The Bluegrass Kilroy, or Who is That Mandolin Player?
Readers my age will remember Kilroy. He was the elusive GI in WWII who showed up in all the most improbable spots. Some boy from Kentucky would hack through the jungle in New Guinea and come across his scrawl; ‘Kilroy was here.’
Well I can’t get around like Kilroy, but in the mandolin world I do try to travel as far as my day job will let me.
One weekend I was in Western N.C. with my son, and I got a call from a friend who said he heard I’d been spotted in Georgia.
“No, man it wasn’t me. I’m sure. I’m sitting here with my boy eating a cheeseburger.”
“Well they said the fellow was gray haired and played the mandolin. He might have been a Doctor. Maybe he was a dentist…”
“That narrows it down.”
Not long ago, it happened again. A fellow was at a party in Tennessee. He was a writer. He knew very little about our music until he started to read my blog, but had become intrigued with bluegrass culture.
There was a bluegrass band there. He could not recall the name but said they were very good. The mandolin player was a gray haired gentleman. He took a chance and went up to speak.
“Enjoyed your music. Most excellent. Are you a Doctor?”
“Are you Tommy Bibey?”
“No. Do you know him?”
“Yes. Well, no. Well, I read Tommy Bibey, but no I haven’t met him,” the writer replied.
“I heard he was over in Chattanooga a couple months ago.” The man rubbed down the fretboard with a cloth, and put his mandolin in the case. “If you run into him tell him I’m looking for him.”
“Does he owe you money?”
“Oh no. I heard he finally figured out the bridge to ‘Wild Fiddler’s Rag.’ I’ve been trying to learn it. I bet Alan showed it to him.’
“Are they related?” the writer asked.
“Sixth cousins on the mama’s side. I read it on his blog.”
“Hm. Say you’re a Doctor?”
“Yeah, I guess you aren’t Bibey. I think he’s a country Doctor.”
I have lot of new readers and I want to be sure you know how to find me at a festival. (I hope my regular readers will bear with me; you have heard some of this before.) I’m the gray haired Doc with the straw hat. (My Dermatologist makes me wear it.) On the advice of my ophthalmologist I usually wear sunglasses, but when I take them off, you’ll see I have one green and one blue eye.
I mark my golf balls with one blue and one green dot. It stands for bluegrass, but also for old blue eye/green eye. If you play golf in the South and fish one outta the creek marked like that you’ll know I’ve been there.
You’ll see my card at festivals. Like Kilroy, the back is inscribed with the logo, ‘Bibey was here.’ When I am lucky enough to meet you in person, remind me and I will inscribe it with my logo of a Kilroy-like figure who peers over the fence on the bottom of the card.
Y’all keep on picking and having fun. As a Doc, I know for sure ain’t none of us gonna get out of here alive. But in my prayers God says bluegrass music is good preparation for eternity. There though, He requires at least two gospel numbers in each set, and they don’t allow no killing songs.
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