Twin Mandolins

        Darrell had a recent show in our area, and decided to bring me up on the stage to do a twin mandolin number.  He was in town a couple weeks before we were to play, and gave me a quick lesson on the piece.

        “Daybreak in Dixie.”  Of course, I knew the number, and had done in with Neuse River a number of times.  When Darrell works up a piece, though, it goes to the next level.

        He dropped by the house one evening and put a copy of Grisman and Bush into the changer.  The two players blazed through the solo.  What a remarkable performance.  Lightening fast, and yet the harmony was perfect on every clean note.

        I listened intently, and had to laugh.  “Come on Darrell, maybe you can play like that, but I can’t cut that gig.  I’m a doctor, man.” I grumbled. 

        “NAP, Doc.” (Not a Problem)

        “Maybe for you.”

        Darrell played through the Gris part first.  Exactly how he could extract the solo out of the mix, I don’t know, but when he did, it could hear it.  Yep, it was Gris all right.  A little Monroe, some characteristic jazz and double stop slides, and some signature pentatonic licks thrown in for good measure.  All clean- it was Gris, no doubt.

        “Yeah, well that cuts the Gris gig.  What are you gonna do about Bush?”

        “That’s you, bros.”

        “Right.  You ain’t got that much time.  The show date is in two weeks.”

       “You can get it.  Darrell took my mandolin from my hands, and slowly worked through the piece, as if he were injecting it with some kinda magic to speed up the process, and then handed it back.  After fifteen minutes, I was starting to get a handle on it.  Somehow I doubted Sam was worried about his role as a bluegrass rock star.  Better keep my day job.  Finally some semblance of the tune began to emerge.

        “That’s it, you’re about there, let’s take it up to speed.”

        Of course, I wrecked that, but Darrell kept tinkering with it, and after a while it began to take shape.  Finally I realized what he doing.  He was getting me to play it my best, but where I couldn’t match Sam note for note (which was often) Darrell would fill in the blanks.  The rascal was taking me to the highest level he could (I’ve been told I play good for a doctor) and then would make up for my deficiencies by injecting some extra notes into his part.  In essence, he was playing Gris, and some of Sam, and I was playing Tommy Bibey!

        He did a fine job of it, ’cause come show time, the number was actually quite good.  It was like singing along with the stars on the way to work in the morning- when you are traveling with the right company, you can sound pretty good.  Alone in the studio the tape doesn’t lie, but on stage, with Darrell covering the lead, I was pro for a day.  Several people came up to me afterwards, and said it sounded just like the record.

        I thanked them, but didn’t give up the secret.  At the same time, I cast a glance towards my stethoscope.  Better not give up my day job.  Besides, I had a full schedule at the office come Monday morning.  The way I saw it, someone needed to doctor on the musicians when they got sick, and who better than a Doc that at least had some idea of what they were doing.

Dr. B

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