August 12, 2003
How Retro Is Bluegrass?

The 4-CD album 50 Years of Bluegrass Hits (copyright 1992) contains 100 tracks, and, if I'm not mistaken, a total of one (1) datable political event. What is it? Not very helpful clues: the song is 'White House Blues' and has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln.

Note: I almost wrote "one datable historical event", but the Wreck of the Old 97 certainly happened -- I've seen a photo of the wreckage -- and there is likely to be some truth behind the stories of John Henry's contest with the steamhammer, the murder of poor Ellen Smith, and the horserace between Tenbrooks and Molly.


The assassination of President McKinley in 1901, 41 years before the beginning of the "50 years" in the album title. Apparently no political event since then made enough of an impression to have a hit song written about it. McKinley lingered on for eight days after he was shot, and in some versions (not the one on this album) the song advises Mrs. McKinley to hurry up and cash his paycheck while it's still valid.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at August 12, 2003 03:25 PM