Bluegrass Intellect

        I am going to dedicate today’s post to the English Professor for several reasons.  For one, he is a bluegrass intellectual, and that is today’s topic.  Also, I have read some of his thoughts on different types on intelligence I find pertinent to this discussion, and I hope he will chime in with some comments.

        The fist thing I gotta tell you is the stereotypical notion that bluegrass music is restricted to a less educated and rural population is just not accurate.  A number of good studies indicate bluegrass fans, and also the folks involved in the industry as professionals, are more apt to be college educated and upper middle class than the national average.  To those of us who have hung around the music for years, this is no surprise, but it often is to the uninitiated.  Perhaps the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) could comment on the matter.  They know the demographics better than anyone.

        The notion that our music is played by folks of a lower level of sophistication than our pop culture counterparts is not only erroneous, but a bit of an insult to me.  Part of my mission with my blog is to correct that public misconception.  The imagery and symbolism of traditional music run deep, and I have found the players to be sensitive, thoughtful, and intelligent.  Listen to the words of the songs- you’ll see.

        The English Professor likes to talk about the different kinds of intelligence that exist in this world, and I agree with him 100%.  I went to high school with my mechanic.  He got out and went right to work at the Chevrolet dealership, then opened his own shop.  He might not have gone on to as much book learning as me, but I find him deeply intelligent.  He can diagnose my car in ten minutes, and I have often struggled for a week to try and figure out what is wrong.  Just ’cause his training was under a hood of a car, and not as much out of a book does not make him one bit less intelligent.

        The same holds true for music.  I have two favorite mandolinists.  Both of them became professional musicians right out of high school, and they are gifted musicians beyond a level I will ever know or understand.  All I can do is study under them and try to approximate their level of musical intelligence.  I will never be as smart as them in that field.  It isn’t what God intended for me.

        When I run someone in bluegrass who has an exceptional gift in the written word, or a degree in higher education that affords them the opportunity of a platform, I want to be sure they are heard.  So, I’m gonna re-recommend the English Professor’s blog- he’s the best.  And I hope you’ll stick with mine too.  I might be like Avis, but I try hard.  As I try to learn to write, I hope through my words people will come to understand the world of bluegrass and my friends in the industry.

        If you would, tell me about folks you know with different kinds of intelligence.  One of the things I like about my blog is I learn something new from my readers all the time.  After all these years as a Doc, I believe more than ever it takes all of us to make the world go round, and I enjoy hearing from all of you.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy

16 Comments on “Bluegrass Intellect”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    Dr. B,

    Two days ago, I wrote about book sense and common sense. Some of the smartest people I know made it through high school and started work. Who is to say intelligence is granted only to those who go further? Rather I think opportunity allows someone to go further in schooling not intelligence.

    I know some musicians who can’t read a lick of music but can play “like the devil” because they have a good ear and talent.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    I read that post and it was part of what got me to thinking about this subject. I should have commented on your blog. (To the reader: see Cindy Carter on my blogroll)

    Yeah, there is an old saying in bluegrass- “I can read music, but not enough to hurt my picking.”

    Dr. B

  3. Amber Says:

    Doc, there are indeed many kinds of intellect. My husband, my brother and I show 3 really different types. My husband and I considered genius level IQ.

    My husband is the typical “Geek”. His knowledge is vast and deep about computers and geek things. He’s also a history buff. However, give him something of practical nature and he’s completely lost. He has to be shown. He cannot figure it out easily.

    My older brother, has a difficult time reading. He is not what you would call book smart at all. But he can do absolutely anything. He can write music, plays several different instruments (all self taught) he invents things, he can fix anything, or build anything and you’d swear when he’s done he’d been doing it for years. He just understands how things work. Its a gift.

    Now I am different than both. I learn at an incredible rate. I can grasp concepts extremely fast and be able to speak about them intelligently before most people even crack the book. I have always been this way. My knowledge base is vast but shallow. I don’t tend to study anything in-depth as I don’t need to know anything more than the basics. This has worked for me with swatting up on Medicine. I am also practical in my knowledge and understand how to apply it. I can also build things, and fix things (I grew up with two brothers who didn’t accept me being a girl as an excuse).

    Our drawbacks – My husband lacks in basic practical skills and I absolutely despair what would happen to him if I wasn’t in his life – scary. My brother – He feels uncomfortable in arenas with “smart people”. He does not have confidence in his abilities and looks to others who he feels are “smarter”. Mine – I cannot for the life of me proofread anything. I read so fast that I skip over words, often leaving words out or use the wrong word for what Im trying to say. Its terrible.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Amber,

    We need everybody, huh? We have the same situation at my house. I know how to write prescriptions and play the mandolin- my wife knows everything else. If it weren’t for her I’d live a short miserable life and then starve to death.

    Dr. B

  5. Spike Says:

    Doc, you wouldn’t starve to death. Yer bluegrass fans would feed’ya.

    Determining intelligence is a tricky thing. I’m of the opinion that it’s a matter of paying attention to the circumstances and reacting accordingly.

    Intelligence comes in when you consider one’s awareness of circumstance. Like your mechanic friend. His awareness of the dynamics relating to a car (or whatever) is testament to his awareness of all variables relative to that situation. If the mind isn’t aware of what’s going on…well then…pay attention and think.

    But what do I know? What I know is what I experience and think about. Just like anybody else. That’s intelligence enough.

  6. SanityFound Says:

    Amber mentioned that I should come have a gander at your blog, she says you are funny, witty and intelligent with good taste in music lol. So far she is right but shamefully I must admit that I do not know much about Bluegrass, I will research, listen and read more for it sure sounds interesting. Just showed my lack of intelligence hah!

    Intelligence is a strange creature, one can be übber intelligent but have a really low EQ and visa versa. My IQ has always been a problem and gotten me into trouble, it is an interesting creature. The people in my life all have different gifts, some are more hands than theory. Interesting post, really enjoyed it now off to go research Bluegrass!

  7. drtombibey Says:

    Hey Ms. Sanity,

    Thanks for the visit. Always good to discover the another pocket of sanity in the vast Internet wilderness!

    Old bluegrass can take a life-time of study. It has many paradoxes.

    I agree with you. Everyone has a different gift. The trick is to figure out what one was given and go with it, I guess. I was lucky. My daughter said she thought I was better suited for my job as a country doc than any adult human being she ever met. She once told me I was her hero, which is the highest compliment I ever got. It makes me cry every time I think of it.

    Dr. B

  8. drtombibey Says:


    You are right. If one hones the gestalt, they will find their way. That defines intelligence to me.

    Dr. B

  9. pandemonic Says:

    Bluegrass for the uneducated? Are you kidding? Bluegrass is tough, especially if you play a fiddle. I can’t even wrap my head around it yet, and neither can my violin teacher, although we both want to learn.

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    The human being being who masters the fiddle has found nirvana. It is the most difficult of all- I can only dream of being that intelligent!

    Dr. B

  11. SanityFound Says:

    Thank you for implying that I am in possession of sanity, please do not listen to a word that Amber might say with regards to this matter! You are lucky not only for the fact that you realised your gift early on but also for the fact that your daughter cherishes you as she does. Blessed indeed!

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Sanity,

    If anyone has had a more charmed life than me, I am happy for them. I have not made all that much money, but otherwise I can not imagine how anyone could have been more fortunate.

    Dr. B

  13. timethief Says:

    Your blog looks like it’s coming along very well and I’m glad to see that. I’m also encouraged to know that you are reading my new How to Become a Better Blogger series. When you create a unique blog as you have done you have a special niche within which you can create a reader’s community. Best wishes in all you and all your readers in all you do.

    BTW I have another blogging friend who is an acoustic guitarist. He has several blogs and I’m wondering if you would like to visit one. This is the url for his blog. This blog includes information on the emotional side of music and how to get your ‘head right’ to go on and be a great guitarist.

  14. drtombibey Says:

    Thanks time thief,

    I appreciate the encouragement and the advice. I am a novice (less than a year at it) but I hope being unique will make up for some of the lack of experience.

    Thanks for the link too. I like all the music ones, and will go check it out.

    Dr. B

  15. president of Neuse River fan club in Mississippi Says:

    Bluegrass Intelligence
    We started with an American Revolution,
    The next thing we know we are in an Industrial Revolution
    and low and behold now we are starting a Knowledge Revolution
    that has a side bar of “Bluegrass Revolution”
    All of this is making my head spin.

  16. drtombibey Says:


    Sounds like something the CIA might look into.

    Dr. B

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