Archive for December 2008

A Bluegrass Wedding

December 30, 2008

        The bride was beautiful and the the groom was handsome.  They sang some of their vows.  The Circuit Riders backed them up as the house band.  The closing tribute to the bride was an old Charlie Waller number, “Remembrances of You,” a favorite of mine.  They did it perfect pitch three part harmony. 

        The ceremony was reverent and respectful of tradition.  The congregation and the bridal party recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison.  The music was acoustic, but not all bluegrass.  Fiddle toggled back and forth with violin and classical pieces were rendered at just the right moments by the chamber music ensemble.

        The wedding party was pretty young bridesmaids, mature gentlemen in tuxes (someone kindly dubbed them as distinguished) and cute flower girls and ring bearers.  There were Christmas poinsettias and pictures and many hugs and kisses.  It was a bit of a family reunion; bluegrass is but one big family.

       The reception rocked the house.  The Harris Brothers led off.  Reggie might be my favorite guitar man on the planet, both in flat-pick and slide, and Ryan is a soul singer extrodinare and a rock solid bass man.  Some old guy in a tux got up and played with ‘em.  I figure a man ain’t lived till he’s jammed with the Harris Brothers and the electric suitcase, so I had to do a few tunes with them too.  Old Doc played mandolin and sang the harmony part to “I got my Mojo Working.”  Now that is my idea of a wedding reception!  The boys were most kind to let me jam with ‘em.  (And no I wasn’t drinking)

        Soon the Circuit Riders were up.  Luck fiddled and Corb picked banjo, Billy Gee played bass, and Darin Aldridge was on mandolin.  Jaret Carter and Jerry Douglas are the best dobro guys I know of.  The groom flashed both a wide grin and the the best mandolin chops you’ll ever hear. 

        We had to do several for old time’s sake.  The groom’s version of ‘Catfish John’ brought back childhood memories for my daughter.  I have never heard anyone in a bridal dress come close to the bride’s version of “He Ain’t Never.”

        We ate well, jammed late into the night, told tall tales, and reminisced with old friends.  I never go to a wedding without thinking about how lucky I have been.  We got married years ago, hit the ground running, and haven’t looked back.  I was lucky to find someone so compatible.  I think these kids did the same.  One thing is certain; if they have a married life anything like the wedding, they are gonna rule.  It’s the bluegrass way.

       All the best to them for all time.

Dr. B

Dr. B’s Grand Ambitious Book Tour

December 27, 2008

        I know you must wonder.  Why would a man who does not yet have a published novel plan a book tour?  My partner, Dr. Dee, has the answer.  “A man has to have his dreams.”

        I have a great wife.  She goes out of her way to encourage all this.  For Christmas she got me a huge fold-out map of the U.S and a box of brightly colored push pins.  The map is on the wall in my study.  When we hear from someone interesting, we put a pin in that area and country and begin to plan. 

        We’ll do our tours like we did when we were young.  One time my folks gave us several hundred dollars, and we decided to go to Maine.  Our only plan was to go as far North as we could.  When we were half way out of money, we’d turn around and head back.  I figure when we go out about the book it will be a similar experience.

        So far we have a concentration of pins in Mississippi, so I know we’ll be going back there.  We already know of several independent book stores, like Reed’s in Tupelo, and Square Books in Oxford.  Also, I know a bunch of pickers and golfers there, so it’s a definite.  We have been fortunate to make some friends down that way, Smitty and his wife, and we need to go back and see them.  His mama makes the best fried chicken in a black skillet.

        Then there’s the New England tour.  I want to visit the English Professor, and learn more about Bread Loaf.  I’m sure mrschili and Pande live up that way.  One lady wrote me about an independent book store in Boston that is on my list.  That is just the kind of place I want to take in.  Small venues, local folks, bookstores where people like ideas and acoustic music.  (This won’t exactly be a Rolling Stones kind of tour.)

        Eventually we want to get out to Oklahoma (what I’d give to jam in Byron Berline’s Guthrie shop)  and Kansas.  (Winfield had been on my list for years.)  The blog has even led me to like-minded contacts on the West Coast and Australia.  Someday we’ll get to Scotland.  I’d love to visit the med schools and golf courses both.

        I hope as y’all read this, you will let me know of independent book stores or music shops where folk would let Dr. Bibey set up with his mandolin and pick a few tunes and tell a few tales.  I want to see as many as I can.  Maybe if I sell a few books, I can get to California before I am half way out of money!

        Oh, and now the disclaimer.  Some of my patients read the blog, and they don’t need to worry.  All this will take place over five years or so, at a clip of two to three short tours a year.  No fear.  I enjoy being a Doc, and now that I’ve reached the age where I could give it up, I am too emotionally attached to my people to quit.  Like I’ve always said, the best Doc knows he ought to be out earning an honest living, but enjoys practicing medicine too much to quit.

        At the end of the year, I feel called to thank all of you who visit with me.  I have been a  fine learning experience, and I hope to get out and meet you all.  Let me know where to push the pins in my map, either in the comments or by email.   Someday, somehow, I’m gonna get there.

Dr. B

Christmas/Indie/Book Update

December 23, 2008

        Yesterday I went to visit Indie at the Nursing Home.

        “Bibey old boy, how are ya?”

        “Fine Indie.  Brought Barney some brain food.”  I hid two small bottles of Jim Beam in the skull cap cache.

        “You are a fine boy.  How’s Ms. Marfar and the children?”

       “The Christmas Queen is at her best, and both the kids will be in.  They send their love.  Me and Darrell and Summer are gonna come by when they get back from the honeymoon and pick and few.” 

        “Great!  How’s the book coming?”

        “Well, I finished the final MS revision.  The agent is gonna see what he can do with it.”

        “I love what I’ve read, Bibey.  I think it’s gonna do for Harvey County what beer did for Milwaukee.”

        “Oh I don’t think we’ll be that famous, Indie, but it has been a lot of fun.”

        “Reckon he’ll get a publisher?”

        “I don’t know, but if he doesn’t we’ll self publish.  We’ll give it six months to a year to see.  I tell you one thing that’s a fact though.  It wouldn’t have been any good without him.  He was more than an agent.  He was a dang guru. “

        “I don’t know Bibey.  We had a great story.”

        “Yeah, I guess so.  And my agent says he’d rather have a good writer with a great story than a great writer with a lousy story.  I’m thankful that was his philosophy.  I warn’t great.  You’re the one who made it, pal.”

       “But you had the stick to to write it down, Bibey.  I’m proud of you.”

       I leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.  “I’m proud of you too, Indie.  You’re the best.  Merry Christmas.”

        “Merry Christmas to you too, son, and tell all the gang I said hello.”

        “Will do Indie.”

Dr. B

Have you seen this man?

December 22, 2008

        There was man who came to Harvey County right in the middle of the Mandolin Case.  He went by initials.  It has been around two decades, and I can not recall for sure, but it was either G.B. or B.G.  We had several jam sessions at the Holiday Inn Lounge, and he was right in the thick of them.

        He was tall, about 6’2,” and around 215 pounds.  He was middle aged then, so he’d be on towards elderly now.  He had a big silver belt buckle like what you’d see a rodeo cowboy wear.  But he wasn’t a cowboy.  In fact, I thought he was of Native American descent though he never said for sure.  He wore string ties and had cowboy boots that looked like rattlesnake skin.  I remember he always wore a turquoise bracelet, and sold Stuart Nye jewelry out of the trunk of his car.  He was a dealer in musical instruments too.  He traded in banjos and guitars, but mandolins were his specialty.  In fact he built a few, and they were quite good.  He also did some fine woodcarvings and sold them also.

        Since the Mandolin Case I’ve lost track of him.  I remember he said he got a lead on a prewar flathead banjo from a guy named Crow down around Tupelo.  Crow (not J.D. Crowe) said the banjo was at a shop in Oklahoma.  I recall he had planned a trip out there to get it.  I bet that banjo is worth something nowadays.

        If anyone has run into him direct him to my blog- I’m looking for him.  Again, he went by BG or GB as I recall.  We never did figure out why he came to town, but I think he was important.

Dr. B

The Patient is the Boss

December 21, 2008

        Ms. Pamela Villas made a nice comment a couple posts back that set me to thinking about an encounter with one of my patients years ago.

        One Monday we had a barn burner.  By lunch I was worn out.  Tired, hungry, borderline frazzled, I was trying to get to the finish line- lunch.  My last patient was complicated.  Hypertension, mild renal failure, diabetes; he had multiple problems.  I did my best to tend to him, but my mind wandered.

          After lunch, I felt better.  I got out my office mandolin and strummed a few tunes.  I caught up on my dictation.  By 1:30  I was about set to regroup for the afternoon.

        Paig beeped me.  “Wasn’t Mr. Williams here this morning?”

        “Yes ma’am. “

        “He’s on line one- says he forgot to ask you something.”

        “O.K.”

       “Dr. Bibey?”

        “Yes.”

        ” This is Williams.  I need to talk to you.”

        “Yes sir, what’s up?

        “When I was in there this morning, I felt like you were distracted.   I know you have a lot coming at you, but when you’re in that room, I want your undivided attention.  When we’re in there I’m your boss.”

        I thought about that.  Mr Williams was retired.  He had been a mid level manager in industry, so he knew what it meant to be a boss, but he know all about having a boss too.

        “How far do you live from the office?”

        “Five minutes.”

        “Tell you what.  I was tired.  I should have paid more attention to you.  Why don’t you come over right now and come back to my study?  I’ll tend to whatever we didn’t get to.”

        He seemed surprised.  “Well O.K. Bibey.  I’ll be right there. “

        We went over a few nuances about his blood pressure medication and decided to make a small change.

       “Thanks, Doc.  How much do I owe you?”

        “Not a thing.  The government won’t allow two visits in one day, man.  I could get in trouble.  The buck really stops with that crowd.”

        “Ain’t it the truth?  I dealt with all those bureaucrats for years.”

        Ten years have gone by.  Every time I see Mr. Williams I pull up a chair, sit down, and say, “O.K, boss.  What can I do for you today?”

        He always breaks into a broad grin.  We get along famously.   He, like Ms. Villars, understood a very important concept- the patient is the bottom line.  And he was kind enough not to chew me out or correct me in front of everyone.  As far as I know he never even mentioned it to the staff.

        Mr. Williams is a very wise man.  He has even taken a liking to bluegrass music.  He’s just the kind of boss every employee hopes to draw.

Dr. B

Starving Medical Student Foundation

December 19, 2008

       As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I thought I’d tell you about the Starving Medical Student Foundation.  (SMSF)  It has been funded exclusively by Dr. Tommy Bibey for many years.

        There is only one hitch to it.  On Friday, the student must eat at Chang’s Chinese.  I’ve had lunch at Chang’s every Friday, at least if in town (which is usually) and if there is not a life threatening emergency (there usually is not) for the last twenty years.  It is so predictable that when my daughter used to come home from college if it was after 12:30 she didn’t bother to stop at the office, but went straight to Chang’s.

        The SMSF has worked out fine.  Most of the students in debt up to their ears, and welcome a free meal almost as much as a hobo.  And Dr. B gets to choose the venue- they have no choice in that matter.  I get in some great conversations with bright young people I normally would have little access to.  I understand they even text message that for an old guy, Bibey is pretty cool, which is all the reward I need.

        So, we’re off to Chang’s.  Talk to you later.

Dr. B

Professor Bibey

December 18, 2008

        Y’all aren’t gonna believe it, but I’m a med school professor.  Well, not full time, but I’m serve as one of the community medicine preceptors for Sandhills U., my old Alma Mater.  Indie used to do it, and he was the best one there ever was.

        I really like this last kid they send me.  He’s well read, and kind to people.  It didn’t hurt his ’cause any that he’d done a paper on Flatt and Scruggs in college.

        I sat him down the first day and told him what I expected.  “Son,” I said.  “Don’t tell ‘em back at the med school, but this might be the easiest ‘A’ you’ll ever make.”

        “How’s that, Doc?”

        “Well, all you have to do is treat my patients with respect.  And when you leave this office, you can’t talk about  ‘em.”

        “No problem.”

        “Now.  The State Board Medical Board says we shouldn’t treat friends and family.  After three decades, that’s all I’ve got.   You report me and I’ll do everything I can to see you don’t get a liscense.”

        “Yes sir.  You can count on me.”

        “All I can really teach you is how to stay out of trouble.   I’m not gonna teach you the differential diagnosis of hemolytic anemia as well as Dr. Woodley down there will.  But I can help your gestalt.  For example, if anyone here has any complaint from the waist up and they’re over forty- five, you consider it heart ’till you prove it ain’t.  It usually won’t be, but you can’t miss anything that might kill ‘em before you get another try at it.”

        “A little scary.”

        “Don’t worry.  I’ll check behind you on everything.  So far, it doesn’t count for you.  I’m just gonna help you to be ready when it does.”

        “And don’ t forget Temple’s Law.  Very important.”

        “Huh?”

        “Temple’s Law number one.  ‘A woman is pregnant till proved otherwise.’  In all these years I’ve never accidentally x-rayed a pregnant woman, and we ain’t gonna start this month.”

          He wrote it down.

         “And speaking of women, don’t chase any around here or I’ll send you packing.  I ain’t got time to run interference for any stupid behavior.”

        “Yes sir.  I’ve got a girlfriend back at Sandhills.  I’m very loyal to her.”

        “Good.  I like loyalty.  I think you might get an “A.”  I’ve never had one get an “A+, though.”

        ‘What do you have to do to get an “A+?”  

        “You have to play bluegrass music.  You don’t have to be a muti-instrumentalist, although there’s nothing wrong with that.  If you are good on one, that’ll do.  And if you can sing tenor it will cut the gig, too.  They’re almost as hard to come by as a good fiddler.”

        “Yes sir, I won’t forget.  Oh, I need to run out to the car.”

        It wasn’t but a minute and he was back toting an old battered case.  “Do you know Jerusalem Ridge?”  He opened it up, pulled out a fiddle, and low and behold rendered is as fine as anyone I’ve heard since Indie went to the Nursing Home.

        “Son, do you do the Cherokee Shuffle?”

        “Sure.”  He bowed it to perfection.

        “Have I ever got somebody who’s gonna want to meet you.  After we finish up, we gotta go over to the Nursing Home.  I’ve got a buddy over there, Dr. Indie Jenkins.  Man, he is gonna dig you.”

        “Sure boss.  Wherever you go, I’ll follow.”

        I knew I liked this kid.  He might be the most well prepared student I’ve ever had.  We’re gonna get along famously.

Dr. B

A John Hartford Christmas

December 15, 2008

        My first memory of John Hartford was at the old Roxy Theatre in Greenville, N.C.   He played banjo and fiddle and clogged on a plywood board.  I thought he was the coolest artist I’d ever seen.

       First impressions are often correct.  John turned out to be that and more.  You might remember him- he was guy on the old Glen Campbell show in the derby hat who played the banjo.  He was a unique artist who went his own way the whole way.

        Several years after the Roxy gig, we opened a show for John.  Afterwards we picked backstage till the wee hours of the morning.  He was the last one to give up.  I wrote him after he got home and we became friends.  He sent me his ‘Gum Tree Canoe” LP and a signed photo that is still in my office. 

        As time went by we got to know him better and he invited us out to Nashville to his Christmas party.  Imagine that.  Tommy Bibey picking mandolin with Marty Stuart and Bill Monroe- what a memory!  There were less well known but equally fine artists such as Elmer Bird, the banjo man from Turkey Creek.  Fletcher Bright of Chattanooga was there too- one of the few bluegrass fiddlers I know who travels to gigs in his private Lear Jet.  (He is also a very successful real estate man.)

        John was always loyal.  Fiddler Benny Martin was still a great player.  However, he was at the stage of his  career where he was out of the Nashville limelight, but he was at every party of John’s I went to.  And many of the folks he invited were just unknown pickers like me he had taken a liking to in his travels.

         I liked every LP he did, but ‘Gum Tree,’  ‘Mark Twang,’  ‘Last Waltz’ and ‘Back to Dixie’ were some of my favorites.  ‘Aereo-Plain’ was a good one too.  It had the feel of a jam session at John’s house, but in spite of the casual nature of the recording it was the work of a genius.  “Gentle on My Mind” made him famous, but it didn’t spoil him at all.  He remained true to his artistry, recorded what he loved, and never seemed to worry much as to the commercial potential a tune might have.

        When The Grand Ole Opry moved out to Briley parkway, there was talk they might bulldoze the Ryman, and John wouldn’t hear to it.  His song, ‘They’re Gonna Tear Down the Grand Old Opry’ had much to do with saving it.  They had the IBMA awards there this year.  I suspect John deserves at least part of the credit for the preservation of this vital part of country music history.

        In addition to his music, John wrote children’s books and followed his  love of the Mississippi all the way to becoming a certified steam boat captain.  I think of John Hartford every year at Christmas.  He was a generous man, and a true American artist we should never forget.

The Difference in Bluegrass Men and Women

December 12, 2008

        Now I know what you are thinking; we don’t need a Doc to tell us this.  And you are right.  But after the post about ‘Guitared and Feathered,’ I thought I ought to tell her as far as bluegrass bands there are some differences when you play with women as opposed to men.

        None of this has anything to do with ability.  All you have to do is listen to Sierra Hull play the mandolin- old Doc can’t hang with that kid, and I’ve been a player a long time.  Or check out Kristin Scott Benson.  She doesn’t weigh much more than a Gibson banjo in a Mark Leaf case, but she is the IBMA banjo player of the year.  No one could argue Rhonda Vincent is not a sharp business woman as well as a fine player and singer.  And Alison Krauss long since put to rest the rumor you had to be old and ugly to play the fiddle.

        But in spite of all that there are differences.   The last time I played with ‘Guitared and Feathered’ there was a discussion of what type of soap they were using  at the time.  Now I’ve picked bluegrass music with our banjo man Moose Dooley  for almost three decades, and I have no idea what kind of soap the boy uses.  And talk about snacks. They had all kinda little sandwiches you can eat in one bite, and birthday cakes every time you turn around.  No beer and pretzels for those cats.

        They are versatile instrumentalists, too.  You have to play your mandolin in all sorts of different keys to accompany their voices.  Bill Monroe himself said it was up to the musicians to adapt to where the singers were comfortable, not the opposite.  If Monroe said it it is in the bluegrass Bible.

        They have even helped me in my quest to be a writer.  You better learn how to express yourself with some degree of sophistication and subtlety.  They expect you to understand English without having to hit you over the head with a ball bat.

        And even if my Marfar is the bass player I have to say they are quite a bit cuter than Moose or Warbler in Neuse River.  It might be Chanel Number 5 instead of Old Spice, but it is still bluegrass, and a fine version if I say so myself.

Dr. B

A Day For An Old Banjo Man

December 11, 2008

        I’ve told y’all about my wife’s band before- ‘Guitared and Feathered’ is their name.

        And I’ve also mentioned she is excellent at befriending elderly men. They all love her.  (Can’t say I blame ‘em.)

        Last week they had a gig.  She called me on her way home.  (Sometimes I help them out, but I had to work that day.)   They had played at Hospice, and some guy wheeled up and said he was a banjo player.  He had someone go back to his room and they returned with an old open-back banjo; one of those with a calf skin head.

        Two strings were missing, but Betty Jo, the banjo player for Guitared and Feathered, broke open a pack and tuned it up.

        The guy sat in the wheelchair and picked along with them.  Marfar said he missed a few notes, but she could tell he was a player in his day.  They introduced him to the crowd as a celebrity guest for the band.

         Don’t you know it made his day?  Heck, it made mine for her to call and tell me about it.  I’m glad I’ve got her.  She’s an expert on elderly men, and I’m closing in on it in a hurry.

Dr. B


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