Author: Evans, Bill

Letís celebrate ďThat Ainít BluegrassĒ Month!

Did you know that the month of May is officially Bluegrass Music Month? Itís not as if this is something that would come up in normal conversation, even with another bluegrass fan or musician, so donít feel bad if you didnít realize this. I was on the IBMA board of directors over a decade ago when someone in a marketing committee came up with the idea of an official month for bluegrass music. May seemed to be a great choice, since it coincides with the beginning of the festival season in the full bloom of spring (unless you live in the southern parts of Africa, or Australia or South America, where itís blooming autumn but there werenít any board members from this part of the world to remind us about this fact at that time).

Like many promotional ideas in the history of mankind (remember New Coke?), Iím not sure that the idea of a bluegrass music month has gained much traction. As I see it, one problem is that if you are involved with this music seriously in any way, youíre at work ďforĒ bluegrass every day, whether itís practicing on your instrument, heading to a gig, helping run an association, planning a concert series or festival, programming a radio show, volunteering or just being a dedicated fan. Itís not a 1/12 hobby or profession Ė you have to give it 100% or more, all year round. The idea of one month carrying more importance than any other in the bluegrass proselytizing effort just doesnít make much sense, does it?

Another problem is that it was difficult getting overly excited about telling outsiders what bluegrass music is all about (unless youíre Darby Brandli that is Ė and my hatís off to you, Darby!). Convincing folks about the purity of the music, the skill it takes to play it, the family oriented atmosphere of festivals, the accessibility of the musicís leading performers and just how great bluegrass music isÖ.well, fatigue can set in pretty quickly. Weíd much rather participate in the joys of our community than convince others to come and join us. And letís face it, a few of us would like to keep our world as small as it is right now Ė some of us like it that way.

Well, in a moment of brilliant genius, Iíve come up with what I think is a great idea to galvanize the bluegrass community, bring us together and get us excited about carrying the banner of bluegrass to the outside world. Get ready for That Ainít Bluegrass Music Month.

Now this is something that we can all get excited about since we seem to have much more fun arguing about what isnít bluegrass than about what is. What better way to spread our music to the outside word then to tell everyone what bluegrass music isnít?

Since Bluegrass Music Month is officially the month of May, letís position That Ainít Bluegrass Music Month in December, exactly half a year away. Thereís not a whole lot going at that time of year and itís a great opportunity to grab the media and advertising spotlight at a time of year when folks generally are pretty bored and depressed about the approaching winter (unless you live in the aforementioned places, where itís almost summerÖweíll deal with that inconsistency later on somehowÖ).

A necessary part of this celebration should be an academic conference bringing together the major bluegrass scholars and academics to discuss the history of That Ainít Bluegrass Music. After all, we canít know whatís not going to be bluegrass in the future until we understand what wasnít bluegrass in the past (or, to put it another way, ďThose who donít play bluegrass are doomed to repeat it.Ē).
Through panel discussions and long, footnote-laden academic papers, scholars will trace the development of the That Ainít Bluegrass Style from its earliest days when music played by anyone who wasnít Bill Monroe wasnít bluegrass. I hope to present a paper that Iíve been working on for a few years now, titled ďChords And Chord Progressions That Ainít Bluegrass: Diminished Chords and the Displaced Other in Postmodern Bluegrass IdentityĒ as part of a general panel discussion focusing on the use of vibrato in That Ainít Bluegrass vocals. Iím really excited to hear the inevitable paper ďLeisure Suits and Beards Ė Are They or Ainít They?Ē

Maybe a That Ainít Bluegrass Music awards show is in order too, celebrating the best of What Isnít Bluegrass music for that year, followed by a weekend festival featuring the top That Ainít Bluegrass artists. My only request is that every band invited to this event has to include a banjo player.

Now thatís the way to grab new fans, donít you think? Now letís get to work!
All the best,
Bill Evans

Posted:  5/24/2013

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