Bluegrass Dress Code
I’m gonna dedicate today’s post to the English Professor- tomorrow is his birthday. Happy 49th Birthday from everyone in the bluegrass world, brother Ted.
The English Professor had some thoughts on bluegrass band attire he wrote up on one of the bluegrass forums, and it brought back memories for me as to Neuse River’s dress code.
For years, we would have band meetings to decide on a uniform dress code for our gigs. Our lead guitar man, Elam James, was elderly and favored conservative attire. “Boys, I think we need to dress right for out show dates. People don’t forget how you look on the stage.”
I would agree. “Elam is right y’all. Whadda you want to wear?”
Moose concurred. “We need to look sharp. Dark pants, white shirts, string ties.” Everyone would nod in agreement.
Come showtime, though, they all forgot. I remember one year at Galax. We were due on stage in fifteen minutes. Elam and I waited in our dark slacks, white shirts and string ties. Simpkins had on a suit and tie, but wore a Country Gentlemen hat in honor of Darrell, the only one in our crowd to turn pro. (Darrell was on tour with the Gentlemen at the time.) Stroker, the lead guitar man, showed up in a tie dyed shirt and a bandanna. Oh well, Stroker has been voted coolest cat at Galax eight years running, so I was not surprised.
“Where is Micheal?” (The Warbler) I asked.
Simpkins had seen him in the line for “Common Tater” baked potatoes. I found him there engrossed in a conversation with some young lady from Peru who looked like the team captain for the high school cheerleader squad. We were still missing the Moose.
Moose arrived directly. He wandered out of Double D’s trailer/warm up room, and stumbled when he missed the first step. It was no wonder. He had on some sort of novelty glasses which made him appear cross-eyed and in the low light of near dusk the boy couldn’t see a lick. I convinced him to save the glasses for the stage- they were dangerous.
Here Moose had gotten all of us to wear standard issue duds, and he was decked out in some wild Hawaiian shirt and a western frontier vest with leather fringes like the Dillards used to wear. He sported a dime store dreadlocks hairpiece, and a giant ill fitted Mexican sombrero was perched atop his head. Evey time the wind blew, he’d have to catch it- hard to play the banjo like that I tell you. When we got on stage, Raymond would knock it off with his fiddle bow on the hot breaks.
In spite of all that we did well, and finished 12th that year. We might have won, but the Moose broke into a Rastafarian version of Pretty Polly on the last banjo break. The judges at Galax are very traditional, and I don’t think they were amused.
Like the English Professor, I have found bluegrass bands to be eclectic non-conformists who march to a different drummer. I guess we are hopeless romantics who think the cure to the world’s ills is but a song away, and while immersed in the music there can be no pain or suffering.
Bluegrass musicians are like country docs- to try to get them to all think or dress the same way is harder than herding stray cats. Or maybe it’s akin to English Professors from up North who pick bluegrass music- you have to expect the unexpected when it comes to us musicians.
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