Archive for December 2007

Orthopedic study

December 10, 2007

        My regular post is due out Wednesday, but every once in a while, I’m gonna do a mini-post if something occurs to me.

        Right now I am on a orthopedics kick, and reading about all sorts of weird little foot fractures.  It comes in handy when treating athletes or dancers, but in my specialty, bluegrass musicians, it isn’t quite as urgent, ’cause for the most part they got all their rhythm in their hands.  (Now those metacarpal bones- a bluegrass doc better be up on all those.)

        I don’t know why I chose medicine and bluegrass music in this life- both are never mastered, and require life-long study.  Curiosity, I reckon.

        Studying all those bones this morning reminded me of my son.  When he was in the third grade, he came into my study, encyclopedia in hand, and said, “Dad, how many bones does a squirrel have?”

        “I don’t know, son.”

        “Aren’t you a doctor?”  He was confused.

        He has grown up to be a fine paramedic, and now knows just ’cause you are a doc, you don’t know everything, but I think I had him fooled up till that squirrel question.

        Wednesday, I’m gonna tell you about a lesson from a patient.  I have learned much from them over the years.

                                                    -Dr. B


Yankee Picking

December 8, 2007

        Well folks, I’m off from doctoring for a couple days, and it is a busy music weekend in the County.  Friday night is the annual Habitat for Humanity gig, a worthy cause if there ever was one, and we have our office Christmas party on Saturday, which is just a big jam session.  Sunday it is on to the Nursing Home, and the Moose will sing “Christmas Time’s a Coming” just like Bill Munroe. 

        About ten years ago we had a World Tour T-shirt, which listed our venues at the Fair, the Ayden tractor pull, the Nursing Home, the School House, and other local favorites.  The shirt went over real big, and when Moose wore it at the beach, some young lady stopped him (this is always happening to the Moose) and asked him where she could hear Neuse River play, so for a while there we were world famous all throughout the County.

        I know ’bout our music pretty good, but it occurred to me I had stayed so busy as a doc and picking around here that my exposure to the music has been limited to our version, what I hear from the groups touring through, and from my good fortune to know Darrell, who is the only one in our crowd to turn pro.  As I get older, I hope I might travel more and broaden my perspective.  ‘Bout all I have been exposed to is Southern bluegrass, and it’s great, but I often wonder what the music is like in other parts of the country.
        I do know that guys like Peter Rowan, Gris, and Bill Keith were all from up north, and contributed mightily.  Behind the scenes, some folks grumbled about “Yankee picking” but I never understood that.  They sounded pretty good to me.  Bill Monroe was a southern guru, and he didn’t deride it one bit- he not only embraced it, he hired them all!
        Well, I want everyone to know that here in the County, the bluegrass brethren is always welcome, regardless of race, color, creed, social status, religious denomination or anything else.  All the have to do is want to pick some bluegrass music, and they’ll get along.  Heck, they don’t even have to do that, all they gotta do is give us the freedom to play.
        You see, here in the County, and I suspect everywhere else, based on  how the bluegrass folks from other parts of the country treat me, bluegrass is ’bout like that Lake Woebegone Mr. Keillor talks about, where ugly things like prejudice don’t exist.
        I mean, here in the County we are a bit isolated, and I admit folks can sometimes be wary of newcomers, but if they are good folks I’m proud to say they get treated like family.
        One day a new fellow came to town to look me up, and he wanted to pick some bluegrass music.  He stopped at the Gulf station, rolled down his window, and asked if anyone knew that Doctor who played bluegrass music, and the man at the gas station said, “You talking ’bout Dr. Bibey?  You sick?”
        “Oh, no.  Came down from the mountains and wanted to play some music.”
        The man at the service station looked at his watch.  “Better get on over to his office. He’ll be leaving pretty soon.  All dem Docs play golf on Wednesday, you know.”
        The gentleman arrived right about when I was getting ready to leave for the day, and explained he had come down from the mountains.  Only thing was he didn’t talk like Jake, the only mountain man I knew.  I believe he said he was from some Green Mountains we’d never heard of- some place far away like New Hampshire or something like that.  Well, it made no difference to me. 
        “Whatcha toting there?”
        “Martin.  Any jamming happening?”
        “Yeah, boy.  Going to the Bomb Shelter tonight.  Wanna go?”
        The man had never heard of the Bomb Shelter, but it turns out I had come highly recommended to him, and he trusted my judgment.  We went over to the County Line for lunch, and I called Darrell and the Moose to tell ’em to round up the usual suspects.  If company is in you try to show ’em a good time, you know.
        Well, when we got there, most of the boys didn’t know what to make of it, and a couple of ’em weren’t sure they wanted to pick with the man.  “Can he cut the gig?” one asked. Jake was in town that night, and he was extra worried.  He was a real mountain man,  and sometimes they take to strangers right slow.  
        Moose knew better.  “See that guitar, Doc? It’s bout half wore around the sound hole, and it’s got a lot of cigarette burns.  That man can play. We’d better take a chance on him.”
        Jake stood back in the corner to wait and see as the man strapped on his Martin.  Well, Moose was ‘xactly right- that old boy just wore that guitar out.  He hadn’t played but one bar, and Jake jumped right in the thick of it, and was a sawing away on the fiddle.  We played deep into the night, and it was extra good- the man could cut the gig.
        He was just like us.  Turned out he had done a stint with the Gibson Brothers, and I was shocked to find out they was from upstate New York.  I thought it was all pavement up there, but those boys sounded just like they’d grown up on the farm in Kentucky.
        Well, about 2:00 I had to split, ’cause I had to turn back into a doctor, but the boys stayed on to play a few last good’uns.  Moose told me later when me and the man left, Jake strung together more consecutive words than we’d ever heard him utter.  “Lawd have mercy boys, didja ever hear anything like that?  I’d don’t care if he does talk funny, we need to get him to pick more often.  I wonder if Doc knows any more of dem Yankee Pickers?”
        I figure I need to study up on those Yankee pickers, too. I’d been around a while and had never heard one, ‘cept on records, and I didn’t know they were that good either. 
        I hear a lot of talk about exactly what bluegrass is, and sometimes even some arguing on the subject.  Well, I don’t know about y’all, but to me I don’t care where a man is from.  If he sings an honest song about real people trying to live decent lives in a nonsensical world, then he’s welcome in my circle. 
        I’ve already heard from a fair number of folks from up North, so today I wanted to officially welcome you to this decidedly southern site.  To paraphrase the golf folks, if you know bluegrass you are my friend.  Part of my motivation for writing all this is to spread the bluegrass gospel.  It ain’t as important as the real Gospel, but is is important- if for no other reason when I go to Detroit I need to know who to pick with.  So, keep on picking, and I’ll see you out on the bluegrass road.

                                           -Dr. Bibey

Birds of a Bluegrass Feather

December 5, 2007

        Well, as we have said, them bluegrass people are thick as thieves, and it’s even true for the bluegrass animals.  I got  a call from a lady the other day who wondered if we would adopt her Sun Conure bird.  Given its’ name was Sassy Scruggs, it was a little hard to say no. The woman was moving to the Windy City, and gonna be in a big condo where they wouldn’t allow animals, and besides, conures are tropical birds, and the climate didn’t exactly suit their clothes as the song says.  And too, the woman wanted the bird to have a bluegrass home, and she knew I was a player, ’cause she had seen Neuse River on the local cable T.V. station last winter when they ran out of news.

        As far as me, I don’t care all that much for birds, but I guess the lady knew my wife was a local expert on bird raising, given that she (my wife that is) half raised me.  And too, it might be ’cause we already had a Jen Day conure, which is a close cousin to the Sun variety, so the ladies decided the whole situation was meant to be.

        We didn’t have to think it over long anyway.  My wife wanted the bird to have a good home, and I like to see my wife happy, so it was all good.  There was more to it than that, too.  Our bird is a male named Sammy- Bush or Shelor depending on whether a mandolin or banjo player might be coming to dinner.  Sammy and Sassy; we figured it would be a good fit.

        When the lady brought that little conure over to the office I had to ask if she was any kin to Earl, and she wasn’t.  I did know to ooh and aah over the bird, though.  (Hint to the men folks here- if you are around a group of office women and don’t know what to say in this situation, just smile and say, “Isn’t she precious?”)  This always goes over good.

        Matter of fact, when I took the bird home, that’s the first thing my wife said, and I knew to agree, even though I wasn’t exactly sure why.  It is a good home, though.  The bird needed a bluegrass habitat, and she and Sammy get along famously.

        Lynn O’Carroll at the office said she hopes they’ll conjure up a conure, and if they do she wants first dibs.  We get to name it, though.  If is a girl, I’m voting for Alison and my wife likes Vince if it’s a boy.  (He was bluegrass before he was country.)  One thing about it, though- it won’t be a Reno or a Ralph.  I don’t know that much about birds, but it seemed two banjo players in one house was a plenty, even if they don’t chew tobacco.

        My wife thought it was precious.

  Dr. B

Bluegrass Speak

December 2, 2007

        I guess before I write any more, I’d best clue folks in on bluegrass speak.  If you share my fear that mass media might someday extinguish colloquialisms and regional expressive language, take heart.  As long as the bluegrass community is alive and well, individuality will never die.

        While I am deeply entrenched in the bluegrass community, I am not a professional musician.  This is quite evident to me in the area of bluegrass speak, as it can be very complicated.  Take a guy like Frank Wakefield.  Anyone who closes an interview with “Zhat read soundable?”  is an undisputed pro.  His “backards talking” is more convoluted than what a doc can follow, and he would make an excellent interview subject for someone with more formal linguistic training, such as the English Professor. 

        When you sit backstage and pick music with a guy like Lucky Strikes Gregory, the logic gets so twisted around a man could get lost if he ain’t careful, so I thought it might be instructive to start working on this project. 

       I have a good handle on our local lingo,  and I am going to address this shortly.  However, even though I am an expert in the bluegrass speak of our locale, my doctoring has kept Neuse River tethered to a hundred mile radius over the years, so I have much to learn, as most of my exposure to the outside world has either come from bluegrass groups touring through the County or doctor books.  (I don’t much care for television.)  Language is in constant evolution, so as you hear new wrinkles, I hope you will update me. 

        Last year, I was in Roanoke, and ran into (literally) a banjo player in the lobby of the hotel.  We were getting in the elevator, and I was toting Marfar’s doghouse (bass for non bluegrassers), and got the thing cross-ways to where the door wouldn’t close. 

          “Got her caddy-slunch-ways there Doc?”  The banjo man offered his assistance, and we reeled her in. (The bass, that is, not my wife- she was already to the room.)

          Now, that’s Virgina bluegrass (Southern Virgina dialect, I believe) for caddy-whompus.  (Eastern N.C.)  You see, he didn’t even need to introduce himself.  Of course, I met him in a jam session the night before, but that non-withstanding, I knew he was from Virginia just by the way he talked.  I think this is a good thing. 

        Now, here in the County, if someone was to say to you, “NTW,” what would you think?  No, they ain’t cussing you, they are telling you not to worry.  (Warning:  Bluegrass folks don’t worry ’bout much of nothing.)   See, that one was easy, and if you have been reading this forum, you got it right off.

        There are a number of abbreviations like that we use all the time.  NAP, for example, means not a problem.  Again, classic bluegrass, ’cause when you are playing music, there ain’t no problems, at least in the moment.

        GG, or good grief, is ubiquitous, and has now made it’s way into the general population.  I heard it was gonna be in the next version of the Merryman Dictionary, an indication of acceptance that will see the decline of its use in the bluegrass community.

        Oh, there are a bunch of them, like HTS, meaning have to see, such as when Blue Highway is in town.  (Example- “Them Blue Highway boys are HTS.”)  My daughter wore a Blue Highway shirt to middle school, and the other kids wondered where that was, but I counseled her to never make fun of children who were not as fortunate in their raising.  Miss Marie is now involved in a Tobacco Triangle U. study to improve access to health care for the underprivileged; I am very proud of her.

        Also, I must warn you that the use of short-speak is discouraged in higher circles.  The Government’s National Bureau for the Extinction of Abbreviations (NBEA) frowns on it, although I don’t understand why, ’cause we just use them to save time for picking.

        Most of our abbreviations are self-explanatory, so if you hang out with us just a little while, you’ll pick up on them easy enough.  More complicated though, is the custom of multiple verbal duplicity.  This is the practice of using one word, such as SHABA, to express multiple meanings, depending on the context of its use and the inflection in one’s voice.  For instance, SHABA, when you are loading up the Neuse River converted school bus to head out for Galax, is an expression of enthusiastic anticipation, whereas SHABA, by the end of the week, is a weary confirmation of exhaustion and dread of a long drive  home.  If fact, at that point, SHABA for the Moose would mean, “I’m whupped, better let Doc drive.”  See, you’re catching on.

        This aspect of bluegrass language can prove difficult to interpret, and will require deep immersion in the culture to fully understand.  Even to this day, I find it difficult.  Shoot fire, it can often be harder to figure than what colors them office ladies are talking about when they use words such as taupe or fuchsia.  

        The Eskimos are sort of the opposite of this concept.  In other words, they have eighty-seven different words for snow, ’cause if they are planning on surviving, they better understand every nuance (that’s French there) ’bout that white stuff if they are planning on seeing spring thaw.  About the only way I know to tell you to interpret bluegrass speak is to think reverse Eskimo talk, polar opposites so to speak, ’cause in bluegrass one word, such as SHABA, can have eighty-seven different meanings.

        The only time this gets confusing is when you run into bluegrass picking Eskimos.  We had one come through the County last year, a fine bass player from Juno, but had little difficulty with translation.  When that happens, usually you are picking rather than talking, so we can communicate just fine.  

        You gotta understand, though, that just ’cause all this might seem confusing to those outside the bluegrass world, we can talk to each other just fine.  It even helps me in my doctoring.  It’s like Raymond, the fiddler for Neuse River said one day, “I took old lady Lloyd’s English class with Tommy, and I didn’t understand a word she said, but I don’t have no trouble talking to Doc- he’s looked after my people for years.”

        There is much more to say on this subject.  I can’t cover it all today, but I’m glad I could at least clear up this much.  As I write, if I accidentally use an unfamiliar colloquialism, I hope you tell me so I can further clarify.  I wouldn’t want to mis-communicate.  I want to respect the  International Language of Music at all times, and old Doc still has a lot to learn.

Dr. B