January 29, 2021 Trivia Question

This Contest is Closed
The winner are:Vinny Nugent and Andy Bing

A new winner category was added for the Funniest Answer
That winner is Jake Moskowitz

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January 29, 2021 TRIVIA QUESTION

Let’s talk about some unusual, or perhaps unexpected, hit bluegrass songs that sometimes came from well outside the bluegrass genre of cabins, prison, dead girlfriends and moonshine, shall we?

In the 21st century in particular, bluegrass bands have searched far and wide for “different” material. But even in the 20th century there were a few hit songs that really surprised the traditional bluegrass fans. Fill in the name of the songs below (the most number of correct answers will be the winner(s)).

A. English rocker Richard Thompson’s motorcycle hoodlum song that was Del McCoury’s biggest hit of his career.

B. English rockers Mannfred Mann’s song that nearly took over bluegrass music after Cliff Waldron & Bill Emerson & the New Shades of Grass, and then the Country Gentlemen, recorded it around 1970. It got so bad there were protest bumper stickers about the prevalence of this song.

C. Paul Simon’s moody hit song, sort of about Elvis, that got The Lonely Heartstrings Band plenty of radio airplay.

D. A Bette Midler hit that is currently on bluegrass radio sung by Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike.

E. JD Crowe and the New South put this song on the iconic LP Rounder 0044. It’s an old Fats Domino R&B number. Surprisingly, it’s “banjo friendly”.

F. Allison Krauss + Union Station had a huge hit with this Little Feat song. Pretty “uptown” for bluegrass.


A 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
B Fox on the Run
C Graceland
D From a Distance
E I’m Walkin’
F Oh Atlanta

Additional Bowden Comments

I thought we might have more HVBA members/readers who come from “outside” the bluegrass world and would know these “imported” songs really quickly. Sorry but this question didn’t lend itself to multiple choice Jake.

Someday I’ll write an article about how Del McCoury got the song “52 Vincent Black Lightning”. Bottom line, Del made this song his own! He has told me it is the biggest selling song of his entire recorded catalog.

“Fox on the Run” sounds quite different in the original version. I really don’t know exactly how Bill Emerson arrived at his arrangement, which is THE bluegrass arrangement. You can hear a bluegrass version of the original Mannfred Mann arrangement on Tony Trischka’s Double Banjo Extravaganza CD (every cut features two banjoists). Tom Adams, of the Johnson Mountain Boys, plays second banjo with Tony.

I vaguely remember Paul Simon’s record “Graceland” from years ago. I was stunned when The Lonely Heartstrings Band released it (and impressed). Banjoist Gabe Hershfeld told me he “found a place to play Scruggs rolls” in the song! I was so proud for them when Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction satellite radio used a clip of this song as a station ID “bumper”, illustrating the modern side of bluegrass.

Valerie Smith gives a warm and heartfelt rendition of “From a Distance” on radio over the last year. Very nice, without being overly “Broadway” or melodramatic. Not operatic. I remember when I first encountered Valerie’s music playing on a bluegrass music channel on cable tv in Nova Scotia when I was playing a festival up there — she was singing “Red Clay Halo” with gusto. Valerie has a degree in Theater!

Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking” is kind of a favorite of JD Crowe’s. I think I read recently in one of the many Tony Rice epitaphs that he might have presented the song to Crowe. The New South played it with a real “strut”, fitting the original arrangement.

“O Atlanta” might be Allison’s most recent big hit, and that’s been several years. She seems to have retired from active touring and recording; I guess she can afford it. Please excuse me if I’m not up to speed on what she’s up to. I feel that her music is often very far from bluegrass, excellent music though it may be.

Keep your ears open for other “imports” to bluegrass!

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.

3 Responses

  • A. Vincent Black Lightning
    B. Fox on the Run
    C. Graceland
    D. From a Distance
    E. I’m Walkin’
    F. Oh, Atlanta

  • *Groan* – I thought it was always multiple-choice !
    What’s next week ? Essay questions ?

    (A) Vincent Black Lightning
    (B) Fox on the Run
    (C-F) Dunno,Dunno,Dunno,Dunno

  • A. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning

    B. Fox On The Run

    C. Graceland

    D. From A Distance

    E. I’m Walkin’

    F. Oh, Atlanta

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