Question Time with the Prime Minister (of Bluegrass Fun)

Chris JonesNow that we’ve passed the 200 milestone with this column, I thought it might be good to have a review in the form of a quiz.

I’ve actually done one of these quizzes a time or two before. The idea is to test your knowledge on some of the subjects that have been covered, just to see if you’ve been paying attention at all, or if you’ve just been letting the words wash over you, as I used to do with complex science study material in school (my bar for what was considered “complex” was very low, which is probably why I think the main difference between O2 and CO2 is the letter “C”).

Unlike in previous (and laughably easy) quizzes, though, we’re going to use material spanning the last four years, so I thought it only fair to make it “open book.” There will be links to all the relevant articles. You’ll be given approximately two years to complete the quiz. By then, not even you will care about your score, if you ever did.

Do your best with the seven questions below. There will be a key for calculating your grade below:

– Which of the following does not use the traditional form for a bluegrass haiku (link)

1. late in the evening

Uncle Pen played the fiddle

why did he do that?

2. not feeling so good

is this preacher listening?

Yankee prisons suck

3. banjo music rings

heard in distant wooded groves

I want a corn dog

4. maybe your friends think I’m just a stranger

well what if I don’t care what your friends think?

I never liked your friends anyway

you know I’m really feeling very sorrowful right now

5. testing 1,2,3

tedious pre-show routine

can’t hear my banjo

– Which of the following are sure signs that your band is about to break up (link):

1. You just pooled your money together to buy a bus.

2. The lead singer has begun referring to himself in the third person.

3.  During the last sound check, the bass player said, “I need a lot less of those talentless idiots in my monitor.”

4. You just took a new band publicity photo.

5. All of the above


– On the subject of band promotional material, please read the following, then answer the question below (link):

“Windy Hollow is a new band on the scene made up of members who have all played previously with other bands. Though they’ve just recently formed and have barely worked up 2 sets of material, they are already gradually earning a reputation as a competent and solid bluegrass unit, and they have already played some bluegrass festivals and one local Dairy Queen opening. Though some have called their vocals “screechy,” many of their fans will tell you that they like the band’s intensity. Instrumentally, they get the job done, with each member working well with the other to create a group sound that the Fall Creek Beacon Gazette called “decent bluegrass.”

The members of Windy Hollow are dedicated to making their band successful at some point in the future. They make a good addition to the bill of any bluegrass event, and, since it’s their first year out, they’re very affordable.”

What is the principal flaw in the way this is written?

1. The absence of the words “dynamic” and “hard-driving.”

2. It’s way too honest.

3. The Fall Creek Beacon Gazette was actually referring to another band

4. The name “Windy Hollow”

5. There’s no flaw; they had me at “competent.”


– Which of the following is the real story behind all the “Willie” murder ballads (link)?

1. They were all composed by Brooklyn Dodgers fans in the early 1950s to taunt New York Giants fans about their new star, Willie Mays.
2. Willie was an insecure little guy who murdered numerous women after they  turned down his proposals, never figuring out why he was so undesirable a mate (arrest record aside). Thinking ahead to bluegrass bands needing material, he murdered them all in different keys, tempos, and time signatures.
3. No one has any idea, and only three ethnomusicologists in Milwaukee really care.
4. They were all written in the British Isles during the reign of King William III to discredit King “Willie” and to make everyone think he lived in Knoxville.
5. It was convenient for songwriters in the 19th century to name all characters “Willie” because it rhymes so conveniently with “chilly,” “silly,” and “hilly,” or, if you write songs in Nashville, “almond.”


– Though it’s not for everyone (e.g. family Gospel bands featuring underaged kids), there is a positive side to playing in bars. Choose one below (link):

1. It toughens you up and helps to expand your repertoire.
2. It’s more convenient for band members with a drinking problem.
3. Playing for crowds that are attentively listening to your music can eventually start creeping you out. Bars provide welcome relief.
4. Studies show that after the 1000th time of playing “Wagon Wheel,” it becomes a kind of mantra and may reduce your blood pressure. It also starts messing with your DNA.
5. It brings about marked improvement in pinball skills.


– Which of the following actually happened and is not a sign of the “end of days” or the Mayan Apocalypse (link):

1. No one has complained about the selection of showcase artists at the IBMA World of Bluegrass.
2. Steve Kaufman has announced that he’s out of ideas for instructional material and is releasing his final DVD, entitled “Oh, just play whatever!”
3. Ralph Stanley has sung “Oh Death,” a capella, on the televised portion of the Grammys.
4. Alison Krauss has released her newest single, a medley of “Mambo Italiano” and  “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.
5. Larry Sparks has gotten a Mohawk.

– Which song below is the least inappropriate for a bluegrass band to perform at a wedding (link):

1.  “I Know You’re Married But I Love You Still”

2.  “Veil of White Lace”

3.  “A Face in the Crowd”

4.  “Cripple Creek”

5.  “You’re Not a Drop in the Bucket”


(Answers, in order: 4, 5, 2, 3, 1, 3, 4)

If you answered 6 or 7 correctly:

Congratulations! You have too much time on your hands on Wednesdays, and retain useless information very well.

If you answered 4 or 5 correctly:

You’re a casual reader who might check in from time to time, whenever it’s a slow enough news day that Bluegrass Today is leading with stories about people’s dental issues, and the birth of bluegrass artists’ pets.

If you answered 3 or fewer correctly:

You can hardly be bothered, frankly, and who could blame you? You read this column the same way I read celebrity gossip stories: you’re praying that you’ll retain as little of it as possible, if only for your mental health.