Archive for May 2009

Daniel Boone and Arnold Palmer on Golf

May 31, 2009

        It’s a lazy summer Sunday.  We’ve had rain for weeks.  Today it was bright sunshine.  Still it’s muggy, though.  I’ve got a pair of golf sandals I’ll wear sometimes.  When I walked through the back yard the turf squished under my feet, and the mud seeped up towards my toes.  When I was a boy, I’d gone barefoot, but I’m a little more cautious now.  Gotta go the office in the morning, and I like to believe my people still need me.  The ground squirrels darted around, and the birds flitted past.  My dog came up to cheer me on, and I gave her a pat on the head.  ‘Don’t worry kid, it ain’t like we’re going bear hunting,’ I told her.

        Some days you feel as long in the tooth as those afternoon shadows, and this was one of ‘em.  From where I hit practice balls, a favoring wind often blows a gentle breeze.  Daniel Boone said, “Wisdom comes by facing the wind; fools let it carry them.”  (From Robert Morgan’s book, ‘Boone’)  Ben Hogan used to practice into the wind.  Maybe he knew, or at least read about Daniel Boone.  Oh well, I ain’t Hogan.  Daniel Boone was a wise man, but I thought I’d take what help I could get.  Besides I wasn’t on call.  I was wise enough for golf for the day, though maybe not Doctoring.  I set up with the wind at my back.

        There’s a yellow bush down the fairway about 230 yards.  I took another look.  Arnold Palmer used to say there was this one hole at Latrobe where you had to carry a creek.  When he was a little boy, he used to hit it over for the ladies for a quarter.  He said when he got to where he couldn’t fly that creek, he knew it was time to give it up.  That yellow bush serves as a similar marker for me.  I took a few practice swings.  Would this be the day?

        It was hot.  I began to perspire.  I teed it up, and roped hooked the first shot in the creek.  Dang.  Now it was no longer perspiration, but sweat.  Hm.  I guess my little bluegrass friend Sophronie would say it beats hauling rocks.  I bet Daniel Boone’s wife Rebecca would say the same. 

        I had to laugh.  What the h#!! am I complaining about!  The hardest thing I do is push a pencil.  One summer I picked cotton, and when I worked the paving crew I went back to school that fall and made an ‘A’ in Organic Chemistry.  It wasn’t as tough as the paving crew by a long shot.  I drew back and made another pass.  A little more solid, but pushed.  Better.

        The breeze picked up.  It was like coolant for a radiator.  I mopped the last bit of sweat with my towel.  ‘Three’s lucky, here we go.  I ain’t so old.’  I drew back and popped a good one.  “Sail away, ladies!”  It wasn’t an Arnie shot but it was solid. The impact went all the way through my chest.  She pierced through the blue sky, curved with a gentle draw, and cleared the yellow bush on the fly.   

        I hit a few more good ones, and went to retrieve them.  Old Ezekiella came out to help.  She pranced around the Bermuda fairway like a pup, chased off a few Canadian Geese, then laid down to pant and slobber on my feet.  

        I didn’t have to measure it off.  I know the distance.  It was pin high with the front lip of the trap, and that is exactly 263.  Good enough.  We went back to the house.  I bounded in, chest all puffed out.

        Marfar greeted me in the kitchen.  “Care for an Arnold Palmer?”  (Half sweet tea, half lemonade.) 

        “Sure ’nuff.  Hit it like Arnie today.”

        “Did you clear the eunoymus bush?”  (I suspect she knew.)

        “Yep.  When I was a boy Dad would say, ‘Son you hit that one just like Arnie.'”

        “Aw, honey, you hit ‘em like Arnie all the time.”   A good white lie can make a marriage very strong.  In fact, I think Daniel Boone’s wife did some of that. 

        I turned up my drink.  The ice cubes crackled and the condensation gathered on the outside of the glass.  “Hard to beat an Arnold Palmer in the summer.” 

        Maybe msslightly is right.  I can’t be but so old.  If I can still hit a ball past the eunoymus bush, and my Marfar thinks I’m somewhere in between Arnold Palmer and Daniel Boone I must be doing something right.  (More likely she is.)  I believe I’ll leave hitting into the wind to Hogan, though.  He’s tougher than me.

Dr. B

Fiddling Pig/DoctorGig/COMMA

May 30, 2009

        I guess Sam Bush would say the life of a country Doctor is all glamor and grits.  Mine is close sometimes.

       Thursday night Marfar had a quilt guild meeting.  She didn’t want me to drive alone in the rain, so I picked up Fangers Lynch after work and we drove to the Pig in Asheville to see Balsam Range and their guests Darin And Brooke Aldridge.

       The Range alone is a great show.  Marc Pruett is old school solid on the five string (he’s played with everyone from Lester Flatt to Skaggs) and Buddy Melton sings ‘Blue and Lonesome’ so sad I had to dry my eyes with the paper towels they put out to clean off your fingers after you eat those good ribs.  (I had the smoked chicken; very fine)  Bass man Tim Surrett is hands down the funniest emcee in bluegrass.  A dry witted nut he is.  How about this one from Bluegrass First Class?

        An old man and his wife are watching television in the den.  The wife turns to the husband and says, “Honey how ’bout let’s run upstairs and have sex?”

        He looks over from the T.V. and says, “I can’t do both.” –  Tim Surrett.  Bluegrass people are very honest.

       Darin Aldridge was there with that perfect tone on the mando.  Put Brooke in the mix with a couple beautiful gospel numbers, then have them sing a perfect ‘Some old Day’ and you have a fine night in Buncombe County. 

        Don’t miss the Fiddling Pig if you are in Asheville.  Marc Pruett is a Grammy winner and knows the business.  He’s in charge of the entertainment, and you can be sure there will be no off nights.

        I got in late but slept good, and was well rested to turn in a good Doctor gig.  I diagnosed a myocardial ischemia, had several routine check-ups, and saw two gastroenteritis cases.  (Just tossing this in so you won’t forget I’m a real Doctor)  We did four, uh… lets see how to say it polite-like…. uh.. four age specific colo-rectal screening exams for malignancy and an incision and drainage of an abscess before a quick lunch, then got in fifteen minutes of mandolin practice before we kicked off the second set.  (Bluegrass talk for we started up afternoon office hours.)  

        The schedule was a little light and I caught up every single chart.  As far as I could tell it was no runs, no hits, no errors.  I breathed a quick prayer of thanks.  After all these years, I still have a high respect for what all can go wrong in the Doctor business.  So far, I’ve never pronounced anyone well to have them drop over dead in my parking lot.  I assure you that is more from the Grace of God than me being smart.  The responsibility of it all still weighs heavy, but I do my best.   

        We finished up early and Marfar and I hit the road to COMMA in Morganton to see Mountain Heart.  If you are not sure you like bluegrass try these guys out as your entry band.  I always check on the mandolin player, and Aaron Ramsey was excellent.  Young lead singer Josh Shilling was especially good; part lounge singer, R’ n B,  rock ‘n rolling, honky tonk piano playing, New Orleans bar jazz, bluegrass singer wild man.  No kidding, I heard every one of those influences.

        My daughter called at the break.  “Daddy where are you?  It’s late.”

        “I’m out on a date with your mama.”

        “Well I would hope so.  Y’all’re gonna be out too late.  You better come on home.”

        “Tony Rice and Terry Baucom are playing the second set.”

        “Hm, O.K.  I’d stay too.  Better get a motel room.  You’re past your bedtime.”

        “A motel room?  Well, I guess that’d be O.K.  It is your mama after all.”

        “Hush, Daddy.”

        “Yes, dear.”

        If Mountain Heart is your first bluegrass band, and you wanted it played straight, then stay for the second set too.  Now that you have been broken in all modernized, Tony Rice and Terry Baucom are both classical bluegrass from the 80s.  That was the era when we went through a version upgrade, but still kept good taste in the mix. 

        Like I said, the Doc life is all glamor and grits.  (Go see Sam Bush when he’s in town too)  Today I’m gonna mow the grass.  I’m off so I’ll pick a few tonight.  Tommorrow I’ll play the gospel in a country church and pray for the Good Lord to forgive me for my sins.  Next week I’ll do it all over again.  Whatever misjudgments I made; well… it’s as we say when we miss a note; I didn’t do it on purpose.

        In fact I think I’ll pray extra hard.  Next week’s schedule looks like it might be a busy one, and I want all the help I can get.

Dr. B

Kill Nashville Pop/Mr. Larry Shell

May 29, 2009

        I started a FaceBook page a couple months ago, and it has been a bunch of fun.  I’ve found old friends I used to pick with that I haven’t seen in years.  

        There have been a number of new folks, too.  One of them is a gentleman named Larry Shell.  I knew of Mr. Shell before FaceBook; he has a list of songwriter credits longer than my leg, and I’m a right lanky fellow.  I became his FaceBook friend through my young country music friend Megan Peeler.  She’s a wonderful singer who won the National Colgate Country Showdown.  Mr. Shell is introducing her to Nashville, and they have written some songs together.

          Folks, Mr. Shell is the real McCoy, and might well know more about traditional country music than anyone on the planet.  Just get on FaceBook and check out his video collection of country music performances.  It’s more fun than going to the picture show on a summer day when it’s the only place in town with air-conditioning.

        Mr. Shell started a movement called ‘Kill Nashville Pop.’  The tag line to it might well be  ‘and save real Country Music.’  He has bumper stickers with the ‘Kill Nashville Pop’ logo, and I ordered several.  I put one on my work briefcase right next to the ‘I Love my Martin Guitar’ sticker.  (Docs carry briefcases with a lot of important papers like band set lists, so it gets a lot of exposure)  One went on my banjo case, and the third one is displayed on my Calton mandolin case I carry when I travel.  It’s beside the one that says, “What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about?”

       I want you to know I have no personal animosity towards the folks who sing pop country.  It’s just to me it isn’t real country music.  A record executive once told me, (paraphrased) “Doc, you’re too hung up on this art thing.  You gotta realize the real purpose of a country song is to keep someone on the radio until the commercial comes on.”  I am sure I am hopelessly old fashioned but to me the real purpose of of country song is to touch me and help me carry my burdens.  When one of my favorite patients  turns up with some God awful cancer no one in the Tobacco Triangle can fix, sometimes all that gets me by is my God and my music.  Maybe I’m just old, but fluff doesn’t cut my gig, and a daily minefield of pain and suffering is a tough one at times. 

        I suppose one could say “Well, Doc.  That’s all nice, but what do you know about the music business?  You’re just a Doctor.”  That is true.  And I am not so naive that I don’t realize the bills have to be paid.  I ran a small Doctor’s office for many years.  Some months were tight, and I understand the phrase  ‘no margin no mission.’  I do know this though.  To me the purpose of a country song is not to satisfy the quarterly earnings report of an executive, but to satisfy the souls of folks like me in the work a day world.  To speak to me, it has to be honest words sung by honest people with real everyday human problems.  To me if it ain’t that it ain’t country.

         I’m the same way in the Doctor gig.  I am what they call a ‘low end provider,’ ie in the 25th percentile as an earner.  One time one of those hard bitten consultants said, “Doctor, your problem is you spend too much time talking to your patients.  You need to spend more time ordering tests.”  Privately he admitted if he got in jam he’d want me to try to help him out, though.  I took it as a high compliment.  Who’d want a Doc who saw his patient as a financial opportunity?  I’m prouder of my good board scores and even more of the fact I care about my patients and most of them seem to like me O.K.  Call me a Pollyanna if you want, but I say the definition of a good Doctor is one who tries to help his people, not one who wants a bonus and an award for being a ‘high end provider.’   And most of the Docs I know see it the same way.

        And a good song is one that sells well because it touches people and is a good song, and is not a good song because of careful marketing and the commercial success it shows on the balance sheet for the last quarter.  The good ones will stand the test of time and still are relevant years later, because they speak to human truths that have not changed.  That is sure true for the material Mr. Shell posts every day on FaceBook.

        One time I went to a song writer seminar and a fellow named Paul Craft was on the panel.  Someone asked him how he knew when he’d written a good song.  He said something like when he got to where he could sleep because he believed he had reached deep down inside and got the best out of himself  he could do, then he felt it was a good song.  I like that definition.  For my money, I want someone to tell me a story about Clayton Delaney.  There is a reason a legend like Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie write bluegrass tunes these days, and I guarantee you it has nothing to do with money.

        Oh, one last thing.  Mr. Shell is working on a book.  Mine is due out in 2010.  Some old day me and Megan are gonna play a song at a book store gig and my wife and I are gonna take her out for a plate of chicken that reminds her of home.  I hope Mr. Shell will join us.  I’d love to trade books with him professional courtesy, and get him to sign his.  I believe if country music is saved, Mr. Shell will go down in the history books as one of the folks who threw out the life preserver.  I’d pass the book on down to my kids as a reminder that their people knew the cat  who helped saved it.

        Well enough preaching from old Doc.  Y’all can get preached at from the pulpit on Sunday, so I better get off my high horse and go to work.  Good luck Mr. Shell, and keep on pushing the real country music.

Dr. B

The Bluegrass Kilroy, or Who is That Mandolin Player?

May 27, 2009

        Readers my age will remember Kilroy.  He was the elusive GI in WWII who showed up in all the most improbable spots.  Some boy from Kentucky would hack through the jungle in New Guinea and come across his scrawl; ‘Kilroy was here.’

        Well I can’t get around like Kilroy, but in the mandolin world I do try to travel as far as my day job will let me.

        One weekend I was in Western N.C. with my son, and I got a call from a friend who said he heard I’d been spotted in Georgia.

        “No, man it wasn’t me.  I’m sure.  I’m sitting here with my boy eating a cheeseburger.”

        “Well they said the fellow was gray haired and played the mandolin.  He might have been a Doctor.  Maybe he was a dentist…”

        “That narrows it down.”

        Not long ago, it happened again.  A fellow was at a party in Tennessee.  He was a writer.  He knew very little about our music until he started to read my blog, but had become intrigued with bluegrass culture. 

        There was a bluegrass band there.  He could not recall the name but said they were very good.  The mandolin player was a gray haired gentleman.  He took a chance and went up to speak.

       “Enjoyed your music.  Most excellent.  Are you a Doctor?”

        “Yes.”

        “Are you Tommy Bibey?”

        “No.  Do you know him?”

        “Yes.  Well, no.  Well, I read Tommy Bibey, but no I haven’t met him,” the writer replied.

         “I heard he was over in Chattanooga a couple months ago.”  The man rubbed down the fretboard with a cloth, and put his mandolin in the case.  “If you run into him tell him I’m looking for him.”

       “Does he owe you money?”

        “Oh no.  I heard he finally figured out the bridge to ‘Wild Fiddler’s Rag.’  I’ve been trying to learn it.  I bet Alan showed it to him.’

        “Are they related?” the writer asked.

        “Sixth cousins on the mama’s side.  I read it on his blog.”

        “Hm.  Say you’re a Doctor?”

         “Yeah.”

         “What kind?”

        “Nuclear physics.”

        “Yeah, I guess you aren’t Bibey.  I think he’s a country Doctor.”

        I have lot of new readers and I want to be sure you know how to find me at a festival.  (I hope my regular readers will bear with me; you have heard some of this before.)  I’m the gray haired Doc with the straw hat.  (My Dermatologist makes me wear it.)  On the advice of my ophthalmologist I usually wear sunglasses, but when I take them off, you’ll see I have one green and one blue eye.  

        I mark my golf balls with one blue and one green dot.  It stands for bluegrass, but also for old blue eye/green eye.  If you play golf in the South and fish one outta the creek marked like that you’ll know I’ve been there.

       You’ll see my card at festivals.  Like Kilroy, the back is inscribed with the logo, ‘Bibey was here.’  When I am lucky enough to meet you in person, remind me and I will inscribe it with my logo of a Kilroy-like figure who peers over the fence on the bottom of the card.

        Y’all keep on picking and having fun.  As a Doc, I know for sure ain’t none of us gonna get out of here alive.  But in my prayers God says bluegrass music is good preparation for eternity.  There though, He requires at least two gospel numbers in each set, and they don’t allow no killing songs.

Dr. B

A Patient’s Childhood Bluegrass Memory

May 26, 2009

        I saw a patient today who said he grew up next door to Earl’s sister Ruby.  He recalled one day when a long car drove up and stopped. The door opened and out stepped Earl and Lester and the Foggy Mountain boys.   They sat on the front porch and picked for a few hours.  The man was only six years old at the time, so it was many years ago.  He said the memory was as vivid as if it’d been yesterday.

       My how I’d a loved to have been there.  He made my day.  The man was on blood pressure medicine.  We are supposed to only give out one month’s worth of samples at a time, but I gave him two.  Don’t tell anybody.  But I figured he deserved it, ’cause he was true bluegrass.

Dr. B

College Prep Advice

May 25, 2009

        I’m gonna send this out to two readers.  Dr. Danny Fulks is a College Professor.  He asked that I post some stories from my youth.  When he sent this request, I had just started to work on this post. 

       I also send this out to my young blog friend msslightly.  I began to write it with her in mind, but after Dr. Fulks wrote in, I thought it would be good to get input from both ends of the spectrum; Professor after years of experience and bright but young student.

         So, I send this out to both the Professor and the student.

        Somehow I don’t think msslightly needs the advice, but I suspect she will have some new friends in college who might.  So msslighlty, if some of ‘em run aground tell them to read this first, and then you can help them out.  Maybe if I prep them a bit, they will be ready for the teacher. 

        Before you think I am too self righteous, let me confess my sins first.  In high school, I was downright lazy.  I did O.K. but was not aware you were supposed to take the books home.  Every Friday I left them in locker, and got ‘em back out Monday morning.  I paid attention in most of my classes, but that was it.  It was all girls, guitars, pizzas, and golf. 

        I was lucky in that I did like to read outside of school, though.  My Mom was an English teacher, and she took me to the Public Library every week.  I checked out as many as they’d let me get, read ‘em all, and go back the next week and repeat the process.  This went on for a long time.  I guess Mama snuck up on me; I was learning and didn’t know it. 

        My junior year a man changed my life.  It was my Chemistry teacher.  He was a young, cool guy fresh out of Carolina.  I guess he knew me by reputation because he pulled me aside the first day.  “Son,” he said.  “I know you think you are smart, and you probably are, but I want you to know if you don’t study in my class you will make an ‘F’.”

         I didn’t say much, but he got my attention.  To that point I had been the stealth student.  I didn’t do anything of substance, but somehow got away with it and never drew any wrath from my parents.  My life seemed pretty good, and I didn’t want all that to change.  I figured I’d study for the first test, and see what it would take to get by this cat.  Part of my problem to that point in life was I had never done any suffering. (still haven’t done much)

        Then there was a magical transformation.  I made an ‘A’ in a class with a reputation as the toughest one in school.  When the Homecoming Queen asked me to come over to her house to help her with Chemistry, I decided being smart might not be such a bad gig.  I became at least somewhat of a student.  The most important transformation, though, was it became fun to learn. 

        I still read and study to this day.  It isn’t out of obligation; I get plenty of CME hours.  It is because I still enjoy it.  I could probably get by with less, and my patients would never know the difference, but I would.  It is the same with professional musicians.  If Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson never practiced their mandolin again, most folks in the crowd wouldn’t be able to tell, but they would know and would not be satisfied.  I promise you they still work at it every day.

        When I entered college, it was a rude awakening.  Everyone was a student and many were far more practiced than I was.  We took a French placement exam in a big auditorium.  I has been exceptionally lazy in High School French.  The teacher liked my music, and I learned far too little.  (It is now a regret, what a beautiful language)  When everyone laughed at the jokes told in French, I realized I was in trouble.  I tried to catch up, but I was too far behind.  I made a ‘C’ and it hurt.

        It was a different game in Chemistry, though.  I was way ahead of everyone and made ‘A’s’ without fail.  When we started out we had hundreds of kids who thought about medical school.  By my senior year about 25 of us applied.  The ones who went by the wayside were plenty bright and deserved a chance as much as I did.  I was just lucky; I had a tough high school Chem teacher, so I had a good background in the very subject that weeded folks out.  

         It didn’t take long in college before I was a professional student.  (It became even more true in med school)  I went to class, and after supper sat down to study every night.  When we took Organic I would finish my preparation at ten o’clock; just when the others were getting ready to pull an all-nighter. 

        I’m ashamed to admit it now, but some of that was to psych out the competition.  “Damn,” they’d say.  “Bibey ain’t even gonna study.  SOB went to watch Johnny Carson.”  Of course I had already finished.  I don’t have a competitive bone left in me, and now I wish I’d done more to help my friends.  I think college should be a collaborative and not a competitive effort.  I hope it is more like that nowadays.

        There was one boy I did help at lot.  One night I came through after my  night’s study and this fellow was watching Carson.  You remember all those old Carnac the Magnificent routines?  Hilarious.

        Anyway, I noticed my pal was flipping through a book.  “Whatcha doing?” I asked.

       “Studying.  Got an exam in the morning.”

       “When did you start?”

       “Just now.”

        “You’re doomed.”

        “No I’m not.  In Jr. College I just read the chapter summaries the night before.  I’ll be fine.”

       “You’re gonna make an F.”

        “No way.”

        When he failed, he came to me for advice.  “Man I can’t believe it,” he said.  “An F.  What happened?  My Dad is gonna kill me if I don’t get out of here.”

       “Brother, you’re in the big leagues here.  You gotta follow me wherever I go.  If I eat, you eat.  If I play golf, you can play golf.  But if I study, you study.  It’s your only hope.”

        It was a proud day when he graduated.  I learned a lot of of golf from him too, he was a player.

        So, my point?  I believe that success belongs to the persistent more than the brilliant.  (I made it, huh?)  It is the regular routine of daily study that transforms you, not the one all-nighter.  It was that way with college, it is that way with music, it is true in golf, and it sure is for a Doc.  You want your Family Doc to be boring, steady, and predictable, and to make as few errors as possible.  I hope that’s me.

        It ain’t a bad strategy for a college student too, but don’t forget to have have some fun.  You’re only young once, and I don’t regret all the good times one bit.

        More than anything else, my best advice is to go to school for the sheer pleasure of the opportunity to learn.  Once I got started, I’ve never quit.  My only regret in life was I didn’t catch on to the concept sooner.  For a long time, I was just a big kid.  In fact, I still am.  Now, though, I’m just one who likes to learn.

       I hope the College Professor and the student will both chime in.  I bet the English Professor and mschili have some good thoughts on this, too.  I suspect they all have better perspective than I do on this subject; all that was a long time ago for me.

Dr. B

A Visit to my Daughter’s

May 24, 2009

        My wife and I helped my daughter move not long ago.  After we got the power back on we spent a night with her.

        In some ways it is sad, ’cause she sure is all grown up now. When I took a shower I kinda figured there’d be some ‘Johnson’s Baby Shampoo,’ but it wasn’t to be.  I didn’t have on my reading glasses, so I’m not exactly sure, but instead I think the bottle read ‘Cinammon Honey Essence of Extract’ or something like that.  Later in the day, after unloading the last of the boxes, I smelled more like myself again.

         Not everything had changed, though.  Her mom (my wife) had just downloaded our Doc Watson collection to IPOD, and she wanted to hear ‘Summertime.’  The child has had good taste in music from infancy.  “Summertime, when the living’s easy….catfish jumping…”  No one does it better than Doc.  

       She knew where to take us to eat too.  It was Soul Shack Mama’s for breakfast.  That’s the best spot in the Tobacco Triangle.  You’ll know it is the right place when you walk in; the walls are old wormy chestnut wood like what you can’t find anymore.  There’s a wrap around porch, so you can eat outside if you want.

        “Catfish and eggs, Doc?”

        “Yes ma’am.  How’d you know?”

        “Honey, you just look like a catfish man.”  I think she remembered me from our last visit.  It was catfish ‘n eggs, grits ‘n gravy, biscuits, sopping ‘lasses; endless coffee and fresh OJ.  Very fine.  When we finished we all split a bread pudding topped with whipped cream.  I kept using Marie’s spoon; she finally gave up and let me finish it.  I bought her and her mama a York Peppermint Patty at the counter and that made up for it.  Here’s a southern secret.  You can trust a woman who has both dessert and chocolate for breakfast. 

        On the way back to the house, she pointed out a small frame house. ‘Chapel Hill Violin Shop.’

       “You know whose place that is, Daddy?”

        “Dunno.  Who’s that?”

        “That’s Parson Bob’s daughter’s business.”

        “Son of a gun, Miss Marie if you aren’t the most well connected young’un in the history of the world.  We gotta go there next time I’m in town on a weekday.”

       “We’ll do it, Daddy.”

        “Child, you find all the best places and all the best people.  Where’d you learn to do that?”

        “Dunno, Daddy.  Dunno.”

Dr. B


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