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.

Dr. B

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8 Comments on “Bluegrass Work Note Excuses”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    I have been rackin my head about excuses I have heard. I had a girl that worked for me that got a doctor to give her an excuse because she was allergic to work. She milked that one for a whole year. I don’t know what she promised the doctor to get her to give her the excuse. After her long term sick time ran out, so did her job.

    I do like the one Moose heard about having to stay home to watch wrassling.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    Come to think of I have had a few say they were allergic to work, too, but I didn’t ever give ‘em a work note for it.

    Dr. B

  3. Parson Bob Says:

    To hear some really great excuses, talk to someone who’s in the “business” of working with volunteers. A volunteer, with apologies to friends in Tennessee, is someone who says they will do something, and then may or may not do it. ‘You mean it was THIS Thursday you wanted me to help with the Vacation Bible School? THIS Thursday? Are you sure it isn’t NEXT Thursday? Gee, I’m sure sorry, but I can’t do it this Thursday; that’s my bridge club day. Would I get someone else to replace me? Well, I’d like to but I’m in a big hurry right now to get to my tennis game. I’m really, really sorry, Bob.”

    Whereupon Bob smiles and says, “Oh, don’t worry; I’ll find someone else. No problem”. Unspoken: “…someone else who’ll do what they promise they’ll do”.

    Someday I’ll write about volunteers and me, including the ones I’ve had to fire, but it will be published posthumously.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Parson Bob,

    I understand. I was a little concerned about this post, but it was twenty years ago, and he lives in Georgia now, so I guess it is safe. I’ll bet in your line as a Parson, you have seen a bunch too.

    Dr. B

  5. pandemonic Says:

    In my line of work, I’ve heard all the excuses. Most of them were lame. One woman called to say her dog had been run over by a car, while she was walking it. About six months later, it happened again. I think she was pathological about lying. She also said she was enrolled in community college, but a quick check of the records there revealed she wasn’t. The same woman said her husband died, twice, and made elaborate mention of going to his funeral in another state. We all felt badly and sent her a card. But then mentioned him in passing about four months later. That was the last straw. I called her and left her a voice message with concern. “Um, Debbie… I understand your husband died, but you told one of the office girls that he was helping you with your community college homework… How can that be?”

    She quit about three weeks later.

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    I have read of your work on your blog, and I suspect you have indeed seen it all twice. (or maybe three times)

    Dr. B

  7. mrschili Says:

    I swear to God/dess, i might give up teaching the day someone comes to tell me that they didn’t do their homework because “Mama wanted to watch rasslin”

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Lord a mercy mrschili. In bluegrass you hear it all! So good to hear from you. All the best to all the chilis.

    Dr. B


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