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 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.