My Parents are Bluegrass Groupies

Sit back and enjoy a jam session…

My parents are bluegrass groupies. They pack their RV and travel from Gettysburg to Tennessee and anywhere in between in search of a good jam session. This travel is the hillbilly version of a VW bus following the Grateful Dead in concert, minus the pot smoke.

When I was younger, Dad referred to the artists who sang my tunes as Harvey and the Wall Bangers. The group was called AC/DC. And I preferred sneaking vodka and tonic as opposed to vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. My friends didn’t have a discerning palate or extra money for a liqueur.

Dad was convinced listening to my music would open a portal to the nether world or at least rot my brain. I survived rock and roll, the head banging, heart pounding, smash the guitar on stage music with only a slight hearing loss as a lasting scar for my concert attendance.

Bluegrass reminds me of hillbilly country, with a touch of jazzy blues and a bit of gospel music thrown in to give it heart. How much trouble can you expect a person to find listening to musicians named Lester and Earl who pick banjos, mandolins, or bow a fiddle? The answer, if my parents are involved, is plenty.

Over Sunday brunch Mom commented, “I thought I’d have to bail your father out of jail.”

Better her than me. I’m saving for a trip abroad, someplace other than Canada.

“What was it, transporting alcohol over state lines again?” I ask.

On their last trip, a routine traffic stop led to a search of my parents RV where their stash of wine was discovered. Our state requires you to pay tax on out of state liquor. Dad wasn’t paying tax, dumping something he paid good money for, or surrendering the booty for some commies to consume. Dad turned the RV around and extended their vacation for a few days in a Wal-Mart parking lot and drank the wine. Only heaven or hell knows what triggered the present almost incarceration.

“Making friends,” Mom said.

Previous trips brought tales of an eighty-four year old man who clogged with an empty bottle balanced on his head. Clogging is bluegrass music’s equivalent to the electric slide. There’s also the Waltzer and a woman my Mom refers to as the Coconut Lady. Coconut Lady handsomely supplements her income by selling coconut cake at these gatherings.

I want to know what was in the bottle before the old guy put it on his head to dance. Did he pass the bottle around? Do they sell it by the gallon? And what’s the second ingredient after coconut in that cake? My parents thought I was doing drugs because my friends wore Def Leppard and Scorpions t-shirts?

“Your father was upset because when Mim and I walked back to our campsite after a set, a couple of nice gentlemen offered us a beer.”

Aunt Mim, Mom’s sister, and Uncle Keg (Keg because it’s rumored that the man singularly consumed one) accompany my parents on these jam tours.

“And your mother accepted,” Dad said.

I see Dad’s point. The woman pounded me with “never take candy from strangers.” Am I to assume candy’s a no-no, but beer’s okay?

“Your father wanted to box the gentlemen.”

Throw down between seventy something year old men can’t be too ugly unless a pacemaker’s involved, right? Dad’s quite jealous of others when it comes to the love of his life. I’m surprised Dad didn’t pull out dueling pistols.

“What’d Uncle Keg think about the situation?” I ask.

“Keg wanted Mim to sneak an extra bottle in her purse for him next time.”

If it comes to bail money, my cousins have to take care of their own parents.

“Beer’s not good to drink with your gout, Mom. Maybe you should stick to wine and trading recipes with the Coconut Lady.”

My parents can keep their jazzed up country music. My old time, head banging Rock and Roll never put me on the highway to hell.

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