The CBA Welcome Column of April 19, 2014 was penned by Cameron Little, one of the great teen hopes for the future of bluegrass music in California regarding the “Word of Bluegrass” and mandolin playing. As you may remember, Cameron’s column was an interview with band leader and banjo player extraordinaire Snap Jackson.
The form of the interview was based on the “Proust Questionnaire,” with a bluegrass twist. As you all know, the Proust Questionnaire is a questionnaire regarding a person’s personality. Its name as a form of interview is owed to responses given by French writer Marcel Proust when he was a teenager at the end of the 19th century. While secretly browsing through the diary of a a friend (without permission) Proust found the questionnaire and gave his own answers; written answers that eventually turned out to be a treasure for people who collect these kind of things.
Isn’t it interesting how two teenagers from different centuries link themselves to each other? I mean there is M. Proust in the 19th century having no inkling that C. Little was even going to exist. And then there is C. Little in the 21st century discovering his teenage buddy M. Proust way back then. How did
Cameron Little find Proust? My hunch is that Cameron spends more of his time reading good books than texting on an electronic device that holds so many teenagers of today captive.
Anyway, for some “Twilight Zone” reason, the Proust type questionnaire again recently came into use when the Sonoma Mountain Band (from Sonoma, California – where else?) was on tour in France. The band was playing blue grass music at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. On a wooden stand that was strategically placed in front of the band, a sign read, “Will Play for Food.”Busking was not paying off very well for the band. The open guitar case contained donations of only $10.17 (French money) after three hours of playing.
Just after playing their last song for the day, a tall, blond haired, blue-eyed young woman came up to the banjo player, and with a French accent said, “I enjoyed your bluegrass music. If I had any money to spare I would have put it in your guitar case.”
That’s okay,” the banjo player replied. “We’re used to it. I mean we’re not used to it. We’re not used to getting paid very much for playing is what I mean.”
“You know,” she said, “I’m interested in bluegrass music. In fact I play in a Gypsy jazz band here in Paris, and we sometimes play a bluegrass song or two. I’m a grad student in musicology, and I wonder if I might interview your band while you are here. In fact, we could do it over lunch right now. My treat. Have you eaten yet?”
“No, we haven’t eaten for two days,” the whole Sonoma Band said all at once, in three part harmony.”
During the sumptuous lunch, which contained a healthy serving of authentic French fries, Michelle Marceau began her interview of the band. “I first have to tell you that occasionally I go on-line and look at the California Bluegrass Association’s website and read the Welcome Columns.” A few years ago a friend of mine in America invited me to the wonderful Grass Valley Festival that you have in the middle of June. That’s how I found about the CBA website. And just last month I read the Welcome Column by Cameron Little that had the Proust-like interview of Snap Jack.”
“That’s really a coincidence,” the band’s guitar player said. “And you and our Band just happened to be at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower on the same day and same time.”
“Yes, a coincidence,” Miss Marceau remarked. “And you know what even more of a coincidence is?”
The bass player questioned, “What’s that?”
“Well you may find it hard to believe, but I am directly related to Marcel Proust. You know, the Proust Questionnaire thing that Cameron Little adopted to bluegrass music when he interviewed Snap Jack.”
“Actually that’s Snap Jackson,” the fiddler player said.
“Yeah, that Proust thing. I’m foggy on that, but he must have been somebody pretty important,” the banjo player added.
“So if you don’t mind,” Michelle continued, “I’d like to use the Proust Questionnaire concept from my distant relative and use it as an interview tool to interview the Sonoma Mountain Band. Actually I liked Cameron Little’s adaptation, so I’ll use his questions. Is that okay?”
Plagiarism notwithstanding, the banjo player said, “Sure, goes ahead.”
(Note: It is my responsibility as today’s Welcome Column writer to inform your readers that all members of The Sonoma Band are definitely old-and-in-the-grey,and they may or may not have been diagnosed with pre-senile dementia; which could have a direct relationship to their group answers)
“Okay, here we go,” Michelle said as she started the questions. WHO WAS MARCEL PROUST? “The best fiddle player in France?” the band said as they answered a question with a question.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST FEAR?
“That our wives will find out we’re in France.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST INSTRUMENT?
“The octave kazoo.”
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
“We’re listening to you asking us questions.”
WHAT BLUEGRASS EVENT OR RECORDING FIRST BLEW-YOUR-MIND?
“Lawrence Welk plays Bill Monroe.”
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE?
“This trip to Paris.”
WHAT’S YOUR DEEP, DARK BLUEGRASS SECRET?
“We’re not making big bucks playing bluegrass music.”
WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU THE HAPPIEST?
“At last year’s Bean Blossom Bluegrass festival in Indiana. We really cleaned up. It took us three hours to make the restroom clean, but we were happy with the result.”
WHO IS SITTING THERE RIGHT NOW IN YOUR DREAM JAM?
“Rhonda Vincent in bib overalls.”
IF YOU COULD HEAR ANY NON-BLUEGRASS TUNE DONE BLUGRASS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“Is there one?”
WHAT SONG HITS YOUR HEART EVERY TIME?
“The Hit Parade of Love.”
WHAT BLUEGRASS MEMORY MAKES YOU SMILE?
“We really can’t remember.”
IF YOU DIED AND CAME BACK AS A PERSON OR THING, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT IT TO BE?
“A bluegrass band that makes a living.”
WHAT WAS THE BEST ADVICE YOU WERE EVER GIVEN?
“Don’t try to make a living as a bluegrass band.”
WHAT’S THE STRANGEST PLACE YOU’VE PERFORMED LIVE?
“That would be Folsom Prison. We all got free room and board there for three years, and that’s where this band was formed.”
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BAND?
“That we exist.”
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE MUSIC JOKE?
“Did you hear the one about the Bluegrass band that made a living playing music?
DO YOU HAVE ANY INTERESTS, TALENTS, OR HOBBIES BESIDES MUSIC?
“We all like to sit together at bluegrass festivals under the tall pine trees and watch the wind blow the hair from our heads onto non suspecting passersby.”
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
“Our motto is the same as our theme song by Bob Dylan, ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’.”
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
“Yes, we’d like to sell ourselves on Antiques Road Show. Then we’d finally make some money.”
After the interview Michelle Marceau was able to get the Sonoma Mountain Band a gig in Paris at a senior care facility for retired musicians. The band drew a decent sized captive audience who seemed to appreciate bluegrass music. Actually the whole band tried to get the facility to take them in as residents, in exchange for daily performances. It looked promising during the interview by the facility’s director. But once it was found out that the band had a history with Folsom Prison, and that nobody in the band could read music, the outcome was “No deal.”
This coming June the Sonoma Mountain Band plans to play exactly one hundred yards from Vern’s Stage, and fantasize that they playing at that venue. If you spot them go up and say howdy. Since I know this band personally I can assure you that they will appreciate it.