Earl Scruggs Concert/Darin and Brooke Aldridge

        This writer gig has it’s perks.  I went to the stage door where a burly security man posted guard.  I showed him my press pass and took off my glasses.  “Is this a ticketed event?”  I smiled as I asked.

        He peered into my green eye, then my blue one.  “Hey, Doc.  Don’t need no iris scan for you.  Come on in.  You gonna play?”

          “Believe I’ll leave it to the pros tonight.  Historic concert  huh?”

        “Yeah boy.”

        A few local pickers hung out with the sound crew as they put on the finishing touches.  “Y’all seen Darin and Brooke?” I asked.

        “Downstairs.”

         I turned a corner and followed the music where the Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet warmed up.  A country duet caught my ear.  It was new and fresh and old fashioned all at the same time.  “Y’all need to record that one,” I said.  Promoter Milton Harkey was there, and nodded in agreement. 

         A bus was parked outside.  Hoot Hester, staff fiddler for the Grand Old Opry, Rob Ickes, the multiple times IBMA dobro player of the year and super session pickers Jon Randall Stewart and Keith Sewell stepped out.  Man was this was some kind of all star band.  Then it was the Scruggs family; Gary, Randy, and then Earl.  My goodness.

         I hung around and swapped old stories for a while.  We picked a few tunes.  Earl had gone to rest up for the show, but Gary asked if I would like to visit for a minute.  Even though I am closing in on old, I was as tickled as a small boy.  I reminisced with Earl about how much I enjoyed his music, and shared a few old stories about his brother Horace.  We all loved Horace. 

         I went back to Darin’s warm up room and played a few more with them, then put my mandolin in the case and threw it over my shoulder.  “Guys, my Marfar is out in the audience.  I believe I ‘m gonna go out and soak this one in.  Y’all play hard.”

        “We will Doc.  Say a prayer for us, we want to do good,”  Darin said.

        “Y’all always do, young’un, but I’ll say one for good measure anyway.”  I knew what this one meant for them.  They are an overnight success after a decade of hard work, but there were folks from all over the country there, and many of them were quite influential in the music business.  The Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet had arrived.

        They did not disappoint.  Be it straight bluegrass, gospel numbers or country duets, it was perfect instrumentation and flawless harmony.  Brooke is a powerful singer, and Darin’s voice matches hers to perfection.  They used to say only siblings can get that kind of harmony, but we’re gonna have to revise the bluegrass rule book.  That married folk harmony is extra good, too.

        I noticed Hoot Hester in the wings checking them out.  I love all of their work, but this new country duet sound they have begun to dabble in as of late is made to order for Darin and Brooke.  It reminds me of the old Louvin brother duets, except one voice is male and one is female.  When they sang the first line I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout it out, “Lord have mercy.  I wish the Rev. Larry Shell could be here to hear that song, ’cause folks that is real country!  Kill Nashville Pop!” 

        Marfar sensed my excitement, grasped my elbow, and put a finger to her lips.  “Ssssh, Tommy.  Be quiet, now.”

        “Yes ma’am.”  I knew she was right.  No sense in getting hauled out by the cops and wrecking the show.  I went to speak to them at the break.  I hugged Darin and Brooke and shook hands with all the boys.  “Great show guys.  Don’t forget me, ’cause y’all are done famous.”

          Darin smiled.  “I ain’t ever gonna forget you, B.”

          I went back to my seat.  They took the lights back down.  The Nashville boys began to lay down a country groove.  The spotlight focused on center stage, and of a sudden, there was Earl Scruggs.  It was a standing ovation before the first note.  All of us old hands know what he means.  He redefined the banjo. 

        My pal Wayne Benson was out on the road, but he sent his best wishes.  He said, “When you hear a banjo at a festival you can trace every note back to Earl Scruggs.”  Wayne’s wife Kristin Scott Benson was the IBMA banjo player of the year for 2008.  She was out on tour with the Grascals.  Folks have taken to calling her ‘girl Scruggs.’  Like all professionals in this music she knows what Earl means to it. 

        Country Music Hall of Fame, Lifetime Grammy winner, more achievements than what I can list.  Earl Scruggs.

        It was a text book performance of one classic after another.  I was especially taken by the old public domain tunes like ‘Sally Goodin’ and ‘Solider’s Joy.’   They are timeless.  So is Earl.  When Gary commented ‘Solider’s Joy’ went back to the 1800′s Earl joked, “Yeah, I wrote it.”  We all got  a laugh, but the truth is he did re-write it in that wonderful three finger style.   Sometime I wonder who would have preserved some of those tunes if it hadn’t been for Earl.

        Randy burned up the ‘Black Mountain Blues.’  (We always called it the Black Mountain Rag.’)  Doc Watson would been proud.  When Hoot Hester kicked off  ‘Dim Lights’ I thought the man had to have played a few honky-tonks before he became a staff fiddler for the Opry.  It was one of those staccato country fiddle kick-offs that is often imitated but seldom duplicated to that level.  I would have to ask Larry Shell to be sure, as  he is more of an expert than I am, but I think ‘Dim Lights’ might be the original honky-tonk song.  The classic lyrics go:

        “Dim lights, thick smoke, and loud loud music
        Is the only kind of life you’ll ever understand
        Dim lights, thick smoke, and loud loud music
        You’ll never make a wife to a home loving man

        A drinkin’ and dancin’ to a honky-tonk band…..”

        When the song came out in the 50s it was controversial!   Now it is a classic.  Keith Sewell coaxed some fine Tele-like twang out of the electric guitar that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  Jon Randall Stewart’s singing was exceptional on that one.  I thought no one would ever sing the high part like Curly Seckler again, but this young man did it.  I was very impressed with him; a talented multi-instrumentalist, great singer, and a cool looking kid to boot; we need to see more of him.  He was a nice young man too.  It seems like the great ones always have a touch of humility.

         Gary called on Jon to sing ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ theme song and then they closed with ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown.’  The crowd was on their feet clapping and stomping.  Just like 1945 it was magic all over again; just pure magic.

          Folks, my life was meant to be a Doc.  That’s what God called me to do, and I always give it my best.  But I love the music too, and somehow I’ve gotten right in the thick of it.  Maybe it was God’s way of looking out after me.  You see a lot of heartaches as a Doc, and I can be a bit sensitive to it all at times.  The music sure has eased the pains for me. 

        I’ve been awful lucky.  One of my golf pals calls me ‘Moonlight’  after the character in ‘Field of Dreams.’  On the way home I told Marfar maybe I was a bit like Moonlight Graham, ’cause I have lived the dream the whole way.  Moonlight was meant to be a Doc, and so was I, but somehow we got to play in the big leagues for at least an inning or two.  Not many folks get to shake hands with Earl Scruggs before a concert like that one.  I was blessed to get to be any small part of it, and I am thankful for my good fortune.

        Thank you Earl Scruggs for what you have done for all of us over the years.

Dr. B

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14 Comments on “Earl Scruggs Concert/Darin and Brooke Aldridge”

  1. Karen Says:

    Dr. B., from the way you wrote this post you made me feel like I was right there at the concert with you. Thanks for writing in such an inclusive way. You always manage to make me feel like I’m a part of the story in some way and that, my friend, is pure talent.

    I’m so glad that you’ve been able to experience such a high. It certainly must help counteract the very serious nature of your ‘day job’. I’m guessing that you guys are gonna be playing up one heck of a storm in heaven one day in the future. I can’t wait to sit back and listen and say, “Yep, it’s just as good as Dr. B. said it was.”

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Karen,

      I feel like all of us around the world who love a life of grace and dignity were there in spirit.

      I thought about my blog pals several times duing the show and wished y’all could been there in person. Maybe that’s why it got written up like that. Y’all are all part of my story for sure.

      You’re right Ms. Karen. It really was that good; as close to Heaven as we’re gonna get here on Earth.

      Dr. B

  2. Kenny Says:

    Beautiful Doc ! It’s a pleasure to share your pleasure!
    Thank you,
    Kenny

    • drtombibey Says:

      Kenny,

      As a fellow banjo picker, (though I have logged more hours on the mandolin) and one of the bluegrass brethren, I know you were there in spirit my friend.

      Dr. B

  3. lil red haired girl Says:

    I will borrow the words of John Wesley. My heart is strangely warmed. Not so long ago, that magic of harmony and music was just at my fingertips. The rare and few precious moments I was afforded the opportunity to be in the mix by my teacher were more precious to me than anyone will ever know. I thank him for that. From those few brushes or flourishes from these musical angels, spawned the dream of a mission. A mission not to do with fortune or fame, but a message of support,love and art that could be given back freely to anyone proud enough to honor the bluest grass around the memories of an art that not only is the base of music today, but the art that will live long after I am gone from this earth. I am working very hard to get back to the magic, but I know that no matter if I sing to 8K in the coliseum, or just to my cat in bed while writing, it is music that is magical to me. Thank you Doc. I needed this dose of grass.
    With admiration, respect, and loving memory…

    • drtombibey Says:

      Lil Red Haired Girl,

      I am reminded of the words of John Cowan. One time they had a small turn out. Some of the boys were disappointed.

      I’ve always heard that John said, “We can make 80 just as happy as 80,000. Let’s give ‘em our best.”

      You never know who you are going to touch. Every time you sing you make somebody happy so keep at it.

      Dr. B

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Will do lil red haired girl. I was blessed with two good’uns. -Dr. B

  5. Danny Fulks Says:

    Tell us about Horace. Is there really a Foggy Mountain? One of the greatest shows I have seen was a few years ago, the University Of Dayton celebrated Scruggs’ achievements by bringing in a host of great banjo players and side persons including Jerry Douglas on dobro for a two-hour show. And Earl is like most bluegrass musicians I know, puts on no airs. On the record, Three Pickers, he says to Doc Watson as he tunes, they prepare to play: “I tuned this thing afore I left home.”

    • drtombibey Says:

      Dan,

      I need to do a full write-up on Horace. He was a wonderful man who was a great rhythm guitar player, and a jack of all trades fellow who grew up on the farm. He could do anything from woodwork and electrical work to automotive repair.

      I think the term Foggy Mountain was derived from the misty look that often shrouds the Appalachians. It has the appearance of fog; sort of like the title Smoky Mountains. I am not positive of the origin, though.

      Dr. B


  6. Dr B
    In reference to the final paragraphs: one good turn deserves another. God looks after those who look after each other – I truly believe that. I also believe that you (you specifically) radiate goodness – it’s not luck, mate, it’s karma. You are who you say you are and thats why you are where you are.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Sharon,

      Bless your heart. One of things I consider most important in life is to know yourself and be true to it.

      What is the old country saying? “Be what you is ’cause if you ain’t what you is you ain’t.”

      In my writer journey the process has allowed me to sit down and consider every aspect of what is important to me and why. That has been it’s biggest blessing. I knew myself, but writing allowed me the privilege to take a good hard look and be even more certain.

      Dr. B

  7. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Thanks, Doc, for taking us there. As we sat up here at Jenny Brook on Friday, my mind often turned to the Scruggs/Aldridge event in Shelby. Irene and I were there in spirit. When I talked to Gary, he communicated pretty clearly Earl’s commitment to the museum and the ground from which he rose. That part of NC is truly important in the history of music way beyond bluegrass. Thanks again. – Ted

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ted,

      Man I know you were there in spirit ’cause you are true bluegrass. You are right. Earl Scruggs is a historical figure well beyond just a great picker.

      Yet he remains a humble man. One time I met Doc Watson. He was the same way. Folks were going on about how great he was and he said, “Now son, I’m just an old guitar picker. I’d rather you remember me for trying to be a good man.”

      Neither will be forgotten and it goes beyond music.

      Dr. B


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