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10 Bluegrass Songs Ready for Retirement

Nov 13, 2017

Let’s blow up some balloons, get everyone’s signatures on the card, buy a Costco sheet cake, and send each of these bluegrass songs into their golden years with a loving swat on the rear. Buy that motorhome! See the country! Spend more time with your family!

10. “Man of Constant Sorrow”

Why is this bluegrass staple ready to be put out to pasture? Because, right now, you’re imagining George Clooney with Dan Tyminski’s voice.

9. “Ashokan Farewell”

Fiddle contests, weddings, funerals, jams destined to be busted … this interminable waltz has been everywhere! Except retired. It’s often touted as an old Civil War tune, but the truth is, it was made popular by a 1990s PBS miniseries, then promptly played into oblivion.

8. “Big Spike Hammer”

If you know what “mash” is, you know why this one made the list. Also, it doesn’t really mean what it once did now that Della Mae has appropriated the lyric. RETIRE IT.

7. “Raining in L.A.”

This one will live on forever, reverberating off the walls of IBMA and SPBGMA’s host hotels. It no longer needs us to sustain it. “Raining in L.A.” doesn’t make me wanna stay, I’ll tell you what.

6. “Blue Moon of Kentucky”

For all of the thousands of times it’s been performed and the hundreds of times it’s been covered, somehow collectively we still can’t remember when it goes into 4/4 time and how the split breaks are divvied up. And if there’s a single Kentuckian in the audience, they’re going to request it. Let’s cut our losses on this one.

5. “Rawhide”

We already have “Back Up and Push.” Bluegrass only needs one tune in C without a distinguishable melody, right?

4. “Little Maggie”

There comes a point in the lifespan of a popular song where it’s more often butchered than homaged. Therefore, “Little Maggie” privileges have been unilaterally revoked. Listen to this recording and think about what you’ve done.

3. “Dueling Banjos”

“Where two or three are gathered …” with banjos out of the cases, there some dumbass requesting “Dueling Banjos” will also be. Can we retire the “Paddle faster, I hear banjo music!” t-shirts with this one, too?

2. “Wagon Wheel”

If your knee-jerk reaction to this song appearing on this list is “That ain’t bluegrass!” let’s quibble over that detail after we’ve relegated this torturous, Frankenstein-esque, pseudo-grass, I-just-bought-a-banjo-at-a-flea-market earworm to that pearly Johnson City, Tennessee, in the sky.

1. “Rocky Top”

On the 50-year anniversary of the Osborne Brothers’ release of “Rocky Top,” it seems fitting that we should take this stalwart of a song out of the greater bluegrass repertoire and put it in a safe place, where it can no longer be abused, taken for granted, or interrupted with loud shouts of “WOOOO!” If you anticipate going into “Rocky Top” withdrawals, just head down to the Grand Ole Opry. You can still hear Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-press perform it — and they are the only ones today really doing the song justice. And at tempos not every 85-year-old could sustain.

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