Archive for October 2008

Bluegrass Pick of the Week- Kristin Scott Benson, “Second Season”

October 31, 2008

        O.K.  For you folks outside the bluegrass world, I’m gonna let you in on a secret.  Kristin Scott Benson might be a young lady, but chuck the stereotypes.  This woman can play a banjo.  But don’t just take my word for it.  If J.D. Crowe and Sonny Osborne (‘Rocky Top’) say someone is a player, you can count on the fact they are.  Neither has ever been known for false praise, and both have attested to her abilities.  Indeed, she was the 2008 IBMA banjo player of the year, so I am not telling you a thing her colleagues don’t know.

        Kristen’s new CD, ‘Second Season,’ is a mixture of up-tempo banjo pieces, fiddle tunes, and Irish numbers.  It is mostly instrumentals (great road music) but there are four vocal numbers with lead singing by band leaders Larry Stevenson and Larry Cordle.  (of Highway Forty Blues fame)  Kristin and her bluegrass pal Sally Jones add nice harmony work.  The banjo numbers are the highlight, though.  Kristin can burn up a breakdown or play with a woman’s soft touch few men can duplicate.  Check out her composition, ‘Far Enough Away.’ 

        She hired the best too.  I especially like David Grier’s guitar work.  He is a favorite.  And Wayne Benson was the only logical choice on the mandolin.  Not only is he a great player with multiple awards, but he happens to be Ms. Benson’s spouse.  (He once joked from the stage his fee was based on ‘the husband rate.’ )

        Maybe I am a bit prejudiced, but I always like to see a young lady who can break through in a man’s world.  Maybe it is ’cause I am so proud of my daughter.  Sonny Osborne had similar sentiments, and said in the liner notes if he had a daughter, he’d want her to be like Kristin.  I agree.  She is talent, a fine wife and mother, and one hell of a banjo man.  Y’all pick up her CD.  You’ll dig it.

Dr. B


My Perfect Day

October 29, 2008

        Maybe there is something wrong with me, but I am a very simple man.  I hear folks talk about snorkel dives in Aruba, Vegas slot machines, or fancy cars, and I have to admit I’m too busy at home to take all that in.

        I read one time that Arnold Palmer had a golf game with a guest at his home club in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  It was a one of those early fall days- crisp sweater weather but not too cold.  Arnold turned to the fellow and said, (paraphrased) “You know, I’ve been all around the world, but I’m just as happy to be here at Latrobe as anywhere.  This is a perfect day for golf.”  One thing about Arnie- he was world class, but didn’t get above his raising and forget his roots.  I admire that.

        I’ll never amount to what Arnie did, but I can identify with his sentiment.  My perfect day would be to see my favorite patients till lunch, play golf in the afternoon with Jacob and the choose-up boys, then eat supper with my family.   I’d say grace and be thankful for the good fortune that my people live in peace the way we do. Then I’d check in with my blog pals and write a few words about my day.  After that, I’d get together with Darrell and Summer, Moose and Warbler and all the gang and pick bluegrass music till two o’clock in the morning.  The next day I’d get up and do the same thing again.  I guess I am boring, but that is what I’d do if had to walk the green mile tomorrow.

        What would y’all do on your perfect day?  Write and let me know.

Dr. B


October 27, 2008

        Tag was the lawyer assigned to Indie’s case.  Her real name was Lucille Taggert, but Indie nicknamed her Tag, and it stuck.  When she first showed up at his office Indie did a double take, excused himself, and called me.

        “God almighty, Bibey.  They’ve done sent me one of the Bobsie twins.  I’m doomed.”  Tag was indeed young.  With her freckles and red hair she coulda passed for Little Orphan Annie in the school play.  All she lacked was to pull her hair back in pig-tails, but she wore a modern cut like what you’d see on cover of the Ladies magazines at the office.

        It was a no-nonsense look that fit.  When Tag opened up her briefcase and went to work, she was no kid, but a serious woman.  At the same time, she had grown up in the country and understood Indie better than most city folks. 

        When Indie’d get mad and cuss Tag would say, “Now Indie, I know you feel that way, but you gotta talk like your mama’d want you to.”  She knew horses and Indie won a few bets in the Derby based on her advice.

         Indie could be an emotional sort, and it worked out best to have a lady lawyer.  I think some high powered man mighta laughed at him.  Then all those bluegrass boys in Harvey County woulda beaten the guy up and Indie’d been in worse trouble than what he was to start with.  

        Tag could be be emotional too, though not as much as Indie.  She kept it in check most of the time.  When she did get mad though, she could send those male lawyers running for cover.  Jackson Leggett, the lawyer for Harvey Memorial made some comments about Indie’s character as to his relationship with little Molly, and it was a lie.  Well, Tag went right over to their headquarters and cussed ’em out.   They issued a formal statement of apology in a half hour. 

         Poor Indie spent a lot days just plum pissed off, and it was Tag who could get him outside the case.  “It’s just a thing, Indie,” she’d say.  “Something to work through.”  Tag knew all the bluegrass sayings, and could talk turkey with Indie ’cause of it.  Sure, it was a business to her, but she understood even though Indie was a rough sort, the Mandolin Case hurt his feelings.  After all, Blinky was his best friend, and in his heart he never believed he had done wrong.

        All you lady readers are gonna dig Tag.  She was plenty feminine, but she made her way in the world on toughness.  Who said women couldn’t fight?  In a war of ideas and words, I’d want Tag on my team any day.  Indie later went back and apologized to her for his first impression.  “Young lady, you’re tougher than a pine knot.  My hat’s off to you.”

        “For heaven’s sake Indie, don’t take off that cap.  The reflection of the sun’ll hurt my eyes,”  she said.

        “Shut the hell up, Tag.”  They both laughed.

        She and Indie talked like that to each other.  Folks who didn’t know them thought they were disrespectful.  I’m sure my readers know better.  

        Tag busted right through the glass ceiling and went to the top of the heap, and it was all on merit- she was Physician’s Liability’s top gun, and the first woman to be an ace for the company.  At first Indie thought she was a rookie cause of her youth, but he apologized.  Tag laughed and said it wouldn’t be the last time.  Besides, in her line of work she found it best to be underestimated, and to look young and innocent was a strategic advantage. 

        When we looked back, we were sure Physician’s Liability sent her ’cause she was a seasoned veteran.  Tag was the one they’s send when they were worried.  They knew the Mandolin Case would be a long slog right from the get go.

        Freckled, red haired, Tag was 5’9″ and 125 pounds.  She had hazel eyes and a smile ’bout like Mona Lisa when she had the goods on someone.  Picture Renee Zellweger with freckles and you’ve got it.  She was educated at Chapel Hill, both undergrad and law school, and did medical/legal defense work throughout her career.

        Her favorite T.V. show was Andy, so me and her got along good.  She loved Indie’s version of the fiddle tune ‘Rag Time Annie’- Indie said she looked like a little rag doll- but she was woman enough not to take offense.  Tag was a Southern girl, and loved ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Steel Magnolias.”  She’d cry in the same places every time and warn’t ashamed of it.  And she shouldn’t a been – Tag was one more tough young-un. 

        She grew up around horses and still knew how to ride, so it was easy for her to get to know Molly Tenbrooks in a hurry.  By the end of the Mandolin Case, she and Indie bet on the ponies on a regular basis.  Half the time they gave each other IOUs, and at the end Indie owed her $57.23.  He paid up right away.  Said it was the best investment he ever made.

        Tag loved the Beatles, and also Doc Watson.  She came to love Bill Monroe too after she got to know me and Indie.  After hanging out in Harvey County for a few years, she was just one of the guys, and won our eternal respect.

        Tag is one of the great stories of the Mandolin Case.  Old men should never be prejudiced.  A young woman can teach ’em a few things about the world if they’ll listen.  Indie could be stubborn, but he respected Tag.  When she spoke he paid attention.

        It’s a good thing he did.  In the Mandolin Case, Indie needed all the help he could get.

Dr. B

Wheatie Wallenburg

October 25, 2008

        Wheatie Wallenburg was a junkie.  At the time of the Mandolin Case he was middle aged, and on towards elderly.  Demerol was his drug of choice, and all the Docs in town knew it.  Wheatie got his name ’cause he loved the Breakfast of Champions cereal.  His usual breakfast was a bowl of Wheaties, a bag of barbecued potato chips, and a cigar.  Indie told him it was too many browns, but he couldn’t get Wheatie to change.

        Indie was his Doc, and I took care of Wheatie what little bit of time Indie was gone.  Wheatie was a house painter and yard man, and took pride in his work.  No one trimmed shrubs as neat as Wheatie Wallenburg.

        I don’t know how Wheatie got hooked on Demerol.  It was a long time ago.  I do know he was an ex-Marine and was in the first wave to land on Iwo Jima.  He didn’t talk about it much, but one night I made rounds at the hospital and some old war movie was on.  Wheatie just sat there and cried. 

        He only opened up to me on the subject once.  When you hear a man talk about how he’d spread sand on a boat deck in anticipation of combat so he wouldn’t slip on the blood of his buddies…..  well after those stories I never could find it in me to be too judgemental of Wheatie.  He lived through hell so I could live in peace the way I saw it.

        One time the State Board got after Indie and insisted he send Wheatie to rehab.  Indie thought it was a mistake to do that, and I agreed, but the Board threatened to yank Indie’s license so he complied.

        The second night there Wheatie asked for his Demerol.  And the way he told me, he was polite about it.  When the attendant refused, Wheatie hit the man over the head with a Thunderbird wine bottle.  The guy had to have stitches, and filed assault charges.  Ted David got it reduced to probation.

        We knew rehab was a mistake from the get go.  Wheatie had flash-backs and thought he was in a brig.  When you’ve been stabbed in the shins with a machete for begging for water, I can see how a man would think that way.  

        Wheatie in rehab was a wild animal in a cage, and both Indie and I knew it’d be that way.  It is hard for a guy who wears a suit and issues periodic pontifications to understand a cat like Wheatie Wallenburg.

        Wheatie came home and life returned to normal.  He’d check in the hospital twice a month for his Demerol, and Indie’d give it to him.  At first the Medical Board complained every so often, but at Christmas Indie’d write and tell them of Wheatie’s troubles.  He’d close and ask if any of them would kindly look after him.  After a couple of years the letters were returned to sender. 

        Even though Wheatie drank cheap wine he couldn’t be bought for any price.  He said me and Indie were the only folks from that side of town who paid him any mind, and he never forgot it.  Mason Marley was on a fixed income but paid him for his yard work upon completion.  At the end of the month, Indie’d find an odd job for Wheatie whether he needed it done or not.  Wheat worked one day for Jim Olden years ago, but he stiffed him, so Wheatie didn’t go back.  Olden was lucky Wheatie didn’t break his knees.

        One time Wheatie saw they were gonna have a ballet at Sandhills.  He begged me and Marfar to drive him over there, and we did.  He sat in the back seat on the way home and never spoke till I pulled up in the driveway.  “Thanks, Doc.  That’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my life.”  At first I though Wheatie was just taken by the picture of the girl in the paper- she had quite a set of legs- but I’m sure he was touched by the performance.  Poor Wheatie.  I wonder how his life would have been if he’d grown up picking the mandolin intead of picking out machine gun nests full of young men to blow up.

        Wheatie was 5’8″ and 165 pounds.  I told him he would put on some weight if he quit smoking, but he didn’t buy into the idea.  He wore 10 1/2 DD shoes.  He lost a couple toes from frostbite one winter, and his feet were flat.  He said they had been all his life, but somehow he hid it from the recruiters when he volunteered.

         Indie taught Wheatie enough bass guitar to where he could get by, and he sat in on some jam sessions at the Cabin.  His favorite was ‘That Good Old Mountain Dew,” and he was proud he could play or sing it in any key.  He did not read much.  His T.V show was ‘Mr. Ed.’  He thought a talking  horse was hilarious.  When someone said it was too silly Wheatie scowled and said he’d had all the serious he wanted in the Pacific.  They didn’t bring it up again.  He liked ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’  He would leave the room if someone turned the channel to a war movie.

        Indie said we should accept Wheatie for what he was, and besides that Wheatie left his life on Iwo Jima.  Indie respected everyone for what they were, and I tried my best to be like Indie on that.  

        You will enjoy more on Wheatie in the Mandolin Case.  He might only be a yard man and a Demerol junkie with no education, but he was a big help.  I need to take him back to the Ballet.  He liked that.

Dr. B

Bluegrass CD Pick of the Week- Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice

October 24, 2008

        A reader named Billy suggested I begin to compile a list of favorite discs.  I thought it was a great idea and it inspired a new category- bluegrass pick of the week.  I would love the input of my readers on this one.  Tell me about your favorite bluegrass CDs and why you like them.  Rate it on a five star system, with five being tops.  I look forward to hearing of your personal favorites.  They do not have to be nationally known groups, but it is fine if they are too.

        Here is  my first pick of the week.  The Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice Quintet played at the Art of Sound festival last weekend.  I recommend their CD, ‘I’ll Go With You,’ at five stars in the bluegrass gospel category.

        Brooke’s voice is clear and pre-protools perfect.  She enunciates every word with clarity and sings with emotion.  Darin is a great singer too, and his harmonies are blended and phrased with her vocals to perfection .  Aldridge is a mando tone monster.  The instrumentation is flawless- they are bluegrass virtuosos.   

        Pinecastle Records struck a lick with this one.  I suspect the project will be nominated for Bluegrass gospel recording of the year and female vocalist of the year at the IBMA awards in Nashville in 2009.

        Y’all tell me of your favorites, both new and old.  I’ll list ’em all here, and feature some every week.

Dr. B.

Molly Tenbrooks

October 22, 2008

        Other than her Mom and Dad, I’ve known Molly longer than anyone in the world.  I was her doctor in the newborn nursery, and about half raised the child.  I saw her through grade school, cheer-leading and college.  She married Johnathan, her high school sweetheart.  I wasn’t as close as her Dad- he gave her away, but if she’d had a best man I guess I’d been it after her father.  We went to the wedding, and my wife bought them a real nice little silver platter at Belk’s.

        At the time of the Mandolin Case, Molly was in her twenties, but she looked like a teenager.  She was 5’2″ and 118 pounds, a tousle-haired brunette with dark eyes and olive skin.  I thought she was almost as pretty as my wife was in our engagement picture.

        Molly loved motorcycles.  She and Johnny used to ride Indie’s Indian Motorbike when they were in High School.  Some folks tried to make out like the relationship between Molly and Indie wasn’t right.  That was not just a lie, but a damn lie.  I was beyond angry when they tried to advance that argument.  In the Mandolin Case,  Molly turned out to be very important to Indie.  He said it was most unusual for such a young woman to help save an old man, but she sure did.

          Molly was just a kid, and an unlikely heroine, but she was determined.  There is a part of the story that hurts.  She suffered some abusive behavior from one person- you’ll understand when you read the book- but she was able to overcome.  Whenever she bowed up to help Indie it was part of how she healed.  She might be just a young’un, but I have all admiration for her.  She was strong beyond her years.

        Molly’s favorite actress was Julia Roberts, but her movie choice was ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’  Her favorite song was Molly and Tenbrooks (no surprise there) and she would ask Indie to do a fiddle kick-off every time we played it.  A lady named Tag got her hooked on the Beatles and classic rock ‘n roll.  Her favorite T.V. show was ‘C.S.I.’ and she liked ‘House’ too.  House reminded her a little of Indie, but she thought he took the character a bit too far.

         Tough as the child was, her taste in books was young and feminine.  She liked ‘Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables.’  Her favorite blog is The Lit Connection.  It is on my blogroll.

        Molly loved horses, bluegrass and Bill Monroe, so her name was quite appropriate.  The song her parents named her for, Molly and Tenbrooks, was about a turn of the last century horse race.  (I think in Kentucky)  She was athletic too, and played basketball and ran track in high school.

        Molly moved up North after high school, and returned there after the Mandolin Case was over.  As I began to write up the story, I realized she hasn’t been back to Harvey County for the last four or five years.  I’d love to see her again; she was a favorite patient.

        I’ll close with the words to Bill Monroe’s song, and send the words out to my little friend Molly Tenbrooks.  All the best to ya, kid.

        ‘Run ole Molly Run, Run ole Molly run.”

        “Tenbrooks gonna beat you you in the bright shining sun.”

        Ain’t no one ever gonna beat you, Molly.  You’re as tough a young lady as I ever ran into and I’m proud to have known you.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Part Three- Mike Marshall

October 20, 2008

        On Sunday afternoon, Mike Marshall put on a concert with the Shelby High School Orchestra.  Schools used to do these things.  In fact, at the turn of the century, (the 20th that is) there were even mandolin orchestras all over the country. 

        It was an interesting mix.  Marshall grew up in bluegrass, but had a teacher early on who insisted on formal music theory and the ability to read music.  Because of that, he was able to teach these kids from both perspectives.  They not only did a Vivaldi Concerto, and a Concert Piece in G composed by Mr. Marshall, but learned to improvise and play bluegrass and other traditional music. 

        As Mike put it, music is like the wind.  It knows no borders or divisions, and blows freely across any artificial boundaries.   I liked the concept.  And I was moved not only by his virtuoso performance, but his ability to communicate with these high school kids and bring out the best in them.  If you have a child in high school orchestra, give consideration to a weekend with Mike Marshall.  For the kids I talked to it was an experience they’ll never forget.

        I was touched by his performance and went to speak to him.

        “Hi, I’m Tommy Bibey.”  We shook hands.

        “Yeah, we met the other night.  Good to see you.”  He looked me in the eye.  “You do have one blue eye and one green one.”

        “Yep.  It’s me.  Blue and green for bluegrass, I guess.  Thanks for working with these kids.  I’m an old mandolin guy.  I sense before you are done our favorite instrument is gonna make a comeback.”  I envisioned mandolin orchestra in my hometown.  “I hope you get there.”  

        “Thanks, Bibey.  I’m gonna try.”

        “My agent says there are only a few truths that have stood the test of time.  To me music is one of ’em, and the mandolin is at the top of my list.”

        “Me too, Bibey.  Good luck in your travels.”

        “Same to you, Mike.”  We shook hands and parted ways, but I am sure we have not seen the last of each other.  It is always good to make a new mandolin friend, and Mike Marshall is talented beyond my understanding.  There is much I can learn from him in my quest.

Dr. B