Most Boring Bluegrass Stories of 2016

One of the most popular annual features of this column, second only to every other annual feature, is our review of the year’s most boring stories.

The end of December and January are all about recapping the previous year in chart or review form. We have the Top 10 movies of 2016, the Best Bluegrass CDs of 2016, the 5 Most Tragic Celebrity Deaths, or the 10 Most Bizarre Occurrences of the 2016 Election. As we look back on the previous year, though, we tend to ignore the mundane and uninteresting happenings. I think this is an irresponsible omission. Just because something is dull, it’s not fair to assume that it isn’t important. Mind you, it doesn’t mean it is important either, but just to be on the safe side, below is a summary of the five Most Boring Bluegrass Stories of 2016.

In past years, I’ve relied on some of Bluegrass Today’s more riveting entries, like “Cataract Surgery Delayed For Johnny Powers,” and the jaw-dropping personnel change news, “Corey Thimble to Haunting Gravel.”

This year, though, I decided to dig a little deeper, combing various regional bluegrass web sites and newsletters, sometimes gathering the stories first-hand from sources I’m not at liberty to disclose (hint: they’re inside my head somewhere). Here are five of the most predictable and dreary ones I found:

Guitar Player Unable to Find His Bottle of Water Backstage

36 year-old bluegrass musician Tony Plunkett of Huntsville, AL was unable to distinguish his own plastic bottle of water from all of the other partially drunk bottles backstage at a bluegrass festival. “I put mine down next to another one,” said Plunkett, “and when I came back I had no idea which one was mine, since they all had the same blue label on the bottle. I thought I had drunk about a third of the water, but I wasn’t sure. Guess I should have marked mine or something.” Plunkett eventually took a new bottle and carried it with him on stage, where the fiddle player in his band accidentally kicked it over.

Festival Promoter Loses Money

Lucille Donovan, the event producer known for such bluegrass shows as Bluegrass Under the Sky (or “BUS”), and Bluegrass Outdoors At Thanksgiving (or “BOAT”), has announced that her first annual summer festival Bluegrass Under Some Trees, is in the red, after crunching all the numbers for the first year. “I’m not disappointed,” Donovan clarified. “Almost all festivals lose some money in the first year, and often for at least three years in a row. If we can come close to breaking even next year, we’ll be happy.” Lucille is already making plans for next year’s event. Asked if she intends to make any changes for the second year, she replied, “Not really.”

Band Inconvenienced While Traveling

The 4-piece band Blue Bandage experienced some unwanted delays on a recent flight to Albuquerque to start a 6-day southwest tour. “First, they charged us $35 for an extra bag. I didn’t see that coming!” lamented the 44 year-old band leader Barry Walton. “Then we missed our connection in Chicago,” added fiddler Susan Drummond. “We had to be re-booked on a new flight, but it wasn’t for another five hours!” When the band eventually made it to their destination, they were a full 4 hours late. “Albuquerque’s in a different time zone from home, too, so that made it that much more tiring for us. I hope things are a lot smoother going back.” When asked how they passed the long hours in the airport, the band members said that they “ate food and used the wifi.” They can laugh about it now, and it’s even become a story they enjoy telling on stage.

Songwriters Conduct Workshop Without Performing Any Songs

Four prominent bluegrass songwriters recently hosted a one-hour songwriting workshop and never sang a single song. One of the writers said, “we just got a lot of questions about publishing and copyright law, mostly.” Another added, “a few wanted to know the best way to get their songs recorded by Alison Krauss. Then we just told inside stories about the business till we ran out of time.” A similar workshop is planned for next year.

One Banjo Player Speaks to Another Banjo Player at Merchandise Table For a Very Long Time

Professional banjo player Harold Robinson (of the band, Swyft Wynd) spent over 45 minutes at the merchandise table of the band Lonesome Window, talking to their banjo player, Lonnie Wellstone. While other members of the band chatted with fans and signed CDs, the banjo players remained in conversation with each other, often blocking access to fans wishing to purchase CDs. Subjects discussed included tone ring replacement, truss rod adjustment, and banjo tablature (pro or con), with additional topics including climate change (pro or con), the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the noticeable increase in the wild turkey population.

I’ll be on the lookout for more stories like this throughout the year. May you have a thoroughly boring 2017.