More bluegrass for you, Thing One and Thing Two

Chris JonesEvery now and then, I run across something in the social media realm that catches my attention, and that thankfully has nothing at all to do with presidential candidates or Kanye West. It’s the kind of thing that causes me to shout to the hills, “now that’s worthwhile time-wasting!”

A web programmer and acoustic music enthusiast, Jared Wenerd, got the idea to develop a random bluegrass lyric generator, using an automated Twitter account (@horse_bluegrass), or “Twitter bot,” which he set to generate lines of randomly assembled bluegrass phrases and tweet them periodically.

For those interested in the technical side of how this was done, Wenard explained:

“The code (via mispy/twitter_ebooks) takes text, parses it into individual words, to create a model where the algorithm knows the likeliness that one word will follow another or end a phrase. For instance starting with the word ‘in’ it knows that a likely word to follow will be ‘the’, ‘a’, or 43 other different words. The algorithm decides to go with ‘the’ due to the statistical likeliness and randomness. It then continues and chooses the next word after ‘the’ using the same process… and so on until the algorithm decides the phrase should end. Once it has a complete phrase, it publishes the text to Twitter.”

He goes on to say, “To get the training text, I wrote a web scrapper which took all the songs from and outputted the song title and lyrics into this single text file.”

If this was being explained to me in person, I would have been nodding my head knowingly, interjecting the occasional “ah!” to try to give the impression that I actually understand what a “web scrapper” is.

The results are interesting, sometimes humorous, and I applaud Mr. Wenard for an outstanding idea. This is so much worthier a cause than randomly generating campaign slogans (that’s how they come up with those, by the way), skin diseases, or Charles Dickens characters (with skin diseases).

The first phrase it spewed seemed promising: “Now my friend listen here” but many of the phrases that followed sounded a lot like what they in fact were: parts of lines from bluegrass songs fused together so they no longer make much sense. Serious fans of the music will recognize where some of these lines came from:

“Oh friends forsake me my love I would pray everyone could stay here without you”

“He’s far from here to grieve dear all alone”

Some were definitely funny:

“We pray to our Father to guide you each day and three or four each night”

(this is known as high-maintenance praying!)

“You may not like my peaches, don’t you hear Jerusalem moan”

(this is proof that blues and Gospel lyrics should be blended with caution)

As I read on, I realized that these lyrics lacked not only the human perspective and soul necessary to generate song lyrics, they lacked context. It was encouraging, really: you still need people to write bluegrass songs. That was when I read this line, though, and thought that all that might be needed was input from an additional source to get the necessary human vantage point:

“In a long black veil she cries over my head in a bed on your floor”

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like Long Black Veil meets Dr. Seuss?

Could this be the very perspective lacking in these other randomly generated lyrics? I had to find out, so I enlisted a tech-savvy friend to supplement all the phrases with lines from every Dr. Seuss book ever written, then have them generate phrases from the fused material. The resulting phrases are longer, and best of all, they rhyme. I don’t have a Twitter bot for this yet (@BluegrassLorax?); I thought I’d run it by Bluegrass Today readers first. Maybe I should just bypass social media entirely on this and start recording the Bluegrass Seuss album.

Here are some of the bluegrass/Seuss lyric phrases that were generated:

  • “Like the flowers need the dew, there is no one alive who is you-er than you”
  • “I don’t want your greenback dollar, ten cents and a nail, and the shell of a great great great grandfather snail”
  • “I asked my love to take a walk where the great river rushes, and crashes down crags in great gargling gushes.”
  • “If I was on some foggy mountain top, making gluppity-glup also schloppity-schlopp”
  • “A diamond ring and a lock of her hair, from there to here and here to there, funny things are everywhere”
  • “On route 23 in the County of Keck, a very small bug by the name of Van Vleck is yawning so wide you can look down his neck”
  • “I’m walking the dog all the law will allow, it’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”
  • “I’m going back to old Kentucky, there to see my Linda Lou Who who was no more than two.”


You say you don’t like bluegrass lyrics blended with Dr. Seuss quotes? Try them, try them, and you may!