Chinese Bluegrass

        We had dinner guests over tonight.  My wife was a bit nervous because the father of the family was the best Chinese chef in the County.  I told her it wouldn’t matter, good cooking was universal.  I was right- they loved her southern barbecued chicken.

        Marfar has tutored their little boy for a couple of years now.  At first he had a time with the language barrier, but now he’s at the top of the class.  I’ve taught him a little golf- he says he is gonna be the Chinese Tiger Woods- and of course I’ve shown him some bluegrass.  He adopted the American name of Earl.  The kid has good taste.  He is enthralled with Scruggs style banjo.

       After supper he and I watched some Old Lester and Earl tapes that have been re-mastered onto DVD.  His Dad fixed the dessert- mango  and Thailand sticky rice with coconut milk poured over the top- good stuff I tell ya.  

        We played a bit of music and traded some stories about our respective homelands.  I played a few bars of Chinese Breakdown on the mandolin.  I have no idea if the tune came from China or not but they dug it.  No one will ever convince me music ain’t the universal language.  We sent ’em home with some chicken, Marfar’s best friendship bread and a few bottles of Arnold Palmer Half and Half, and they gave us the sticky rice and mango.

        If a decade or two from now you run into a Chinese young man named Earl ask him if he knows Marfar and Tommy Bibey, and tell him his Dad’s sticky rice is the best.  He’ll smile real big and you will be instant friends. 

        And if you run into him on the golf course I wouldn’t bet against him.  In both music and golf, the ones who start out young are tough.

Dr. B

Explore posts in the same categories: bluegrass characters, memorable gigs


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12 Comments on “Chinese Bluegrass”

  1. Cindy Carter Says:

    Well, the boy has already embraced his “Southern” home if he has chosen the name Earl. Earl sounds like a good ole boy name anyway. I have a cousin named Earl. But, he has red hair and freckles….

    As far as music. You and I both know that music is the universal language. It can calm even the savage heart. Every culture in the world has its own type of music.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    Tis true. I find it interesting that much of the Oriental music is based on the pentatonic scale. In bluegrass mandolin the pentatonic scale is the ultimate ‘fake-out method.’ If you get lost you can run pentatonic scales and look like you know what you are doing when in reality you don’t.

    None of that works in doctoring though- no fake out method will rescue a man who doesn’t know his business.

    Dr. B

  3. Susan Shay Says:

    Dr T–
    Did he take his name from that Dixie Chicks song, “Earl’s Gotta Die?”


  4. Karen Says:

    Oh Dr B…you took me straight back about 10 years when I went to Thailand to visit a girlfriend who was working over there. Sticky rice is the best! It tastes so good it’s bound to be bad for you…

  5. drtombibey Says:

    Ms Susan,

    That’s a good one, but he picked it up for his love Earl Scruggs style banjo. The kid is gonna be a player.

    Dr. B

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms Karen,

    Ain’t it the truth? I never heard of sticky rice till last night, but I am sure I’m not gonna ever forget it. He said over there they steam it in big bamboo baskets.

    Dr. B

  7. pandemonic Says:

    Mmmm… I’m still smacking my lips over the thought of home cooked chicken! I wish I could have some right now…

    As you saw there, our culture is really not so different from another. It just takes a mutual sharing and friendship to make it work.

    I’m thinking Dr. B for president, if not, then at least you should hold a cabinet position as Secretary of Defense, Bluegrass Corps!


  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Pande,

    If I had to choose a last meal, Marfar’s BBQ chicken would be high on the list.

    And you are right- everyone is the same everywhere when you get right down to it.

    I guess I’d be lousy politician. I’d put up all the weapons, make music lessons mandatory, and doctor and pick all the time.

    Dr. B

  9. Brian Barker Says:

    I think there should be a spoken Universal Language as well.

    Check if you have time.

    Otherwise ?

  10. drtombibey Says:


    Sometimes I think the difficulty in comunications has led to a bunch of our troubles.

    Dr. B

  11. mrschili Says:

    Mmmmm – it all sounds so yummy! Now you’ve got me in the mood for my rice pudding!

    I think that music IS universal – as is dancing and smiling. We really are all the same being – if we would only start treating each other that way, we’d solve all of our problems.

  12. drtombibey Says:


    You are so right. If the world spent as much effort and fortune trying to help each other as we do trying to kill folks I wonder where we’d be.

    Dr, B

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