The recently published Rounder Book of Bluegrass Music Trivia examines bluegrass music history both recent and early and “examines” is the operative word, as Nowlin tests our knowledge of the music with a sequence of 272 questions.
Nowlin does this in different ways, and with a degree of humor in some instances; some have a multiple choice, some present a true or false option, others are just a simple one-line query. There’s a deliberate sequencing here and there, so that if you manage to answer one, a similar question follows and there’s yet more head-scratching! Nowlin, who has written several books about his beloved Boston Red Sox baseball team – that isn’t any reason for a self-assured bluegrass fan to not check how little they know about bluegrass music, for that is the net result of working through just a selection questions. Of course, if you have lived it all then the questions are simple, right?
Nowlin tells us a little bit of the background to his book and in so doing reminds readers of Bluegrass Unlimited that some his questions have appeared as the Bits and Pieces column in that venerable magazine ……..
“I started with the idea of a book [around 2012], which I figured I might self-publish. I asked BU if they wanted to go in on it with me, and promote it with ads in the magazine and we’d split the proceeds in some fashion. That idea didn’t fly. But they did offer to run a column. The first one ran in June 2013, and basically ran for about 27 months (I don’t recall when the last one was.) It was almost 2 ½ years but not quite.
Basically, what happened was that when I hit about 250 items, I was getting a little burnt out. I guess they figured it had more or less run its course, too.
That was the period of time I worked on it. I had about 35 or 40 to start with, then I just kept coming up with more for the monthly column. And adding a few here and there.”
Although Rounder are the publishers and their name appears in the title, the content is far from being exclusively devoted to Rounder-related topics.
There are some illustrations scattered through the book although reproduction as black-and-white photographs means there is a lack of contrast to many.
Thankfully, the answers are not in micro-lettering placed upside down at the bottom of each page; they’re provided at the back of the book and, in his own inimitable style, Nowlin provides far more than a one-word or one-sentence answer, including lot of interesting detail, and occasionally, some context, perhaps betraying the thinking behind the question.
The Rounder Book of Bluegrass Music Trivia will make a great Christmas gift. Get your copy now and spread the cost.
So, my question to you is; what’s at 5400 Carolina Place, Springfield, Virginia? Stumped?
Rounder Books, 2016