Archive for the ‘places to play’ category

Saturday Night Sunday Morning

February 26, 2012

        Ralph Stanley had a CD out several years ago by this name. Tis the bluegrass way, huh? It was that kind of weekend for me. Saturday night I had the pleasure to sit in with Charles Ebert, the jovial West Virginian, and Timberline Bluegrass at at Barley’s Taproom in Spindale, N.C. It was great fun, fine pizza, and music therapy for Doc. I told the mandolin player of my bluegrass side-man plan from a few posts back and he was cool with that. I don’t like to crash anyone’s gig, but if I can help out I enjoy that.

        Then Sunday morning I talked to the church Praise Band about doing a little fill in work. (My health won’t allow any full time commitment right now, esp during chemo week. They have young lady on the mandolin so if she’s out I’ll cover her part, but when she’s there I’ll either do some mandolin harmony work or play mandola. If we do a Hee-Haw type gig, I can cover the banjo. (At least the basics) It is all so good for me; makes me feel needed.

        I should have news on “Acquisition Syndrome” before long. One publisher is ready to go, but a couple others have it under consideration, so my agent wants to hear from them before we make a decision. I hope to be able to tell you more soon.

        Here’s wishing all of you many Saturday night/Sunday morning weekends. Years ago one med student told me I both worked and played harder than anyone he’d ever met, and he was gonna go back to the Medical Center to get some rest. I didn’t miss much along the way, stayed out of trouble, and had a lot of fun. I have no regrets regardless of where this tumor takes me. (So far still moving forward; don’t worry till Dr. B says worry.)

Dr. B

The Church of the Exceptional

August 16, 2009

        I awoke at dawn.  After a couple cups of coffee I was with the living.  The morning doves cooed. I checked the morning paper.  Sure is a lot of trouble in the world.  I tossed it aside and checked in with my FaceBook Book friends.  They are all about music, and grace and dignity.  Ah yes, a much better way to start the day.  After a couple of calls to friends about some gigs I hoped they’d land, the light was creeping in.

         Marfar came to get a cup.  “Now hon, I want you to wear the black and white checked shirt today.  It’ll go nice with my periwinkle and Betty Jo’s fuchsia.”

       “Yes ma’am.”  I choose my own clothes without fail, but but when I play with ‘Guitared and Feathered’ I try to comply with the color scheme.  Just one of the girls I guess.  “Where is it we’re playing?”

        “The Church of the Exceptional.  We must be our best.”

        We loaded up all the sound and took off.  When we got there, several church members helped us lug in the gear.  I took a look around.  The pews were battered, and the old hardwood floors were worn and stained, but the place was neat as a pin.  A hand drawn picture of Jesus graced the wall behind the alter.  It was child-like rendering, but had a simple elegance.   

        Someone started the service with ‘Jesus Loves Me’ on the piano.  The piano player played…well as we say, from the heart, and the congregation was spirited if a bit off key.  We sweltered.  The only air conditioning was those little hand held fans with Jesus on one side and an advertisement for the Funeral Home on the back.  They said they were gonna get some new ones come fall that’ll have the high school football schedule.  A wooden bulletin board posted notice of how many members were present.  It was 60.

        They had two offerings.  The first was the ‘penny offering’ where everyone had to get all the pennies out of their pocket and place them in the plate.  The fellow beside me didn’t have one, but I found one in my pocket and gave it to him.  He smiled and handed me a peppermint.  I tried to decline but he insisted.  One by one they all came down front and gave what they had.  It reminded me of the little lady in the Bible.  Then they had a regular offering. We had a feeling this crowd didn’t have much so we tossed in some for good measure.

        The  minister gave a brief sermon and then said, “Folks, today we are blessed to have ‘Guitared and Feathered’ in all the way from Harvey County.  Y’all give em a big welcome.  They all clapped.

       We got up and after a quick introduction broke into ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.”  At first the congregation sat silent; almost stunned, but then took to clapping and hollering.  We’d heard them do “This Little Light of Mine’ in Sunday School as we drove in so we decided to improvise it.  They all began to sing along.  Several danced in the aisles.  Thank goodness no one objected; they are having too much fun.

       The sang louder.  “Leaning, leaning, leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”  They clapped out of time but Marfar held the line like a pro on the bass.  I kept the mandolin simple; just a straight chop, and we all hung together.

        Soon they were on their feet.  I could see why they call it the Church of the Exceptional.  This crowd was one of the most enthusiastic I have ever played for.  They were diverse in age, but all had the hearts of children.  I had a mental image of someone outside the church who watched the walls pulsate and the windows fly open to let out the steam.

       We closed with ‘I’ll Fly Away’ and everyone got up and gathered around the stage.  It was the ultimate in audience participation.

         When we finished the minister had us line up for the recessional.  Every single soul in the Congregation came by and shook the hand of each player.

        ‘Yous uns is real good.’

        ‘I ain’t never heard no banjer good as that.”

        ‘Where’s y’all from?”

        “Thanks you.”

        The Church of the Exceptional was that indeed.  You see, except for the minister, some volunteers who drive the church buses, and a few family members and case workers, all the church members are either physically or mentally handicapped, and some severely so.

        It didn’t stop them from digging the music; not one bit.  If any human being could go and not to be humbled by that congregation, I sure do feel sorry for them.  They were beyond gracious.  As someone wrote in the bulletin, “You will never leave the Church of the Exceptional the way you arrived.”

        I agree.

Dr. B

The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard

May 23, 2009

        One time years ago some folks were in from England.  They were on a tour of N.C. and wanted to take in some local culture before going to MerleFest.

        They must have had good contacts, ’cause they asked around and wound up at a place in Statesville called Perry’s Auction Barn.  The owner, Tim Perry, used to play with a band called Carolina Crossfire. 

        The Auction Barn was on a spare budget; I recall old coffee cans rigged up to serve as stage spotlights.  Instead, they put their money into the performers.  Tim brought a lot of fine music to N.C.; folks like the Scene, Lost and Found, and Larry Sparks.  One night Rhonda Vincent came through.  She put on quite an energetic show.  My wife thought her clothes were just a bit snug for a bluegrasser, though.  Marfar didn’t raise no dummy Doctor; I agreed with her 100%.

       The night the group from England was there we were the opening act.  I believe it was for Sparks.  Anyway, they asked Tim where they could find a good jam session.  He pointed at me.  “See that fellow in the shirt with the pineapples on it?  That’s Dr. B.  Ask him.”

       They took his advice, and we struck up a friendship.  I invited them to the Bomb Shelter, a bluegrass hangout I knew well.  As luck would have it, Charlie Waller was there that night.  Darin Aldridge was his mandolin player, and the Country Gentlemen had stopped at Darin’s house for the day.  Darin invited the boys to the session.  As you can imagine, our new friends decided they had hit the bluegrass mother lode.  Charlie was elderly at the time, but his voice was as rich as ever.

       Everything in bluegrass comes full circle.  Not long ago it was the official last night of spring; the last session inside the Bomb Shelter proper before owner Jack Barber closes it for the summer, when we move outside to the Cabin.   A lot of the same crowd was there. Charlie is gone of course, and he will forever be missed.  What a voice. 

          I had a med student with me.  ‘Little Richard’ as we call him, had tagged along for the night.  Just like Dr. Peter Temple who mentored me, you can an ‘A’ in my rotation if you do right by the patients, but to get an ‘A+’ you have to do that and also take in bluegrass culture.  

        We parked the truck in the field, and walked down towards the Shelter.  Jack and the boys had a bonfire going in a fifty gallon drum.  The fire crackled and the sparks drifted up and disappeared in the night air.

         “Still a bit of a chill, huh Jack?”

          “Yeah, Doc.  The last night of spring.  Gonna move to the Cabin next week.”

        “Ah Lawd.”  Another winter come and gone.  “The field is full.  Lot of good pickers?”

       “Yes sir, Doc.  Good session sure enough.  “Who you got with you?”

       “Oh, I’m sorry.  This is Little Richard.”

       “Some R ‘n B tonight?”

        “Oh no, not the same one.  He’s a med student.  We want to get him to come back here someday.”

       “What kind Doctor you wanna be?”

        “Country Doc.”

        “You follow old Doc then.   He knows all us country people.”

        “Yes sir.”

       Jack threw a few more logs on the fire.  “Good to have you, son.  Before you leave, make sure you sign the wall.  And if anyone asks where this is just say, “You can’t there from here.”

        “Yes sir.”

        We ducked through the door and went inside.  A doghouse bass thumped away.  It was Sealtest; I knew his rhythm anywhere.

         Moose Dooley kicked off ‘Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee.”  I got my mandolin out of the case, tuned up, and caught the baritone on the first chorus.  “Little girl of mine in Tennessee…I know she’s waiting there for me….”

        Stacy flatpicked the opening lines of ‘Freight Train Boogie.’  Some well known N.C. pickers like Buddy Wrong and Dr. Dean Jenkins were there, along with national mandolin sensation Darin Aldridge.  Sealtest, who has toured with several groups held down the bass.  Moose Dooley wore out the five string. 

        I hadn’t picked with Tim Perry since the Auction Barn quit doing shows, but there he was along with his old bandmate ‘Fangers’ Lynch.  Fangers played with Brushy Creek years ago, and the band finished second in the country to Radio Flyer back then in the Pizza Hut Showdown.  Rumor has it they managed to outdo a very young girl named Alison Krauss, at least for that one day anyway.

        At one point ‘Fangers’ did ‘Sea of Heartbreak,’ a tune I’ve loved for years.  “You know, it’s hard to beat an old Don Gibson song,” I said.

        There was some young fellow there learning the guitar under Fanger’s tutelage.  He scrunched up his face and scratched his head.  “Gee Doc,” he said.  “I thought that one came from Carolina Crossfire.”

        Bless Fanger’s heart, he gave credit where it was due, and told the young man they learned it from Don Gibson.  It was good to see all those guys.  We’ve all run in the same Carolinas bluegrass circle for many years.  And as the song says, it will never be broken.  God bless every one of ‘em.  My life was much richer for knowing them.

        Little Richard signed the wall before we left.  On the way home I asked him,  “Hey man, you remember how we got to the Bomb Shelter?”

        He lit a cigar and took a puff.  “Can’t get there from here, Doc.”

        “Son, you are gonna make one more fine country Doctor.  I gotta get you to come back here and look after me in the Nursing Home some day.”

       “Dr. Bibey, it’d be an honor.  That Moose Dooley, he can pick the fire outta that banjo, huh?”

        “And did you hear Fangers sing ‘Oh Lonesome Me?’”

       “Good Lord have mercy that was the saddest thing I ever heard in my life….”

        “Yep.  I don’t think Little Richard himself could sing the blues any better than that.”

        “Hey, that girl today with the negative mono test?  How come you put her on Vibramycin?  She didn’t recall a tick bite.”

        “Her rash was suspicious.  She went camping with her boyfriend two weeks ago.  The Mama was in the room with her.  I thought she hesitated.  I wasn’t sure she told me the truth.”

        “Why didn’t you just do a blood test for spotted fever?”

        “Hell boy, by the time I get those tests back from the State I’ve either cured her or she’s dead.”

        “Ain’t you worried she’s pregnant?

        “Temple Law.  Good work, son.  She’s been reliable on the pill.  She said her last period was two weeks ago.”

        “Yeah, well she mighta fibbed about that too.”

         “Maybe.  But you know that urinalysis I ran?

         “Yeah it was negative.  No infection.”

          “Look here, Mr. R ‘n B, I ran a pregnancy test too.”

          “Negative I take it?

          “Dang right.” 

          “Damn Bibey.  You’re a sneaky rascal.”

        “I haven’t stayed out of trouble in this business for three decades by being a dumba^^.  Temple’s Law.  Don’t forget it.”

         “A woman is pregnant till proved otherwise.”

       “Correct.  You’ll never x-ray a pregnant lady.  ‘A+’ son,  A+.”

        I stopped at the Quick Pik to get a Co-Cola and some nabs.  “Want anything?”

        “No thanks, Doc.  I’m good.”  Little Richard blew some smoke out the window and smiled.   Maybe this country Doc gig wasn’t glamorous, but it sure was real. 

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

Signal Mountain Opry

April 4, 2009

       In my travels, I always try to find a  good jam session.  When I stopped at the Mountain Music Folk School they said to go back towards Chattanooga and turn right on Signal Mountain Road.  Then go past the Fire station and hang on right in Fairmont; you can’t miss it.

        About the time I thought we were lost we came up on a parking lot jammed with cars and a building that looked like an old church that had been converted to a music barn.

        We walked in.  I asked the man at the soundboard if it was a stage show only or if it was O.K. to jam. 

        “See that American flag hanging there?” he asked.

       “Yeah.”

        “The first door past that is the bathroom.  Go to the next room on the left; they’ll be jamming in there.”

         “O.K. for strangers to join in?”

        “Sure.”

         I walked past the stage.  The fiddler nodded to acknowledge me as a newcomer and motioned towards the jam room.  No one had the mandolin covered so I got mine out.  A teen-aged girl with a powerful voice sang some old time country.  A fellow wailed out ‘Sweetheart of Mine Can’t You Hear Me Calling.’  A lady guitar player covered the tenor, so I took the baritone; it made for a tight trio.  Some young man named Chris Rutherford played an excellent Scruggs style banjo.

        Most of the group went out to play and the teenagers (and me) were left behind, and I played on with them.  The girl singer had a fine voice.  When she did Ron Block’s ‘Living Prayer,’ I stood up, walked over her way and did some mandolin back up.  An older gentleman in the corner came over to listen.  “She’s on next.  Will you help her out?”

        “Sure.”

         We went through a couple of numbers and with no more rehearsal than that we were on the stage.  She did ‘Wayfaring Stanger’ and “Delta Dawn.”  She turned and asked if she should do ‘Hotel California.’ 

        “It’s not exactly bluegrass,” she said. 

        “Sure kid.  Play whatever you want.  I’ll follow you.” 

        We did the Eagles tune then closed with ‘Living Prayer’ we had worked up backstage.  I liked this young lady’s voice; strong, good emotion, right on pitch; easy to follow with a harmony line.  For fifteen minutes of rehearsal I thought we did pretty good.

         “What’s your name, kid?”

         “Megan Davis.”

           “Hm.  Seems like everyone I know named Megan can sing.  Do you know Megan Peeler in Nashville?”

         “No sir.”

        “She’s about ten years older than you.  She’s setting it on fire.  I’d keep a lookout for her work.”

        “I will.”

        We exchanged cards and e-mail.  She’s a myspace young’un and I am on FaceBook (I called it MyFace) I had to admit I had no idea how to text anyone on the planet, but I promised to get back up with her for a book store gig if I ever got my book placed in Chattanooga.

         I’ve got a notion I haven’t played my last gig at the Mountain Opry.  They all asked me to come back, and directed me to a table with all sorts of fliers for regional events.  Like N.C., Tennessee is strong bluegrass country, and these were fine bluegrass folks; friendly and hospitable.  I was glad I found the Mountain Opry.  It is a must for a mandolin guy wandering through Chattanooga area.

Dr. B

Stanley Hammer Singer Part Two

January 31, 2009

        Since I came up with the Stanley Hammer vocal harmony method in Moose Dooley’s garage, I have expanded the concept to other venues.  For example, when we were in the studio, I fixated on a set of blinds that covered a window on the far side of the room.  I picked out several of the dividers as reference points and cut my baritone part by the intervals between the blinds. 

        Whenever we play a show I will focus on something in the distance, such as a set of bleachers, and concentrate on predetermined focal points to find my pitch.  I guess it is an obsessive doctor way of doing things, but it works, though I am no great singer by any stretch.

        However, as I mentioned in my last post, the method can have its pitfalls, and it did let me down once.  One time we played the Galax Old Time Fiddler’s Convention competition.  It was the year after we cut our record, so we were on top of our game.  After the first round, the rumor mill was we were in the top five.  The buzz around the campsites was that Neuse River might just win the thing.

        We picked a gospel number for our second selection.  It was Doyle Lawson’s ‘Sea of Life.’  If you have ever been to the Galax Fiddler’s convention you know there is big concrete grandstand where folks sit and watch the bands on the stage.  It was an excellent set up for the Stanley Hammer method.  All I had to do was focus on the steps.  In particular a handrail that divided the concrete stairway was perfect, and I set my notes all up and down the handrail.

        All that went fine until the second chorus.  Moose looked over and knew I was in a panic.  He leaned away from his mic.  “What’s wrong, Doc?”

      “Look at row twelve.  That’s my Stanley Hammer note.  Those kids have gotta move.”  Moose looked up in the stands.  Two kids had been walking holding hands and stopped at at my B natural note, leaned on the rail right at the spot that served as my focal point, and began to make out.

        “Oh, no.  Man, I can’t find my note.  Dang it kids, move for heaven’s sake.”

        Well, they didn’t take their clothes off or anything, but it still was a distraction.  Sure enough I was flat on my opening note when we came back in.  We finished 12th.

        I was dejected, but Moose was philosophical.  “Don’t worry Doc.  We weren’t gonna give up our days jobs.  It’s just a thing.”

        Of course Moose was right.  I’m still a Doc, and I got over the loss pretty quick.  I don’t know what happened to those two teenagers.  They wrecked my gig, but I forgave ‘em, and hope they lived happily ever after.  It was the only time the Stanley Hammer method has failed me, so it still has a good track record.

Dr. B

That Cat’s a Doctor

January 25, 2009

        Not long ago Neuse River played a gig at a Community College several counties over.  It was a fund raiser for them, and we had a rocking good time.  We were the third act, and came on just before a very talented group named the Cockman Family.  We stayed around after the show and jammed for a while, so it was a late start to go back to the house.

       I had about an hour and a half drive back home, so I stopped in a convenience store for a cup of coffee.  This was one of those old general store type places that carries everything from dog food to sunglasses, where old men in Pointer overalls sit around a pot bellied wood stove and play checkers at noon on Tuesdays.   When I walked in, I heard music.  I followed the strains to the back where a group of men were picking bluegrass music.  For the most part it was elderly gentlemen, though there was one young fellow who played dobro, and a teen-aged girl held down the bass.  I listened for a minute.

        “Mind if I join in?  I’ve got my mandolin out in the car.”

         “Sure, go get it. “

        We jammed a while, then one of them recognized me.  “Hey, didn’t you play mandolin with Neuse River at the Community College tonight?”   

        “Yep, that was me.”

         “Man, we enjoyed the show.  Joey here is learning the baritone part.  How about leaning into that mic and singing?”  They had one of those old-timey mics strung from the ceiling that plugged into a house sound system.  He pulled Joey in by the collar and four of us crowded around the mic.  “What did you say your name was again?”
   
        “Tommy Bibey.”

         “Pleased to meet you.  Now Joey, you just follow Tommy’s part.”  We sang some old bluegrass three parts and some country numbers too.   There were fiddle tunes and breakdowns, waltzes and Irish tunes.  It was all good, and the fiddler was extra special.  The bass player sang lyrics to “Day Break in Dixie.”  Old Doc hadn’t heard it sung in years.  I wondered where such a young’un learned the words.  

        At one point someone said, “Hey, that cat’s a doctor.”  The music stopped for a second.  The fiddle man looked me over, and checked out my mandolin.  The truss rod cover is genuine mother of toilet seat, and engraved with my name, “Dr. B.”

        “You a Doctor?”

         “Yep.”

        “One time we played a church in Harvey County.  There was a nurse there who said her boss was a doctor who played the mandolin.   Said he’d take a break between patients and pick on slow days.” 

        “Really?  What was her name?”

        “Don’t remember.  She was red-haired.”

        “Man, that had to be Lynn O’Carroll.  She’s my nurse.  That doctor was me.”

        “Naw, this was a real doctor; one who gave shots and stuff like that.”

        I didn’t protest long.  There was no convincing him anyway.  Besides, after all these years, I am used to a dual persona.  It reminds me of another story.  One time a friend of mine was at a convention in Raleigh.  Someone saw his name tag and asked if he was from Harvey County.  He confirmed he was.

        “Do you know Tommy Bibey?”

        “Sure, he’s my doctor.”

        The man had a puzzled look.  “Hmn, must be a different one.  The one I know is a bluegrass picker.”

        Oh well, at times it has been strange to have two personas in one life.  My daughter says I am so simple it’s complicated to some people.  I guess if one persona is to try to help people and one is to try to make folks happy, then it ain’t too bad.  I’m not exactly sure which one is which, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

Dr. B

The Tom Bibey Tour Schedule

August 15, 2008

        I have had a number of people ask me to post a schedule of my gigs, and I just never get around to it.  For one thing, even though I am semi-retired, I still am fairly busy as a Doc and it keeps me close to home.  And too, for a guy who posts twice a week on all kinda details of my doctor/bluegrass world, in real life I am very private.  I suppose it comes from years of indoctrination in the art of secret keeping. 

        John Hartford used to say bluegrass was the last American small town where everybody knows everybody, and it is.  At the same time the Internet is such a vast abyss that I have to admit it scares a country boy just a bit.

        For most part our shows are local affairs.  We play for the Heart Association chicken picking, or over at the Nursing Home.  As Moose says, if it calls for a bluegrass band, we’ll be there- weddings, funerals, divorce parties, gas station grand openings- heck, if they still had hangings I reckon we’d play those.  ( I am glad they don’t.)

        We do get out some.  We have played as far North as Galax, and as far East as we can go (the beach) without crossing the pond.  And, we’ve traveled West as far as Nashville.  In fact, sometime this year I hope to go on a Mississippi/Memphis road trip- will keep you posted.

        But, most of my life is very mundane.  For example, take this weekend.  I’m on call.  I’ll probably spend the weekend in deep discussion of stool softeners and constipation.  There will be some highlights though.  I am going to visit Indie at the Nursing Home, and he never fails to have a tale to tell.  Will update you sometime before Monday.

        Talk to you then.

Dr. B

Cabin in the Pines

May 27, 2008

    For years, Indie had a cabin down by the river.  It was named the “Cabin in the Pines” after the Flatt and Scruggs number, but most of the time we just called it the cabin.  It’s gone now- washed down the river in the great flood- but we still have the memories.

        There were two routes to get to the cabin.  The high road was by the blacktop, and then one turn off it onto a dirt road.  It was well maintained, and the way we brought in the visitors, though there were not many.  For the most part, the cabin was like the Bomb Shelter- a bluegrass hangout.  The regulars did not need directions and came in by the low road, a rough trail of ruts that ran right by the river.  It warn’t much more than a pig path.  How in the world a half drunk Indie’d negotiate his motorcycle through there in the dark was beyond me, but he never wrecked even once.  I was always sober but I’d a wound up in the dang ditch had I tried that.

        The cabin was beyond rustic.  The floors were wide wood planks Indie’d gotten out of the mill when they tore it down, and there was no central heat or air.  He did have a fireplace and an out-of-service pot bellied oil heater. 

        It was a place to play music and hang out, but Indie did have a T.V.-  or two that is.  One was an old floor console that had sound but no picture.  On top of it sat a 60′s vintage black and white portable with a picture but no sound.  It had a couple of droopy rabbit ears, and only got two channels, but was servicable ’cause all Indie liked was the horse races and baseball.  Sometimes he’d have the sound on one channel and the picture on the other.  It could confuse you.  If you weren’t careful at times you’d think Seattle Slew had just hit a home run.

        There was a stereo but if it played anything other than Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanleys or John Hartford I don’t recall it.  When we were at the cabin we made the music for the most part anyway.

        Indie had some fine cookouts down there.  The most famous was the “Wild Beast Feast.”  He knew these old boys who’d work the river bank at night and catch snapping turtles.  They cook ‘em up with onions and potatoes in a soup called “cooter” or turtle stew.  As for me I stuck to more standard fare.  Cooter and groundhog wasn’t my thing.  We had a German Pathologist come to town, and he and Indie became fast friends.  Dr. Anselm would send for some kinda bratwurst from up North and it was my favorite.  The hickory smoke would waft through the woods and I could tell they were on the grill from way down the river. 

        And the coffee.  Bluegrass folks keep coffee on round the clock and Indie was a true bluegrasser.  His favorite was this Blue Mountain variety he’d get from a buddy who would bring it back to Indie from his mission trips for the church.  Man did it smell good.

        For the most part not many females frequented the cabin.  Not that Indie was against women, in fact he was quite progressive.  I recruited the first lady Doc to the County.  It met some resistance, but Indie was supportive from the get-go.  “I figure she’s got M.D. behind her name as good as I do Bibey.  I’m all for her,” he said. 

        But the cabin was not very feminine.  My Marfar came on occasion and brought her banjo player Geraldine, and when Dr. Lucas came to town Indie held an informal reception for her.  She came right on down there and acted like it was the Hilton too, and had a fine time.  Dr. Lucas is a great sport.

        Indie had a lot of vices but for the most part it wasn’t women trouble.  Well, there was the one French foreign exchange student.  The girl wasn’t much of a student at least as far as academics.  She was enthralled with Indie and bluegrass fiddle though.  Indie’d come through town on that motorcycle, and the little French girl’d wrap those graceful arms around him and hold on for dear life.  The only English phrases she learned  the whole time she was here were “play Sally Good’un” and “Cool Whip, Indie.”  Ms. Jenkins was not impressed.

        The heck with lawsuits, that was the worst fix Indie ever got in.   When the girl got kicked out of the dorm for a curfew violation, Indie thought the only hospitable thing to do was put her up in the cabin.  I wasn’t surprised when Ms. Jenkins didn’t see it that way.

        “GG Indie.  Are you crazy?  If I was to take that girl in my Marfar’d skin me!”  It was one time I had to side with Ms. Jenkins.  She’d been way too loyal to Indie to be treated that a way, and I told him so.   Ms. Jenkins was near a Saint who’d tolerated all manner of Indie’s goings on.  The storm blew over, but I told him if he ever got in that kinda trouble again he was on his own.  I’ve never seen Ms. Jenkins that mad.

        Indie grumbled for a while, but later had to concede it was the right thing.  Years later, he couldn’t remember the girls name, and Ms. Jenkins was still there to stick by him.  I told Indie a man should hold a loyal woman close.  I saw him at the Nursing Home last week, and he still says it was the single best piece of advice I ever gave him.

        Like I said the cabin is gone now, but over the years it served as a meeting place for many a serious discussion.  At night it was very quiet out there.  All you could hear were hoot owls and whippoorwills or the water as it splashed over the river rocks.  I knew winter was over when I’d hear the banjo frogs and spring peeper chorus down at the the river.  It was a good place for a man to think his way through a problem.  Someday I’m gonna tell y’all more about the cabin.  I’ll never forget some of the events that transpired there.

Dr. B

Neuse River at K.T.’s Archery and Radiator

May 20, 2008

        Last month we played at K.T’s Archery and Radiator.  I guess you might wonder why a doctor would spend his off nights picking bluegrass mandolin in the back of a radiator shop for tips, but I have played these kind of gigs a long time, and it is second nature. 

        K.T.’s is a standard bluegrass venue.  The creaky wood floors need to be refinished, and there is a popcorn machine K.T. bought at auction when they closed the old County Star theatre.  It still has the same logo- “Popcorn- 10 cents,” but K.T. charges a dollar now so as to cover the light bill.  You don’t have to ask him to put on the butter, it comes with it.  A big red rectangular Co-Cola metal cooler sits in the corner.  In it, there are green glass bottle sody-dopes on ice.  The bottle opener is on the side of the box along with a place to put your money in on the honor system.  A ceiling fan wobbles overhead, and in the winter they crank up a wood stove to knock off the chill.  Once all the people get in, it warms up the rest of the way.

        We booked the gig and then Simpkins, our bass player, had to be out of town.  Ed “Lightening” Littlerod is in a gospel band nowadays, and most of his work is on Sundays so we covered the bass easy enough, but then the Warbler’s grandmother died, and he had to miss.  She had been sick while and it was expected.  Warb needed to be with his family but wanted us to go on, so I called Darrell.  He was off that night and agreed to cover as lead singer and guitar man even though the gig was way below his normal pay scale.  God bless the boy, you gotta admire loyalty.  I am sure he came just to bail out ole Dr. B.  Good friends are my number one asset in this old world.

        We warmed up in the front office.  Darrell had gone out to survey the crowd and said he thought this was a group that would dig Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys so we’d best not stray too far from tradition.  We scratched out a set list of standards and rehearsed where we thought the trouble spots might be for a half hour, then it was show time.

        Darrell has a sixth sense about bluegrass people and places.  One time we went to a gig in Knoxville, Tennessee.  This was long before the days of GPS.  All we know what the street it was on, but had no address.  I went north, but Darrell said to turn back the other direction; we didn’t seem to be in the bluegrass part of town.  We turned the Scout south and after a while came up on an old church.  Sure enough it had been converted into a bluegrass venue.  I asked how he knew and he said he’d played so many shows in so many towns it looked like the right place.

        Darrell was right about this crowd, too.  They dug it.  The highlight for me was our twin mandolin work on “Daybreak in Dixie,” even if it did demonstrate why Darrell is a pro and I need to go back to the office come Monday morning.  Man is he a clean player.  Harmony work with him and Lightening was a breeze for this old part singer, too.  Much like singing in the shower as the stars blare away on the stereo, these boys make you sound better than what you are.

        The ever reliable Moose put in his usual fine banjo performance, as did Stroker on the guitar.  All in all it was a fine show.  Like Warb said, the show must go on, and I thought the boys saved the day for Neuse River.  I was most appreciative.

        We took Darrell out to supper and caught up on his latest projects and still got home in time to catch a few hours sleep before our Sunday morning church gig.  It might sound like a strange life to ya’ll but it is standard fare for us, and what we do.

Dr. B


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