Spring Campaign Kick-off

        It has been a long winter.  This one saw a lot of doctoring and not enough picking.  Winter is slow for the bluegrass business, but to go six weeks without a gig is a long dry spell.  Marfar’s mad money account was depleted, and spring fever had set in for me.

        I go through the same mental gyrations every year.  When business slows down I begin to wonder if folks have forgotten us, but come spring they start to call again.

        When we have a gig, I have to discipline my doctor brain to stay focused on medicine as show time draws near.  I do fine until around four o’clock, then I have to work hard not to get out of doctor mode.  I think the staff tends to book me light those afternoons; they can see the transition taking hold.

       Late in the afternoon, I can seldom resist getting the mandolin out of the case and running through a few tunes in between patients.  Once I open the case and that old curious mix of wood, glue, and BBQ hickory smoke permeates the office, my staff knows I’m pretty near gone.

       The patients accept it too.  In fact they often ask I play a tune, and if nothing is urgent is going on sometimes I’ll stroll through the office and do requests.  I know the government would frown on it, but we don’t tell them.

       Yesterday’s gig was typical Neuse River fare.  It was the annual Karemax executive dinner at the Littlehorn Steak House, a regular stop on our schedule. 

       It is hard to beat the music business.  We played two sets, got paid a couple hundred bucks a man, and had a fine T-bone/baked potato/salad bar and all the sweet tea you could drink dinner.

       Moose and I got there early and met with the event coordinator.  (E.C.)  I have found folks with that title to be tough nosed women, but Moose knows how to deal with things.  Moose was e-qing out the tenor singer mic and the E.C. noticed  a tooth pick dangling from his mouth.

       “Young man, I must ask you to remove your toothpick before the guests arrive.”  

       Moose glanced over at me, and then acknowledged her.  “Sure enough lady.”

       She scurried off to set out some table center pieces, and when she came back Moose has his back turned and was digging through the gig bag for a mic cord.

       “Anything else you gentlemen need?”

       “Yeah, you got any more toothpicks?”  Moose turned around and looked like some kinda grey bearded porcupine- he had wedged a tooth pick in between every tooth.

       I noticed the lady did not bother Moose again.  He has a way of establishing his territory early on.

       Once it is show time, though, the Moose knows how to handle every crowd.  He knew this gig was for my boss, and he took to the role of a perfect gentleman- fooled ’em all.

       When you play with these guys, you never know what will happen.  One year Raymond the Fiddler broke into “Always Marry An Ugly Girl” at the Ladies Auxiliary.  I ended up in the Hospital Administration office over that one.  The tune went O.K. until the last chorus.  (I can’t bring my self to write the line that got us in trouble, but if you ask I may bury it in the comments or post the whole song, I haven’t decided.)

       As we get older, we are a somewhat more sedate group nowadays.  Simpkins, the bass man, got married (see bluegrass bachelor party) and we are morphing into a group of old guys who still play music to pretend like we are young.   (As Stroker said over coffee at the break, I like our position, though.) 

       I serve as doc to the group of course, and Simpkins was nursing the tail end of a case of laryngitis.  For those of you who treat musicians, I have found inhaled corticosteroids to work best for tenor singers with this malady, but I prefer off-label use of Combivent for baritones or lower registers.

       In spite of our age and infirmities, once out of the starting gate, adrenaline kicks in, and we put it on.  Moose kicked off with “Bugle Call Rag” and then “Bells of Saint Marys,” and the tone for the gig was set.

       For one, it indicated this was improvisation night- we hadn’t done either tune in two years.  Secondly it was the signal to lean towards instrumentals to save Simpkin’s voice.  The inhaled betamethasone did him proud though, Simpk hit all the high notes dead on pitch. 

       In case you think I am like an Elvis Pressley doctor for the group, I am not, although back in our less regulated days Moose did take a gag script down to Reveco by the River to watch the young pharmacist react.  It read, “Morphine, one gallon, sip as needed,”  and was complete with a scrawled picture of a moonshine jar.  It was our last foray into that territory, though, ’cause the knucklehead kid called the State Board to complain.  What a nut.  As Moose said, the boy shoulda known right away.  For one, it was written on my encoded pad that does not allow any controlled substances.  You can’t get a Tylenol #3 off of those scripts pads, and Moose knew it.  More important, the pharmacist should have known right off it wasn’t me- you could read the writing.

       At the break the boys got into the free booze and had a nip.  (They say I am an old guy who takes all the fun out of it, but the band has never had a DUI.  I think my influence has made them at least somewhat more moderate wild animals, at least I hope so.)

      After a break, the mood can change and Moose came up with some invented on the fly piece called “The Shieskebob Bounce.”  I stumbled on the bridge a bit, but we got through that O.K. and closed with some strong gospel numbers.  The crowd seemed to dig it, and the E.C. signed us up for the annual Hospital Week picnic.  The boys were all in favor, and already speculating on what the chow might be.  

       It was a fine gig.  We loaded up all the sound, and I cut all the guys a check for 200.00 bucks.  On mine, as per tradition,  I made it out to Marfar, and put it at her place at the table when I got home. 

       The way I see it, I get everything out of the music I need.  I get to keep being a Doc, and pick with the best musicians in the County.  I eat free steak dinners at the best spots in town, and the bosses both at work and at home are happy.  I am a lucky man, and I don’t see how any old grey haired doc could ask for anything more.

       As the season wears on, will keep you posted.  Just a month ago, the schedule looked a mite sparse, but it is starting to fill in.  Spring thaw is on the way.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: memorable gigs

17 Comments on “Spring Campaign Kick-off”

  1. mrschili Says:

    Spring thaw is on the way.

    Your fingertips to God/dess’s ears, my friend. I’m looking out my window at the tail end of a 10 inch snowstorm.

    The joy that you take in your life really does radiate from your writing; it’s clear that you love what you do – all that you do. You can’t fake that, and it makes me happy to read it.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Tell ya what mrschili. If Neuse River ever gets booked in the great Northeast, you, mrchili, all the little chilis and Irene and the English Professor will be the guests of honor.

    Dr. B

  3. banjobilly Says:

    hey y’all III Tyme out is at the OldRock School in Valdese tonight.

    They is gonna be on the radio at WNCW 88.7 this afternoon to promote the show. If you are too far away you can listen on the INternet. Dennis jOnes at the station is a good-un. They have all the best groups in and play records from local bands, too. Last weekend I asked for Flinthill (Theys from around here) and they played ’em- “dealing with the Blues is theri hit and the guitar man wrote it.

  4. drtombibey Says:


    If you get there to see III Tyme Out tell Wayne Benson I said hello. He, along with Darrell and my cousin from Pecan Grove (mama’s side of the family six times removed) is one my favorite mandolin players on the planet.

    Dr. B

  5. Moose Dooley Says:


    Some of these people think you are becoming quite the writer. They need to come to band practice and see how things really go. I have to go – my kids are screaming about something….


  6. drtombibey Says:

    Tis true, Moose Dooley is a PR man from quite a ways back. And with Moose riding shotgun, ole Dr. Bibey never has to worry about nothin’.

    Dr. B

  7. Bibey Jr. Says:


    Glad you had fun at the gig. Kick those boys in line for me… They need to stick out their little pinky finger when tipping back a beer now and again. Hope you and Darrell have a great time tonight. I love you more than sunshine!!!

    Baby Bibey

  8. drtombibey Says:


    I have this learning curve thing figured out. It is O.K. to start playing music when you are no longer a young’un. The difference in adults and kids is it takes everyone ten years to learn to play, but the kids aren’t as self conscious about being a novice. (Plus they are so darn cute everyone overlooks their mistakes.)

    I could play banjo and guitar, but started mandolin at age 32 when we could not find a player. My daughter said I made it ’cause I had no shame! She’s right- I played many a marginal gig on the thing.

    Keep on picking brother Ted.

    Dr. B

  9. drtombibey Says:

    See y’all I do have this wonderful daughter at Tobacco Triangle U. She’s as pretty and smart as her mama and as determined as her daddy. (She can’t hit the golf ball as good as her brother though.)

    You keep studying hard and picking that mandolin child, you and your brudder are the best.


  10. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Good to see the whole crew kickin’ in. For those who don’t know bluegrass at all, this tale captures what makes our music special. The structure of the music and the skills of those who play it mix to create an environment in which nearly anyone can play with anyone else; and sound good. High quality semi-professional bands abound and their play on stage and in the fields and halls where bluegrass thrives create a unique environment. On our recent bluegrass cruise, the last night was given over to taking people from six different bands, scrambling them up, giving them no time to prepare and shoving them on stage. They all sounded great, including your distant cousin. Oh, to have found this music when I would have been young enough to really be an active participant rather than a bemused watcher and astounded appreciator. – Ted

  11. drtombibey Says:


    See my comment above- somehow got ’em out of order.

    Dr. B

  12. banjobilly Says:


    Them boys rocked last night. Wayne Benson said hello. They got a thousand song requests- they coudn’t do ’em all but they did all my favorite ones.

  13. drtombibey Says:


    Thanks for the report from the western front. It is a little hard for me to get to Valdese ’cause of the distance involved and having to make my Sunday morning gig at church, but the Old Rock School is a fine venue.

    Dr. B

  14. Billy Says:

    Best yet. I don’t know why. You talked on and on and didn’t say a darn thing, but you showed me how to live and have quiet fun. Enjoyed it a whole lot.

  15. drtombibey Says:

    Aye Lawd Billy, I ain’t sure if I’m gettin’ better or you’ve just read my nonsense so long I’ve numbed you, but I do appreciate it.

    Looks like another writing gig in the bluegrass world might materialize in May or June. If you get an envelope with a few crumpled bills under your motel room door one night, you’ll know ole Dr. Bibey hit paydirt again.

    Tell mama I said hello, and that I dig those pink hair curlers and worn out flip flops.

    Dr. B

  16. The Rev. Moose Dooley Says:

    Stop writing so much and practice your chops. I have played 3 hours so far today.

  17. drtombibey Says:

    You musta gotten up with Special Consensus in your travels and borrowed a 5 string.

    Good news- they found your banjo in the luggage at the RD airport, and I picked it up. That Calton case saved the day- she’s unharmed. I’ve got the flathead in the office when you come back thru.

    For those of y’all unfamilar with the County, the Rev. Moose is our number one banjo man, and a tough cat to boot. He is a diamond merchant.

    Your faithful servant and mando sidekick –

    Dr. B

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