Neuse River at K.T.’s Archery and Radiator
Last month we played at K.T’s Archery and Radiator. I guess you might wonder why a doctor would spend his off nights picking bluegrass mandolin in the back of a radiator shop for tips, but I have played these kind of gigs a long time, and it is second nature.
K.T.’s is a standard bluegrass venue. The creaky wood floors need to be refinished, and there is a popcorn machine K.T. bought at auction when they closed the old County Star theatre. It still has the same logo- “Popcorn- 10 cents,” but K.T. charges a dollar now so as to cover the light bill. You don’t have to ask him to put on the butter, it comes with it. A big red rectangular Co-Cola metal cooler sits in the corner. In it, there are green glass bottle sody-dopes on ice. The bottle opener is on the side of the box along with a place to put your money in on the honor system. A ceiling fan wobbles overhead, and in the winter they crank up a wood stove to knock off the chill. Once all the people get in, it warms up the rest of the way.
We booked the gig and then Simpkins, our bass player, had to be out of town. Ed “Lightening” Littlerod is in a gospel band nowadays, and most of his work is on Sundays so we covered the bass easy enough, but then the Warbler’s grandmother died, and he had to miss. She had been sick while and it was expected. Warb needed to be with his family but wanted us to go on, so I called Darrell. He was off that night and agreed to cover as lead singer and guitar man even though the gig was way below his normal pay scale. God bless the boy, you gotta admire loyalty. I am sure he came just to bail out ole Dr. B. Good friends are my number one asset in this old world.
We warmed up in the front office. Darrell had gone out to survey the crowd and said he thought this was a group that would dig Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys so we’d best not stray too far from tradition. We scratched out a set list of standards and rehearsed where we thought the trouble spots might be for a half hour, then it was show time.
Darrell has a sixth sense about bluegrass people and places. One time we went to a gig in Knoxville, Tennessee. This was long before the days of GPS. All we know what the street it was on, but had no address. I went north, but Darrell said to turn back the other direction; we didn’t seem to be in the bluegrass part of town. We turned the Scout south and after a while came up on an old church. Sure enough it had been converted into a bluegrass venue. I asked how he knew and he said he’d played so many shows in so many towns it looked like the right place.
Darrell was right about this crowd, too. They dug it. The highlight for me was our twin mandolin work on “Daybreak in Dixie,” even if it did demonstrate why Darrell is a pro and I need to go back to the office come Monday morning. Man is he a clean player. Harmony work with him and Lightening was a breeze for this old part singer, too. Much like singing in the shower as the stars blare away on the stereo, these boys make you sound better than what you are.
The ever reliable Moose put in his usual fine banjo performance, as did Stroker on the guitar. All in all it was a fine show. Like Warb said, the show must go on, and I thought the boys saved the day for Neuse River. I was most appreciative.
We took Darrell out to supper and caught up on his latest projects and still got home in time to catch a few hours sleep before our Sunday morning church gig. It might sound like a strange life to ya’ll but it is standard fare for us, and what we do.