The Bluegrass Kilroy, or Who is That Mandolin Player?

        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

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16 Comments on “The Bluegrass Kilroy, or Who is That Mandolin Player?”

  1. Mrs. Chili Says:

    *Grin!* I love that blogging expands our reach beyond our little circles; I’ve got friends all OVER the place as a result of my blog, and it’s fun to go afield and meet them.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    mrschili,

    Sure enough our blog computer network expands the world and makes it smaller at the same time.

    When I come to the NorthEast, you won’t have to check my driver’s license. Some old fellow in a straw hat will be playing mandolin at a book store, and you’ll say, “It has to be Bibey. Check and see if he has one green eye and one blue one. Surely there can’t be two like that in this world.”

    And when you do, I’ll come over to your school and talk to your students professional courtesy. Maybe between the two of us we can convince them the opportunity to learn is a good thing.

    Dr. B

  3. Billy Says:

    Dr. B,
    I am going to EVERY mando player I see and ask them if they know Tommy Bibey until one of them points to a guy in a straw hat and says: “He’s over there.”

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Billy,

    With you being a truck driver, you’re gonna run into one in every town.

    One of these days, we’re gonna cross paths.

    Dr. B

  5. MandoGrin Says:

    Thanks for rehashing part of the story us newcomers to the blog. Mistaken identity can be scary at times. But is quite fun when folks think they have seen you before somewhere. Just recently I was playing at the Fiddlin Pig .. a young man came up to me during the break and asked if I had aplayed a festival in Ohio … he was certain he had heard me before…

    I said, “You don’t have me mixed up with that Skaggs feller, do ya”

    He assured me he didn’t (dad gummit)

    Oh and the Blue Eye /Green Eye thing made me think of those Husky’s and Akitas … stately, stong and faithful dogs …. (must be a connection)

  6. drtombibey Says:

    MandoGrin,

    When you spot me at a festival I hope you’ll come up and shake and howdy, ’cause you seem true bluegrass, and that’s the folks I want to find.

    I have been to the Pig. That is a great Asheville spot, and Balsam Range rocks.

    Yeah, I wish I could tell you they get me confused with Cuz Alan Bibey, but when I play I am sad to report they know the difference. Oh well, better stick to the day job.

    Dr. B

  7. Danny Fulks Says:

    The only thing I can say is “Step It Up And Go.” On Earl’s latest CD this number reminds me of Bob Dylan, Jerry Douglas, Carl Perkins, and Ringo Starr. Instruments bleed into one another as if the musicians knew what they were doing. It has been said if you stand in front of the New York public library long enough every one in the world will eventually pass by.

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Dr Fulks,

    As a matter of fact not long ago I heard from a fellow who was up there. He said some guy had a sign that read “Have you seen Tommy Bibey?”

    Hey, Earl is gonna be in his hometown of Shelby, N.C on Friday June 19th. Tickets are being sold by a crowd called Destination Cleveland County.

    Darin Aldridge and Brooke Justice are gonna open for him. They are very talented young bluegrass folks and friends of the Bensons.

    It should be a great show.

    Dr. B


  9. Dr. B, I think it’s just the coolest thing ever that you have one blue eye and one green eye, thus making you a bluegrass boy right from birth! It’s very Bowie-esque, and I think it’s just dandy :). Especially as both blue eyes and green eyes are rather rare, so you’ve got ‘em both!
    Good idea about the straw hat – you don’t want to be getting any skin cancer. I’ll be sure to look for a grey-haired, hat-wearing guy if I ever happen to find myself at a bluegrass festival :).

  10. drtombibey Says:

    msslightly,

    When we run into each other, I’m gonna play you a song, and me and Marfar are gonna take you out to dinner. You are a cool kid.

    Dr. B


  11. Aw, Dr. B, I’d be honored! As long as you let me treat you both. You’re cool people, as far as I’m concerned, and you’re worth my hard earned cash ;P.

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Now msslightly with you being a student we’ll get it. I’ll pull it out of the funds I use with my med students. With them we call it the “Starving Medical Student Foundation.”

    Dr. B

  13. Martin Waddell Says:

    What do you mean, Kilroy was a GI? I thought everybody knew he was a WWII British Tommy!

    Love your comment about God saying that bluegrass is good preparation for eternity. Could say that about so many music types. There are some ultra-religious folk who hate music – we have some Prebyterians here in Scotland who think that any music other than the Psalms is of satanic origin. Back in the 19th century their ministers forbade singing and dancing, and organised the mass burning of fiddles. But music is one of God’s greatest gifts to humankind – I’m glad to learn from your own communing with God that that includes bluegrass!

  14. drtombibey Says:

    Martin,

    You know what? When I was a kid I read over here he was a GI, but I know of not one whit of scientific proof such an assumption. I should have said he was an Ally by golly.

    Man I am just sure there are fiddles in heaven ’cause He has promised me there I’d be able to play one there. I sure can’t bow that thing on Earth.

    Dr. B

    • Martin Waddell Says:

      Guitars too – you know that verse in Revelation about harpists in heaven playing their harp? Someone once told me that, if you translate the original Greek literally, it says “guitarists guitaring on their guitars”. Probably includes banjos and mandolins too.

      • drtombibey Says:

        Martin,

        And everybody will have a Martin guitar too.

        You know, I got thinking. I kinda like that Tommy Kilroy notion; has a nice ring to it, huh?

        Dr. B


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