Bluegrass Work Note Excuses
You know how folks come up with all kind of excuses when they miss work? The bluegrass world is no different. Back in the days before Neuse River’s personnel stabilized and reached our current level of maturity (ie we all done got old) the Moose and I heard every excuse in the world.
One time Moose went to pick up Raymond, our second fiddler. Sometimes the boy had a legitimate reason to miss, like when they’d call him in to drive a truck for the local moving company. This time there warn’t no excuse, ’cause he’d had a DUI and lost his license. And, Moose was more than willing to pick him up at the house. Moose got there and the boy came to the door and said, “Sorry, Moose I can’t go tonight.”
“Whadda ya mean you can’t go? We’ve got a sound check in an hour!”
“Naw, man. I’m gonna stay home. Mama wants to watch rasslin.” And that was that. He went back in the house and wouldn’t budge.
Another time Billy was gonna play bass for a show downtown. He called the office with three hours to go and told my staff he couldn’t make it- it was an emergency. I doubted it was medical. As it turns out they were calling for rain, and he wanted to build a new doghouse. The old one had a hole in the roof. It worked out O.K., though ’cause I had Paig call Darrell. He didn’t own a bass, but he knew where he could borrow one, and showed up on time for the gig.
Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, ’cause that was my first gig with Darrell. His mom had to bring him- he was only fifteen and didn’t even have a driver’s license. He was known for his mandolin and guitar work, but did a fine job on the bass.
I had to ask. “Darrell, where did you you learn to play bass like that?”
“Awh, Doc. We’ve got a man who plays the doghouse in church on Sunday morning. I’ve been watching him. Warn’t nothing to it. That was good material y’all done. Where didja get it?”
“Where did we get it?” I was incredulous. “Son, that was Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys. Ain’t you ever heard them?”
“Naw, man. We listen to III Tyme Out and Doyle Lawson. Who are them guys?” Darrell asked.
I couldn’t believe it. Here the kid played a perfect gig with no rehearsal on an instrument he didn’t even own, and had never even heard the material. For once a work note worked out. Darrell went on to become a great friend and a monster multi-instrumentalist. We play an occasional show together to this day.
I’ve heard all the excuses in both of my lines of work. Guys with five different grandmas dying, prescription eating dogs, you name it. Often the situation had to do with a woman, either a wife or another one, like the time Franklin, our first fiddle man, took up jogging. It all went fine till his wife realized he only jogged around the block, then stopped to visit the new neighbor lady. When he came back and hopped in the shower- well, all I can say he warn’t sweating ’cause of road work.
We had to let Franklin go. One time he came to a gig in with bullet holes in his car ’cause his girl friend’s husband came home early from the night shift and hit him in the head with a shovel. It was lucky then man didn’t kill the fool boy. Fiddlin’ Frank’s wife put all his clothes on the porch and locked him out, so he went to stay with his best friend Flakie in S.C. until he ran off to Georgia with Flake’s wife.
I was glad we fired Franklin. Flake’d get drunk and show up at our gigs with a pistol and want to talk to him. I made sure to wear a different color of shirt than Franklin wore- I even went to the car to change one night-and I’d stand on the opposite side of the stage. And you can be sure I made certain Flakie knew the difference between a fiddle and a mandolin. I didn’t want Flake to get confused, and when he’d drink he could get that way. I knew ’cause I was his doctor. Even so it was too dangerous to keep Franklin on, so we parted ways. I hate it though, he could sure play a fiddle.
All that being said, I have to tell you for the most part my guys are now quite tame, and what wild streak they once had has been pretty well domesticated. Now we are old and play music so we can pretend we are young. But along the way, I think I’ve seen about every bluegrass work note excuse there was.
What kinds of work are y’all in? I guess people are the same everywhere, and I’d be interested to know what kind of excuses you have run into. I’ll bet the lawyers, paramedics, nurses and the like who deal with a variety of people have seen it all twice just as I have.
My only request is please, no real names. We don’t want any HIPAA violations here.
Gotta go back into work first thing in the morning. In all these years, I ain’t missed but one day, and that was for cataract surgery, so I want to keep the streak alive.
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