Excerpt from a Mississippi Book Store Gig/Act Naturally

        As you know, I am in the final edit stage of ‘The Mandolin Case.’  I expect to spend about six months on this.  We should beat our January 1, 2010 deadline by a few weeks, then I’m gonna spend Christmas with my family.

        After that it is on to publication.  We have several publishers who have it under consideration.  If by chance they all turn it down, we have a couple of excellent self-publish options, so no fear, there will be a book.  Y’all know me well enough now to know this next line is just a joke, but the Publishers don’t.  I like to keep the business kind of folks guessing, but I always tell them, “Y’all, either a Publisher is gonna make me famous or I’m gonna make a Publisher famous.  It doesn’t matter to me which way we do it.”

         Of course Milwaukee and beer pulled that off, but I don’t think Tommy Bibey is as big a deal as beer.  Still, I have to admit I have fun pulling their leg.

         Once it is out my wife and I plan several tours.  My life as a Doc goes on, but starting in 2011, my contract will allow for some extra time off to accomodate all this.  My employer understands I am 80% Doc and 20% artist, and that I function best that way.  They are fine with that mix, so I’m gonna get there. 

          Once I began to plan, I realized the world was a big place.  We still have our map on the wall with all the little push pin destinations.  Not long ago my agent took a look at it, and said I better start to get organized, so here we go.

        My tour plan revolves around people.  If there aren’t any people to see I don’t have any reason to go anywhere.  So today, I am going to start with the geographic location of Mississippi.  Over the next several posts tell you about other places we plan to go.  I’m gonna do them in the rough order I got to know the people who inspired me to travel to their neck of the woods.

         I do want to ask for a favor.  As I cover areas around the country, I would like for you to get out a map.  Take a piece of string and lay it out from Raleigh to the area of interest on that day’s post.  And it doesn’t have to be as the crow flies either.  I plan to zig-zag a lot, and have interest in all people who love books, music, and the arts in general.  If you know of a book store or music store where my tour would be fun let me know.  I have a special interest in the independents, as I am rather independent myself.   

        Today I start with Mississippi.  I met Smitty on a random pairing at a mountain golf course several years ago.  When we realized we both played the mandolin, we became instant friends.  The folks we were paired with thought we’d known each other for years.  In many ways it felt like we had.  By the end of the round we were planning a round of golf, a picking session, and a visit to his mom’s for fried chicken in a black skillet.  It all sounded good to me. 

        We stayed in touch.  He is a Mississippi school principal, and I became pen pals with some of his students.  I still correspond with some of them to this day.  (I call them my rangatang young’uns after an old story.)

        Today’s post is how I envision a Mississippi book store gig.  With minor variations I am sure you can see how it has application in other geographic locales.

‘Mississippi Mandolin Book Store Gig’

          “Folks, I’m so proud today to be here at Reed’s Book Store in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Anywhere that is the home of Elvis, Jerry Clower, Marty Stuart, John Grisham and William Faulkner is good by me.  You folks are famous.”

         (applause goes here )

        “I’m  gonna kick this off with ‘When You’re Smiling,’  not that y’all get any choice on that one.  It’s the theme song for me and my Marfar.  As all y’all know here in the South, if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.’  She keeps me smiling, so I gotta return the favor.”

         Then I’ll go into my version of the tune.  I gotta brag here.  It is pretty good for a Doctor.  The single line melody is from Darin Aldridge and I learned the chord melody second part from Wayne Benson.  If you can’t learn some mandolin from those two you’re in trouble.  They are the best. 

        I especially like the middle of the second half.  It sounds just like something you’d hear when you open up a music box.  I can picture my daughter as the ballerina complete with a pink Karate outfit and the matching black belt.  Or if that image doesn’t imprint, how ’bout my boy circling ’round and ’round on a Harley, the muffler emitting the characteristic potato, potato, potato, exhaust sound.

        (light applause again.)  I do a few bars of ‘Miss the Mississippi and You,’ an old Jimmie Rogers tune. 

        ‘Y’all got any questions about the book?”

         A hand goes up.  “Yes.  Did Indie really keep white lightning in a skeleton’s skull in his office?”

         “No ma’am.  It was Jim Beam.  He only drank white lightning at the Bomb Shelter.”

        “Oh my.”

         “Oh don’t worry.  He didn’t drink when he was on call.  And his vision was 20/20 right till the day he died.  He had some faults like we all do, but I loved him anyway.  That reminds me of a tune.  How ’bout the Cherokee Shuffle?”

        “Why that one, Dr. B?”

        “Oh, it was Indie’s theme song.  He had a shuffle type gate ’cause of his Parkinson’s disease, and he dealt with it head on.  He said we had to play the Shuffle at every gig.”  I render it the best of my ability.  No one could play it like Indie.

       The applause was a little bit heavier.  (Everyone loved Indie.) 

        “Y’all hold it down some now.  That little lady over there is a librarian, and I don’t want to upset her.  I want to get invited back for the second book.  We better settle down.”  (My librarian at home always said she wanted me to have fun, just not too much)

        “Hm.  Time for our commercial break, y’all.  Folks, this portion of our program is brought to you from the folks at Reed’s fine clothing store, right here in downtown Tupelo.  You walk in there and that man can size you up for a suit from fifty paces without so much as pulling a tape measure out of his pocket.  You can’t miss ’em.  They’re right across the street from Tupelo hardware where Elvis’s  mama bought him his first guitar.  And while you are here, go over and visit Elvis’s home-place.  Music history there for sure. ”

        I spot Smitty in the audience.  “Hey Smitty, you got me a golf game lined up?  I might need a couple shots a side; getting some age on me you know.”

        “Straight up, Doc.”

        I smile.  I never could fool the principal.  “Speaking of Elvis, is he gonna drop by?  I need me a singer.”

        About then the door chimes.  In walk Elvis and Conway.  “Lord have mercy, y’all.  We have us a gig.  Did y’all bring that girl singer?  Lawd, she was good.”

        “She’ll be over directly, Doc.”

        Someone asks a question.  “Doc, tell me me more about Mason Marley.”

        “Oh she was a good’un.  Hold on just a minute, though.  It ain’t every day an old bluegrass picker gets to play one with Elvis and Conway.  Boys, what y’all wanna sing……”

        Well, this gives you some idea of my book store gig format.  I hope it will be O.K. ’cause I don’t know any way to be but myself.  As as Buck Owens would say, “all I gotta do is act naturally.”  If fact it is all I can do. 

        I hope all of y’all will start to fill in the blanks as I work my way through this series.  If you know of places I need to stop please let me know.  I’ve worked up a good version of ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ and the ‘Alabama Jubilee,’ and have songs in mind for the other states along the way.  I keep all this in my ‘tour’ folder on my blog, so I have some rough organizational scheme in mind.  

        But keep in mind, I am not a business guy.  This tour is all about people, music, books and fun.  It is about dreams.  Sure, I hope to sell some books, but if I come home with ten more dollars than had when I left and made a bunch of new friends I’ll consider it an overwhelming sucess.  I have to admit it is a mentality that leaves the business folks scratching their heads in bewilderment, but what can I do?  I have to be myself, and I am no businessman in doctoring or books either one.

         If y’all want me to stop at your favorite book store or music store I hope you’ll drop me a line.  (Many of you already have, and I thank you so much.)  Like I said, I ain’t going anywhere unless there are people I want to see.  All I can do is act naturally and hope to find kindred spirits along the way.

Dr. B

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14 Comments on “Excerpt from a Mississippi Book Store Gig/Act Naturally”

  1. Felix Miller Says:

    You know, I would pay cash money to attend an event in a bookstore that featured books and bluegrass star power on stage. Elvis and Conway would be good, too.

    I have been through Tupelo often on the way to my sister’s in Oxford, but had no idea there was a good independent bookstore there. Next trip, I will stop. You know about Square Books in Oxford, I am sure.

    That string from Raleigh to Mississippi runs right over Chattanooga, where you have been I know. You may have noticed Rock Point Books, a few blocks toward the river from the Tivoli Theater. The books on sale at the Conference you attended there were supplied by another store, Wild Hare Books. Both great stores. You passed the location of Wild Hare on your way to the Mountain Opry, it would have been right before you began to think you were lost.

    I have got my ball of string ready, so good luck on an early publication of you book, Doc.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Me too Felix, and I promise to bring a star with me to every gig.

    My next post is on Oxford and Square Books. I have some great contacts at Old Miss.

    I’d love to do the Rock Point or Wild Hare gig, and what I would give to play the Tyvoli one day! The crown jewel of the arts in Chattanooga; I’m not sure I can dream that big.

    See you out there friend,

    Dr. B

  3. Karen Says:

    Dr. B., you’re gonna need a mighty big ball of string, but there’s a great independent bookstore here in Brisbane called Riverbend Books. I’m sure we could line up an Australian Elvis for you too 😛

    Sounds fantastic, Doc. I too believe that there’s so much more to life than making money. In fact, I’ve found a great blog called “The Art of Non-conformity” that is all about living an unconventional life that gives rather than, and yet still reach your dreams. I reckon you might like it, Dr. B. This guy goes against all ‘sensible’ business advice and yet is happier than a pig in mud. He’s got his own definition of success, and it isn’t a bunch of zeroes in his bank account.



    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms Karen,

      Australia is defintely on my list. I have already talked it over with corporate. That trip is a few years off. At that point I might need a leave of abscense one summer (winter here) to see it the way I want to, but they are willing to that.

      I also need to talk to Ms. Sharon at sunlitdesk and see if she recommends one near her too.

      Yeah as far as money, my friend Burt at Harvey Funeral Home doesn’t like this one, but I’m gonna tell it anyway: “The world’s perfect financial plan is when the check to the undertaker bounces.”

      Dr. B

  4. Danny Fulks Says:

    If you get up this way Taylor Books in Charleston, WV is a good stop, here in Huntington, Empire books, both independent. Taylor is in the heart of Appalachia. They have web sites and I have pull at Empire. DF

    • drtombibey Says:


      Great and thanks! I will put it on the list.

      I plan a post in this series on Virginia/West Virginia as I have begun to make a few contacts in that area.

      Dr. B

  5. Dr B,
    So much to say – “Push pin destinations” would make a great title for a travel journal of your exploits.
    While in Brisbane I’d definitely check out Avid Reader in Brisbane’s West End. My favourite book place is Berkelouw Book Barn in Eumundi on Queensland’s Sunshine coast (about 1.5 hours from Brisbane). It’s mostly secondhand, but they carry new releases too. And if I happen to come across a couple hundred grand in the next two years to set up my dream book/music cafe you would be the first guest author/musician I’d think of. I even have the place picked out and the interior decoration down to the floor tiles. Dreams are free…

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Sharon,

      The great grand push pin bluegrass mandolin Doc book tour! Surely there can’t be another quite like it.

      Maybe I can bring the book returns that come back from the little old folks who are offended that I had too much fun, and sell them at the Eumundi used book store. Somehow the Aussies never struck me as afraid of a good time.

      Man would I love to play one at your book store one day. I hope I’ll draw you a crowd. An old Doc with a slow Southern drawl who picks the mandolin at his book signings is a curiosity if nothing else.

      Dr. B

  6. Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

    Lord a mercy Doc, we are honored for you to start your tour at Reed’s Bookstore. The fan club will do all the promoting of the event. I will get in touch with Elvis,Conway and the bunch at the Jamison. Elvis is sometimes hard to find in these parts, but we know where he buys his gas. I will also let Preacher Man and our group know you are coming, we could pick out on the street while you are being interviewed by Larry King live. Preacher Man will have to preach on the street as well-you know he can’t miss a opportunity to share the gospel. By the way, Reed’s has the annual Watermelon sale going on now and Mr. Jack Reed’s son is now the mayor of Tupelo.

    On the golf outing, your cannnot receive any strokes, you putt too good.

    Great idea for posting your tour. People will get a chance to visit several of the areas that you have graced. I must tell you, you have represented your adopted state well. Good going Doc!

    I ran into Mrs. T today and she said she has made contact with you. I will track her down tomorrow and tell her to check out the post. She has been reading facebook . She knew about the song of the day.

    We will get the food ready and you bring the red clay robe, with the red clay wings and we will put the red clay halo on your head.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Well it would only be fitting that I start with Mississippi, ’cause Reed’s is the first book store that said they’d let me do a book signing someday. I figured if it was good enough for John Grisham it was good enough for me.

      When I was there I saw a stack of books signed by Grisham. I asked, “How did y’all come by those?”

      “Oh, when Mr. Grisham was starting out, Mr. Reed let him come here to do his book signings. At that time he was self-published, and no one had ever heard of him. He never forgot the kindness and still comes back here when he has a new release.”

      “Ma’am it sounds like you are saying Mr. Grisham knows to dance with who brung him.”

      “Yes sir.”

      “Well ma’am, I ain’t Grisham and I never will be, but when I finish ‘The Mandolin Case’ can I do a signing here?”

      “We’d love to have you.”

      “Then I promise you I’ll be back. I always honor loyalty and I am proud y’all do too here at Reed’s.”

      I got out my mandolin and played the ‘Kentucky Waltz. I know to dance with who brung me, too.

      Part of my ‘grand plan’ is to combine my book store gigs with various fund raisers wherever I go. Y’all wouldn’t have to do a whole Hee Haw show (though it was great) but if we could organize a picking to raise money for your church while I am there, it would make my trip back to your neck of the woods complete.

      Dr. B

  7. mandogrin Says:

    Always thinking ahead … I love it … As I always say, “If you’re gonna dream, do it in technicolor” ( I guess today’s version would say “Do it in HD”)

    I could just see you with that Gibson in your hands surrounded by young and old who had come to pay the country doctor a visit at the book store. If you’re still doing the tour in 2012, I’ve got an addition to your vision. Picture this … a 6 foot 3.. 275 pound bass player / body guard / bus driver. Heck we could be like Willy and Slim on the Honeysuckle Rose. “On the Road Again”

    Can’t blame a guy for dreamin’

    Can’t wait to read the book

    • drtombibey Says:


      My partner, Dr. Dee, always said, “a man has to have his dreams.” He says I have never failed to do that. So my friend, as NewGrass would say, ‘Hold to a Dream.’

      Your comment is very apropos. After my series on the ‘great grand push pin mandolin book tour’ I have one planned on ‘the tough guys.’

      I had fairly good hand/eye co-ordination and was O.K. in baseball and pretty good at golf, but I was a skinny boy, and no one would ever accuse me of being a ‘tough guy.’ All my buddes are, though, and they have protected me all my life. Somehow God always sends me the right people.

      Dr. B

  8. Dr. B,
    I think you should advertise on your book tour that Elvis is gonna be making appearances once in a while :P. I hope I’m around the US of A while you’re off on your book tour and that I’ll be able to stand there and clap and get my book signed by the author. If you’re looking for independent book stores in the South, then there’s an incredible one that I was in just a few days ago in Washington D.C [it’s technically the South!]. So glad to hear the ball is rolling, Dr. B.

    • drtombibey Says:


      So glad you are safe and sound in Chicago. I have a post planned not too far down the road that will speak to that part of the country.

      Yeah, Elvis is alive and well in the Tupelo/Saltillo area, ’cause I played with him when I was down there. (We won’t tell anyone it wasn’t THE Elvis, but he was a very good one.)

      Hey I’m gonna do one better than that. I’m have you sit up there with me and sing one!

      Dr. B

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