Archive for October 2010

Riley Harper

October 27, 2010

        I first learned about Riley Harper in a bluegrass background check. Ruppert caught up with him in Raleigh when he tried to trade a mandolin for a used car. Harper said it was a Gibson his grandfather bought in the Great Depression. Of course it was no such thing. Riley Harper had a ton of money and made all of it cheating someone else out of theirs, but Ruppert had to threaten to take Harper to small claims court to get him to pay for the used station wagon he bought for his wife.

        Mama always said if I couldn’t say something good about someone to not say anything at all. I guess I could stop now with Riley Harper. I have no use for those who are not loyal.

        But I told Mama, I said, “Mama, if I don’t write about the bad guys, how are my friends gonna know how to spot ’em?”

        “Hm. I suppose. I guess it’s okay if you write about them, just don’t hang around ’em.”

        “Yes, Mama. I inherited my radar from you, you know. I won’t even let ’em take me to lunch.”

        “You are such a good boy.”

        “Indie used to say I was a Boy Scout.”

        “My goodness, Indie was such a rogue.”

        “Yeah, but we loved him anyway. At least he was an honest rouge.”

        Mama smiled. “”Yes he was dear. I just wish he hadn’t had that affair with that little hussy from France. It took Immogene a long time to get over that.”

        “I know Mama, and you’re right, but at least he was sorry.”

        I’ll be back soon to tell you more about Riley Harper.

Dr. B


Doc’s Music Therapy

October 25, 2010

        Y’all already know I have an odd life. One day it’s belly aches and the next it’s appeggios.

        I have to play music to deal with the injustice of it all. It’s good that I write too. I went back and forth all summer with a series of clerks who couldn’t understand why a patient needed a new set of dentures. Any reasonable person in the world would understand “his dentures don’t fit and he can’t eat,” but I finally semi-satisified them with “masticatory derangement secondary to dental appliance mal-occlusion has resulted in relative caloric deprivation with concomitant serum albumin depression.”

        The way you win these battles is to raise the bar with each exchange until you find a level the clerk can’t interpret. They don’t want to admit they have no idea what you are talking about and give in. (If you do this too early they get their back up and call you a smart a^^.)

        Of course every bluegrasser in the world knows this means, “If that boy don’t get some dentures that fit right he’s gonna starve to death.”

        But because of my music therapy I’m only half crazy. It was a school-house show with Guitar-ed and Feather-ed to the most enthusiastic audience of the year and the youthful energy of Della Mae. It was the relaxation of the informal front porch sessions of New Plowed Ground, and the ever so fine old and new bluegrass mix of Balsam Range. It was a great Django tribute by Reggie and Ryan Harris, with Danny Knicely, a red-hot old-time mando man who knew the gypsy jazz fretboard too along with the cool mandolin vocabulary of my old pal Darin Aldridge.

        It was little Megan Peeler who gave me a treasured memento, a signed photo that dubbed me “the ultimate music therapist,” and The Bluegrass Sweethearts Darin and Brooke Aldridge who invited me to play a church gig on the way back home.

        All these kids know how to recharge old Doc every time. I’m ready go back and do verbal battle with some dim-witted bureaucrat. Let’s see, how ’bout, “This scan is indicated because new onset radiculopathy concurrent with recent trauma and known stenosis is high risk for cord compression.”

        If that doesn’t do it you tell the insurance guy, “look buddy, if this guy winds up paralyzed me and him are gonna get together and send you the bill. I ain’t going away. You can count on it.” That usually works.

        If one day it finally doesn’t, I’m gonna retire, put a full-page ad in the Harvey Herald to name the SOB who didn’t care, and tell the world I’ve gone to Reggie’s to study gypsy jazz.

      But for now, thanks to all my friends who serve as my safety net team of music therapists, I’m ready to fight another day.

        Thanks for the music, guys.

Dr. B

Why I Play Music: Reason #4237 and Cuss Word Number 7

October 23, 2010

        Y’all might get tired of reading it, but I have no choice but to write it. It’s Saturday and I have to play. Reason #4237:  If I never see another human being in my life whose only goal in the doc biz is to be satisfied to make a half-assed, (#7) half-baked, superficial diagnosis because all they really want to accomplish is to drive around town in some overpriced hunk of sheet metal ’cause it makes them feel important for reasons this old doc can’t understand, well….I guess all I know to say is instead of wringing someone’s fool neck I play music.

        In my biz, close counts, and wrong is as good as dead if you don’t care enough to stop and rethink the diagnosis. My mind whirls all day: “Hm…..Could it be….. I wonder….dang, that doesn’t fit…..Maybe…..I’m not sure. I don’t get it all right, but by God I care.

         Now I feel better.

         Art of Sound, Shelby N.C. The old Neuse River converted school bus is all crunk up. Don’t miss it. The Harris Brothers kick it off. Reggie might be the most versatile guitarist in the world, and his brother Ryan’s soul singing moves me every time. Take a picture of the electric suitcase and send it home to Mama. 

        Darin and Brooke Aldridge, the Sweethearts of Bluegrass. A Nashville insider said Brooke was the best new female voice in bluegrass in a decade. Darin is the finest multi-instrumentalist I’ve even known. Together they are magic. They are in the top ten in the bluegrass charts now, and on the way up past that.

      Balsam Range. If Tony Rice says a man can sing, he can. Tony ain’t wrong about Buddy Melton. Strong band in every position. Great modern bluegrass.

        For Heaven’s sake, don’t sit and home and watch T.V. Come join us. The bluegrass and traditional music family will welcome you in. We ain’t crazy, just a little quirky. Check us out.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Day One: Megan Peeler

October 22, 2010

        Art of Sound proves again the city folks know how to have fun too, and they’re just getting started.

        Megan Peeler is a hometown kinda girl who now lives in Nashville. The young lady is mix of down-home and country cosmopolitan. At first she seems like a shy little girl who has a gig at the Fair, but in a few songs transforms into a powerful grown up woman singer. Just when you think the kid has left the building she’ll break into a whimsical piano number or call up regional or local musicians to jam an impromptu song on stage. She toggles in between wide-eyed child and seasoned performer, sometimes all in one song.

        She sings of lost love, heartaches, and busted plans, but then brightens up at the thought of new dreams just beyond the rainbow. Her art reflects the reality of youth; somewhere in between vulnerable doubt and tough-minded independence.

        She’ll make you think about your own. As a father, you wish your children could remain young forever, and that you could somehow shield them from harsh realities and mean people. At the same time you want to free them to enjoy life as an adult the same way you have. Megan’s the kind of artist who makes you realize you need to call up your own daughter and remind her how much you love her.

        Megan has a degree in Music Therapy from Appalachian U. (magna cum laude by the way) As the young lady finds her way in a tough business, she hasn’t forgotten the truth; we play music because it’s fun, and it makes our lives better. It’ll take an old Doc away for a minute to forget all the terrible problems I’m not powerful enough to solve. 

        I don’t understand anything about the music biz, but I can tell you this: Megan Peeler plays and sings real music. My guess is when I land in the Harvey County Nursing Home, she’ll drop by when she tours through and sing “I’ll Fly Away” with me.

        And if I sing a flat harmony line, I bet she’ll just throw that curly head back, laugh, and say the next take is gonna be perfect. Keep holding on to hope, kid, it’s what us older folks do too. We’re all the same.   

Dr. B

Art of Sound

October 20, 2010

        Well, it’s about time to winterize the old converted school bus. We’re gonna go back out one more time, though, for a trip to Art of Sound in Shelby, N.C. My little Marie is gonna ride up front and Marfar will play bass. (My son will miss due to a prior commitment, but he’ll be home for the holidays)

        Miss Megan Peeler will be at the Don Gibson (it’s her hometown venue) on Thursday along with Della Mae Bluegrass, who I met at IBMA.

        Saturday shows include singer-songwriter Al Dunkleman and New Plowed Ground, (he has a new CD due out this spring; fine work) and my old young pals Darin and Brooke Aldridge, the Bluegrass Sweethearts. Any time the kids play in North Carolina there’s a good chance Dr. B will be there.

        The  Harris Brothers, Balsam Range, a Django jam tribute, a big band orchestra, (Frank Love Band) great food and people; Art of Sound is the traditional closer for the N.C festival season; one we never miss.

        Check out their website at: (click on the Art of Sound logo)

        Look for me; I’ll be a face in the crowd. Y’all all know how to find Tommy Bibey; he’s the one with the straw hat and one green and one blue eye. (for bluegrass) Hope to see you there.

Dr. B

Acquisition Syndrome

October 18, 2010

        I have a lot going on, but the success of “The Mandolin Case” has convinced me to get back to work on my second book, “Acquisition Syndrome.” It is a story that documents  the demise of medical practice as a cottage industry, and its evolution into a business. I’m not sure it was such a good thing, but now that process is complete, I want to document what happened. Just as in “The Mandolin Case” I’m gonna use the medium of true fiction.

        I don’t look for it any time soon, but maybe some day the pendulum will swing back, and medicine will be about people again. As Moose Dooley once said, “When I got into health care I thought we’d talk about germs, but all we talk about is money.” The better people are informed as to the inside true story, the more likely the system could someday return to some semblance of rational.

       But for now medicine is a business. And it will stay that way as long as someone can make a million dollars as a scooter salesman and see little but trouble for efforts to encourage people to walk.

        As the old doctor would say at the end of every Medical Staff meeting confrontation, regardless of the issue at hand, “Gentlemen, I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong here, but I think it’s got something to do with money.” He was always right, and that is why the subtitle for the story will be along the lines of “Something to do with Money.”

        I will keep you posted as it goes along. I hope to have a Grisham style outline completed by the end of the year, and a very serious MS ready for my editor Dorrie by the end of 2011. Stay tuned.

Dr. B

West Henderson High Young’uns

October 14, 2010

        There are days when you wake up and realize you’ve got some age on you.  I walked into the West Henderson High office and two young ladies at least a decade younger than my daughter led me to the auditorium.   

        English teacher Cliff Searcy and I played Indie’s theme song, “The Cherokee Shuffle,” and they all began to clap in time with the music.

       I took the mic and looked out at the hundred or so kids. Would they have any interest in writing? I hoped so. I asked if they knew what they wanted to do with their life, and most of ’em raised their hand to indicate a “yes.” That shocked me. When I was that age I had no higher ambition than to get a date for the prom and know where to find the best milkshakes in town.  

       They asked great questions; everything from character development to page layout. Conflict, how to make the plot rise and fall, writing for personal growth; all superb insights.

        One asked about how I outlined my novel and I almost laughed, because I recalled how infuriated my agent would get with my sketchy notes in the early days. I told the student what I’d read about how Grisham did his; he lays out his time-line on a long table and then writes an extensive outline before he ever starts to write the book.

        I confessed my outlines were lousy, but my book came out good. I guess I did it the hard way. I also suggested they learn to type. I never got around to that either. (Lazy I reckon) I often skipped typing class to go play music; I don’t recommend that approach.   

       The questions were so insightful I sure was glad my agent and editor taught me all that as I wrote “The Mandolin Case.” Even as recently as 2007 I wouldn’t have been able to answer them. It takes a long time to make a writer.

        After the talk, Mr. Searcy led me to the school Wednesday jam session. Tow headed and dark curly-haired teenagers played fiddle, bass, mandolin, and guitar with sophistication well beyond their years.

         A photographer from the regional monthly magazine “Bold Life” was there. He was mesmerized. “I’ve heard bluegrass, but this has such a different feel.”

       “Those kids have mountain soul, man.”

        You can hear it in the way they play. Some of them are classically trained too, and that is good thing, but they’ve got their music heritage deep down in ’em.

        Their orchestra instructor played the mandolin in the group as did a young man. Some of the music had a touch of old-time; the history teacher there is a clawhammer banjo man. I guess you’d say some of the passages were modal, but I’d just call it pure as a mountain trout stream. Very cool. 

        Years ago some kinda university professor visiting artist came around to study me and the guys I pick with and said part of our sound was of the mixolydian mode. I looked that up in a music theory book, and thought it was about right, but it didn’t change my playing much. Mine’s got a bit more Foothills, Piedmont, and Sandhills influence but it’s still mountain music. 

        It tickled me that these young ‘uns would let me sit in and soak it up. It thrills me to see the torch passed on. I backed up the fiddlers on “Cluck Old Hen,” a public domain tune Alison Krauss recorded a few years back. When I ran a harmony passage to their melody line one flashed a big smile. Where else but in bluegrass can a kid and an old Doc share the same music? I raised my young’uns in it, and the day brought back many fond memories.

        The photographer said he wasn’t a musician, but you could tell he was an artistic kinda cat. He said, “If you spend your time being creative, you don’t have time to think about being mean.”

         “Amen brother,” I replied.

         Kids, thanks again for showing me the circle will forever be unbroken. There’s enough mean people in the world to go around already, so y’all keep on being cool. God bless you and protect you. May you remain of a child’s spirit even after you have to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. Doc has seen a lot, but in spite of it all I’m still a kid like y’all, just an old one. Between Jesus, family, and music I somehow was saved by grace from most of the impact hard times can have on you.

        Y’all keep on playing. I loved your style. You’re true bluegrass, and I won’t forget you.

Dr. B