Archive for the ‘bluegrass characters’ category

Acquisition Syndrome- My second novel (in progress)

October 30, 2011

        “Acquisition Syndrome” is the story of Bones Robertson and medical practice in Harvey County after the death of Dr. Henry”Indie” Jenkins. After Indie died things were about the same in Harvey County over the next decade. The doctors continued on in mom-and-pop type practices that financially floated from month to month. They  made house calls, nursing home visits, and hospital rounds as well as office work.

        Slowly things began to change. Change came to the cities first, and over time it made its way to rural areas. Bones recalled when the first managed care folks came to Harvey County. He was always suspicious of people from out-of-town who showed up in fancy cars and wore expensive watches who were here to “help.” Medicine became about money, power, and control. It became increasingly difficult for small entrepreneurs to stay in practice and became nearly impossible to recruit young doctors who were not inclined to join small organizations that did not have significant capital reserves. Bones began to realize without some changes in the way they did the business of medicine the practice he started, Harvey Family Practice, would not go on after his time. He and his partners decided their hand was forced and they would need to align with some larger entity to stay solvent. “Acquisition Syndrome” is the story of that transition.

        As you might suspect, Bones gathered much of his intelligence from nontraditional sources; car dealers, his old buddy Snookers Molesby, and banjo pickers and other assorted bluegrass musicians.

        A major subplot of the story and involves the development of Billy Spurgeon.  Billy grew up and Harvey County and was the only student at Sandhills University Medical Center who gave consideration to rural primary care medicine, but Billy was concerned about the future. He trusted Bones to make the best decisions for the group he could and planned to come home as much own faith as anything else.

        Bones never claimed to be a businessman. His goal was to align with an institution that would also allow him the latitude to practice medicine in the most patient friendly manner possible, and also not be taken advantage of. It was quite a struggle for him. I’d tell you how worked out but it would take a blog post of novel length, and besides it’d ruin the story for you so I guess I’ll wait till spring when we anticipate the book will be released. We are in the final edit and it still has to go through layout, graphic artists, test readers, line editor, etc. etc.

        So, stay tuned. I will keep you posted as to the progress.

Dr. B

Are You Tommy Bibey?

July 7, 2009

        98.3% of what goes on in bluegrass music is good.  But even in bluegrass every so often there will be a problem.  In interest of full disclosure I feel the need to report it all.

        Red White and Blue was a great festival, and went almost without incident.  I did run into one problem fellow, though.  First of all, let me say he was in violation of the rules.  No alcohol is allowed on the festival grounds.  It didn’t take a doctor to make the diagnosis of intoxication.

         He stopped me as I walked to go get a cup of coffee.  The man was red faced, sunburned and shirtless.  He had on a ball cap with a pig on the front.   “Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”

        “You’re the third person who has mistaken me for him.  Why do you ask?”

         “That there band is too d@#^ loud.  That ain’t bluegrass.”

           I glanced over at the stage.  “Hm. Well, I’m O.K. with ‘em.  Yeah,  I guess they are a bit progressive, but I don’t want them all to sound the same.”

        “You need to see to it they don’t book no more bands like that.”

        “Man, I don’t have any control over that.  I’m not in charge.”

        “Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”

        “No sir.”

       “Well he wouldn’t have a band here like them boys.”

       “Hm.  I know him.  Next time I see him I’ll talk to him about it.”

        “I hope you do.  You know who runs this thing?”

        “No sir.”  I handed the man two quarters.  “Tell you what.  Take this over to Mr. Harold and put it towards some ice cream.  Tell him Tommy Bibey sent you.”

        “I thought you said you weren’t Bibey.”

        “I’m not.  But I know him.  That’s what he would recommend.  He’d say get some ice cream and eat it while you wait for the next band to come on.   There’s some tables down yon way.”  I waved my hands towards the picnic tables off in the distance.  “Name’s Edward.  I’ll tell Tommy I ran into you.”  I stuck out my hand.

       He shook it, and gave me a strange look.  “Ice cream?”

       “Yeah, I recommend the peach.”  I pointed towards Mr. Harold’s trailer.  “Right over there.”

       “O.K.  I’ll go get some. “

         I went back to my seat to take in the show.  I can play a little, but I couldn’t stay on the stage with those boys.  They were excellent.  I looked over my shoulder and saw the man seated at a table at the far end of the festival grounds eating his ice cream.  I hope it was peach.  I wanted him to have as much fun as I was having. 

        At the same time, I didn’t want him to find me.  I hope he remembers my name was Edward.

Dr. B

How to Find Good Bluegrass Music in N.C.

July 5, 2009

        We just got back from a long stretch of play.  I’m recharged and ready to be Doc.

       This go round I realized I know the secret on how to find good bluegrass in N.C.  The answer, like all truth, is simple.  Follow Mr. Harold.

        You can’t miss Mr. Harold.  He is the middle aged gentleman the Carhartt overalls.  His eyes are a soft brown.  They look you right in the eye you when you speak to him.  His beard is flecked with gray.  He stands 6’3″ tall.  His day job is as a farmer.  He knows how to make sorghum molasses from cane sugar. I went out to his farm to watch him once.  His hands are callused and his handshake is firm but somehow not too much so.  He always smiles.

        I don’t know if he always smiles ’cause of a long happy marriage, lots of bluegrass music, or that homemade peach ice cream he makes and sells at festivals.  It might be all three.  But he always smiles.  Whenever I see him he’ll say how was your week, Doc?”

         I might say, “I don’t know, Mr. Harold.  It was a tough one.”

         He’ll smile and say, “Well now, Doc.  No one here is sick, and you’re gonna be around music all day.  Everything’ll be all right.  Care for some ice cream?  Just what the Doctor ordered.  It’s on the house.”

       I fish out my wallet.  “Oh, I couldn’t let you do that Mr. Harold.  They don’t let you rent this booth for free, you know.”

        He hands me my 1,000th cup of homemade peach ice cream and a flier.  “You need to come to the Coot Williams Festival on Sept 12th.  Blue Highway’ll be there.  So are Darin and Brooke.”

        “Thanks.  Believe I will.”

        Oh, I promised I’d tell you how to get to the best bluegrass festivals in N.C.  Go to Mr. Harold’s farm and sit at the end of his driveway.  Make like a detective with sunglasses and your hat pulled low.  Smoke a cigarette (don’t inhale) and wait.  I wouldn’t try to drive up the road.  It is a dirt path with deep ruts and pot holes.  There are several twists and turns and you could get lost.

       In time, you will see a silver and gray truck crest the hill.  A trail of dust will be kicking up behind it.  It will be Mr. Harold.  When he pulls out of the driveway follow him.  A couple times out of ten you might wind up at the Post Office or the Piggly Wiggly, but most of the time he will lead you to the best bluegrass in N.C.

        When you meet him, ask him for some of that ice cream.  The peach is my favorite.  Tell him Dr. B sent you.  He’d be your friend anyway, but it won’t hurt you any with him, ’cause me and Mr. Harold go back a long way.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Youth Movement

April 9, 2009

        Last night I was invited to a jam session.  Marfar played some bass, and Moose Dooley picked the banjo.  A few of the old timers were there.  Wild Bill, whose straggly locks and tobacco stained snaggles once earned him a cover shoot with Pet Care magazine, sat in the corner, nursed a Mason Jar and stoked the fire.  Every so often he’d rouse up and yell “play something peppy,” especially after the breakdowns.

        Wild Bill looks the part, but he has an unexpected soft touch.  The man can be half drunk (a perpetual state) and pick up a baby off the sidewalk with a front-end loader and not get a scratch on the child.

        The night belonged to the young’uns though.  Put the rumor to rest; bluegrass ain’t just for old people.  There were boys in football jerseys and young girl friends with shy smiles and perfect teeth.  The boy next to me played mandolin.  He recognized me from some of our shows, and from years of hanging around jam sessions.

       “Good to see you, Doc.  Y’all still picking?”

        “Yeah, we get out some.”

        “Your boy doing good?”

         “Yep.”

          I checked out his mandolin.  It was a nice piece, but the action was a little high.  I handed him mine.  “Try out this one.  I had it set up by a guy in Asheville named Randy Hughes.”

        He struck a few licks.  “Dang, Doc.  This is butter.”

        “Play it  a while.” 

        They were all coming right along.  Most of them were high school kids, part of the Darin Aldridge farm team.  I’ve seen them around for years, but all of sudden they have learned to play.  Darin deserves a lot of credit; I think he musically half-raised most of them.

        At one point, the bass player took a rest.  I played it for a while, but for my forearms the bass is akin to wrestling with a weedeater.  The mandolin player in the football jersey handed my Gibson back to me. 

        “I like hearing you play the mandolin, Doc.  Let me tug on that bass a while.”  What a nice kid; it was a polite way to say Doc ain’t much on the bass.

        I used to stay up until the last one went home, but as I get older, I need to turn into a Doc at midnight and get some rest.  (At least on the week-nights)  If I don’t it just isn’t fair to my patients.

       “Guys, y’all are doing great.  Lord, Audie, I had no idea you could sing like that.”

        “Thanks Doc.  I’m trying.”

        “You keep working on a building, son.  You’re making me proud.”  I put my mandolin in the case.  “Y’all take care.”

         “Yes sir.  Come back.  You rock Doc.”

          I’m gonna do it.  Anywhere the kids are still kind (and smart) enough to say old Doc rocks is good by me.

Dr. B

Lonely Ain’t Allowed- the Bluegrass Way

March 29, 2009

        I just got in off  ‘the road.’  How my friends do it on a regular basis is beyond me.  We didn’t have far to go at all, and we are tired.  Still, we had a fine time of it.

         John Hartford used to say bluegrass was America’s last small town.  Everyone knows everyone, and you don’t have to lock your doors.  I always did like John, and I think he was right.

        We went to Lorraine Jordan’s Carolina Road festival this weekend, and John thoughts came to mind.  Lorraine is a successful business woman, but she also maintains a regular band.  They play most weekends.  In spite of that schedule she shakes and howdys with folks like she’s got all day.  It’s the bluegrass way.

          We don’t allow lonely in bluegrass.  If you know three chords and have a guitar and a capo you can join in.  You’ll learn the unspoken etiquette.  The inner circle will be red hot young’uns like Josh Goforth, or silky singers like Jerry Butler.  Guys like Doc here have been around so long they get to hang in there too.  (But I’d better not give up my day job.  These guys are good.) 

        Even the beginners are encouraged to participate.  If it is a real hot session that might play on the periphery till they get their feet wet, but they are more than welcome.

        All that is required is to love the music.  One fellow might be a mechanic, the next a teacher, then maybe a business person like Lorraine or an English Professor.  The bluegrass crowd is so equal opportunity they even will let a stuffy old Doc in the mix.    

        Many times in my career people have asked how I have maintained my serenity.  After all, in my line of work friends get cancer and folks die.  I can take it to heart and I fret over all of them. 

        My answer has been the same for many years. First, the Good Lord hasn’t just been my copilot; He’s my Captain.  It was not possible to stay out of trouble as a Doc all these years without a lot of prayers to come up with the right answers.  I don’t believe it was just luck.  Heck even Tom Bailey from med school days wasn’t that smart, and I know I’m not.  (Wish I was, though)

         Second I was blessed with a fine family.  My wife and kids are the best, and have put up with a bizarre schedule over the years.

         But today I want to make sure you know that my music has played a large role in keeping me sane.  (I hear ya, who said you were, Doc?)  The only way I know to thank all my friends in bluegrass is to keep on promoting them until they are least as big as NASCAR, and that is what I am gonna do.

        I opened a FaceBook account this weekend, and I was astounded how many old music friends I was able to contact in 24 hours.  Some I hadn’t picked a note with in a decade.  We took up right where we’d left off just like you would an old college roommate. 

        So, if you have even a remote interest in traditional music, or just want to learn about a good group of people, I hope you’ll take a look at modern bluegrass.  Tell ‘em old Doc Bibey sent ya.  Most of them know me at least a little.  C0me shake and howdy.  In bluegrass lonely ain’t allowed.

Dr. B

A Face Made for Radio (My Facebook Page)

March 28, 2009

        My agent has been after me forever to start a Facebook Page.  For a long time, I never got around to it.  “Awh, heck boss, my people know where to find me.”

        He persisted.  “Come on, Doc.  Are you gonna insist on being a Neanderthal forever?  You use new meds don’t you?”

        “Well, yeah, but that’s different.  Even in medicine, I want to be like in the Army.  I don’t want to be first in line, but I don’t want to be last either.”

        “In this case you better hurry up.  You might be the last writer on the planet not on Facebook.”

        “Really?  Say it is that big?”

        “Trust me.”

        I’ve spent my whole life as a Doc and a bluegrass picker, and had no idea where to start.  One day I mentioned it to a little friend of mine, a bluegrass fiddler, and she said, “Good Lord have mercy, Doc.  We can set that up faster than Moose Dooley can pick the Bluegrass Breakdown.”

         And that is how it came to be.  She was brilliant.  Why with a few keystrokes, she pulled up names I knew from years back.

        “Look here, kid.  I picked with this cat when he played with Knoxville Grass.  Why that has been twenty-five years.  And check this out, this lady here has written tunes for Alison Krauss.  Hey I met that guy at Galax.  Lord can he flat pick a guitar.  This dobro man; mercy!” 

         Page after page came up. Along the way, I had played a note or two or at least knew every one of them.

        “You know what kid?  By the time old Doc  is through bluegrass is gonna be on the brain of every school child in America.”

        She smiled and shook her head.  “Doc, you do love the music, don’t you?”

        “Yeah boy.  Hey, check this one out.  You talk about a fiddler…..”

        My agent was right. (again)  This Facebook is gonna be the ticket.

Dr. B

Classical Bluegrass and III Tyme Out

February 22, 2009

        As a bluegrass investigative reporter my charge is to bring you the inside story.

        Here it is folks.  You heard it here first.  I have it on good authority that as III Tyme rides the bluegrass road in their tour bus, they have been secretly immersed in classical music. 

       I hear you now.  “Classical, Dr. B?  Are you sure?  Yes, Russell Moore is a classic voice.  I know the band defines the classic sound of the second generation of bluegrass, but classical?”

       I am positive because I heard the strains at their show last night.  As banjo player Steve Dilling told of his truancy days in high school, (the guidance counselor stayed for the second set at Bass Mountain before she reeled him in)  I heard Wayne Benson noodle some Bach on the mandolin.  

        Dilling cut his eyes to his left.  (Your right as you look at the stereo speakers)  “What was that?”

        “Bach.”

         “Like in Carry me Bach to old Virginia?”

        “No.  Bach as in Johann Sebastian.”

        “Wasn’t he with the Loving Spoonful?”

        “No man.  Classical music.  Monroe had some Bach influence.”

        It was one of the few times I ever saw Mr. Dilling at a loss for words.

        I know where this all comes from.  Justin, the fiddle man is an old soul at twenty-five.  He came up in classical violin, and Wayne has been studying it on the mandolin under the tutelage of Mike Marshall.  The next thing you know he and Justin are gonna jam on Beethoven, and not ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ although they can do it too.  These guys are artists.

        But they haven’t got anything on Dilling.  I expect that boy knows every good breakfast joint between here and Missouri.  I hear he is working on an endorsement deal with a well known restaurant chain, and it is a classic too.

        One of these days I’m gonna have to ride out with these guys.  Any group that argues over how much influence Bach had on Bill Monroe over a plate of chops and eggs is my kind of band. 

        Pour me up another cup of coffee boys, and keep on picking.  You guys are today’s classical music.

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

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.

World Tour T-Shirt

December 7, 2008

        Years ago we had a World Tour T-Shirt.  It read, ‘Neuse River World Tour 1988.’

        The band’s picture was on the front.  We listed our highlights for the year on the back.  The gigs were things like “Live at the Convalescent Center,’ or ‘Harvey County Tractor Pull.’

        We had some big gigs that year too, like opening for the Doug Dillard Band. (The banjo player for the old Andy Griffith Darling Family)

         Moose Dooley, our banjo man, went to the beach one year and swore some hot chick was wearing one, but I think he was telling a tall tale.

        If y’all see one of those shirts, let me know.  I haven’t spotted one in years, but I’m on the look-out.

Dr. B


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