I’m A Lumberjack and I’m OK! – Trivia Contest

by Dick Bowden

This Contest is Closed
The winners are Andy Bing and Gayle Yeomans

click photo to enlarge


What famous bluegrasser was a lumberjack for a long time?

A. Bill Monroe

B. Red Allen

C. Rhonda Vincent

D. Tony Rice

E. Del McCoury

F. Jim McReynolds

G. Sonny Osborne

H. JD Crowe

I. Tim O’Brien

J. David Grisman

K. Tex Logan


Additional Bowden Comments

The correct answer is Del! For years while he was picking bluegrass, his “day job” was cutting timber for sawmills and paper mills in central Pennsylvania. When you meet Del in person you can see what a big raw-boned guy he his. His hands are huge. In the mid-1970s he composed and recorded a great uptempo bluegrass song called “Rough Old Logging Man”, which he played for years and years on stage. Not too much lately unless someone requests it. His sons told me he used to have nightmares about trees falling on him, and he’d holler and wake up the household!

Bill Monroe certainly seems like a good candidate for a lumberjack, doesn’t he? In fact, his dad did cut timer on the family 600 acre empire (along with farming and small time coal mining. Bill, the youngest boy of the big family (6 brothers plus 2 sisters) was literally just a boy when he got the job of
TEAMSTER in the family business. He was good with horses and mules and wagons. His main job was hauling timber that had been cut into railroad crossties. I’m talking around age 10. Bill got used to manhandling crossties and heaving up onto the wagon, and unloading them. He liked hard work like that. And he learned to NEVER let a mule refuse to obey his orders!! After Bill’s parents died he went up to E. Chicago to work in the Sinclair oil refinery with his older brothers Birch and Charlie. His job was washing out used oil barrels for re-use in the barrel house. (You wash oil barrels with gasoline.) Again, he proved to be a good, hard worker.

Red Allen was not known for having any particular trade. He ran away from home when he was about 13-14 and lived in the woods like an Indian for a while. He tried to join the Marines at 15 because he found out they had free food! His true age was discovered and he was sent home. Red most likely was an “odd jobs” man.

Rhonda has never worked in the forest products industry to my knowledge. I honestly believe she’s been 100% and Entertainer since she was a little girl in his family’s band (The Sally Mountain Show).

Likewise, Tony Rice has always been a Musician/Entertainer. Interestingly, after he “retired” from music due to health issues, his full-time hobby kept him occupied — repairing Bulova Accutron wrist watches! Those watches haven’t been made for 40 years or so, so Tony had a real “niche” in this exacting specialty.

Jim McReynolds? I simply don’t know what he did other than play music. Not much has ever been written about Jim’s life before music.

Sonny Osborne is on record saying that both he and Bobby were driving cabs around Dayton Ohio WHILE they were performing as the Osborne Brothers show. They despaired that they were really going to “make it” as musicians in spite of their successful records of the 1950s and early 60s. They went to their publishers/managers (The Wilburn Brothers) in Nashville and said unless they became members of the Opry, they were going to have to give up music. Several months later, they got invited to join the Opry! And this was before Rocky Top became such a hit.

JD Crowe was pretty much playing music for a living with JImmy Martin from the time he got out of high school. After 15-20 years or so however he figured he needed a “real job” and got a contract hauling mail for the Post Office. JD always resented being called “an ex-mailman” by poorly informed fans. He would answer that he owned and operated big mail TRUCKS. Thankfully, his business still gave him time to stay in the music business.

Tim O’Brien likewise has been a Musician since college. I found out in fact that Tim did his freshman year of college at Colby in Maine! When I was in college I played a small festival at Colby College, and I believe I calculated that Tim was there that year! We probably passed each other in a hallway.

David Grisman? Musician since youth I guess!

Tex Logan had that rawboned lumberjack look didn’t he? Tex however had a true CAREER all the time he was playing the fiddle. He went to top level colleges and studied math and sciences, and went to work for Bell Labs in New Jersey at the big research facility. He was on the teams that developed transistors, satellite communication (remember TelStar?), and lots of communication theory and practice. He was a patent-holder, and general all-around genius. And a genius on the fiddle too!

Among the bluegrass stars, I know there were coal miners (Kenny Baker and Curly Ray Cline), post office workers (Charlie Louvin, Jesse McReynolds), papermakers (Carl Story), cotton mill workers (Charlie Poole, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs), plenty of WWII soldiers (Ralph & Carter Stanley, Don Reno), paint makers (Jimmy Martin), farmers, teachers, printers, truck drivers and many, many pickers and singers who never did any honest work. I think Del is the only honest-to-God lumberjack though.

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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