‘The Mandolin Case’ case

        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

Explore posts in the same categories: Mandolin Players I Know, The tour, Writing


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6 Comments on “‘The Mandolin Case’ case”

  1. pandemonic Says:

    Hi, Dr. B. Back from the NaNo… 🙂 How’s your journey coming along? Remember, I get a complimentary copy!

    • drtombibey Says:

      Lord have mercy; good to hear from you Pande.

      Since we last talked, I have been through another major revision directed by Dorrie O’Brien, a national level editor out of Texas. She made my voice stronger and didn’t strangle it at all. She was great.

      The MS is now being reviewed by publishers. They are taking some time with it, but the fact there have been no rejections is encouraging, so we’ll see.

      I’ve always had 2010 as my goal and one way or another I’m gonna get there.

      How are you coming along? The book journey is quite a long one, huh? I’m still holding you to the promise to trade books professional courtesy, but if I get there first your complimentary copy will be there for sure.

      Dr. B

  2. Smitty Pres. of Neuse River Fan Club Mississippi Says:

    Great post about the Mando Case. I was impressed with how you guarded the case, well not the case as much as the mando inside.

    Ok, got to tell you, preacher man on the 17th,158 yards out,par three, you know the rest, his first hole in one. The ball hit on the front of the green and the next thing we knew we heard the pin being hit. The green was elevated, so we had to go and check it out. We had two witnesses, he and I, but like any good Methodist we called on the trinity to attest and witness. I think it will hold up.

    Boy, this book thing is getting close. I will let Mrs. T know what is going on, she wants to stay in the loop.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Yeah doctors, like educators, have to tell the truth but do so in an encrypted fashion to protect privacy. ‘The Mandolin Case,’ like so many things in life, will be taken to the grave.

      Tell Preacher no one deseves it more than a man of the cloth, to play all those years without cussing the dang game.

      Tell Mrs T. her little former students are knocking ’em out at Ole Miss.

      Dr. B

  3. Ted Lehmann Says:

    For what it’s worth: I read the book in an earlier draft and have seen the actual mandolin case, but before it was signed. I guarantee both will have improved before I see the next edition. One of the great things about your writing and your play is that ego doesn’t come between you and making both better. – Ted

    • drtombibey Says:


      My bluegrass brother, I appreciate your thoughts. I read your article on Lorraine Jordan in BU and enjoyed much. Very accurate portrayal of a hard working outfit.

      Sam Bush was on the cover of that issue. In his article, Sam said he was still searching to be a better artist! I figure if Sam is still searching I better work extra hard. Infinity is always just out of our reach but we have to keep trying.

      Dr. B

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