The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard

        One time years ago some folks were in from England.  They were on a tour of N.C. and wanted to take in some local culture before going to MerleFest.

        They must have had good contacts, ’cause they asked around and wound up at a place in Statesville called Perry’s Auction Barn.  The owner, Tim Perry, used to play with a band called Carolina Crossfire. 

        The Auction Barn was on a spare budget; I recall old coffee cans rigged up to serve as stage spotlights.  Instead, they put their money into the performers.  Tim brought a lot of fine music to N.C.; folks like the Scene, Lost and Found, and Larry Sparks.  One night Rhonda Vincent came through.  She put on quite an energetic show.  My wife thought her clothes were just a bit snug for a bluegrasser, though.  Marfar didn’t raise no dummy Doctor; I agreed with her 100%.

       The night the group from England was there we were the opening act.  I believe it was for Sparks.  Anyway, they asked Tim where they could find a good jam session.  He pointed at me.  “See that fellow in the shirt with the pineapples on it?  That’s Dr. B.  Ask him.”

       They took his advice, and we struck up a friendship.  I invited them to the Bomb Shelter, a bluegrass hangout I knew well.  As luck would have it, Charlie Waller was there that night.  Darin Aldridge was his mandolin player, and the Country Gentlemen had stopped at Darin’s house for the day.  Darin invited the boys to the session.  As you can imagine, our new friends decided they had hit the bluegrass mother lode.  Charlie was elderly at the time, but his voice was as rich as ever.

       Everything in bluegrass comes full circle.  Not long ago it was the official last night of spring; the last session inside the Bomb Shelter proper before owner Jack Barber closes it for the summer, when we move outside to the Cabin.   A lot of the same crowd was there. Charlie is gone of course, and he will forever be missed.  What a voice. 

          I had a med student with me.  ‘Little Richard’ as we call him, had tagged along for the night.  Just like Dr. Peter Temple who mentored me, you can an ‘A’ in my rotation if you do right by the patients, but to get an ‘A+’ you have to do that and also take in bluegrass culture.  

        We parked the truck in the field, and walked down towards the Shelter.  Jack and the boys had a bonfire going in a fifty gallon drum.  The fire crackled and the sparks drifted up and disappeared in the night air.

         “Still a bit of a chill, huh Jack?”

          “Yeah, Doc.  The last night of spring.  Gonna move to the Cabin next week.”

        “Ah Lawd.”  Another winter come and gone.  “The field is full.  Lot of good pickers?”

       “Yes sir, Doc.  Good session sure enough.  “Who you got with you?”

       “Oh, I’m sorry.  This is Little Richard.”

       “Some R ‘n B tonight?”

        “Oh no, not the same one.  He’s a med student.  We want to get him to come back here someday.”

       “What kind Doctor you wanna be?”

        “Country Doc.”

        “You follow old Doc then.   He knows all us country people.”

        “Yes sir.”

       Jack threw a few more logs on the fire.  “Good to have you, son.  Before you leave, make sure you sign the wall.  And if anyone asks where this is just say, “You can’t there from here.”

        “Yes sir.”

        We ducked through the door and went inside.  A doghouse bass thumped away.  It was Sealtest; I knew his rhythm anywhere.

         Moose Dooley kicked off ‘Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee.”  I got my mandolin out of the case, tuned up, and caught the baritone on the first chorus.  “Little girl of mine in Tennessee…I know she’s waiting there for me….”

        Stacy flatpicked the opening lines of ‘Freight Train Boogie.’  Some well known N.C. pickers like Buddy Wrong and Dr. Dean Jenkins were there, along with national mandolin sensation Darin Aldridge.  Sealtest, who has toured with several groups held down the bass.  Moose Dooley wore out the five string. 

        I hadn’t picked with Tim Perry since the Auction Barn quit doing shows, but there he was along with his old bandmate ‘Fangers’ Lynch.  Fangers played with Brushy Creek years ago, and the band finished second in the country to Radio Flyer back then in the Pizza Hut Showdown.  Rumor has it they managed to outdo a very young girl named Alison Krauss, at least for that one day anyway.

        At one point ‘Fangers’ did ‘Sea of Heartbreak,’ a tune I’ve loved for years.  “You know, it’s hard to beat an old Don Gibson song,” I said.

        There was some young fellow there learning the guitar under Fanger’s tutelage.  He scrunched up his face and scratched his head.  “Gee Doc,” he said.  “I thought that one came from Carolina Crossfire.”

        Bless Fanger’s heart, he gave credit where it was due, and told the young man they learned it from Don Gibson.  It was good to see all those guys.  We’ve all run in the same Carolinas bluegrass circle for many years.  And as the song says, it will never be broken.  God bless every one of ’em.  My life was much richer for knowing them.

        Little Richard signed the wall before we left.  On the way home I asked him,  “Hey man, you remember how we got to the Bomb Shelter?”

        He lit a cigar and took a puff.  “Can’t get there from here, Doc.”

        “Son, you are gonna make one more fine country Doctor.  I gotta get you to come back here and look after me in the Nursing Home some day.”

       “Dr. Bibey, it’d be an honor.  That Moose Dooley, he can pick the fire outta that banjo, huh?”

        “And did you hear Fangers sing ‘Oh Lonesome Me?'”

       “Good Lord have mercy that was the saddest thing I ever heard in my life….”

        “Yep.  I don’t think Little Richard himself could sing the blues any better than that.”

        “Hey, that girl today with the negative mono test?  How come you put her on Vibramycin?  She didn’t recall a tick bite.”

        “Her rash was suspicious.  She went camping with her boyfriend two weeks ago.  The Mama was in the room with her.  I thought she hesitated.  I wasn’t sure she told me the truth.”

        “Why didn’t you just do a blood test for spotted fever?”

        “Hell boy, by the time I get those tests back from the State I’ve either cured her or she’s dead.”

        “Ain’t you worried she’s pregnant?

        “Temple Law.  Good work, son.  She’s been reliable on the pill.  She said her last period was two weeks ago.”

        “Yeah, well she mighta fibbed about that too.”

         “Maybe.  But you know that urinalysis I ran?

         “Yeah it was negative.  No infection.”

          “Look here, Mr. R ‘n B, I ran a pregnancy test too.”

          “Negative I take it?

          “Dang right.” 

          “Damn Bibey.  You’re a sneaky rascal.”

        “I haven’t stayed out of trouble in this business for three decades by being a dumba^^.  Temple’s Law.  Don’t forget it.”

         “A woman is pregnant till proved otherwise.”

       “Correct.  You’ll never x-ray a pregnant lady.  ‘A+’ son,  A+.”

        I stopped at the Quick Pik to get a Co-Cola and some nabs.  “Want anything?”

        “No thanks, Doc.  I’m good.”  Little Richard blew some smoke out the window and smiled.   Maybe this country Doc gig wasn’t glamorous, but it sure was real. 

Dr. B

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19 Comments on “The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard”

  1. […] The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard […]

  2. Karen Says:

    Dr. B., I’m truly fascinated by the bluegrass ‘scene’ and how you describe it. It’s such a foreign concept for me, not being involved in the music industry at all. The closest I can imagine is the jam sessions that used to sometimes happen spontaneously after church… I do know that there is nothing quite like making music together. Maybe next time we do the enormous trip over the Pacific to Alabama I could drive up north a little and come and check it out. I could be your tag along Little Richard for an evening… 🙂

  3. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Karen,

    If you ever come all the way from Australia I promise you me and Ms. Marfar’ll take you and your hubby to the Bomb Shelter and make sure all the best pickers are there.

    They will welcome you with open arms, ’cause in spite of the fact you are new to bluegrass, I know you are true to it’s spirit.

    When you come to have to sign the wall, and if anybody asks for directions say, “You can’t get there from here.”

    Hey, you likely will be the one on the wall who visited from the most distance. Australia is a right far piece.

    Dr. B

  4. […] defy the laws of physics and play and the speed of light. While it may seem a bit hard to attain, The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard – 05/23/2009         One time years ago some folks were in from […]

  5. Danny Fulks Says:

    Tom, You may call me Dan, which is my preference, taking the egotistical position than one can rise above his or titles and just be called by his or her first name. I would have called Woodrow Wilson “Woody” just to test his humanity. I used to joke with my students about calling my medical doctor by his first name and having him call me Doctor Fulks. I told them to call their doctors by their first names–go ahead what’s the worst thing can happen, he or she will ask to be called Doctor? Act uptight? Anyway, the reason I wrote is I will see Kristin and others at Bean Blossom and will you write a few blogs about childhood experiences? I wrote about seeing my dad bring a new born calf into the house to warm it up in front of the fireplace. I saw this and it stuck with me, later I understood how poor we were. Poor. And people rationalize about Loretta Lynn’s idea, “We were poor bu we had love,” really means we suffered privation, lack of access to good hospitals, ignorance of nutrition, hard labor, babies dying that would have lived among the rich in cities. Ridicule for our clothes, the ignorance of provincial mores.

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Brother Dan,

    Well it is an honor to be on a first name basis, brother. I tell ya, I look at being a Doc as a sacred obligation to do my best every day for my people, just like I know you do as a Teacher. Somehow you didn’t get above your raising, and I hope I didn’t either.

    My Dad was a country Doc, so yeah, I’ll post on some of that. I used to go out on some house calls with him.

    I grew up upper middle class. We weren’t rich, but on the other hand, I can’t say I’ve ever suffered like some of my patients do. Who’d want to hear a song about the blues if your worst day was when you hit your five iron in the lake to lose a golf tournament?!

    All that being said, though, yes Sir, I’ll post some of the stories from youth too.

    Tell Ms. Kristin hello for me. She and Wayne are the best.

    Dr. B

  7. […] just read today’s blog entry by the country doc, bluegrass musician and writer Dr. Tom Bibey. He describes a bluegrass jam some […]

  8. Dr. B, I love when you share stories of your life like this. Little Richard is going to be a good doc if he’s learning with you. Keep writing, Dr. B, your words and stories make me smile.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Little Richard is gonna make us proud. He already rocks, and the boy is eaten up with wanting to learn and be his best.

      I’ve been meaning to get around to a College Prep post I’m gonna dedicate to you. Look for it in the next week or so.

      Dr. B

  9. Ponder Says:

    Been meaning to ask about the Bomb Shelter: vague recollection of being there, but can’t quite seem to follow my tracks. Will you draw me a map? Last time, don’t seem to remember if I was able to get my name on the wall. Much obliged.

    • drtombibey Says:


      You are correct. You were once there, because your name is indeed on the wall. It was dated about a dozen years ago.

      I will have to take you there as the route is more circuitous than a sailor’s journey in the Ryme of the Ancient Mariner.

      We we got our GPS, we tried to plug in ‘The Bomb Shelter,’ and that lady said, “Huh?” in French. My wife had to interpret; that was my weak subject in high school.

      Dr. B

  10. newt221 Says:

    You are truly a country boy…. You can’t get there from here is heard quite a lot around my neck of the woods too. You also remind me of secret hand shakes and passwords. It is good to have a place to go where there are no gawkers or hangers on. Professionals need a place to unwind too.

    Hearing you describe these jam sessions, I would love to be there to see one. I would be totally in awe and loving every minute of it. And, I don’t bother those who don’t need to be bothered! Learned that a long time ago.

    • drtombibey Says:

      newt 221,

      Someday you’ll have to take in a session. Try to keep up with the Darin Aldridge/Brooke Justice Quintet schedule. I tag along for some of their gigs when I am off.

      All that will eventually lead to the Bomb Shelter. It is deep in the woods, and way out of the way.

      The Shelter is perfectly harmless, but with you being a woman I think you’d be more comfortable in such a strange place to come with a group of people. Bring your significant other, Dad or brother when you come visit, but I assure you it is 100% safe. There has never been a problem that I know of.

      Before it is all over you and Ranger Dog need to have your name on the wall.

      Dr. B

  11. Dross Says:

    The “Bum Shelter” is back in acton, eh? Let me know when you are going some time. I would like to see if I can still play.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Yep it is. Fangers said we need to start having Veteran’s night once a quarter. You aren’t quite old enough, but you’d be welcome in spite of your relative youth. Will call you next time there’s a picking out there.

      Dr. B

  12. […] 23, 2009 I just read today’s blog entry by the country doc, bluegrass musician and writer Dr. Tom Bibey. He describes a bluegrass jam some […]

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