Show me the bluegrass bucket list!

You’ve no doubt heard of the “bucket list.” Like “show me the money” and other overused phrases, it has its origins in the movies. If you missed it, the bucket list is a list of things you hope to do before you “kick the bucket,” or “die,” as I believe the medical professionals put it.

The bucket list is a little like a larger-scale and grander New Year’s resolution list. That should tell us something about what’s really important to us in the bigger picture: our New Year’s resolutions tend to be practical things like, “quit smoking,” or “keep desk clean,” whereas bucket list items are more like, “skydive in Hawaii,” “see the pyramids,” or “get arrested for disorderly conduct” (only people who’ve led very law-abiding lives ever put this on their list).

As with the New Year’s resolutions, though, and we’ve touched on this subject before, it’s easy to get over-ambitious, increasing the likelihood that you’ll never get any of those things done. Sure, it hurts to strike “play ping-pong with the Dalai Lama” from your list, but at least you won’t have that unfulfilled experience gnawing at you on your death bed, or “bucket-kicking cot,” if you will.

What about bluegrass bucket lists? Many of us have them, even if we haven’t written them down. These, too, can get a little overly-optimistic. Take these for example, which I found scribbled on the back of a festival flyer, backstage at an unnamed Virginia bluegrass festival:

  • Have J.D. Crowe give me private lessons every day for a year, while I live in his backyard
  • Become a member of the Grand Ole Opry
  • Play Foggy Mountain Breakdown in a private concert for the Queen of England
  • Travel to play at a bluegrass festival in a private jet which I have learned to fly
  • Find a Lloyd Loar mandolin, and buy it, after selling all my other possessions (including my jet)
  • Spend a week as Del McCoury’s personal valet
  • Use a medium to speak to Earl Scruggs beyond the grave and ask him to explain the right hand part to Salty Dog Blues

Let’s face it, becoming Del’s valet is the only thing even remotely feasible on this deluded bucket list (it could happen as part of some kind of GoFundMe scheme). I prefer, instead, to take a much more scaled-back approach. Some might consider a few of these bucket list items to be aiming low, but I’d rather be ticking items off my list rather than be turning 80 years old, staring at my unfulfilled wish list tacked to my outdated refrigerator.

  • Sing the national anthem at a high school volleyball game
  • Get an advance from a record label for my new recording project and have them pay for the engineer
  • Get a backstage pass to a large event and eat someone else’s snacks
  • Drive back and forth over the Caney Fork River in Tennessee three times (five crossings each way) for no good reason
  • Get my band booked on a Thursday at Cherokee
  • Develop a really good imitation of Charlie Waller and use it as a contestant on The Voice
  • Play a casino in Elko, Nevada for two weeks
  • Sleep overnight in a Greyhound Station (on purpose)
  • Eat rattlesnake meat

These are merely examples, but I think they are highly attainable, yet curiously fulfilling (especially the snake meat one). You’ll want to choose your own, I’m sure.

May you have many more years ahead to put check marks next to every item on your list.