Archive for March 2009

A Swimming Pool of Lemonade

March 31, 2009

        I went to visit Indie last night.  He is near the end.  I hate to see him that way, but as always he is unconcerned.

       “Bibey old boy, I saw a lot of hard times.  I appreciate you seeing me through.”

       “You always stuck by me too man.”

        “You know, we saw a lot of tragedy, but I had a blessed life.  If there was ever a Doc who played more music and had more fun than me, I’m happy for ’em.”

        “I don’t think there was, Indie.  That’s why I had to write the book.  I wanted to show people how you dealt with adversity.”

        “Yeah well I didn’t drink that much.”

         “I didn’t mean that.”

         Indie motioned towards Barney the skeleton. “Check his brain, Bibey.”

        I opened the skull cap.  “No Jim Beam?”

       “Ran out.  Just wanted to prove to you I could get by without him here at the end.  How bout pouring me up an Arnold Palmer?”

       “Half sweet tea, half lemonade?”


         I poured him a cup and he sipped a bit.  “Damn, Bibey.  Almost as good a friend as Jimmy Beam.”

        “Just like you Indie.  You were dealt some bad luck at time. You always did make lemons out of lemonade.”

       “Hell Bibey.  I’m doing the backstroke in a swimming pool of it.”

         “You’re right.  You’re the best at I ever saw.  Hey just in case, though, I’m gonna restock Barney.”

        “Son, you always were my favorite.  I’ll never forget you.”

        “I ain’t ever gonna forget you either Indie.  Matter of fact, I’m gonna be sure no one does.”

        He laughed.  “You keep splashing in the lemonade swimming pool after I’m gone, boy.”

       “Yes sir.”

        Somehow I went to work today.  It’s what Indie woulda done.

        Dr. B


Lonely Ain’t Allowed- the Bluegrass Way

March 29, 2009

        I just got in off  ‘the road.’  How my friends do it on a regular basis is beyond me.  We didn’t have far to go at all, and we are tired.  Still, we had a fine time of it.

         John Hartford used to say bluegrass was America’s last small town.  Everyone knows everyone, and you don’t have to lock your doors.  I always did like John, and I think he was right.

        We went to Lorraine Jordan’s Carolina Road festival this weekend, and John thoughts came to mind.  Lorraine is a successful business woman, but she also maintains a regular band.  They play most weekends.  In spite of that schedule she shakes and howdys with folks like she’s got all day.  It’s the bluegrass way.

          We don’t allow lonely in bluegrass.  If you know three chords and have a guitar and a capo you can join in.  You’ll learn the unspoken etiquette.  The inner circle will be red hot young’uns like Josh Goforth, or silky singers like Jerry Butler.  Guys like Doc here have been around so long they get to hang in there too.  (But I’d better not give up my day job.  These guys are good.) 

        Even the beginners are encouraged to participate.  If it is a real hot session that might play on the periphery till they get their feet wet, but they are more than welcome.

        All that is required is to love the music.  One fellow might be a mechanic, the next a teacher, then maybe a business person like Lorraine or an English Professor.  The bluegrass crowd is so equal opportunity they even will let a stuffy old Doc in the mix.    

        Many times in my career people have asked how I have maintained my serenity.  After all, in my line of work friends get cancer and folks die.  I can take it to heart and I fret over all of them. 

        My answer has been the same for many years. First, the Good Lord hasn’t just been my copilot; He’s my Captain.  It was not possible to stay out of trouble as a Doc all these years without a lot of prayers to come up with the right answers.  I don’t believe it was just luck.  Heck even Tom Bailey from med school days wasn’t that smart, and I know I’m not.  (Wish I was, though)

         Second I was blessed with a fine family.  My wife and kids are the best, and have put up with a bizarre schedule over the years.

         But today I want to make sure you know that my music has played a large role in keeping me sane.  (I hear ya, who said you were, Doc?)  The only way I know to thank all my friends in bluegrass is to keep on promoting them until they are least as big as NASCAR, and that is what I am gonna do.

        I opened a FaceBook account this weekend, and I was astounded how many old music friends I was able to contact in 24 hours.  Some I hadn’t picked a note with in a decade.  We took up right where we’d left off just like you would an old college roommate. 

        So, if you have even a remote interest in traditional music, or just want to learn about a good group of people, I hope you’ll take a look at modern bluegrass.  Tell ’em old Doc Bibey sent ya.  Most of them know me at least a little.  C0me shake and howdy.  In bluegrass lonely ain’t allowed.

Dr. B

A Face Made for Radio (My Facebook Page)

March 28, 2009

        My agent has been after me forever to start a Facebook Page.  For a long time, I never got around to it.  “Awh, heck boss, my people know where to find me.”

        He persisted.  “Come on, Doc.  Are you gonna insist on being a Neanderthal forever?  You use new meds don’t you?”

        “Well, yeah, but that’s different.  Even in medicine, I want to be like in the Army.  I don’t want to be first in line, but I don’t want to be last either.”

        “In this case you better hurry up.  You might be the last writer on the planet not on Facebook.”

        “Really?  Say it is that big?”

        “Trust me.”

        I’ve spent my whole life as a Doc and a bluegrass picker, and had no idea where to start.  One day I mentioned it to a little friend of mine, a bluegrass fiddler, and she said, “Good Lord have mercy, Doc.  We can set that up faster than Moose Dooley can pick the Bluegrass Breakdown.”

         And that is how it came to be.  She was brilliant.  Why with a few keystrokes, she pulled up names I knew from years back.

        “Look here, kid.  I picked with this cat when he played with Knoxville Grass.  Why that has been twenty-five years.  And check this out, this lady here has written tunes for Alison Krauss.  Hey I met that guy at Galax.  Lord can he flat pick a guitar.  This dobro man; mercy!” 

         Page after page came up. Along the way, I had played a note or two or at least knew every one of them.

        “You know what kid?  By the time old Doc  is through bluegrass is gonna be on the brain of every school child in America.”

        She smiled and shook her head.  “Doc, you do love the music, don’t you?”

        “Yeah boy.  Hey, check this one out.  You talk about a fiddler…..”

        My agent was right. (again)  This Facebook is gonna be the ticket.

Dr. B

The Ten Year Rule

March 26, 2009

        After my last post a reader sent me a note they enjoyed the discussion on the path to expertise, so I thought I’d follow up on the subject.

        I believe in the ten year rule.  (No, this is not related to shifts in political power.)  The ten year rule refers to the idea that competence in any discipline takes time.  If you want to transform yourself, you have to vizualize what you want to be decade from now.  Often folks give up before they start.  There are many nice guitars bought for Christmas that wind up in the closet by Easter.

        For me it was true in golf, for the mandolin, and even more so in medicine.  As a writer, I have been at in since 2000.  All indications are I will get my book out there in 2010, so it looks like it might hold up yet again.

        Kids are not as self conscious as adults.  When you are twelve and a bad fiddler, no one cares.  In fact, it often seems cute.  Sometimes people are not as charitable towards adults.  And grownups are harder on themselves than kids will be in regards to the learning curve.  For some reason, I was always willing to cut myself some slack.  My daughter always said I made it to competence as a mandolinist because I had no shame.  I was willing to play gigs before I had any business on stage.  Believe me, the first nine years were rough but around the end of the first decade it began to come around.

        You might say the ten year rule only applies because I am slow.  That might be true, but if so, tortises unite!  I never claimed to be a hare anyway, exept maybe a wild one. 

        I also believe it is true one can not work their way to greatness.   I’m a 7 handicap golfer.  If I quit my day job tomorrow and hit balls all day I wouldn’t be a pro.  It just wasn’t what the Good Lord had in mind for me.  I could play mandolin all day every day and not sound like Darin Aldridge or Wayne Benson.  By the way, I know what kind of time they gave to be that good, and it was a lot.

          It is even more true in medicine.  I worked hard to be my best, but we had one cat in the class I couldn’t touch.  Tom Bailey was the smartest human I ever knew.  He had a photographic memory.  I could make 94th or so, but he was good for the 99th every time.  It finally got the the point I had to pray about it.

        “Lord, why did you not let me be as smart as Tom Bailey?”

        “Son, I wanted you to be smart enough to talk to him, but dumb enough to be a country doctor.”

        And so it was.  I don’t question that; I accept and embrace it.  I try to be the best Dr. Bibey I can be, flaws and all.  That is all we are asked to do.  

        But for me, as  a Doc it took ten years from the day I got my acceptance letter to the time when I felt I was reasonably good at what I do.  I guess I’m a little slow, but I’m the best Dr. B I know how to be, and that is good enough, even though it falls short of perfection.

         But speaking of perfection, we had our little Corporate Compliance lady in today and she said I made 100.  It made for a good start to the weekend.  I’m off early and gonna do some picking, so I’ll talk to you soon.

Dr. B

An All Time Dumb Question (and the answer)

March 24, 2009

        There is one question no pharmaceutical rep should never ask me, at least if they want to get a second question.  It is this:

        “Doctor, how do you approach the patient with…”  fill in the blank; whatever clinical scenario you choose does not matter.

        Here would be the parallel for a musician.  Lets say you are a mandolin player, and you finish a set with your bluegrass band.  A member of the audience approaches you after the show.  “I enjoyed that.  Could you show me how to play that little guitar in an hour?”

        The answer is, “Well buy a quality instrument, find a good instructor, play at least an hour a day for a year, then come back.  After that you will have a start on it.  But no, I can’t tell you anything in an hour.”

        The same is true in medicine.  Unless the rep is prepared to go to school and invest a hundred hours a week for a few years in basic science before they get to interview the first patient, and then more years of hundred hour weeks to explore every nuance of patient history before they prescribe the first medication and then, well….   the best thing to do is not ask such a question.  Because the answer is, “First you take an history and then you do an examination, and…. oh well, never mind.”  Anything less is like asking a pilot to take off an airplane without going through a pre-flight check list.   (Another approach to life I do not recommend.)

        At best it indicates some marketing guru made them do it.  Reps do some good in this world, and I want to hear about their products.  However, I have no interest to try and explain how to be a doctor in a superficial response.

        I am reminded of the great golf teacher, Harvey Penick.   He was the famous instructor from Austin, Texas.  He taught Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite, so he knew a little about the game.  So the story goes (paraphrased) his son-in-law wanted to learn to play golf.  The young man was a fine athlete; a three letter kind of guy who was an All-American in basketball.

         “Mr. Penick,”  he said.  (no one called him Harvey)  “I want to learn to play golf.  Can you give me some lessons?”

        “Sure.  I’ll send some clubs.  Next time I’m there I’ll show you a few things.”


        Mr. Penick shipped him out a set  of clubs.

        After a few months Mr. Penick went to visit.  The son-in-law greeted him with great enthusiasm.  “I sure am glad to see you.”  Months had gone by and it had been a terrible go of it.  “This game is giving me a fit.”  Like all beginners the hooks, slices, and tops far outnumbered the sporadic solid strikes of the ball. ” Why did you wait so long for the first lesson?”

        Mr. Penick smiled.  “This is the second lesson.  You have already had the first.  In golf, a great athlete must be humbled before they are ready for the teacher.  Now we are ready to start.”

         I feel the same way about some of these reps.  They are young, smart, educated, good-looking, and pop society hip, but hopelessly unsophisticated about medicine.  I can no more give them a sound bite approach to lipid management than I can teach them to play the mandolin in an hour, or golf either one.  It also holds true in writing, a fact I have begun to learn over the last nine years.  Each discipline takes years to even get started.

        Mr. Penick died a very old and wise man.  He charged five dollars for lessons, but to everyone who knew him he was a very rich man.  He understood things about life most people never know while here on Earth.  He even came close to understanding golf, which is near  impossible.  I wish I had the privilege to know him, but at least I got to learn from his ‘Little Red Book.’  I am glad he left it behind.

        Maybe I need to teach some of the drug reps how to play golf.  I’d start by making them memorize Mr. Penick first. 

Dr. B

Where to Find a Country Doc on a Sunday Night

March 23, 2009

        The short answer is in a country church.  If I am on call, I can’t leave Harvey County, but when I’m not I have started to stretch out a little.

        This past weekend I got a call from Darin Aldridge.  His dobro man had to be out of town, and he wondered if I’d play some mandolin for the Quintet for a Sunday night church service.  It didn’t take long for me to say yes.  I hoped I was up to it.  As you have read in some of my reviews they are top shelf.  Their recent CD got as fine a review as I have seen in ‘Bluegrass Unlimited’ in twenty-five years.  It made it all the way to number one on the rural roots bluegrass gospel charts a few weeks. 

         It was a little country church, and the folks put my fears to rest.  Some of the congregation had heard me play with Neuse River along the way, and they invited us to supper when we got there.  It was my kind of place.

         The Pastor got up with an acoustic/electric guitar and a boy played the electronic drums; the house rocked before we ever played a note.

         Darin is a world class picker and his wife Brooke is a powerful singer.  When she sings ‘I’ll Go With You’ it gives me goose bumps every time.  Eddie Biggerstaff and Chris Bryant were so solid on the bass and banjo it wasn’t hard to fall in with them.  Perry Woodie was out that night, but he is a fine dobro man, and perhaps the funniest story teller in bluegrass. 

        It was the first time I had been nervous for a gig in years.  Darin makes his living in music and I wanted to do my best to keep it to their standards.  Darin gave me a nice introduction, and then I proceeded to wreck the kick-off to ‘River of Jordan,’ but they were all good Christians and I was forgiven.  After that I got in the groove and thought I did O.K. considering I had not rehearsed with them.  I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

        So, if you want to find Tommy Bibey on a Sunday night in the N.C. Piedmont, look for the Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet at a church near you.  If I can go, I’ll get out and play a few gigs with them.  Neuse River plays most of our shows on Friday or Saturday, and 98% in Harvey County, so as long as it does not conflict with that schedule, and it isn’t too far outside the Piedmont area old Doc might just come along for the ride. 

        I hope your church will consider booking them for special music one night.  After this last CD, they are getting bigger bookings with every month that goes by, but they are still do the Sunday outings for a love offering.  The guys offered to compensate me, but for me this gig is about the fellowship, the experience, and a chance to get out and meet some new folks.  So, if you book them let me know and I’ll try to make it.

          If was far too spiritual not to go out with them again.

Dr. B

Mama’s Money and Jack Benny

March 20, 2009

        Years ago an elderly lady drove up to our ER in an old battered Ford Galaxie.  She got out and walked across the parking lot.  About half way to the entrance she collapsed.   Of course everyone put on a full court press.

        They cut the woman’s clothes off to shock her heart and bills of all denominations fluttered in the breeze.  Housekeeping gathered it up the best they could.  All the medical folks pressed on.  She didn’t make it.

        Soon the family arrived.  “What the hell did y’all do with mama’s money?”  one demanded.  My Lord, the woman died and they were not the least bit worried about that.  They knew that mama kept all her money on her person and wanted a proper accounting.

       I have seen it a number of times; the family at the bedside fighting about assets before the body even goes to the morgue.  Thanks goodness it isn’t the norm, but when it happens I want to shake these folks and ask just what is wrong with them.

        People are funny about money, though.  I am forever reminded of the old Jack Benny skit.  I loved Benny, and have a set of his DVDs I still watch at times.  In this one scene, a robber confronts Benny.  He sticks a gun in his ribs and says, “Your money or your life.”

         Benny delivered the punch line with the perfect timing only he could do.  “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

        Jack Benny was great.  I think he went to the same grade school as my agent.  When they were kids they didn’t have ‘show and tell,’ but ‘show and show.’  And that skit showed an awful lot about people.  Jack Benny’s ability to show those timeless human qualities endeared him to millions, and that is why he is still one of my favorites.

Dr. B

Doyle Dykes

March 19, 2009

        If you get a chance to see Doyle Dykes, please take my advice and go.  He is the best country finger style guitarist I have ever heard, and many say he is the best in the world.  (For all you folks in Australia Tommy Emmanuel is tough too.  He and Doyle are working on a CD together.)  

           As impressive as his guitar skills are, and they border on unbelievable, what impresses me even more is what kind of man he is.  He has worked hard to be the best guitarist he can be, but he knows his gift is not from human hands.  It shows in his  humility.  He gives his Maker all the credit. 

        Doc Watson is my favorite flat-picker.  He once said he hoped he’d be remembered as a good man rather than a flashy guitar player.  Doyle Dykes is beyond fabulous as a player, and my favorite finger style guitarist.  My guess is he would agree with Doc Watson.  It seems the great ones are forever humble.  They understand the Good Lord chose them for His reasons and their job is to follow.

        I am pretty fair country picker, and I have seen a number of great players in my day.  But when Doyle soars though ‘How Great Thou Art” it is so beautiful it brings tears.  When his lovely little daughter Haley sings ‘Amazing Grace’ as he backs her up on guitar they flow again.  I can’t help it, it is that inspiring.  They do country and jazz, and originals, and medleys; I could go on and on; go check them out.  

          I play music and listen to it because I love it.  I see a lot of terrible things in my work; friends with cancer and seizures and heart attacks and death.  I do it because I was O.K. at reading books and filling in those little bubbles on standardized tests, and because in my prayers I felt it was what God had in mind for me. 

        I think God gave me music so I could have a safe place to escape all that reality for just a moment.  Doyle Dykes takes me there with his work.  For me what he plays is not earthly reality but heaven sent.  

        I try to catch Doyle and Haley whenever they are in our area.  After I listen to them I am inspired to be a Doctor for another year.  I like to think that is some small part of why God put them here on earth.  When  I hear them I know I was meant to be a Doc instead of a musician, and I am always content with the life that was chosen for me.  And with their music they forever inspire me to be the best Doc I can be. 

        They make my burdens easier to carry long after they’ve gone back to Tennessee.  Best wishes and safe travels guys.  Keep inspiring us.

Dr. B


Doyle Dykes website is:

He travels for Taylor guitars:

Check out the Doyle Dykes signature model, and next time you see him ask about the white rose inlaid on the headstock of every Doyle Dykes signature Taylor guitar.

Dr. Danny Fulks, Bluegrass Professor

March 18, 2009

        Not long ago I came across a book I enjoyed.  It was written by a Dr. Danny Fulks.  He is a university professor who loves bluegrass, so I guess you are not surprised we were kindred spirits.  I have not met him, though I hope to one day, but I loved his book.  Not only is he a highly educated man but he understands the beauty and simple truth of traditional music as well as anyone I have read in a while.

        It didn’t hurt him any with me that he is a big fan of Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson’s either.  He has written a number of articles for Bluegrass Unlimited and did a very nice one on Kristin.  

        Dr. Fulks strikes me as the type of teacher who takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves and gets to know his students.   He’s not afraid to go eat a hamburger with them and learn all about their fears and dreams.  He is the kind of Professor I used to study like crazy for not only because they inspired me but also because I wouldn’t want to disapppoint them for anything.  You just can’t let a man down who tries that hard to help you.

        Here is a scene from his book.  Dr. Fulks, I apologize, it is paraphrased.  I had to write it from memory; I gave the book to someone else to read.  The story reminded me so much of my high school days I fell in floor with laughter. 

       Seems a young couple went out parking.  The boy kissed the girl and made a suggestion.  “You want to get in the back seat?”

        The girl said, “No, I think I’ll stay up here with you.”

        Lordy, I don’t think I even knew the world had any problems until I was near twenty.  These kids had that same kind of innocence you can’t help but love and be nostalgic for.

       So Dr. Fulks, thanks for letting me paraphrase your story.  Leave my folks a comment so they’ll know where to find your book and read your work, and keep on picking brother.  We’ll cross paths on the bluegrass road someday soon.

Dr. B

Indie’s Struggles

March 17, 2009

        Poor Indie is not doing well.  He is back in Hospice now.  I hadn’t been by in a month, and I was shocked at his condition yesterday.  Bless his heart, all he wanted to know about was how I was doing.

        “Tommy, how’s life treating you?”

        “For goodness sake, Indie.  I’m fine.  How are you man?”

        “Great.  This place is like a candy store.  They’ll give you all the Morphine you want.”

        “You pretty comfortable?”

        “Yeah, they see to it.  Besides if I’m not I tell ’em I’m gonna let you know.  They know you’ll raise hell.  I get what I need.”

        “Good.  Let me know if you don’t.”   I was sure he would.  Our Hospice is great.

        He rolled over in the bed, fluffed his pillow and tried to sit up.   “How’s the book coming?”

        “Fine.  At least the powers that be are reading it.  We’ll see.”

       “I don’t think I am going to make it to the finish line.”

        “Sure you are, Indie.  Of course you will.”

        He smiled.  “Tommy, you have the brain of a grown man, but the heart of a child.  You’ve a doctor.  You’ve seen my x-ray.  I cough up more blood every day.  Hell, I’m short of breath just to turn over.”

        I smoothed back his hair.  “You’re gonna make it.  I know you are….”

        “You’re a good boy.  I want you to make sure to play a song at the funeral.  I want “You go to Your Church and I’ll go to Mine.”

        “Dang it Indie.  Don’t talk that way.  You’ve got to keep going.”

         “Hell, I’ve read the manuscript.  It’ll see the light of day one way or another.  As far as I am concerned I get to live forever ’cause of you.  Damn boy, you immortalized me.  I won’t forget it.”

        “No one could ever forget you, Indie.”

        He rolled over and began to snore.  I pulled his covers up and tucked him in.

        He looked up.  “Don’t forget the tune.  Promise?”

        “Anything you want, pal.”

        “Good.”  He drifted off.

        When you have friends as brave as Indie how can you ever worry over trivia again?

Dr. B