Will Pick For Food

        I know all of you have seen some poor soul on the side of the road with a sign that says “will work for food.”  I don’t know about you, but I always feel sorry for those folks.  At the same time, I am a bit unnerved to stop and help someone on the roadside.  I don’t like the idea of a gun being pulled on me, so I keep moving on.

        That makes me feel a bit guilty, so when Irish rocker/folk/old time singer songwriter Al Donnelly asked me to help out on a benefit to feed the homeless, I was tickled to get the opportunity.  After all, I’ve begun to realize I’m gonna get all the way to the finish line and never miss a meal, so I figure it’s the least I can do.

        Al is a musician with a bit of an activist bent- not the type to burn your house down if you have a different point of view but at the same time has a quiet but relentless insistence on all human beings being treated with respect and dignity.  I like that.  I believe the right music can change folks’ perspective, so I am all about a gig with Al.

        The band Al put together was an interesting mix.  His wife is a fine bass player and singer, and he got Johnny Rich, a retired beach band veteran and the the owner of our local music store, Johnny’s Jewelry and Loan, to play the drums.  Throw in an old bluegrass boy willing to pick for food, and voila, you’ve got a band.

        Al kept the show moving along, and as you might expect from the diversity of our backgrounds, there was a variety of music.  Al opened with a few soft rock/pop numbers where I backed him up on the mandolin, and his wife and I sang the harmony parts.  Then he fiddled couple of Irish jigs and old time numbers and I played flat top guitar.

        Al did a nice tribute to his wife; a new love song none of us knew he was going to do, and it was quite touching.  It reminded me of the old days when Marfar and I lived in a trailer.  The heat would go out in the winter and you could see your breath in the house.  Our old black and white T.V. only got two stations in the winter, but in the summer we could open the door and pick up a third one. 

        When you play with Al you have to stay alert and think on your feet.  After the song for his wife, he asked me if there was any cure for the love sick blues, and I said mine got cured in 1975.  (The year I married Marfar.)  One time I did write a song about the love sick blues, though.  The chorus went:

                     “Love sick blues, that’s the diagnosis troubling you

                       Doc knows a lot but he sure ain’t got

                       No cure for the lovesick blues.”

        Oh well, no one ever accused me of being a romance writer.  (See old posts.)

        The lovesick blues were a good lead-in for some Don Gibson tunes.  Being the bluegrasser I am a lonely mandolin kick-off solo to “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was a natural.  Gibson was a lonesome country poet if there ever was one.  Al’s only prerequisite was to play it the way Don Gibson would- sad- and that’s right is right down every bluegrass alley.  We also did “Sea of Heartbreak,” and I knew it well; we do it in bluegrass all the time- it is one of my favorite numbers.   

        After that we rocked some old Creedence numbers.  Recently I saw John Fogerty’s new CD in Starbucks.  I hope he is doing well with it.  The first time around the record execs painted him in a corner, and he couldn’t even do his own tunes in public for a while.  I find it a shame when some sharp penciled rascal who can’t play a note rips off an artist that way.  Absolutely devoid of soul, it is.  I hope Fogerty is gets what is due him this go round; he’s a fine artist.  (By the way, Ms. Annalise, he loves that Bayou country.)   

        Those CCR tunes were fun for me, ’cause I got to pull out the old Telecaster, and I’d long wanted to do a rock’n roll show with Brother John Rich.  (I’m getting to the age where there ain’t much to cross off my list.)   Given I’m a bluegrasser they were surprised I knew any rock’n roll, (don’t tell my bluegrass buddies) and Al asked how I got started on guitar. 

        It brought back memories of Jr. High when we started our first garage band.  A couple of us knew how to play but none of us were singers.  We called a meeting and being the planner I was, elected Scotty McGill as be lead singer.  Scott didn’t play an instrument, and for that matter he didn’t sing either, but none of that mattered.  He was the right choice ’cause all the girls thought he was cute, and we figured they’d come to our shows.  

        Like all teen-aged boys I got into music back then, and electric guitar in particular, to try to meet girls.  After Marfar came along, I had no need for the Telecaster and became a bluegrass mandolinist, but she insisted I get out my old electric guitar and play a few for old times sake.  After all these years, she’s comfortable with my priority for her (number one) and besides all the women wanting to meet me just want to know if I’m taking new Medicare patients.  (Except for the young lady who wondered if I was related to Captain Kangaroo-  I’m not.)  

        All in all, it was a good laid back show that brought back a lot of memories.  We had a truck load of groceries to show for it, so picking for food turned out to a worthwhile effort.

        I’m already looking forward to next year.  Who knows, maybe I’ll just fiddle one.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: memorable gigs

10 Comments on “Will Pick For Food”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    Sounds like great fun! I really don’t think bluegrassers should hide their rocky roots. If Iunderstand what Bill Monroe did, he took strands from a range of music and wove it together into what we call bluegrass. Originally, he just called it music. Today’s crop of musicians grew up on rock and it’s younger descendants, and the music will become a museum piece if the newer influences in music are kept from working their way in. Keeping the music acoustic seems to me to be important. Denying the poser of the beat and the drive of rock can only hurt. – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:

    I think when Monroe started it seemed about like rock ‘n roll- new, fast, uptempo, driving- different from the music it was derived from.

    Dr. B

  3. mrschili Says:

    Doc, as you’ve already figured out, there are plenty of ways to do good that don’t involve personal risk.

    My friend Kizz, who lives in NYC, makes sure she boxes up everyone’s leftovers after dinner, even if they don’t intend to take them home. Then, on her way to the subway or a bus stop, she’ll distribute the doggy bags to any homeless person she passes (and, sadly, there’s never too few to share the food with). I love this about her – it’s thoughtful and generous, and she gets to avoid giving them money (which she’s not convinced they’ll use in their own best interests anyway).

    My giving is a little less direct – I bring lots of things to the Goodwill (and I shop there, too) and we participate in food drives and fundraisers. I wish I could do more, but I also recognize that every little bit helps.

  4. pandemonic Says:

    I agree with Ted. Sounds like fun.

    When I first taught myself guitar, I learned CCR. It was pretty easy, since they were the masters of the three-chord song. Plus the songs were so popular back then.

    Of course, if I had to play for food, I’d probably lose the ten pounds I need to lose. Or have the food thrown at me for my bad playing. 🙂

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Well Pande, you’ve got one advantage, though. When I sit in with my wife’s band, I always say they are earlier in their music journey than my boys, but they are so much better looking no one cares.

    Dr. B

  6. drtombibey Says:


    Hey this makes a good thread- ways those of us have been fortunate can give something back and not be at too much personal risk.

    I admire people like Mother Teresa, but I just ain’t that good.

    Kizz sounds like a good’un, and all about that good ole Northern hospitality.

    Dr. B

  7. Susan Says:

    Wow! I wish I played one of those cool instruments. When I was in school, I really wanted to learn to play a banjo. My boyfriend bought me a tenor guitar instead (four strings) because he thought it would be easier for me to learn. It was.
    So tell me, what’s a Telecaster?
    At least I know who CCR is.

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Susan,

    A Telecaster, affectionately known as a Tele, one of the first electric guitars, was invented by Leo Fender, who the company is still named for. He also came up with the Stratocaster, which quickly became one of the protypical rock ‘n roll guitars.

    I view the Tele as a bit more of a country music guitar, but it is used in different genres. In the right hands (and not mine- I’m not a good guitar man) there ain’t nothing that sounds like ’em.

    Interesting about the tenor guitar. I just got one. I helped a fellow on a record and he gave me one that was busted up, and someone put it back together for me. It is tuned like a Mandola, in 5ths, and one fifth below the mandolin, so it is an easy transition for a mandolin/mandola player. I think the thing sounds very cool, and are great to duo with the six string guitar. Country duets like the Louvin and Delmore Brothers used to used them some I think. I had planned a post on my tenor, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

    Google tenor guitar- there is a very good web site out there on the subject.

    Dr. B

  9. sshay Says:

    My sons adopted mine, but I might have to ask for it back, just for grins. I’ve played the piano for years, but I haven’t got the talent “real” musicians have. Wish I did, though.
    Ps: Do you really look like the Captain? I remember him, Mr. Greenjeans, Mr. Moose and Grandfather clock. And Tom Terrific. What was the rabbit’s name? Mr. Rabbit?
    Kids were more polite back then, probably because of shows like that.
    Maybe you should post your picture and let us judge for ourselves.

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Yeah, Susan that tenor is a lot of fun, and not very hard, at least to get some nice chords going. One defintion of a “real” musician is their instrument is worth more than their car. (house for some)

    My wife tells me other than the gray hair, I bear no resemblance to the Captain. Maybe Marfar is just being nice or love is blind, but then again she has been to the opthalmologist. Perhaps I failed the young lady. It is possible she has some sort of rare opthalmologic disorder, and I should have offered a referral.

    There have been numerous suspected sightings of Tommy Bibey all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, mostly at bluegrass festivals, but also at a variety of muni golf courses. However, because of some of his professional activities in other discliplines (He was not in the CIA, but some of work touched on this type activity) his agent, and his lawyers, have requested he maintain his anonymity.

    Tommy is a most interesting character. He desires to lead a quiet life wth his beloved Marfar, and yet because of his experience learned much about the inner working of the modern medical system he felt patients should know. (Some time back I did a post or two on the real Tommy Bibey)

    The books tell all, and the hunt is on. The blog jump starts one’s insight, so my regular readers should be a couple years ahead of the naive by the time the books come out.

    Dr. B

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