Another Bluegrass First

        Every so often I tell y’all about playing mandolin in my wife’s bluegrass band.  Their mandolin picker got married and moved away, and I filled in to help out.  It became a permanent gig.  I guess they figure I ain’t gonna run off and get married.  (And they are right about that!)

        They are early in their music journey, but their sound has started to gel.  They just found out they are gonna play a teacher convention this summer and open for David Holt, so they told me I can’t leave.  They don’t want to break in a new mandolinist before that one.  They don’t have to worry.  If Marfar wants me to play the mandolin, you can be sure I’m gonna say yes.

       As we have discussed before, playing music with an all female (except for me) band is different.  They know all sorts of new colors, like chartreuse or fuchsia, and they e-mail suggestions to color coordinate for their shows.  They talk about soaps and shampoos and I think at times they talk about other things, but that’s when they get quiet when I walk in. 

        When I came home from work last night Marfar and Betty Jo  (the Harvey County Banjo Diva) were scurrying around the kitchen, and putting out all kinda knick-knacks.

        “Here Doc.  Sign this,” Betty Jo said.

          “What is it?”  I asked.  (Dumb man response)

           “A birthday card.  It’s Eva’s birthday,” Marfar replied.  We’re gonna have a birthday party before we play.”

        It was another bluegrass first for me.  In all the years I have picked music with my guys, I don’t recall anyone ever getting a birthday card, or even recognition of the day.  I don’t care if it is stereotypical to say it, but in general women are more thoughtful than men, and it doesn’t bother me to admit it.

         I’m here to tell ya, that strawberry yum-yum was killer.  Maybe they’ll get me some mandolin strings for my birthday.  I’m  sure not gonna forget Marfar’s, but she’ll have to remind me of the other ones.  I ain’t that good.

Dr. B

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10 Comments on “Another Bluegrass First”

  1. Ted Lehmann Says:

    I don’t think it’s really clear yet what the long-term effect of breaking up the boys club will be, but you can be sure it will be profound. In several bands I’ve heard recently, the dominance of women have led to a more thoughtful and internalized emotional tone. Toughing it out (man style) is less necessary. Women, when they write songs and sing their own work, don’t hesitate to express their hurt, bewilderment, joy, or sense of domesticity. The tempos seem to be slower and more thoughtful. Real emotion is being expressed here. Although I want to be careful here, I think it may be safe to say that men tend to protect themselves with emotional armor, while women are more able and willing to put their feelings out front. Maybe they’re actually better at saying what they feel. Anyway, it’s inevitable that the increasing participation of women in bluegrass music will have profound effects on it. – Ted

  2. drtombibey Says:


    I agree. For me, the diversity is a great thing. The world would be mighty dull without their colors.

    I try to do by best when I play with them. As I say from the stage, I get to sleep with the bass player. (My wife)

    Dr. B

  3. Mrs. Chili Says:

    I don’t necessarily think, Doc, that women are more thoughtful; we’re just different. For a lot of women, that sort of thing matters – we LIKE being recognized for birthdays and such and, if we live the Golden Rule, we try to remember other’s days, too. I’m not sure that those things are as important to men, so they can live out their Golden Rule, too, but it doesn’t include those little details. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

  4. drtombibey Says:


    To be honest I haven’t figured out all I need to know about women yet, but my my wife has made learning a fun journey. She loves me in spite of me being clueless at times.

    Dr. B

  5. felixgm3 Says:

    Ah, women. I love and admire them, especially those who raised me in spite of myself, and those who still put up with me. I never had a daughter, so I missed that the first time around, but now I have a granddaughter, age six going on 13. Wow.

    On the music thing, women singer/songwriters have been a staple for some time in what you could call folk/pop/country. And the Dismembered Tennesseans, our local bluegrass institution, has often had women players working with them. I like a lot of them.

  6. drtombibey Says:


    Bless my mama’s heart. I was the same way, brother.

    I love the DisTenn group too. As far as I know Fletcher is the only bluegrass fiddler who flies to gigs in his private jet.

    Dr. B

  7. I somehow suspect that you remember Marfar’s birthdays and your children’s birthdays every single year without fail and that you go out of your way not to mention yours! But come on, Dr. B, birthdays can be fun – you get presents and cake and you can even wear funny hats if you want. I think you deserve some good birthday parties for your next birthday, if only to make up for not caring about the last ones!

  8. drtombibey Says:


    You are right. For a man I do good. One time I had a bad case going on and forgot Marfar’s though. I was pretty upset with myself; it took me about five years to get over it.

    Marfar sees to it that all birthdays are special; the girl still loves to throw a party.

    Dr. B

  9. Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

    Doc back in business, I understand about the thoughtful part.We have two women in our group and they are always putting smooth corners on our rough edges:like working on detailed harmonies. The other night, during practice, our fiddle player could not make up her mind if she wanted to perform with us Friday night or go early to a bluegrass festival close by. She did not ask us guys what we thought, she asked the other lady(Cindy). The conversation lasted several minutes and it came to the point, I had to ask her are you going or not. She finally gave me a yes. I was so relieved because we could go with our original song set for this year.

  10. drtombibey Says:


    With the guys I play with if you miss a note they say, “You blew your break.” (Then spit some tobacco)

    The ladies tend to say, “Did I throw you off on your intro? My timing was off, and…..” Heck, they apologize when I am the one who messed up!

    I say, “Naw, it ain’t your fault. I wrecked it.”

    I remember some of those ladies you picked with. They were good. I look forward to another set.

    Dr. B

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