I played Saturday night with singer/songwriter Al Dunkleman and sat in for part of a set with Max McKee at the Bluegrass Inn #2. It was great fun. I’m not up to a commitment to an every weekend gig, but the arrangement with Al is perfect. He does all the prep; I am just the side-man, but I try to be a reliable one. We play somewhere about once a month. In March we have a big fund-raiser for the Abuse Prevention Council at Cleveland Community College. It’s one of my favorite gigs. I know I am a Pollyanna but I belive if everyone was busy with their family and career and played music they would be too content (and tired) to be so dadburn aggressive.
Right now my health won’t allow me to reliably front a regular band. In fact, until someone wants to hire a doc for two hours of light activity followed by an hour nap and a shower, I’m not up to the regular doc gig either. However, even if disabled I will always visit once or twice a week as long as I am able to walk. The patients and the staff mean too much to me not to.
I miss not having a regular band. At the Shelby Music Center jam last Saturday I got to pick with my old band mate, banjo man Moose Dooley. It brought back memories. One time years ago we did a banjo duet on a flat-bed truck stage at the Harvey County court-square. Moose suggested “Remington Ride.” I kicked it off, but lit into the wrong song. When Moose realized what I’d done he switched to the tune I kicked off, so were in synch for a moment. Then I managed to break into “Remington Ride” while he continued on with the tune I first kicked off. It was an unusual duet! I was always doctor first and musician second. I learned a lot of music from those boys.
At the jam, one mandolinist told me he had to have some surgery and was gonna be out six weeks. He asked if I would fill in if they had a gig to come up. I said yes of course, and it led my brain to dream up “The Doctor Sponsored Bluegrass Side-man Sick Pay Plan.” I’ll fill in with any local or regional band, health willing, and do so professional courtesy. I figure I’m the only side-man around who can cover your gig, write you a doctor’s excuse, let you get sick pay for your gig, and have zero motivation to try to steal your job while you are out. I am not up to any regular commitment anyway, so no one needs to fear that kind of treachery from me. (They didn’t before I was sick either) My only reservation is that I do have to be sure the gig is not the week of chemo. I missed one because I failed to account for this variable and was too sick to play. It was the only show I ever missed, and I felt bad about it.
We are semi and near retired and live out in the country. We wanted to be near the home of Earl Scruggs, but still be within shouting distance of good old Harvey County and also the central part of the state where my daughter lives. So if you need a side-man and the gig isn’t in chemo week, well, have mandolin will travel. (short distances only) I’ll go about an hour’s drive from Charlotte N.C.; any direction with enough notice. We love the mountains too and get to the Asheville area every so often, and I’ve played in Fletcher at the Feed ‘n Seed. Of course much of this is big talk; if I’m sick I can’t make the gig, but I do my best to never promise what I can’t deliver.
Y’all play hard.