Mountain Opry: Signal Mountain
I am reminded what Doc Watson once said from the stage. “If you came looking for a fancy show, this ain’t it. If you want to hear some real music, you came to the right place.”
Signal Mountain is true bluegrass. The man at concession stand showed me the sign-up sheet. I signed in as “Tom Bibey, mandolin. Will play for food or for free.”
I got in with a strong girl singer and a solid lady bass player who sang fine tenor. A raconteur banjo man in a straw hat with a sheaf of cool original songs of old Chattanooga needed a mandolin player for the night and asked me to join in too. A country kid named Matt was a stout lead singer, and I covered some harmony for him. He dedicated his portion of the show to his grandpa.
They had popcorn in an old-time machine just like the one Lou Bedford has at the Billiard and Bowl at home. (He bought it when they closed down the old movie house) The hot dogs were as good as the ones Snookers Molesby always beats me out of at the River Run pro shop. A thousand pictures of musicians who’d toured through over the years lined the walls.
I played so hard I forgot all about my book for a while. My agent gave me a signal it was time to go. When they introduced me Matt realized he hadn’t gotten my name. I held up a copy of “The Mandolin Case” and said, “I’m the guy with the book.”
Several people came by to get a copy including one young lady from St. Louis who was interested in rehab type work. I told her all us baby boomers were getting old and she’d never be out of work. She promised she’d look after me in the nursing home if she came south and landed near Harvey County.
My agent asked a promoter in the crowd what made bluegrass different from other music. The man said he promoted two festivals. One was of another genre. He said when the other festival was over he had to get several trucks to carry away the trash. “After the bluegrass crowd leaves you can go through the grounds and gather it up with one hand.” Ain’t that us, y’all?
There is one other difference too. On the way home my agent asked, “Don’t you guys ever get tired?”
“No boss. We can live off music, hard tack, and coffee. We are bluegrass.”
“Well son, you’re about to wear me out.”
This is a great gig.
If you’re in the Chattanooga area check out the Mountain Opry at Signal Mountain. Tell ’em Doc said hello.
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