Archive for November 2008

Sam Bush

November 11, 2008

       Sam Bush has been a premier mandolinist for many years.  My guess is if you were to survey serious students of the instrument most would have Sam near the top of their hero list.

        I can’t say Sam is a personal friend, but I know him and have followed his career for years.  His old band, New Grass Revival, had a deal with Capitol Records years ago.  They toured around with Leon Russell as I recall.  All of us who followed the music felt New Grass was so progressive a lot of folks didn’t get it.  They mixed everything from bluegrass to reggae to rock ‘n roll, and were a house a fire every time I heard ’em.   For my money Sam has the best right hand rhythm of anyone on the business, and I think much of it was developed in all those years on the road with the Revival. 

         After the band split, all of them went on to front touring bands.  Sam played with the Emmy Lou Harris Hot Band and was the session mandolinist of choice for a host of recordings.  When you are the mandolin man of choice for Doc Watson, you are THE mandolin man.

         Sam came back to center stage with the Sam Bush band.  His line-up has been strong for years.  It is anchored by his old Bowling Green Kentucky high school buddy, Byron House on the bass.  I admire Sam’s loyalty, but the fact House is one of the best bass players in the country doesn’t hurt, either.  If you have never seen them catch their show.  MerleFest is his biggest venue, but don’t expect him to be able to do a lengthy meet and greet there.  At MerleFest, Sam has reached rock star status, and his autograph line is often a two hour wait.

        Visit Sam at his website or myspace as below.  He has tour dates, sound clips, pictures and more, and it is worth the visit.  As any mandolinist will tell you, Sam Bush rocks!    

Dr. B

The 1980s

November 9, 2008

        The other day I tried to remember back to the 1980s, when the Mandolin Case went on.  I realized outside of medicine and bluegrass music I knew little else of what went on in the rest of the world.

         It wasn’t like what they say about the 60s.  (“If you remember it, you weren’t there”)  We were so engrossed in our work and music we seldom sat down to take in much else.

        I’ll never forget one daylight savings spring day.  I got home before dark, and admired some trees in the yard.  When I went in the house I asked my wife how long we’d had them.

        She smiled and said, “Honey, I put those out five years ago.”

        I realized I was working too hard.  But I am proud of the fact that I didn’t neglect my wife and kids over it.  When my wife’s people were sick, I was the point man, and we nursed them along through many a crisis.  I took my children to breakfast ever Wednesday morning, though at times it was on a couple hours sleep and my face was about to nod off in my plate.  We’d ride down the road with grade school word lists to memorize.  Every time I came to a red light we’d learn a couple.  The lists and homework sheets littered my Scout which served as a mobile classroom.

        I looked up T.V. shows and movies from the 80s, and realized I missed that era.   Childhood favorites like Captain Kangaroo were winding down, and new ones like Charlie’s Angels had just cranked up.  I’d heard of a number of them from reading Newsweek, but never seen a single episode of any of them all the way through.  If there are some I missed from that time you find to be classics let me know.  When I retire I might rent a few of them and catch up.

        We weren’t against everything new, though, and took to computers right away.  We were information freaks and it didn’t take much foresight to see where that revolution was headed.  Our first one was a Commodore 64, and we upgraded on a regular basis, although to save money we would always wait till one had been out a year or two.  We were like the Army motto:  “Don’t be first in line, but don’t be last either.”  What we couldn’t figure out our kids taught us.

        Gas just crossed the dollar a gallon mark, and I’m sure we thought it outrageous, but we hardly ever left the County.  Our muscle car favorites of the 60s were on the brink of extinction.

        Medicine and bluegrass music were a different matter.  We lived and breathed both.  I still read Twain, but I bet Indie and I were the only cats around who tried to memorize both ‘The New England Journal of Medicine’ and ‘Bluegrass Unlimited.’  I wasn’t number one in the class, but I remember a lot, and always did well on Boards.  I can close my eyes and think of certain medical eras and re-create them in great detail. 

        I won’t bore you with it all, because you would never read my blog again, but back then it was Phenergan and Haldol, and Demerol was way over-used.  Medicines like Capoten were brand new.  We thought it was dangerous until we realized the initial dose recommendations were five times why we now use.  The indication for a heart cath in those days was to only send the patient when ALL measures had failed.  I remember I convinced a cardiologist it was time on one case because a new orange colored football shaped pill called Procardia failed to control my patient’s angina.

       In bluegrass, we were more players and participants than observers, and had regular jam sessions at places like Indie’s Cabin, and the Bomb Shelter.  But we did take in groups who played in the area, at least when we didn’t have a gig.  Darrell was just a kid.  We’d wait to pick up my children at school on my day off and listen to tapes of Vince Gill (‘Here Today’) who was a bluegrasser back then.  I’m sure I’m the only Doc around who learned to sing bluegrass harmony in a Middle School car line.  

        Doyle Lawson and iii Tyme Out were popular.  I got home from the hospital many a night on Wayne  Benson’s mandolin breaks.  Tony Rice redefined bluegrass guitar.  Folks still study albums like ‘Manzanita.’  Tony was a genius, and way ahead of his time.  Many a young student of bluegrass history believes the genre was created by ‘The Bluegrass Album Band.’

        A band called ‘New Grass Revival’ was revolutionary.  The mandolinist for the band, Sam Bush, still goes strong today.  His amalgam of rock, reggae and bluegrass is still one my favorite mandolin grooves in the world.

        I saw them way back then in a little dive called ‘Green Acres.’  They played a Halloween masquerade party.  Sam was a pirate, complete with a peg leg and a black patch over his right eye.  Bela Fleck went as Bela Fleck.  (He was a very serious banjo man)  I recall someone was dressed up as the Bhagwan.  The crowd hoisted him overhead and shouted “Bhagwan, Bhagwan…!”  over and over in time with the music.  We stood in the back in case the place caught on fire.  Even then we knew Sam Bush was great.

        When I learned to play, we’d put on an LP and play it over and over till the grooves wore out.  After hundreds of times of dropping the needle on a spot we’d try to memorize, the record was scratched and worn.  I’ve ruined many a classic album in my quest. 

        The eighties changed all that, and publications with instructional material such as ‘Mandolin World News’ and ‘Banjo Newsletter’ gained momentum.  Soon the computer would put all sorts of things at out fingertips- material we had gathered at flea markets and festivals for years.  It took some of the charm out of the chase, but I am still glad it came along.

        Well, I didn’t tell you anything about Dr. Bibey you didn’t know, huh?  I love my family.  I know medicine and bluegrass, and precious little else.  Tell me your memories of the 80s.  They almost certainly would be news to me, ’cause except for my little world I wasn’t there.  But as far as mine, I lived eight days a week, and wouldn’t trade the memories.

Dr. B

Martin Taylor

November 7, 2008

        You might find it strange a doctor would come to respect a bad ass plaintiff’s attorney, but in the case of Martin Taylor it is true.  Not only did I respect him, but I liked the cat.  At the same time, I was scared to death of him.  If there was ever a human being I thought could take a doctor apart in a Harvey County courtroom it would be Martin Taylor.  Indie was lucky.  By the time of the Mandolin Case, Mr. Taylor had retired.  But, whenever his son Gibson signed on as the attorney I knew it would be a tough battle.

        Martin grew up in Norfolk, Virginia.  He practiced in Chicago a while.  After his mother became elderly, he moved back home to look after her.  It didn’t matter where his law practice home base was anyway, ’cause he had cases all over the country.  He had a private pilot and flew around in a Lear Jet to tend to his business.

        In his youth he was a fine welterweight boxer, and made it all the way to Madison Square Garden.  He still retained the soul of an athlete.  As he got older he found he had to temper his competitive spirit not to flatten an  opponent just because he had the ability to do it.  Instead he channeled his energy into justice, and especially liked a spirited fight for the underdog.   Most of all he sought the truth.  One time I told him it was his only Achille’s heel. 

        “Martin,” I said.  “You have one weakness. You have to have the truth.”

        “God, Bibey.  Don’t tell anyone.  I am a lawyer, you know.”

        Even though successful boxers used their brains more than what folks know, Martin worried he might get a sucker punch, so he retired from boxing after college.  He took up golf and became a fine player- a six handicap to be exact.

        Martin Taylor was unconcerned about money, but then he had been successful enough not to have to worry.  I admire folks who use their financial freedom to take their craft to an even higher level, though, so I had no problem with that.

        Martin was 5’11 and 207 pounds.  His eyes were a dark brown.  He wore size 9C shoes.  He smoked the same COHIBA cigars as Mason Marley.  He enjoyed bluegrass and traditional music, but did not tell his colleagues.  His liked the song “It’s Done Come Time to not Know Nothing.”  His favorite movie was the CIA saga, “The Good Shepherd.”  He had me watch it and do a movie review for a law bulletin.  He read “Crime and Punishment” three times, and still watched Perry Mason reruns on the Turner Channel.

        Martin is now retired and plays golf out of the Island Club at St. Croix.  He has invited me down for some of his money games, but I have been too busy working to get there.  But if he ever ran into the right match, I’d go- Martin is a player.  One time he had a game with a cat I knew was a cheater back in high school days.  He called me for a scouting report.  It was too late for me to go play but Martin cleaned the man’s clock.  Martin Taylor is just step away from a Mafia type- best to never try and cheat a man like that.

        Another thing about Martin-  he is 100% discreet and confidential.  We are from opposite sides of the aisle, but if he were to go first, I’d take my hat off at his funeral out of respect.

        I will always believe Martin Taylor had more to do with the resolution of the Mandolin Case than what he let on.  Maybe after I retire he’ll tell me.

Dr. B

Mason Marley

November 4, 2008

        Mason Marley was blind.  She also was somewhat crippled from polio as a child, but she was up and around until middle age.  After that, a combination of post polio syndrome and arthritis wore her down, and she would up in a wheelchair.  She didn’t get out much, but a lot of folks came to see her.  If you ever meet her, whatever you do don’t call her a polio victim.  “I ain’t a victim of nothing,” she’d say.

        Mason lived on the River, a couple miles upstream from Indie’s Cabin.  To get there, go north on the bypass.  When you pass the Waffle House take a right at Harvey High, home of the Hornets.  That will put you on Lee Highway.  Follow it a mile and a half to Mason’s.  Her place is the little white frame house with the neat hedges.  Wheatie Wallenburg kept them trimmed, at least when he wasn’t in the hospital.

        I never figured out how a little blind crippled lady gathered so much intelligence, but she did.  She knew everyone.  Back then if you were to go by her place and see a white Crown Vic with N.C. Government tags, it was Wallace Walton, our State Senator.  He said he was there to check on her, but I think he came by to get advice.  Like all of us he knew Mason was discreet, and you could count on her to be confidential.  We were confident she was connected,  too, but unsure of what all her connections were.

         Mason might have been blind, but she was the best read person in the County.  She could quote Shakespeare at length.  One time Mason wrote a book on commercial real estate handicapped access regulations.  She was part of the inspiration for me to write my story.  Neuse River went out and played for the book release party at her house.  When you see a grizzled bluegrass veteran like Moose Dooley kiss a woman on the forehead, you know she is a person who has earned folk’s respect.  Mason was the only woman in town besides my daughter who my wife’d let me kiss.  She trusted her that much, and I did too.

        As far as I know Mason only got burned once.  Her book was published without the benefit of an agent.  She trusted the publisher, and then got taken adavantage of.  When I started mine she called me out to the house.  “Bibey,” she said,  “Whatever you do, don’t publish till you have an agent and a lawyer.”

        “Yes ma’am.”  It was good advice.  As a matter of fact, Mason did the background check on my agent.  After her stamp of approval, I shook hands on the deal.  She said he was clean, and you can take Mason for her word.

        Mason often wore our Neuse River T-shirt.  She loved costume jewelry and logo sweat shirts, but on weekends and holidays she always put on a string of pearls.  I guess it is odd for a Doc to say about his patient, but is spite of the fact she was elderly and gray-haired, I swear the woman in pearls exuded sex appeal.  Maybe it was because she had so much soul.

         Besides bluegrass music she also dug classical, especially anything by Beethoven.  She drank Pabst Blue Ribbon, but sometimes OBAN if she had company.  She favored COHIBA cigars, and somehow could get the real Cuban ones with the La Habana band.  I knew they were illegal in the U.S., and asked how she came about them.  She said, “GK, Bibey,” which meant General Knowledge.

        At the time of the Mandolin Case, Mason was 68 years old.  She was 5′ 3′ but looked shorter because she was in a wheelchair.  Even though I was her Doc I never knew her weight ’cause she wouldn’t tell me.  Her hair was gray, but had been strawberry blond, and she still had some wisps of color, but she didn’t dye it.  Her eyes were green.  Her favorite movie was the ‘Ten Commandments.’  She read all kinds of literature.  Hamlet was her favorite.  It made her mad when old Lady Hamlett sued Indie over he sister’s lost mammogram report.  She said it wasn’t but a few months and the delay didn’t change the course of Sissy’s breast cancer.  She was right, but Indie settled for a small amount ’cause he felt sorry for Sissy- she had been slow since birth.

        Mason was right about a lot of things.  I suspect she was influential in the Mandolin Case, but I’m not sure all the ways she intervened, and she never did tell me.  Mason was the kind to only tell you she wanted you to know, but she always told me what I needed to know.  I was very confident in her intuition, and when she told me to take her word for it, I did.  If you were to move to Harvey County, I would tell you to make friends with her right away.  You can trust Mason, and she is a good friend to have.

        She has been retired as long as I’ve known her.  I never did figure out what she did for a living.  I asked her one time, but she never told me. 

Dr. B

Betty Wallendorf

November 2, 2008

        All y’all who’ve read my blog a long time know I have all respect for women.  I had a wonderful Mom who saw to it I had whatever I needed to grow up.  She let me play baseball and golf, but she also took me to the library every week.  She was an English teacher, so what little bit of culture I have is from the way she talked every day.  She was my first music influence, too.  When we had birthday parties she’d play the piano.  I was impressed.  I do think it worried her when I took up guitar, though.  She was afraid I might turn into a Beatle.

        I was lucky enough to marry good, and now I’m growing old with the same woman who somehow manages to stay young.  She gave me two fine children and the mandolin I play every day.  How could a man ask for anything else?

        I have a daughter I not only love, but respect, and I’ve worked along side of twelve women for more than two decades.  I get along with them just fine.  So, I don’t see how Betty Wallendorf could make a case I’m against women.  But she might try to.

        I put off this post a long time.  My dear mom used to say if you couldn’t talk nice about someone not to talk about them at all.  I thought about Betty Wallendorf at length, and decided to tell you about her anyway.  I figured if y’all were gonna read the story you deserved to know the truth.  But I have to say- I hope mama doesn’t read this.

        Betty had a motto.  I heard her say it in Sunday School class myself, so I know it for a fact.  She bragged she was the one who came up with it too.  She’d say, “There only two things that matter in life- Money and Sex.  If you have one, you can get the other.”

        I guess I could stop there, ’cause that says what you need to know about Betty Wallendorf.  She was that shallow.

        I didn’t know until some time back that Blinky was a fine baseball player when he was a young man.  He got hit in the head with a wild pitch right about when the Braves were gonna sign him.  He became a mechanic.  Betty didn’t have any use for him after that.  I don’t know why- he was one of the best ones in town.

        Whenever Blinky’d get real sick, she’d leave him at Indie’s office and tell him to call her when he got out of the hospital.  Sometimes I thought Blink would be better off if she hadn’t come to pick him up .

        Betty lived by her sex and money mantra, but she never acted funny towards me.  Maybe she thought I’d run her down, or perhaps it was ’cause my Marie is a black belt in karate and would jerk a knot in her neck.  Better she deal with Marie than my Marfar.  She’d a killed the woman.

        Like I told you before, Betty did make a pass at Indie once, and he flat turned her down.  Made her mad too.

        I will give her one thing.  When she was young, at least according to Indie, Betty Wallendorf was one more good looking woman.  She is now 5′ 3″ and 185 pounds, but Indie says she was 118 when she was 21.  She was a petite woman who wore size 7 1/2 AAA shoes and a size 2 dress back then.  Her hair is brunette, but Janie the Beauty Operator dyes it to keep it her old color.  He eyes are blue, and they are still striking.  I’ll bet she was a knock-out as a young woman.

        Her favorite song was always “We’re in the Money,” and her actress is Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman.”  She read part of Michener’s Hawaii, but didn’t finish it.  You won’t be surprised to learn she enjoys “Sex in the City,” and “Desperate Housewives.”

        Not long ago, the Preacher gave a sermon I liked.  I remember he said with God a little bit of righteousness goes a long way.

        I’m gonna pray about it and ask for forgiveness, but I can’t think of much righteous or good about Betty Wallendorf.  When I do, I’ll post on it right away.

        For now, though, I need to go take in the church service.  Betty was  mean woman, but I feel bad to be so harsh towards her.  I’m gonna go pray for forgiveness, ’cause I don’t believe in grudges, and they ain’t good for you anyway.

        Come to think of it, I like to think redemption is one of the themes of my story.  None of us are perfect.  All we can do is our best, then ask forgiveness for the rest of it.  And that’s what I am gonna do today.

        Talk to y’all first of the week.

Dr. B