Archive for March 2008

Oh Brother Dan Tyminski Where Art Thou?

March 11, 2008

        banjobilly tells me Dan Tyminski has taken his show on the road and it is a good’un.

        I’ll bet it is.  With the core being Dan,  mando wizard Adam Steffey, Barry Bales on the bass, and flanked by multi-instrumentalists Ron Stewart (banjo and fiddle) and Justin Moses (fiddle, banjo, dobro, and everything else under the sun) I don’t see how he can go wrong.

        Dan is one bluegrasser I don’t personally know, and it seems the rascal is always one step ahead of me.  I first ran into him in the old Pizza Hut Showdown where we got bounced in the competition by young band out of Virgina called the Lonesome River Band.   The banjo player was a guy named Sammy Shelor, who still fronts the band today.  Tim Austin was on the guitar, and Dan Tyminski was the mandolin player.  I knew I’d better keep my day job.  Boy was he good even then.

        Years went by we decided to cut a record.  I called the premier bluegrass studio at the time, Doobie Shea Records, and asked if I could send a tape demo to see if they’d take on the project.  Low and behold, the owner was none other than Tim Austin.  Even though they had ousted us in the Showdown they knew we could play and took us on without an audition.  As luck would have it, our producer was to be none other than Dan Tyminski.

        Well, we all loaded up in the converted Neuse River school/tour bus and went all the to Virgina to do the record.

       When we got there, Tim let us know the good/bad news.  We still had the studio time booked, but Dan had just hit the road with a young lady named Alison Krauss.  Well, we all knew what it meant to him, so we were O.K. with that.  Besides Tim had a great ear, and with his help the record as done in two days.  For what is was it was a nice little project, sold well, and ended up being quite popular in the area.

         I hadn’t thought about Tim Austin in years, but banjobilly said he was doing the sound for Dan on the road these days.  That’s good- bluegrass folks tend to look after old friends, and I don’t see how Dan Tyminski could get a a sound man with a better ear for bluegrass than Tim Austin.   

        It is funny how it works in life and music.  I have never met Dan, but he keeps helping us.  After he got the gig with Alison, he got involved in this thing called “Oh, Brother,” and what started as a cult phenomenon became an international hit.  Like Reganomics, there is always a trickle down effect, and little bands like Neuse River also saw some benefit. 

        We played a State S.B.I. convention about that time and opened with “Man of Constant Sorrow.”  In reality, we had been doing the Stanley Brothers version for years, but suddenly everyone was requesting it.  It’s like Dan says, you don’t get many hits in this music, so when you do, you have to play ’em.  (Which is why most of us have Rocky Top, F.M.B., Dueling Banjos, and The Beverly Hillbillies in our repertoire.)

      At any rate, we were playing this S.B.I. gig and they wanted us to open with the tune, and of course we were more than willing to accommodate.  Right off the bat the Moose broke into “I am a man… of constant sorrow… I’ve seen trouble all my days.”

        Somehow the audience got confused and thought we were the Soggy Bottom Boys, and that the Moose was Dan Tyminski.  Afterwards all these official looking guys with guns and badges were asking for autographs, which the Moose was most happy to oblige.

        “Dang it, Moose, this is the S.B.I., you’re gonna get us in trouble,”  I protested.

        “NTW, Doc.  You worry too much.”

         I fretted about it at first, but years later I still get a chuckle when I think of some S.B.I. guy proudly giving his daughter that autographed glossy the next day only to have his daughter cry and say, “Dad, that ain’t Dan Tyminski. Who is Moose Dooley?”

        Oh well, Dan.  I hope you don’t mind.  As you know, bluegrass is two steps forward and one step back.  Even though I don’t know ya, I hope we’ve helped your cause in some way throughout the years.  I hear you have a great band, and we look forward to seeing you guys in 2008.  Maybe one of these days, I’ll actually catch up with you and shake and howdy.

        In the meantime, if folks get confused and think you are George Clooney, and Moose is Dan Tyminski, I reckon it’s just show biz, and all of us in bluegrass are better off for it.

       Oh Brother Dan- wherever you might be these days- we’ll check out your web site and catch up with you on the bluegrass road.  And sorry for the autographs.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  (It was the Moose’s idea, by the way.)

Dr. B 



A Case of Mistaken Identity

March 9, 2008

        Y’all remember Captain Kangaroo?  For those of you too young, he was a kindly but somewhat dorky gentleman who was a staple on U.S. morning television in the ’50s.  Captain wore a double breasted suit and had a bowl cut head of gray hair, a droopy mustache and a physique charitably akin to Santa Clause.  Never mind any of that, though, all the kids dug him.  He was quite popular.

        His show was sort of a children’s variety hour with stories, songs, and cartoons.  We all loved him, but I suspect if the Captain were still living even he would have to concede his popularity was not based on sex appeal.

        Not long ago, Marfar and I took in a mandolin event at Sandhills University, a mandolin orchestra show put on by my old friend Butch Baldassari.  (If not familiar, go back and read “Band Together for Butch; he is dealing with medical troubles right now.)

        We got there early to shake and howdy backstage and then went out to look for our seats.  I was with my wife, who is still a charmer and younger than me.  The young lady escorting us to our seats looked and me and said, “Sir, you look familiar.  Do I know you from somewhere?”

        Now, this was not the least bit threatening to me.  I am 100% faithful to my lovely Marfar.  I had nothing to hide, but I couldn’t begin to think of anywhere I might have run into this young woman.

        At the same time, I’m not so old I can’t pick a pretty girl out of a line-up, and this was an attractive young woman.  I have to admit I was flattered by the attention and figured she most likely knew me from my travels with Neuse River.  We had opened several shows for some name acts in the area, so I thought that must be it, and offered a possible explanation.

        “Maybe you’ve seen me with my band, Neuse River.”  I figured she probably was a college student who worked the venue on a regular basis.  “I’m their mandolin player.”

        She studied my features for a moment.  “No, that’s not it.”  Then the light bulb came on.  “Now I know.  Has anyone ever told you you look like Captain Kangaroo?”

          We went to our seats.  I was too embarrassed to ask her how such a young’un had ever heard of Captain Kangaroo.  My wife draped an arm over my shoulder and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  No words were needed.

          So much for old mandolin players, sex appeal, and a mistaken identity for Captain Kangaroo.  Not that it ain’t always been that way, but I’d better hold onto my wife and day job for dear life.

Dr. B

Where I Come From

March 6, 2008

        Some time back I was a pen pal with some cool high school kids in Mississippi.  Their English teacher had assigned them to write up a short essay on “where I come from.”  I was fascinated by their thoughtful responses, and read them all.  They covered a lot of territory- everything from why their mama cooked the best to what kind of music they liked to thoughts on prejudice.

         Wednesday I ran across a new blog I liked from a chap in England.  (a John Chapman of all things.)  He just started his blog, the Pedlar’s weblog, but I’ve a feeling he has much to tell us ‘Muricans about his home in England.  My blog has brought me friends from up north, (Irene and the English Professor and the chilis) Scotland, (Dr. Bob Leckridge) the frozen tundra, (Ms. Pande) Oklahoma romance writers (Ms. Susan) and now a new friend from England. 

        With all this it occurs to me I like wordpress so much ’cause with it this ole country boy is gonna connect all the dots and figure out ‘xactly where he came from.  After all, we are all connected in some way.  With my Scotch Irish background, I find blogs like Dr. Bob and John Chapman to be very important.  

        So, I’d like to ask my readers if you’d go through the following exercise with me.  Just like my my young friends from Mississippi, how ’bout writing me about where you come from.  I’ll post my blip below to give you an idea of what format I’m looking for.  Like all editors, I guess we ought to have a word limit, so I”ll arbitrarily say 100 words.  If you’ll send your thoughts I”ll post ’em in the comments to this entry.

        Before I give you my “where I come from,” I hope you’ll indulge me one joke.

        A young boy asked his mama the question she had dreaded for years.

        “Mama, where did I come from?”    

         The mom had made up her mind when the question came, she was going to be open and honest.  Her son deserved that.  She went through her birds and bees routine in great detail, and then awaited a response. 

        The boy looked puzzled, and then said, “That’s funny, Joey came from Cleveland.” 

        Ah, communication is everything huh?  I look forward to your “where I come froms.”  Here’s mine.

                              Where I Come From

        I come from doctoring and bluegrass music.  Country churches and Memorial day picnics with long tables of fried chicken and deviled eggs.  Post Toasties and T.V. beauty contests with Grandma.  Trips to the library with mama and Orangeade drinks at Bolton’s drug store on my paper route.  Muni golf courses and cotton fields, swimming holes and Scotch Irish sunburned boys.  Country poets and the Beatles and Bluegrass.  House calls with my country doctor Dad.  I come from the South, and love it here.  I ain’t proud of all our history, but I am proud of the New South, where I come from, and where we are going.  

        Where do you come from?  Looking forward to hearing from you.

Dr. B

Dr. Bibey Sr.

March 5, 2008

        Like me, my dad is a country doctor.  Even though he is 79 and holding, he is still the same country doc he has always been and always will be.  Some things never change.

        I learned a lot from my Dad.  No so much about hemachromatosis- I had to go to school for that- but more about how to treat patients with respect and dignity.  For that, I learned at the feet of a master.  I have never met one who was better.

        I had a number of influences in my life.  My mom was an English teacher before she retired to raise me, (they say I was a handful) and she instilled my love of books.  My grandfather the farmer taught me more about hard work than I wanted to know.  It was my Dad, though, who first influenced me to be a Doc.

        Our crowd goes a long way back in the doctor gig.  I remember when Dad wrote Marshall Dillon (of T.V. western “Gunsmoke” fame) to tell him he shouldn’t smoke, especially on television.  It was years before I realized Matt Dillon did not quit smoking because of my father’s advice.  When color T.V. came in and Pa Cartwright on “Bonanza” had a funny skin tint on that early color T.V. set my Dad remarked that he looked jaundiced.  I went to look it up, but it was some time before I realized jaundice was not a diagnosis! 

        I remember going through Mississippi on a family vacation, and an elderly man walked across the street.  My dad observed his gait, and said, “Son that man has had a stroke.”  To a kid, for a man to make such a pronouncement about a stranger- a human being he’d never laid eyes on- was an unbelievable knowledge base.  I had to tap into it.

        Once my cousin Robert got the “side pleurisy” and his folks brought him all the way across the state so we could keep him till he got well.  Dad was the only doc in the extended family.  I bet they passed the offices of fifty good docs on the trip, but my father was the only one they trusted, so we kept the boy a few days till he got well and his people could come back to get him.  I think mama deserved the credit; it seems all the boy did was drink chicken soup and play cops and robbers with me for a few day till his folks came back, but he got well and they were most appreciative.  In those days everybody knew of someone who had died of side pleurisy, and it was a respected foe.

        For a long time in town, if Dr. Bibey Sr. said it, it was the gospel, and we’d go about our merry way glad the issue was resolved.  We were just kids and had no idea how much he struggled to take care of everybody.  Like Tiger hitting a golf ball, he make it look easy.

        Here is one story I never forgot.  Dad was on a ship in WWII.  He told me of a ship mate who went berserk- shell shock.  (I can’t blame the cat, I’m sure it would get to me.)  Dad was a medic (he went to school on the G.I. bill) and called the ship doctor to get the situation under control.

        The Doc was a large man, and it took that and more to wrest control of the situation.  To this day Dad recalls the poor crewman cursing and spitting, and calling the old doc’s mother’s integrity into question while the doc sat on the boy’s chest and gave him some sort of injection to get him down.

        Dad asked the doctor how he could stay so calm in the face of such abusiveness, and the doctor replied he was a professional.  It was his job to save the fellow from himself if humanly possible.  In all the years I have watched my Dad work I have never seen him lose his patience with another human being, regardless of how unreasonable they might be.

        My Dad learned his lessons from that old ship Doctor well.  I learned mine from my Dad.  I wish I could say I’m as good as him, but I’m not- I can get surly if my patience is stretched far enough.  

       My Dad was like Marcus Welby.  In real life, he was that patient.  I’m afraid I am more like Dr. Kiley, the cat that rode around on the motorcycle and had a bit of a wild streak in him.  (I gave up on motorcycles long ago, though.)  I reckon all I can do is keep trying- there ain’t no human on the planet more patient than Bibey Sr.  I’ll just have to do the best I can.  

Dr. B



What I Overheard

March 4, 2008

        Recently I was in another Doctor’s office and overheard this one.  If people could only step back and realize what things sound like!

       Patient:  “I want to check on Mrs.  Smith.”

       Receptionist:  “Are you on her HIPAA (Federal Government privacy) form?”

       Patient:  “I dunno.  I’m her mama.  I want to pay fifty dollars on her bill.”

       Receptionist:  “Oh, that’s different.  What’s her date of birth?”

       I don’t know about you, but for me there is something wrong with that picture.

Dr. B

Rolling Stool Blues Revisited

March 3, 2008

        You remember my story on the rolling stools?  Today I went into room three and the thing was gone.  Now who would steal a rolling stool?  Years ago we had a very poor patient who used to steal pap smear spray (I can’t imagine what use he’d have for it) but no one had ever lifted any furniture.

       Myrd found it in room six.  A family had come in with mama for a consultation and there weren’t enough seats in the exam room, so they borrowed it from the first open room when they went down the hall.

        I’ve gotten to where there’s no reason to get upset over small things anymore.  I went in the room.  “Hey y’all, can I borrow this chair?  I’ve got a bit of an emergency over here.”  

       “Sure Dr. Bibey, no problem.  Can I help?”

         “NAP man, got it under control.”  He was happy, and I had my chair back without a fight.  All good.   As I have gotten older, I have mellowed out.  After all I have seen on this old earth there ain’t no reason to draw battle lines over trivia anymore, and I almost always have a strategy in the pocket to resolve an issue.  

        Seems like I remember my Dad saying something like, “Son, is this the worst thing that is going to happen to you today?  If so, you are a lucky boy.”  Hm.  Dad, I guess you are right. 

Dr. B

Doctoring and Mandolin Lessons

March 2, 2008

        Marfar and I did the church gig this morning.  Any time we do “Leaning” I’m good.  I am partial to the old ones.  Music with your wife is downright spiritual, I tell you.  Someone asked me if I could ever get divorced and I said, “Heck, no, I’d never find that good of a bass player again.”  Seriously though, after giving me two beautiful children she ain’t got nothing to prove to me. 

        I spent my day in study of osteoporosis, nutritional deficiency, fall risk assessment and heath care screening in the older adult.  I figure I’m closing in on that age fast myself so I’d better tuck away the information in my head before I’m over at the nursing home.  Time’s a moving on you know.

        It occurred to me if I never opened a book again most of my folks might not the difference, but I would, and that is enough to keep driving me along to improve.

        It is a lot that way on the mandolin too.  I’ll never play like Darrell, but even if never learned a new lick, I’d pick up most of the local gigs and folks would never know.  Somehow I’ve never been satisfied to do things that way.

        I’ve noticed the best musicians are like that too.  I’ve known Darrell since he was a kid, and he is about like a third young-un to me.  When he was coming along, he’d tape his shows and then sit up at night and dissect out every mistake.  He was on a constant quest to improve.  He was very good to start with but it was his motivation that took him to the next level.

        My other mandolin teacher, Ben Wayne, is like that too.  The guy has been a professional musician for two decades and yet sits down with a pot of coffee in the morning and explores some new avenue of improvement.  If he quit working at it tomorrow his job would be safe.  Most folks would never realize it, and ole Dr. B could never catch up with him.  Like a good doctor, the guy still wants to learn more, and enjoys what he does.  It shows.  Well, like they say, if you love what you do you never have to go to work for a living.

        I barter out a bit of doctoring for part of my lessons and pay for some of them too.  All told though, I spend less on improving my mandolin skills every month than I do on cable T.V.  I hardly ever watch it, and get little pleasure from it when I do.  Don’t tell my teachers, but they are a bargain.  I think we are better off for investment in our fellow human beings rather than some new gadget.

        I’d better put down my books and practice “Minor Swing” for an hour.  I don’t quite have the high harmony part down yet.  I’ve got a lesson this week and I don’t know if I’ll get another chance to play when the office cranks up.  My man might get on me if I am unprepared, so I’d better go get ready.  I’ll be back mid week. 

Dr. B

Spring Campaign Kick-off

March 1, 2008

        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