The Bluegrass Way
We had snow Friday. Saturday morning Max called. “Hey Doc, you on call this weekend?”
“Nope. How come?”
“The Crowe Brothers were due in tonight. They’re snowed in.”
“My boy lives up there. I understand they had more than a foot.”
“Sure did. I gotta put together a show. Can you come and play mandolin? Need a part singer too.”
“Seven. Come at 6:30. Come in the musician’s door.”
“Will do. Tell the Crowes I hate to miss them.”
“I will. They’ll be back in the spring. Come pick with ’em then too.”
Our roads were clear by mid-day, so it was an easy drive. When I got there someone had put up one of those magnetic signs. A spot-light illuminated the line-up. It read: ‘Crowe Brothers snowed in tonight. Max and the McKee family, Timber Ridge, and Dr. B on the mandolin.’ I had to smile. I hadn’t seen my name in lights since Neuse River made the marquee at the Walmarks. (That was big)
It’s called the Bluegrass Inn #2, in honor of the original one in Nashville. I understand they got permission from Pee Wee Davis to borrow the name. A blue/gray board and batten building with a gravel parking lot, it is far off the beaten path. When you walk in, you’ll see an assortment of old photos on the walls. Both the famous and the obscure have played there, and are equally welcome. There was one of Earl at about age thirty, and another of Bill Monroe’s baseball team. Fliers tout everything from GooGoo Clusters to Ex-Lax, and of course there were a number of them for Martha White flour. An old poster advertises a Sandy Springs Flatt and Scruggs show. The ticket price reads $1.50, and $1.00 for children. Kids under six were free.
We warmed up for a minute then took the stage. Max has a switch right next to the popcorn machine. He calls for ‘lights’. They flip the switch and the house lights go down and the stage lights go up. The show is on. It is mostly standard material like ‘Cabin Home on the Hill’ or ‘The Old Folks at Home.”
Another band came on. Their guitar man had been snowed in, so I switched over to flat-pick guitar for them. (I’m rough style on guitar but got by) The mandolin player had been through some tough medical problems and thanked me from the stage. I really hadn’t done anything for him other than line him up with the oncologist I would go to if I had cancer, but it was nice of him. There is something spiritual about playing music with your patients. Standing next to him it hit home how much it all means. One fellow in the crowd got up and did ‘Father’s Table Grace.’ You don’t hear many good recitations anymore, and it was excellent.
At the end of the show, Max called everyone back up on the stage for an old-fashioned grand finale. It was a small crowd, only about fifty people; but Max played as hard as he could the whole way. He laughed and joked with the crowd and entertained with his all in spite of the fact the weather made for an off night. After the show he offered to pay me, but I told him to let it go. “I get more out of the music than I give it, Max. Consider it a Christmas present. Professional courtesy. It’s the bluegrass way.””
“When the Crowe Brothers come I want you to pick one with them.”
“I’d be honored to.”
On the way out of the parking lot, I took another look at the little magnetic sign. ‘Dr. B on the mandolin.’ It struck me how far away my music orbit circles from someone like Taylor Swift. But, if my name helped Max sell a dozen tickets, that was good by me. I might not be much in the music biz, but I am glad I get to do what I can.
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