Archive for May 2011

The Battle Begins

May 31, 2011

        The battle begins in the AM. I can tell the pre-treatment light artillery has softened the target some and I can’t wait to see what the smart bombs do.

         It will be two months of intensive treatment. By August I should have a good idea where it is going.

         Prayers and concern but no fear guys. In my prayers God says He ain’t done with me yet.

Dr. B


The The Soft Hearted Tough Love Modified Military Music Therapy Intellectual Brain Tumor Cure Plan

May 31, 2011

        Ok guys, I have treatable brain tumor. It was diagnosed in the first seven days of symptoms. We have a plan.

        I have great docs and nurses and access to the most modern treatment on Earth. There are documented cures of my disease, and not just sporadic ones. But that is only the start.

       I have faith. I My only prayer from the start was God would clear a path for me to serve my people even if my capacity was changed in some way. He has told me says He is not through with me yet. I believe Him.

         I have the best wife in the world. Somehow Charlie Brown got lucky and married the little red-haired girl and never looked back. She curls up next to me and drops my blood pressure twenty points. Who needs medicine with a woman like that?

        My boy has me outfitted with his basic training Camel Back so his mama doesn’t have to follow me all over the house to get my water in me. He’s the tough love part, you can bounce a nickel off his chest or bed either one. “You drinking your water, sir?”

        “Yes sir! I salute my hero. You can count on me sir!

         He hands me a piece of paper. If you hair starts to fall out, here’s man for a class high and tight. I recommend him.”

        “Yes sir, sir.”

        I sent my boy home with my Country Telecaster and an amp. I can’t play it right now; too heavy and a little loud for a few weeks. He played “Sweet Home Alabama” and that baby kicked up a storm in the womb. We’re bluegrass, but we love classic county too. Another musician on the way!

        My daughter is a double major in the Intellectual component of the Brain Cancer War, Masters in both Social Work and Public Health. She grew up with my love of books. She handles all my paperwork. My close vision is off a little right now, so she reads it all and I sign.

        Then there is my extended bluegrass family. God Bless Darin and Brooke Aldridge and Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson. They all came to visit Sunday and we laid down a rough track of “Amazing Grace” on the back porch. It has a few rough spots ’cause I was the goofy band director, so any errors you hear are me. I plan to use it as is as the opening track to the mando duet CD Darin and I had planned this fall. Let the healing begin!

        And I check in with my personal Music Therapist, sweet little Megan Peeler of Nashville every few days and she cheers me on. She’s my little country music daughter.

        We have named the tumor “Long Gone” after the LRB song. Sammy, whenever you play it know you are part of healing old Doc. And folks, if you ever played a note of this music you helped me make it in my world, be it Sam getting me to howl at the moon when a favorite patient died instead of curling up in the grave with my pal, or Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” letting an awkward two left-footed boy slow dance with the prettiest girl in Harvey County. (My wife)

        And thanks to all my blog pals, esp Uncle Ted and Aunt Irene, The bluegrass Blog and Cindy Lou for spreading the word and keeping the faith. Concern is fine and I sure need the prayers, but don’t feel sorry for me. Let’s save that for those who do not have my resources and are somewhat defenseless, like those strong little MACC children who are already my little heroes. If they can be brave surely an old knot like me who has already had a full life no matter what happens can do the same. Lets say a pray for them today. Pray for my Mom and Dad too. They are elderly and also on the warpath for my rescue with food and supplies. They don’t need this. Pray it doesn’t hurt them too much.

        Love you all. Together, you made my life. I God tells me Eternity is still a ways off for me but I will never forget you for all time.

        Sorry for typos, will clean up when the light is better.

Dr. B

Brain Tumor Blues

May 28, 2011

I dedicate this song to my doctors, my nurses, and to anyone who suffers

The Brain Tumor Blues


I’ve got the Brain Tumor Blues   But that don’t mean I’m thru
My neurosurgery pal drilled a hole in my skull and did what  he could do
To rummage ‘round and carve about 
And diagnosis that devil right out
It’ll take time but a cure’s what he pursues


It’ll be pinch of radiation and a touch of chemotherapy stew
I’m Wake Forest Gold but Duke Blue Devil will do
This new recipe ain’t no Bull City Bull
But the hippest new trick to make a country boy full
of hope for a cure and a comeback as good as new



So I’m off my gig a couple of months or three
But I’ll be back just you wait and see
My brain ain’t old, just hypertrophied
There’s doctoring to do and stories to tell
Still so many songs to play I’ve just gotta stay 
And hang aound to for a few more Dr. B days


Dr. B


May 26, 2011

        This just in. First grandchild  due in Oct and is gonna be a boy. (either would be great) My doctor called and asked if I could start my treatments a week early. 

        “Dang right,” I said. “I feel a healing coming on!”

Dr. B

Doc Sick Day

May 19, 2011

        This was an unusual day for me. For one, I did not post a song of the day on FaceBook. There was a reason.

        I awoke this AM with profound vertigo. A few associated symptoms made me think it might be a stroke.  I spent the day in the hospital and I am scheduled for some more tests Monday with a subspecialist. I am home now and I’m a touch better.

        I will tell you what I know. This indeed was a stroke-like neurological illness. There are some more studies that need to be done. It is extremely unlikely I have something wrong that is going to do me in. It is likely this will keep me out if the doc gig for several weeks; a first in my career. I will let you know more when I know more.

        I don’t want you guys to worry too much. Believe me, there are a lot of folks worse off. If you feel like you have to do something for me tell a friend to buy “The Mandolin Case.” In it I embedded every lesson I could on how to live with integrity but still not be trampled on. I love my wife’s long-term motto; “We try to live a life of grace and dignity.”

        I do not know what all of the future holds, but I know these things for certain.

1. My prayers assure me my place in Eternity is secure.

2. My wife and children love me.

3. I had the best staff you could hope for; the same nurses for almost thirty years. Great people.

4. I had the finest extended bluegrass family ever. Darin and Brooke are like young’uns and Wayne and Kristin are like siblings. (except they are married to each other) Moose was like a brother and Horace like a second  father. There are so many more I can’t name ’em all.

5. God gave me wonderful gift years ago; the ability to read books and fill in bubbles on tests, and then allowed to me transfer that into an uncanny ability to diagnose my people with accuracy. I wasn’t the best in the world, but I was good. I am proud of me for this: I used that gift to help people without fail. I never used the gift as a vehicle to take advantage of people, run with women, or have bunch of fancy unneeded toys. I never made that much money but it was more than enough. My motto was one wife, many mandolins. I had three mandolins. (They are all promised) Whenever my time on earth has elapsed I have no regrets because I did my best at every turn.

6. With the exception of John Starling I played as much music as any doctor who ever lived.

7. As far as I know I am the only successful physician bluegrass fiction writer in the world, and “The Mandolin Case” has exceeded my wildest dreams. (see above)

        One more thing, If y’all write I may not be able to get to each one of you with a personal note for a while, but I do appreciate every one of you who ever read a word of mine and gave it serious consideration.

        I’ll be back when I’m a little better and I have any more news. 

Thanks so much,

Dr. B

A Non-Robotic Doc

May 16, 2011

        I just came off a couple of book gigs with Dr. Therese Zink. Check her out on my blogroll. She’s a community medicine professor and JAMA contributor from up North who asked me to collaborate on her southern tour to promote her country doctor compilation. (She chose one of my essays for the book, and also had me write a synopsis for one section) It was a grand opportunity to interact with young docs.

        At one conference the subject of robot docs came up. I agree there are some procedures where robots outperform humans. I’m all for modern, as my 20/20 vision post successful cataract and retinal detachment surgeries will attest, but I also want to be sure we don’t ever take the human factor out of the equation.

       I’ve always feared one day when I got old (and it is closing in on me) a trip to the doctor would be to go to some megasuperstore, sign in to see the robot, swipe your debit card and the cold hearted machine would spit out some half-baked diagnosis and not even pat you on the shoulder and tell you it was sorry. The right diagnosis without human empathy isn’t worth too much to me. (I realize some human docs act that way now; I’m against it)

        As always, the answers to modern medicine are often in music and the arts. As they say on bluegrass radio, “watch out where you’re going, but don’t forget where you came from.” I was pleased so see how respectful these young docs are of tradition, but they are still very modern in their thought process. We’re gonna be in good hands. 

        When my gig is up down the road, I hope they will say, “Old Doc B wasn’t perfect, but at least he cared.”

        My posts may be shorter for a while. I’m heavy into “Acquisition Syndrome” right now. More to follow.

Dr. B

reader Quotes

May 11, 2011

        I got a note on my desk the other day from this sweet young lady. Her Dad and I played basketball together many years ago. It makes you realize “The Mandolin Case” is a “Circle Be Unbroken” kind of project. -Dr. B

        “I saw the write-up in Our State Magazine and really enjoyed reading the book. I loved reading how Bones and Indie escape tough times through their music. It’s a beautiful get-away.”  -B.B.G.

        I have to admit this kind of feedback makes my day. I also added it to my “Quotes From Readers” page.

Dr. B

The Kid and Dr. B; Mandolin Music Memories

May 10, 2011

        A number of my readers have asked for some of my mandolin playing, so Darin and I are gonna do a mando duet CD I hope to release this fall. We might preview some of that work in a set before the Darin and Brooke Aldridge CD release party this summer.

        The CD is titled “The Kid and Dr. B; Mandolin Music Memories.” It will have about a dozen tracks, plus there will be some stories about the songs. (The writer coming out in me there) It is also a musical “thank-you note” to my mandolin instructors along the way. Darin was the first of course. I learned a lot of tunes from Darin, and he has shown me so much about tone and timing and playing in bands. He sent me to Wayne Benson in 2007, and Wayne has also been a huge influence. I plan to transcribe some of his lessons into a book down the road. (with his permission and collaboration) Those boys are so good they can turn a doctor into a mandolin player!

        Wayne and his fine student Jacob Moore are gonna do a cut. Alan Bibey (“Cuz”) helped me at Roanoke a years ago, and also at one of his seminars. He and one of his students plan to contribute one too. I’m gonna work hard and give you my best. I don’t want to let down my mandolin teachers!

Dr. B

Four Part Harmony, Part IV: How to Promote Your Work on The Internet (And Beyond)

May 8, 2011

        Again, I must give credit where credit is due. Some time before we secured a publisher, my agent recommended I start a FaceBook page. And again I said, “What’s that?”

        He said after the book was published FB would serve as a vehicle to promote my writing. So I did what any old guy would do. When we went to visit my daughter I asked, “Sweetie, what do you know about this new FaceBook thing?”

       She rolled her eyes and said, “Daddy, For Heaven’s sake.” Then she guided me through the process. She did not do it for me. As she observed, “You can’t learn if you don’t do it yourself,” but she was far more helpful than if I’d been on my own with “FaceBook For Dummies” if that book has been published yet.

        What do you post?” I asked. I took a look and noticed some folks would write-up that they were gonna get a pizza or watch T.V, and I didn’t see why anyone would want to know about that.

        “”Post about what you love,” she said.


          “Well, some of that is okay, but you don’t want to post anything too personal. this thing is read all over the world.”



        I slept on it, and the next morning when I woke up a song played in my head. (This had been going on with me long before the emergence of the personal computer.) I went to my new page and posted the song on my mind as my FaceBook as the “Song of the Day,” and have ever since. Some of the songs tie back to “The Mandolin Case,” but most do not. When the book was published my agent and publisher got together and created an official “Mandolin Case” fan page. People came to visit. Many were old friends I’d played music with over the years, but there were new ones too.

        Here’s a favorite story. I became FB friends with a gentleman named Dean Eaton. He was from Massachusetts. We had never met in person. My wife and I were at the IBMA awards show in Nashville and by chance a man was assigned to a seat next to us. I heard him mention bluegrass in the state of Massachusetts and looked over his way. Lo and behold I recognized him. It was Dean Eaton. I leaned over and asked, “Say you’re from Massachusetts? By chance do you know a Dean Eaton?

        He was quite surprised. “Why yes. I am Dean Eaton. I inhabit his body!”

        I introduced myself and we all had a big laugh. We went out to dinner later in the conference and Dean became a fine friend. Harnessed correctly Facebook can be a powerful tool to meet like-minded people. 

        Going back to book promotion my agent has always said the book title has to be in front of people at least six times before it will have name recognition, and FaceBook kept it there every day. And I love the Song of The Day. I’m gonna wake up with a song on the brain anyway, so I might as well share it.

        My agent also worked with me to create a Mandolin Case” website. A number of readers have ordered the book off the website via Amazon. I gotta admit though it is more static than the blog and I enjoy the interactive nature of the wordpress community. Here the link to the website  You might want to read about The Journey of the People’s Mandolin, a traveling testament to the power of music. The last I heard it was out on tour with The Grascals, one of the top bands in the biz. (They got their start as Dolly Parton’s backup band and still cut some tunes with her)

        Between Facebook and my blog, I can keep readers posted when I am gonna be in their area for a book signing. In keeping with my life philosophy, I like to do these events where I think it has a chance to help someone else. My agent is an expert at harnessing local media for events. We always try to team up with some other party who could use the book as a vehicle to promote their cause. Through his efforts with radio and TV I have been able to co-promote with favorite bands, charities ( a very important one in bluegrass is MACC, or Musicians Against Childhood Cancer) book stores, music festivals, coffee shops, record stores, high school bluegrass clubs and English classes, music shops, and new Barbecue joints. (I am well fed on this tour) 

        We have also interfaced with the world of academic medicine. Early in my journey, my agent ran across a call for essays for  a country doctor compilation by a Dr. Therese Zink. I recognized her name as a JAMA contributor. Via my agent I submitted an essay, and it was one of several selected from across the country. She is on a N.C. tour next week and we are gonna co-promote the two projects. At least for me, book promotion is the most fun as a “connect the dots to find the cool people” venture. 

        I limit my outings to one a month as I don’t want it to interfere with the doc gig. I’m now booked thru 2011, and will post as I go. I now have one tour sponsor, TKL Cedar Creek Custom Cases, and others who might also get involved. Tom Doughtery of Cedar Creek read “The Mandolin Case” and thought it was a perfect fit for their company. They are building me a custom mandolin case and co-promoting my book at their tour stops. We were at MerleFest together last week.

       Another use of the Internet for me is to simply cruise through the WordPress Dashboard and click on blogs that seem to hold some interest for me. If someone writes in a style I like, or if I learn something that helps me in my writer journey, I leave them a note to that effect. Comments are like applause at a show and every writer I know enjoys the feedback. My agent always said my readers would teach me to write and over the years the wordpress community has been a major force to mold me.

        It helps to have a “prop. My agent knows one writer who writes Civil war history who tours around in a Confederate General outfit. Another is an expert on Mediterranean history and goes on cruises in that part of the world to lecture on his specialty. Hm. Not a bad gig there. I might have to do a bluegrass cruise. For George Burns the prop was a cigar, but I figured that wouldn’t do for a doctor. Mine is my mandolin of course. My wife gave it to me for my 45th birthday years ago. It isn’t a vintage or collectible instrument but it means a lot to me. It is about the only material item we own besides our home that I have an emotional attachment to.

        So my mandolin goes to all my book signings. It is part of me, and was one of the inspirations for “The Mandolin Case.” So far, I have played a few songs at every book gig. People don’t forget some gray-haired green (and blue) eyed doctor who plays a little bitty guitar.

        We have plans for a library promotion in Kinston, N.C. this November, my last gig of the year. My wife loves the holidays, plus we have a grandchild on the way, so I stay as close to home as possible at the end of the year. I like the idea of a library promotion. I figure if I’m in the art biz I might as well promote the arts and “The Mandolin Case” has drawn significant attention to programs that deserve the recognition. Glamor and glitz get enough mileage with me and don’t need my help. (“Glamor and Grits” by Sam Bush, now that’s another matter) I believe the arts can empower us to be better people, and that all great societies should support the arts. Part of my mission is to show young people there is more to life than power, money, and greed. I hope they will see this old doctor who has invested a significant part of his life in the arts. While it didn’t yield a great sum of money it generated enormous tranquility. You can’t take money with you anyway, so it can only do so much good here on Earth, (I agree the essentials are necessary) but I believe tranquility will follow you on into Eternity. My book has yielded me much tranquillity. 

        So there it is. That’s how I promo “The Mandolin Case.” My agent and publisher have a lot of biz savvy. I have to concede my part of it is not very fancy. But that is consistent with who I am and I’m satisfied. The book is too quirky to become a big pop culture item and that’s okay. It has made me a bunch of friends, and is dead solid honest. That’s all I wanted out of it, and I am content. I have more projects on the way, and have the same fundamental aspirations for them.

        So to all who have a book in the works, all best wishes. Hey, maybe you will leave me a comment as to your project. You never know. It’s like my agent said a long time ago, if you write it, one day someone might just read it! Good luck and don’t forget: the book world belongs to the persistent. 

Dr. B

Quote for the Day

May 5, 2011

        I can’t remember where I heard this one, but I like it. It was in reference to music, but it applies to writing, medicine, golf, and most likely many other disciplines.

       “The amateur practices until they can play it right; the professional practices until they can’t play it wrong.”

        I know this: every great musician I know has practiced a whole lot more than I have.

        I won’t give myself credit for too much, but I will for this fact: I am a persistent rascal. There were always smarter and more talented people around, but I worked as hard to be good doctor when I was a young man as anyone I know. At the suggestion of my sweet wife I slowed down a little as I got older so I wouldn’t die young.

        I’ve often said when I get to the Pearly Gates St. Peter will ask, “Son, did you do your best with the talents He gave you?”  

       I’ll reply, “Oh yes Sir, I sure did. Yes, Sir,” and then start to rush on in.

       St. Peter will say, “Just a minute, son. I have few more questions.”

        And I’ll say, “Yes sir, I’m sorry for any and all mistakes I made and I have faith I am forgiven.”

        Then he’ll say, “You may come on in now.”

Dr. B