After years of research, legal maneuverings, and clandestine message drops, I finally secured an interview with one of the most shadowy, yet ubiquitous figures in Bluegrass: The JamBuster. You all know him, by his habits, if not by his appearance. He’s the guy who causes circle jams at festivals to disintegrate, like a drop of vegetable oil on a foamy pot of boiling water. Here, for the first time, we have a first-person account of what makes this guy tick….but he was careful not to reveal his motives…
It’s throwback March, and here’s a column I really enjoyed writing way back in 2005 – hope you enjoy it, too!
After several cloak-and-dagger attempts, I was able to schedule a face-to-face interview with the Dreaded Jambuster. His attorney was present to ensure I didn’t try any slick journalistic tricks on him. It was a brief, but telling encounter.
BC: What is your secret? How are you able to break up jams so effectively?
JamBuster: There are a number of tricks, really. Every jam is a little different, so different techniques may be required. One of the most effective is the Tune Nobody Knows. This tune is not only a mystery to everybody in the circle, it has no less than 11 chords, and arrangement is so complicated, nobody ever gets comfortable. Also, I make sure there are a lot of verses, and I never play the chord pattern quite the same way twice. It’s quite impossible to follow. When I call the Tune That Nobody Knows, everyone starts to realize how late it is, and how they have pressing business elsewhere.
BC: Yeah, but people are stubborn – that trick can’t work all the time.
JamBuster: No trick works all the time. If the Tune That Nobody Knows doesn’t work, I have other strategies. There’s Loud Out Of Tune Harmonies, for example. That one is fun. I lustily sing tenor or baritone harmonies that are louder than anybody else in the circle, and make sure my pitch is a little off. That will sometimes break up multiple jams at once!
BC: Aren’t you worried people will catch onto your game?
JamBuster: It’s always a challenge to remain subtle enough to avoid detection. If I think the jammers are looking out for me, I employ more slow-acting techniques, such as Constantly Stepping On Solos, or Overly Fancy Cross-Rhythmic Strumming. Some of these techniques actually convince the jammers that they’re the ones who can’t keep up with me, rather than me ruining their jams! They wander off, muttering that they’ll be selling their instruments as soon as they get home!
BC: I think the question that most Bluegrassers would like to ask you is, why do you do this? Why would want to ruin somebody else’s fun?
JamBuster: The truth of the matter is, I’m just not a very good musician, and I simply don’t know any better….
At this point in the interview, the JamBuster’s attorney indicated that his client had nothing more to say. I feel like I don’t know any more about this mysterious figure than I did before the interview? He’s a enigma, wrapped in a mystery, and will probably always be so. Let’s keep an eye out for this fellow – maybe we can learn more, and maybe we can teach him better jam etiquette…