Plunkett (which sounds like a banjo case falling down the stairs) has released its preliminary findings that indicate that the average bluegrass festival attendee is older than he/she was 20 years ago.
  4. One of the nation’s fastest growing apparel companies, Large Untucked Shirts and T-shirts With Stuff Printed On Them, announced endorsement deals with several bluegrass bands.
  5. There was a reunion of Drifting Ridge, (minus the original fiddle player) now renamed The Drifting Ridge Bluegrass Band. They are currently accepting bookings for 2013.


What a year! May your 2013 be just as uneventful as this.

Next week: The annual Bluegrass Quiz. A study guide is available on line for $19.95 plus shipping and handing. All orders placed before January 6th receive the In-the-egg Scrambler and eleven pipers piping (shipped separately).