July 2 Trivia Question

This Contest is Closed
The winner is Andy Bing


Who said onstage at the Newport Folk Festival when discussing musical timing (it’s on a CD for all to hear): “Really, I play the best time of any man in the United States!”

A. Bill Monroe
B. Earl Scruggs
C. Jimmy Martin
D. Doc Watson
E. Carter Stanley

ANSWER is “A” Bill Monroe (at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963).

Additional Bowden Comments

The answer is A. Bill Monroe. At the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, Bill was in some sort of workshop and taking questions. One of the fans asked him why sometimes Monroe seemed to play ragged, off-beat, confusing mandolin rhythm behind a banjo player’s or fiddler’s break. The audience chuckled nervously at this seemingly impertinent question. Monroe gave an honest reply, to the effect, that if an aspiring banjo player or fiddler seemed too big for his britches, Bill would “fool with ’em” by purposely playing the timing wrong. He said “they’d stop pickin’ and say, the timing is off” to which Bill would say “Well I been playin’ music for 35 years so it’s not me!” The audience had a good laugh at this, and not being willing to let well enough alone, Monroe then added “Really, I play the best time of any man in the United States!” The audience gave him another big laugh, but behind him you can hear his girlfriend/common-law-wife Bessie Mauldin (his bass player) say very quietly “Now Bill…” Bill then said, a bit more humbly “Bessie tells me not to brag…”

What Bill Monroe meant by “time” or “bluegrass time” is still a bit opaque. It wasn’t just meter, or time signature. It was about (I think) the feeling of forward propulsion of the music, the bowl-you-over locomotion of it, DONE AT THE SAME TIME BY FIVE MUSICIANS. Swing music, whether western swing or big band swing, has “swing time”, which is really a feeling too. In Monroe’s mind I think “time” meant all the musicians working together in harness like a good team of mules or draft horses.

This entire exchange can be heard on And More Bears CD (the successor to Bear Family Records) 25001AA “Bill Monroe with Del McCoury and Bill Keith — July 1963 — Two Days at Newport”.

As for the other possible replies, the very idea of Earl Scruggs bragging is ludicrous!

Jimmy Martin — well, he could (and did) say ANYTHING. No filter. But honestly, he saved his most effusive bragging for the classic Blue Grass Boys of 1946-48: Monroe, Flatt, Scruggs, Wise, Watt. About them he often said “Bluegrass is the only music that was invented perfect and has been going downhill ever since!”

Doc Watson — another self-effacing musician.

Carter Stanley basically didn’t talk about his music at all.

Good job Andy, but I thought we’d at least get some guesses on this one. Oh well! Trivia questions are like buses, if you miss one, another one will be along shortly.

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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