Author: Williams, Dave

Number 24

The Daily Grist………. ‘Mister Christopher Columbus. He used rhythm as a compass’ lyrics by Andy Razaf

That’s right! This is my 24th 1st Thursday column. Ain’t missed a one in that time. From my own recalling there have been some good ones and a few not so good ones but you will have to be the judge of that. All I know is that I keep writing and sending them and Rick keeps publishing them. Every once in a while some of you folks send some nice comments my way. They are very much appreciated. I do know for a fact that I have added at least one new visitor to the CBA web site during my tenure as a welcome columnist. My mother faithfully begins her 1st Thursday of every month opening the splash page and reading the welcome column and follows up with an email review of that month’s effort and you can bet I look forward to that each month.

I’m proud to be included in the august group of welcome columnists that grace these pages daily. In my opinion, there are some very talented writers welcoming visitors to the CBA web site. I know what they put into their work and I look forward to reading them each day.

Anyway moving on. As is often the case, I again found myself chasing that ever-evasive hook for this month’s column. Needing help, I put my crack research assistant (google) on the job and my assistant came up with this bit of information. It seems that December 5, 1492 is the date history credits good ol’ Christopher Columbus for discovering America.

And now you’re asking what does this have to do with bluegrass? Well it really doesn’t have anything to do with bluegrass unless………… you’re good at, or practice six degrees of separation logic. You know like:

Christopher Columbus………..was the inspiration for a song titled “Christopher Columbus”……….the lyrics of the song have to do with rhythm guiding Chris and the boys across the Atlantic………….bass players are part of the rhythm section of a band………… I played bass on this song in a band a couple of hundred years ago…………… I play bass in a bluegrass band now.

Pretty easy, don’t you think? Now we are talking about bluegrass bass playing all because Columbus landed in Hispaniola 521 years ago today.

Before we continue our discussion of bluegrass bass. Allow me to digress (more??). The song Christopher Columbus is a pretty cool up tempo swing tune covered by Benny Goodman and Fats Waller among others. I learned it from Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band which included Bill (you might know him as Brad) Keith on banjo. You know, one of the Bluegrass Boys!!! Still working that 6 degrees stuff.

Where were we? Oh yeah bluegrass bass playing. No bluegrass jam should be without it.

From my perspective if there ain’t no upright it ain’t bluegrass. Take that banjo players. To me that means bassus uprightus, except no substitutes. Maybe some allowances can be made for the electric uprights for the traveling bands but only the ones currently using one. I’ll grandfather them in but with innovations in basses like the Chadwick Folding Bass, the EUB exemption will expire very soon and an upright bass will be mandated for bluegrass …………at least in my universe. Under no circumstances are electric basses including acoustic electrics allowed in bluegrass. I know this position puts me at odds with some legendary heavyweights like Jimmy Martin or the Lonesome River Band but so be it. It is my column and I get to make the rules (for today anyway). Any deviation from the above and it will be Americana not bluegrass.

Maybe this could start another “what is bluegrass” discussion on the message board. It’s about time for another of those fiery and passionate threads. I’ve made my position clear.

“If there ain’t no upright it ain’t bluegrass!”

Speaking of Jimmy Martin, I heard or read somewhere that he would fire bass players for not playing the fifth higher than the root as he was very particular of the sound he wanted from the bass. I’d have trouble holding a job with Jimmy. I don’t hunt either.

That’s all I got for this month except to wish everyone a very happy Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever joy you get from the season and then on to great New Year.

Posted:  12/5/2013

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