Author: Abbott, Kyle

Bluegrass 'n Stuff, May '08
Dear friends,

I do bring you another delightful piece by one of my favorite writers today. It’s the monthly missive from young Kyle Abbott. But first let me make an appeal.

Folks! How about a sweet and fun job to entice you to volunteer at the CBA Father’s Day Festival? Come into the tender embrace of volunteer coordinator Rosanna Young and work for the most delightful Deb Livermore. Sound good already, eh? What if your job was interfacing with bluegrass fans and putting a smile on their faces while helping the Grass Valley fest’s financial benefit to the CBA? Even better! What we need is vols to work at Vern’s. Serve beer and wine or sell drink tickets at the CBA’s hot new venue at the fairgrounds. I did this last year and will again this year. Why? Because it was a blast! Please contact Rosanna at or call 530-346-8870 and let her know you’d like to serve this important function at our festival.

From Kyle:

Hey everybody! You have once again dipped yourself into the hot, bubbling sulfur pit that is Bluegrass ‘n Stuff!

You may have noticed that at the end of every Bluegrass ‘n Stuff, I usually give a preview of my next article. I’ve said I was going to show you how an anchor works, how to fluff a pillow, things like that. Since I always seem to find aged-to-perfection articles in my reruns folder, I never seem to get to these exciting topics. But today is the day! No, we’re not going to discuss something as exciting as fluffing a pillow, but close. Today, we’re going to talk about strings! String history, string lore, and, if we have time, how to make your own! Disconnect your phone and clear your calendar, ‘cause it’s going to be a looong ride! (Though be contented to know that since my word count is the same as always, it will only feel like it.)

Like all things good and pure, it started at the beginning. The first string was invented by God. Well, indirectly. It was 6000 years ago, and Adam and Eve were strolling through the Garden of Eden, spraying Holy Roundup on the dandelions. Since there is only so much you can do in a garden, they got rather bored. So, God said: “If you make a string really tight and pluck it, you shall get lovely notes.” God faxed them a picture of what a string looked like. The closest thing that looked like it was hair. They decided to use Eve’s hair. Not just because it was much longer, but Adam had a bit of a dandruff problem. So, Adam tied Eve’s hair to one tree and made it taut. With Divine Tension, he got the hair taut enough that when he strummed the hair, it produced the most wonderful sound; which was, oddly enough, a G chord. Anyway, that didn’t last too long, because Eve, though she enjoyed the sound, was a little irked from having her pulled taut. -That’s why I always keep my hair short, in fear of Traditionalist musicians. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted. Then, as we all know, hunger took its toll and, figuring that they’d rather eat that apple than each other, they ate the fruit. (It didn’t help that Lucifer had shellaced the apples to make them look oh-so-succulent.) So, that was how it all got started. (And they said I slept through Sunday School!)

Now, unlike Adam and Eve, the not-so-blessed people who didn’t live in the Garden of Eden were in the middle of Ice Age. God, being a kind power, had blessed the world by showering it with guitars. Unfortunately, they all broke upon impact. Lucifer made his attempt with banjos which, much to God’s chagrin, didn’t break (being made of metal and unholy power). However, not to be outdone, God made guitars grow from Martin trees. They didn’t sound too good at first, but through cross-breeding, the HD-28 was eventually created. For those of you keeping track on the Holy Scoreboard, it’s God: 1, Lucifer: -1. (But since negative is good in the bad way, both of them are evenly scored.)

It was Pure Bliss for the first week or so. Then, the novelty of the Martin logo on the headstock faded and they realized there were no strings on the instruments. (Because God had pity on the ears of the rest of the wildlife.)

Since they were in the middle of the Ice Age and they couldn’t afford to waste that precious warm hair on strings, they made the strings out of yes, ice! They were, by far, the best strings ever made. They didn’t need to be tightened and had a crisp-as-ice sound when played. However, the downside was that the strings would melt after a really hot jam or when the ol’ mammothpokes (ancestor of the cowpokes) would play by the fire.

Step a few years farther and what do we spy? The Stone Age! This was a bad epoch for strings. Since the Ice Age had past, humans lost all their hair (I mean, they could’ve grown some more, but Brazilian Waxes were the big thing in those days) and couldn’t make hair strings any more. So, they used the main material that was available to them, stone. The richest of the rich (those who had the prettiest shells in their collection) had marble stone strings, the middle class (who had those big stone wheels) had granite strings, and the poor class (the ones who invented the big stone wheels) were stuck with limestone strings which, while they broke on the first strum, were mighty tasty in their stone margaritas.

The stone strings were ok (though the roughness scratched the picks) but all the strings were confiscated to be used for arrows (and arrow strings) during the bloody War over Ugh Hill. Another downside in music during the Stone Age was the invention of the stone axe. This caused the extinction of the Martin tree when they were all chopped down to create wooden strings during the Wood Age. (Despite what pirate fans say, these were the years when peg legs were all the rage.) This was another Golden Age in the history of strings, as Martin trees were “musical grade” and thus the strings made out of that wood sounded even better than hair. If that isn’t a good ending to the story, I don’t know what is. Unfortunately, termites had other ideas. And after they ate all the strings and peg legs, humans were back to the musical drawing board.

Let’s move up to the final page in string history (or in the case of this article, String Theory), the Age of Vikings. It took place on the Viking ship K’plach. The great warrior Kolli Goatflattener, found himself in the middle of a great battle as the enemy ship, The Sunrose, threw the grapples and the Scandinavian Buccaneers poured on board. Swords were glittering, blunderbusses were booming, and Elma was in the galley cooking up a delicious 5 vegetable winter soup. Kolli was knockin’ ‘em down. But then! As he raised up his cutlass, a pellet from a discharged blunderbuss knocked the sword out of his hand which sent it flying into the galley, straight at Elma! Fortunately, Elma had bent down to pick up a dropped cherry tomato (before the 10-second rule expired), just as the cutlass went over her head. That was a close one! Then, the cutlass went right into Elma’s cheese grater, which shredded the cutlass like shoestring potatoes. In surprise of the sound, Elma’s ladle went flying and struck, one at a time, each steel strand of sword that was embedded into the wall. From that, came sounds that rang out like the Valkyries from Valhalla. Very soon after, the battle was over, partially because of the calming feeling that real strings had been invented, but mainly ‘cause a Kraken pulled both ships under the ocean blue. Fortunately, Kolli Goatflattener’s middle name was Lifepreserver, and he always wore one. So he backstroked his way back to his Greenland where, after putting a patent on steel strings, he gave up the life of an ale swigging Viking to become a portly, wine guzzling, jolly ol’ Bard.

And that, my friends, is the history of strings. All you kids out there now have something great to write for a report in history class! Now for the joke of the month: One day a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he saw a guy eating gr
Posted:  5/9/2008

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