Archive for November 2009

‘The Mandolin Case’ case

November 30, 2009

        Billy the truck driver wrote and said he didn’t believe I really had a ‘Mandolin Case’ case.  In this case, I guess a picture is worth 85,200 words.  (the number in the novel as of the seventh major revision).  Here is the story behind the case.

        In ‘The Mandolin Case’ (the book) the mandolin is symbolic of truth.  Some knowledge of different types of mandolins (Loar, Gibson, Weber, carbon fiber synthetics, etc.) will be helpful to get some of the clues, but the reader with no prior knowledge of mandolin lore will also understand the symbolism.  My editor got deep inside my head and came to understand the intersection of the worlds of medicine, mandolins and golf.  (Hint: sometimes folks cheat at golf or medicine, but never with the mandolin; it only responds to the truth)   Her job was to be sure I had conveyed the concept in a way the reader who did not walk in those worlds every day would also understand.  It was a lot of hard work, but she is confident we got there.

        You see, the mandolin is an often mis-understood little instrument.  Many times its players were overlooked at first.  Bill Monroe made the mandolin famous, but even he took it up because his brothers already had claimed the guitar and the fiddle.  On the other end of the spectrum, Tommy Bibey got started because his band could not find anyone else to play one.

        In the Mandolin Case, Indie was a in a lot of trouble.  He and his mandolin pal, James ‘Bones’ Robertson, were but country docs; your basic “Family Dollar Store’ of medicine types.  But they had a secret the rich and the powerful did not understand.  It was in the mandolins, in music, and in the folks who were the players. 

        There are a number of mandolin players I plan to have sign my case.  They all will be someone I have played at least a song with along the way.  Each represents some truth, and therefore carries some symbolism for the story.  Marty Stuart was the first signature on the case.  Who more than Marty represents the mandolin truth in today’s country music?  Marty has stuck to real music the whole way.

        My pal Darin Aldridge is gonna sign it soon.  He taught me more than anyone, and is my number one mandolin mentor.  Darin played for seven years with the Country Gentlemen.  No one gets better tone than Darin. The Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet have a new CD due out soon. Just wait. Trust me; it is that good. 

        Wayne Benson will be on there.  You’ve heard his fine work with III Tyme Out.  Wayne is the best teacher of practical theory as applied to improvisation I have ever worked with. He also studies classical mandolin.  The truth is these guys are far more sophisticated as musicians than what the world knows, and I intent to show anyone who will listen.  

        Rebecca Lovell just signed it.  She was on Mandomania at MerleFest with Darin last year.  She’s a cute kid who just got a driver’s licence and yet is already a virtuoso player.  My generation cut their teeth on Monroe and hers came up on Thile, but we still speak the same language.  If you worry young people don’t dig our music, go see the Lovell Sisters.  When I was coming along bluegrass was a bit of  a boy’s club, but that has changed for the better.  I don’t know as many female mandolinists as I should. I hope to get Sierra Hull to sign it one day although so far I have not played a tune with her.

        I did an article for Tony Williamson one time, and I’ll get his next time I’m by Mandolin Central.  Once I was in a workshop with Mike Marshall.  Maybe I should a left my mandolin in the case for that one.  What a player.  Cuz (Alan Bibey) and I have picked several along the way.  He was the World Champion when I was a young doc; more than enough to convince me to hold onto my day job. 

        I’ll get Sam Bush on there for sure.  How can you have a mandolin project of any kind without Sam Bush?  Sam is about at rock star status nowadays, and is always a highlight at MerleFest.  I played with his sound man years ago (he is a fine mandolinist in his own right) and have played a note or two with Sam at a radio station one time.  I know Sam gets more publicity than what this doc can help him with, but I still want to do what I can to tell new audiences about his music.  

       Sam was at Butch Baldassarri’s seminars back in the 90s.   I still miss Butch.  I have his signature and will reproduce it for the case with the disclaimer that it is only a copy of the original.  Bill Monroe was at John Hartford’s Christmas party and I was fortunate to pick ‘Rawhide’ with him and get his autograph.  I’ll do the same with his and replicate it as an ‘original copy.’  Over time I hope to gather many more.

         It’ll be a fun project.  I promise I’ll make it worth the time of anyone who signs it, ’cause where Tom Bibey goes, so goes “The Mandolin Case’ case.  I hope to bring the mandolin to all kinds of folks who don’t know as much about it as I would like for them to.   Everyone needs to know about the mandolin, ’cause even though ‘The Mandolin Case’ is fiction, it stands for the truth.  We all search for that, and I’m gonna keep on digging.
        So, look for ‘The Mandolin Case’ at a venue near you, and pick one with me.  How bout singing the lead too.  I’m only a part singer and always need all the help I can find to make it in this world.      

Dr. B


Song of the Day on FaceBook

November 28, 2009

        It wasn’t all that long ago when my agent suggested I start a FaceBook page.  I recall I asked, “What is that?”

        It turned out to be much fun and a great way to network.  When I finally get my book ready to go, most of my travel plans have been generated by my WordPress friends, but FaceBook has added a significant number of destinations to my road map.

        I know folks say you can waste a lot of time on it, but it has saved time for me.  About all I post on Facebook is a ‘Song of the Day’ first thing in the morning, and then it is off to work.  Just like WordPress, I have learned much from my readers there too.  In the long run I think it has saved time because I have been able to find all the music folks and have a way to contact them.  In Harvey County back in the pre-computer era we were somewhat isolated and had no way to do this, especially in such short period of time.

        If y’all aren’t on FaceBook, give it some thought.  I’ve got 1000+ friends over there, and it is a good group.  (I found MySpace a little scary)  If nothing else you’ll learn a lot about traditional music, as mine is populated with a number of folks who make their living in that industry.

        I’ll be back for my Monday morning post, for now gonna take in some more holiday with the young’uns.

Dr. B

Thanksgiving Song ‘Thanks to Bluegrass’

November 26, 2009

        My daughter got in late last night.  We debated what song of the day I should post for Thanksgiving.  It didn’t take long to realize there aren’t many Thanksgiving holiday specific bluegrass songs.  She thought of ‘Turkey in the Straw’ (she always was a traditional young’un) and I came up with ‘Wild the Ride Turkey’ by Jerry Douglas.  But neither is a Thanksgiving number per se, at least not like ‘Christmas Times a Coming.’

        We noodled around with a few ideas, then crashed for the night.  These words came to me this morning.  Okay, I admit they ain’t that great, but I really wanted a bluegrass song to post today and I couldn’t find one.  I’m getting ready to go eat turkey with my people, so I’ll revisit it later.  Y’all change ’em around or add to ’em.  The music belongs to all of us anyway.  If you record it, you can give me half credit and send me a turkey!

Thanks to Bluegrass


Turkey’s in the oven
Gravy’s on the stove
Daddy plays the mandolin
‘Bout like Bill Monroe      (poetic licence there folks)
Mama has a doghouse
And sings the tenor true
The kids can pick the old five string
And play some fiddle too


We don’t work the farm these days
But still dig the farm-yard swing
Country folk’s state of mind ain’t bout geography
It don’t matter where you live
From Washington to Maine
You’re good by me and family if bluegrass is your thing



The country doctor way of life
Is all we’ve ever known
But we’re thankful for the lessons that the music’s always shown
My guess is without it old Doc’d be dead and gone
So thanks again for all you do
With those old time songs



Not just today but all year round
We’re thankful for our friends
Cause here in Harvey County the music never ends
So when we’re at the Nursing Home
Here’s what we’re gonna do
Let bingo go, break ’em out, and sing away our blues


Hey, I’m just thankful there ain’t no killing songs today.  Y’all have a fine Thanksgiving.

Dr. B

Why I’m Thankful for My People and the Music

November 25, 2009

        I’ve never been a professional musician but I’m sure thankful for my people and the music.

        When I was courting my wife we were into the Beatles.  I bought a cheap guitar and sang bad versions of their tunes to her.  Bless her heart; she married me anyway.  I married her ’cause I thought she would give me beautiful children (the beauty part wasn’t gonna come from me I assure you) and the plan worked.  She gave me a Gibson mandolin too, and encouraged me to play and not work all the time.   What is it the Ten Commandments say?  (paraphrased)  “Honor thy father and mother and cherish your wife,” or something like that. 

        My daughter went with me to every show I ever played.  My rule was if it wasn’t fitting for a little girl I didn’t sign up for the gig.  She still saw some questionable venues.  Nature trumped nurture though, and she grew up pretty and sweet is spite of her raising.  (Warning guys:  She she has a black belt in karate too.)

        As a young doc, I worked way too hard.  I was exhausted half the time.  When my son got a driver’s permit I handed him the car keys, tossed my mandolin in the back door, sat down in the passenger seat, opened up a newspaper, and promptly fell asleep.  He drove me everywhere we went.  We’d wind up at some mountain bluegrass festival by magic, and I was rested enough to play.

        I met Darin Aldridge along the way.  He treated me like a second father. Due to his influence, I’ve won the award for best mandolin player on the medical staff at Harvey Memorial more times than Rob Ickes has snared the IBMA Dobro player of the year.  (eleven)  After all that, Darin sent me to finishing school for some more study with Wayne Benson.  If a man has Darin on his right hand and Wayne on the left, he has no excuse not to make a mandolin player.  I am thankful for both of them.

        For decades now I’ve picked with the best regional players around, but my day job keeps me close to home, and we don’t travel far.  We have an active local music scene though, and the national bands play in our area every so often.

        Every time a band comes through Harvey County I take in the show if I am in town, and always thank them for what they do.  Medicine is a tough road.  (So is the music circuit)  I take it hard whenever my people suffer and playing, listening to, and writing about music is my escape.   And bless my staff and fellow docs.  They grant me the time to go play, and so do my patients.

        To everyone who ever played a note of this wonderful music, either with me on stage or for me when I was in the crowd, I send you my sincerest Thanksgiving best wishes, and pray you have a fine holiday.  I doubt I’d still be alive without you, and I know I wouldn’t be as happy.

        My whole life has been set to a soundtrack, and I’m richer for it.  I appreciate all my readers.  You not only follow my story but contribute to it.  My life is so much better to have found you, and I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Dr. B

Marty Stuart; Honest Country

November 23, 2009

        As it turned out, we lucked up and found our way into the Marty Stuart show Saturday.  An old guitar pal of mine named Antonio called and had two extra tickets, so we jumped in the car and headed out for Shelby.

        I did not realize just how historic this deal was.  The small town of Shelby, N.C. has put together some kinda music vision with this Don Gibson theater.  We stopped first at the local music store, Shelby Music Center, to get the low down.  A fellow was at work on a guitar at the bench.

        “Hey, I’m Dr. B.  Tell me about the show tonight.”

         “Marty Stuart?”


        “It’ll be good. That Kenny who picks the guitar with him is the hippest alt country cat around.”

         “He’s a player for sure.  Hard to beat Marty. You going?”

         “I wish I could.  Got a gig.”

        “I understand.”

        “Tell Marty he’s real country.”

        “I will.  Whatdja say your name was?”


        “Okay, Randy.  I will, sure enough.”

         This little town of Shelby has it going on.  It is the home of Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson.  Saturday night Marty Stuart kicked off the Grand Opening of the Don Gibson Theater.  I hope they bring him back when they open up the Earl Scruggs Museum, ’cause Randy is right.  Marty Stuart is as real country as they come.

        His Saturday show was a live country music history lesson.  Marty started out with Lester Flatt at thirteen, played five years worth of music with Doc and Merle Watson in a six month stretch, and then played seven years with Johnny Cash before he struck out on his own at the ripe old age of twenty-two.  I hear the strains of all these influences in his music.  It was bluegrass and country and gospel all rolled into one.  It was real.

        One fellow summed up the show the best I heard.  He had seen me play somewhere along the way, and came up and shook my hand.  He’d never seen Marty Stuart and his band before.  “Doc,” he said.  “I believe if none of us had showed up that boy woulda still come to play just ’cause he loves it.” 

        I think that man was right.  If you despair that true country is lost, take heart.  Go see Marty Stuart ’cause it is alive and well.  I think Marty decided a long time ago he wasn’t gonna aim to be some reclusive star, but a real musician for regular people, and that is what he is.  For my money I’ll take an honest country music man over a marketing strategy manufactured ‘star’ any day.  

        And check out this little town of Shelby too.  There must be something in the water there, ’cause it is home to both Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson.  Marty will always be a Mississippi boy, but I expect after Saturday’s historic show, Shelby would like to declare him their adopted young’un.

        And man alive is he a mandolin player.  He signed my gray mandolin case in big silver letters.  It looks quite cool, and I couldn’t help but notice it matches our hair these days.  My mentors always said to play my mandolin like Marty.  Marty Stuart is still a young man, and he clearly respects his elders who have gone on before.  I respect mine too, and they were right.  I’ll always be a doc but I’m gonna continue to try to play it like Marty.

        He sings of factory workers who’ve lost their jobs, poverty of the Lakota Indians, death and lost love, and fiddle tunes and good times too.  His music shows the truth.  Some of my doctor days can be mighty dark to travel, and his kind of music sees me through to go at it again.  You can’t help but love anyone whose music makes your life better, and Marty Stuart’s sure speaks to me.   

Dr. B

Marty Stuart- Get in Line Brother

November 21, 2009

        Marty Stuart inspired my ‘Song of the Day’ on FaceBook; ‘Get in Line Brother.’  The tune is on his ‘Busy Bee Cafe’ LP.   He plays in North Carolina tonight.  If you wanna go tonight it is get in line brother ’cause the Don Gibson theatre venue sold out in about four minutes.  Don’t feel bad, I called too late too.

        I got to play with Marty Stuart one time.  He sees a lot of folks and I’m sure he could not remember it, but it was at one of John Hartford’s Christmas parties.  He and Bill Monroe were both there that night.  He looked just like his picture; big jet-black hair, cool suit, sly smile.  In spite of the clear fact he was a famous star and we were not, he treated us like he was just some regular guy in jam session, though.  I never forgot that.

        I played ‘Rawhide’ with the two of them. After a few times through, Monroe kicked up the pace several notches to where it was too fast for most of us to keep up, but Marty just smiled and kept jamming.  Ain’t no hoss gonna throw Marty Stuart; even Bill Monroe. 

        My mentor that night was a well-connected elderly gentleman who had jammed with Marty before.  On the way home he told me, “Son, I want you to play your mandolin like that Marty Stuart boy.”

        “Yes sir.  I’ll try.”

        When I first heard of Marty Stuart he was a twelve-year-old kid from Philadelphia, Mississippi who picked the mandolin for Lester Flatt.  He says in his biography it was hard to go back to the ninth grade after a summer of that, so he began to tour full-time.  I recall he once said (paraphrased), “You ain’t been home schooled till you learned geometry from Lester Flatt.”  Lord, don’t you know Marty has some stories to tell.

        I like Marty’s work.  When he came to Nashville he wanted one of those Nudie suits only to find out they cost ten times his net worth.  Instead of being mad about it, he made friends with everyone in the store.  He knew he’d be back. 

        These days Marty is a right well dressed cat, but my guess he is still bluegrass at heart.  The man has jammed with everyone from B.B. King to Keith Richards, (not to mention Bill Monroe and Dr. B, ha!) and was mentored by Lester and Johnny Cash.  To me he is still real country and didn’t give in to the pressures to water it down.

          It’s like a doc.  The only business plan I ever had was to treat folks the best way I could and let it shake out however it was meant to be.  I think Marty decided a long time ago to play the best music he could and the heck with trends.  I say more power to ya Marty, and don’t give in.  Based on tonight’s immediate sold out concert, I’d say folks love you just like you are so there ain’t no reason to change now.

        I don’t have a ticket but I’m gonna drive over there with my ‘Busy Bee’ LP and hang around the back door like Marty would have as a kid at the Opry.  Lester Flatt once told Marty to never forget that in this music your fans are fans for life.  Lester home schooled Marty Stuart, and I am certain Marty would say Lester always taught the truth.

         Only problem is a lot of years have gone by.  Nowadays some of Marty’s fans are old gray-haired docs instead of only all those young ladies.  Oh well, it comes with the territory of being true country.  Appreciate your music, and play ‘Rawhide’ for me.  All the best in your travels.

Dr. B

Doctor’s Orders- A Little Dab’ll do Ya

November 20, 2009

        Yesterday Lynn O’Carroll brought me a note from the nursing home.  It seems the young secretary over there couldn’t read my order.  I don’t know why.  After twenty-five years Lynn and Myrd can read my writing without fail. In fact, they can ’bout near skip the paper work and read my mind.

        She handed me a copy of the order.  “The secretary thought it read “one dab to leg today.”

       I looked at it.  “Hm.  Looks okay to me.  What did you think it said?”

       “Oh, I got it.  It says apply TID.  She wanted to know how much a dab was.”  (There are a lot of new school folks in the medical field nowadays.)

       “Maybe you shoulda told her a little dab’ll do ya.”

        Lynn smiled.  “I’m afraid she was too young to get that either, Dr. B.  I told her to just put on little bit three times a day.”

        “Thanks for translating.  Sometimes I wonder if I am getting too old for this business.”

        “Naw, Doc.  You’re just fooling ’em with the gray hair.”

        Bless both Lynn and Myrd’s hearts.  For a quarter century they’ve been making old Doc look better than what he is.

Dr. B