The other day I tried to remember back to the 1980s, when the Mandolin Case went on. I realized outside of medicine and bluegrass music I knew little else of what went on in the rest of the world.
It wasn’t like what they say about the 60s. (“If you remember it, you weren’t there”) We were so engrossed in our work and music we seldom sat down to take in much else.
I’ll never forget one daylight savings spring day. I got home before dark, and admired some trees in the yard. When I went in the house I asked my wife how long we’d had them.
She smiled and said, “Honey, I put those out five years ago.”
I realized I was working too hard. But I am proud of the fact that I didn’t neglect my wife and kids over it. When my wife’s people were sick, I was the point man, and we nursed them along through many a crisis. I took my children to breakfast ever Wednesday morning, though at times it was on a couple hours sleep and my face was about to nod off in my plate. We’d ride down the road with grade school word lists to memorize. Every time I came to a red light we’d learn a couple. The lists and homework sheets littered my Scout which served as a mobile classroom.
I looked up T.V. shows and movies from the 80s, and realized I missed that era. Childhood favorites like Captain Kangaroo were winding down, and new ones like Charlie’s Angels had just cranked up. I’d heard of a number of them from reading Newsweek, but never seen a single episode of any of them all the way through. If there are some I missed from that time you find to be classics let me know. When I retire I might rent a few of them and catch up.
We weren’t against everything new, though, and took to computers right away. We were information freaks and it didn’t take much foresight to see where that revolution was headed. Our first one was a Commodore 64, and we upgraded on a regular basis, although to save money we would always wait till one had been out a year or two. We were like the Army motto: “Don’t be first in line, but don’t be last either.” What we couldn’t figure out our kids taught us.
Gas just crossed the dollar a gallon mark, and I’m sure we thought it outrageous, but we hardly ever left the County. Our muscle car favorites of the 60s were on the brink of extinction.
Medicine and bluegrass music were a different matter. We lived and breathed both. I still read Twain, but I bet Indie and I were the only cats around who tried to memorize both ‘The New England Journal of Medicine’ and ‘Bluegrass Unlimited.’ I wasn’t number one in the class, but I remember a lot, and always did well on Boards. I can close my eyes and think of certain medical eras and re-create them in great detail.
I won’t bore you with it all, because you would never read my blog again, but back then it was Phenergan and Haldol, and Demerol was way over-used. Medicines like Capoten were brand new. We thought it was dangerous until we realized the initial dose recommendations were five times why we now use. The indication for a heart cath in those days was to only send the patient when ALL measures had failed. I remember I convinced a cardiologist it was time on one case because a new orange colored football shaped pill called Procardia failed to control my patient’s angina.
In bluegrass, we were more players and participants than observers, and had regular jam sessions at places like Indie’s Cabin, and the Bomb Shelter. But we did take in groups who played in the area, at least when we didn’t have a gig. Darrell was just a kid. We’d wait to pick up my children at school on my day off and listen to tapes of Vince Gill (‘Here Today’) who was a bluegrasser back then. I’m sure I’m the only Doc around who learned to sing bluegrass harmony in a Middle School car line.
Doyle Lawson and iii Tyme Out were popular. I got home from the hospital many a night on Wayne Benson’s mandolin breaks. Tony Rice redefined bluegrass guitar. Folks still study albums like ‘Manzanita.’ Tony was a genius, and way ahead of his time. Many a young student of bluegrass history believes the genre was created by ‘The Bluegrass Album Band.’
A band called ‘New Grass Revival’ was revolutionary. The mandolinist for the band, Sam Bush, still goes strong today. His amalgam of rock, reggae and bluegrass is still one my favorite mandolin grooves in the world.
I saw them way back then in a little dive called ‘Green Acres.’ They played a Halloween masquerade party. Sam was a pirate, complete with a peg leg and a black patch over his right eye. Bela Fleck went as Bela Fleck. (He was a very serious banjo man) I recall someone was dressed up as the Bhagwan. The crowd hoisted him overhead and shouted “Bhagwan, Bhagwan…!” over and over in time with the music. We stood in the back in case the place caught on fire. Even then we knew Sam Bush was great.
When I learned to play, we’d put on an LP and play it over and over till the grooves wore out. After hundreds of times of dropping the needle on a spot we’d try to memorize, the record was scratched and worn. I’ve ruined many a classic album in my quest.
The eighties changed all that, and publications with instructional material such as ‘Mandolin World News’ and ‘Banjo Newsletter’ gained momentum. Soon the computer would put all sorts of things at out fingertips- material we had gathered at flea markets and festivals for years. It took some of the charm out of the chase, but I am still glad it came along.
Well, I didn’t tell you anything about Dr. Bibey you didn’t know, huh? I love my family. I know medicine and bluegrass, and precious little else. Tell me your memories of the 80s. They almost certainly would be news to me, ’cause except for my little world I wasn’t there. But as far as mine, I lived eight days a week, and wouldn’t trade the memories.