Rural rumors and campground legends

Chris JonesWe’ve all been the recipient of urban legends or scams at one time, forwarded to us by email. In one of my early posts here, I passed along one in which an African prince had a Lloyd Loar and a pre-war herringbone he wanted to give me for a small finder’s fee.

I was on the email list of a guy who sent out no less than three email forwards a day, which contained either some fascinating human interest story, or some bold political exposé.

At first I did what most people do now, which is to look them up on Snopes.com. That’s the web company that researches internet rumors, finds their origins and categorizes them according to their degree of falseness.

It turns out that almost all of the stories I received in these email forwards were not only false, but most of them were started by a group of teenagers in Moldova with smart phones and a lot of time on their hands (because of detention), The political ones were all started by a small extremist group living in an underground bunker in Kankakee, IL.

At first I would reply, pasting in the Snopes link, then I realized that no one cared, for the same reason that no one cares if their favorite reality TV show is completely fake. They were just having their fun, and who am I to spoil it for them?

What about bluegrass rumors, though? Snopes doesn’t seem to care about them, maybe because they’re not “urban” enough to be “urban legends.” In any case, when I do a search on “Bill Monroe” and “bagel,” I come up with nothing.

As a service then, I’m going to relate a few common bluegrass rumors, and classify them by their degree of validity, adding an explanation where possible.

Flatt and Scruggs actually split up because their manager Louise Scruggs insisted that Lester start wearing a purple head band on their shows, and she wanted to replace fiddler Paul Warren with Papa John Creech.

False, though it’s more of an exaggeration of something that was partially true. There was a difference in viewpoint about the direction of Flatt and Scruggs between Lester Flatt and Earl and Louise Scruggs. This is evidenced by the very different sounds played by the rock and folk-influenced Earl Scruggs Review and by Lester’s more traditional bluegrass band, after the breakup.

Vassar Clements took a bus up from Florida to audition with Bill Monroe at the Grand Ole Opry in 1949. On the way, his fiddle was stolen, so Bill had to borrow a fiddle from someone else at the Ryman auditorium so he could give this kid an audition. Vassar also needed some money so he could eat. He got the gig anyway.

Absolutely true. You know Vassar must have sounded pretty impressive on that audition.

Bill Monroe called Bill Keith by his middle name, “Brad,” because he said there could only be one “Bill” in his band. A decade later, when Bill had a guitar player in the band named Bill Box, he called him “Bill” anyway because Bill Box’s middle name was also “Bill.” 

True and false. The first part is true, but the second part about Bill Box is not. Maybe by the 1970s, Bill no longer cared if he was the only “Bill” in the band. Any one who knows the real answer to this can feel free to comment below.

When Jerry Douglas joined Alison Krauss and Union Station, some of the band members were resistant to giving Jerry Douglas his own billing, so the original proposed name was “Alison Krauss with Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas and the Other Guys in Union Station.” It was thought this should be shortened to the acronym AKAKUSFJDOMUS (pronounced: “A-cake-us-fehjeh-dome-us”).

False (did I even need to say it?)

The Stanley Brothers split up briefly in the early 50s. Ralph was unsure he wanted a career in music, and was considering become a veterinarian. Carter, meanwhile, went to work for Bill Monroe, a man who had considered the Stanley Brothers his enemies for the past several years.

True. Ralph later came to his senses and returned to music, and we’re all grateful that he did. Carter did make some great records with Bill Monroe during that time, though, including Sugar Coated Love and Get Down On Your Knees and Pray.

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver was originally named “Doyle Lawson and Foxfire,” but Doyle quickly changed the name when they discovered there was a heavy metal band called “Föxfire.” Their lead singer weighed 300 pounds and was nicknamed “Tooth.” He was rumored to have choked a rival to death with a light gauge A-string.

Partially true. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver was originally called “Doyle Lawson and Foxfire.”

Bill Monroe went into a doughnut shop in upstate New York. Upon biting into the doughnut he said, “That’s the softest bagel I ever ate, and it’s way too sweet. My brother Charlie would probably like this.”

Draw your own conclusion. It always comes bank to a Bill Monroe legend, doesn’t it?

Feel free to forward these to your friends and sworn enemies. I can guarantee they won’t come back to you with a Snopes link.

  • Brent Sterling

    Rumor: Chris Jones is tall.

    This is TRUE! I once met and had a conversation with his shirt pocket.