Friday, June 17, 2016

Jam bands serving up bluegrass music and a side of corny jokes in Appalachian fast-food joints

Bluegrass jam bands are playing music and cracking jokes in Appalachia in some of the strangest places, including fast food restaurants, shopping malls and courthouses, John Miller reports for The Wall Street Journal. "The bluegrass jam at the Dairy Queen in Rocky Mount, Va., has been going 20 years. It has become such an important part of the restaurant’s identity that its owners remodeled the sound system so customers could hear the music better." Deborah Russell, whose family has owned the restaurant since the 1970s, told Miller, “We rigged it up so people can hear it on the street and in the bathroom." (Miller photo: Hardees in Clarksburg, W.Va.)

A group in Clarksburg, W.Va., jams at the local Hardee's, after having moved from a McDonald's when remodeling made it difficult to clear enough space to play, Miller writes. The jams are basically a free-for-all. "Usually, players turn up representing at least one of the instruments that make up a bluegrass lineup—bass, guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. Anybody can call a tune to play, or join in when they feel like it."

The musicians are also performers, throwing out corny jokes between songs, Miller writes. For instance, one joke goes: “Excuse me, where does this road go? Stranger, this road don’t go nowhere. Every morning, I wake up, and it’s still here.” Another goes: “Fellow said, can you lend me five bucks? Other fellow said, I can’t hear you. First fellow said, can you lend me 10 bucks? Other fellow said, I heard you the first time.” (Read more)

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