Show Don’t Tell (More on Signal Mountain)

        My agent is already long-suffering. I think he’s having fun, and I know he’s learned a lot about bluegrass and our people. But I’m about to wear him out. When we left Chattanooga he said, “You go back and doctor for a while and let me rest.”

       My Marfar took me by the arm. “This has been going on a long time. I’ll take him home for a while and give you a breather.”

        The number one thing that will exasperate my man is I forget to try to sell books at shows. I’ll get to jamming and telling old stories, and then I’m lost in the event. I’ll see him at the back of the crowd waving “The Mandolin Case” in the air and mouthing the words, “Don’t forget the book.”

       The band I was picking with took a break, and I went to speak to him. “I’m sorry boss. Oh, okay, yeah I forgot. Okay. I’ll remember to tell ’em, but I gotta go back on. See Ed in the straw hat? He wanted me to pick, and I already promised. He has some great tunes I learned backstage. I can’t let him down. You know; Show Business, the show must go on, all that stuff.”

       I went back on stage. After several songs, there my man was again. He waved a copy of the book in the air and pointed towards my feet. I looked down and he had propped a copy on the stage monitor. Matt stopped to introduce the band, and realized he didn’t even know my name. “And on the mandolin is uh….”

       I reached down, picked up the book and waved it in the air. “I’m the guy with the book.” 

       The crowd laughed. My agent shrugged his shoulders. It was the only time all night I remembered to pitch it. After the set several folks gathered around and bought a copy, and we all yakked about the local music scene or their work and career aspirations. It was a huge time.

      We headed back down the mountain. I sat in the back seat and got out my mandolin. “Dang it, I messed up on “Clinch Mountain.” After all these years you’d think I’d get in the monitor on that hiccup part. They didn’t hear me, and it threw ’em off.”

        My agent was in the passenger seat and his son drove us down the mountain. The boss turned around to recap the night. “Doc, you’re doing fine, but you have to remember you must pitch your book.”

        “Huh?” I tweaked my “A” string. “Sorry boss, I was outta tune a little. Whatdja say? Oh yeah, books. Yeah. Well, we did okay don’t you think? A lot of people bought one, and they all had good stories to tell. We made enough for gas to get home, didn’t we?”

       “Yes, but most of my authors choose to sit and read a chapter or two somewhere in there.”

       “But boss, this was the Mountain Opry at Signal Mountain. Didn’t you see all those pictures behind the glass in all the cabinets around the walls? Many were local and regional players, and a lot of ’em went on to become famous. In bluegrass it don’t matter though, every one of ’em is important. This ain’t a book business, it’s a people business. No different than a doctor office except it’s a book and mandolin instead of a stethoscope and bad news.”

        “I understand, but you need to tell ’em about the book.”

        “I’ve got a lousy lead singer voice. I’m afraid if we stopped for me to read out loud they’d get bored. They’ll read it when there’s no picking going on. Man, you just want to be Col. Tom Parker, but instead of drawing Elvis you got Tommy Bibey. Sorry.”

        “Okay, but when we do a book store signing, you must slow down and at least read a passage or two.”

        “Yes sir, I’ll get around to that, I promise. Right now I’m too busy living to stop and read to ’em what they can read at home for their own selves. Besides, when the bluegrass people read it they always get it and understand the truth; it’s just a matter of trying to get the rest of the world to understand.”

       He sighed and slumped in his seat. “Okay, whatever. Just please don’t forget to tell them about the book.”

       “Sure boss, but I’m just doing what you said to do.”

       “And how’s that?”

       “The book is all about why music can be important to people who don’t play professionally. Guys like me. In the beginning you said to make sure to show, but don’t tell. Seems like to me that’s what we’re doing.”

       “Good grief. I’m gonna take a nap.”

       “Plenty of time to sleep when we’re dead, secret agent man. Hey, don’t forget to get in the mic when you play that little pause in “The Clinch Mountain Backstep.” Miss is and you’ll wreck the whole song.”

       “Okay, whatever.” He mumbled on as he drifted off to sleep. “Next time I get a physician bluegrass fiction writer I’m gonna….”

        “Don’t worry, man. At least we aren’t dangerous like those vampire folks you hang out with some nights.”

       “Don’t make fun of ’em. They sell a lot of books. And they tell people about ’em too.”

       “Okay. boss. I’ll be good.”

       He fell asleep. His son looked back at me in the rear view mirror. “Hey Doc, don’t let him pull your leg. He’s having a great time even if he ain’t making much money.”

       “In the morning, tell him he’s gonna turn into a bluegrass man sure enough.”

       “Will do.”

Dr. B

P.S. I almost forgot. My agent reminded me to tell you “The Mandolin Case” is available on Search books, type in “The Mandolin Case” and hit “go.” If you see me out picking, let me know you’ve got a copy and I’ll sign it at the break.

Explore posts in the same categories: memorable gigs, Writing


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8 Comments on “Show Don’t Tell (More on Signal Mountain)”

  1. Ted Says:

    Pretty good read for a doctor, mandolin player, golfer…..

    • drtombibey Says:


      It was a great summmer tour, but I’m just as happy back at the doctor gig too. I’m closing in on being an old man and I gotta keep believing my patients need me.

      Dr. B

  2. BIlly Says:

    Great to meet you at the Smokin’ Ed’s BBQ. See someone posted some photos on the Facebook Mandolin Case site.

    • drtombibey Says:


      Cool. Will go check it out. Hey I’m working on a gig in Knoxville you’d really like. There is a bluegrass guy up there named Jerry Butler who did a whole CD of truck driving songs. I’ll let you know if I pull it together.

      Also my agent is at work to try to get a deal lined up with audio books. We’ve had several truck drivers tell us they feel safer with a book on tape than to try and read while they drive.

      Dr. B

  3. newt221 Says:

    Glad you are having fun and enjoying yourself. Tell the Agent to “cool it”…The book is doing good!

    You are right, got time to rest when we are dead!!!!
    Just remember not to “enjoy” or “run” to hard.

    • drtombibey Says:


      After a torrid first month for the book we decided to scale back to one weekend and one Wednesday a month. I think that’ll be a pace we can live with and not burn out.

      Yeah, I think my poor agent just wants to be able to whup up on the other agents. I am an odd man; very non-competitve. As long as we have fun and people like it it’s all good by me.

      Dr. B

  4. Ah, Dr. B, ain’t that just like you! Too busy picking to remember that you’ve got a book out there to sell. Actually, though, I think that introducing yourself as the guy with the book is about the best thing you could do, PR-wise. It know that it would definitely prick my curiosity! I’d go find that guy with the book afterwards and see why he was such a modest fella!

    • drtombibey Says:


      We are having fun. I feel like the thing will sell enough on it’s own that I’ll be happy. Besides, I figure I’m the world’s only physican bluegrass fiction writer. If anyone sets out to research that subject they’re gonna land here anyway.

      Hey in the AM I’m gonna post a link to an NPR radio show that will air 2:00 PM EST Wednesday 8/4/2010. If you miss it I think they’ll be a website where you can hear it later. Will post on this in the morning.

      Dr. B

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