Archive for October 2011

Acquisition Syndrome- My second novel (in progress)

October 30, 2011

        “Acquisition Syndrome” is the story of Bones Robertson and medical practice in Harvey County after the death of Dr. Henry”Indie” Jenkins. After Indie died things were about the same in Harvey County over the next decade. The doctors continued on in mom-and-pop type practices that financially floated from month to month. They  made house calls, nursing home visits, and hospital rounds as well as office work.

        Slowly things began to change. Change came to the cities first, and over time it made its way to rural areas. Bones recalled when the first managed care folks came to Harvey County. He was always suspicious of people from out-of-town who showed up in fancy cars and wore expensive watches who were here to “help.” Medicine became about money, power, and control. It became increasingly difficult for small entrepreneurs to stay in practice and became nearly impossible to recruit young doctors who were not inclined to join small organizations that did not have significant capital reserves. Bones began to realize without some changes in the way they did the business of medicine the practice he started, Harvey Family Practice, would not go on after his time. He and his partners decided their hand was forced and they would need to align with some larger entity to stay solvent. “Acquisition Syndrome” is the story of that transition.

        As you might suspect, Bones gathered much of his intelligence from nontraditional sources; car dealers, his old buddy Snookers Molesby, and banjo pickers and other assorted bluegrass musicians.

        A major subplot of the story and involves the development of Billy Spurgeon.  Billy grew up and Harvey County and was the only student at Sandhills University Medical Center who gave consideration to rural primary care medicine, but Billy was concerned about the future. He trusted Bones to make the best decisions for the group he could and planned to come home as much own faith as anything else.

        Bones never claimed to be a businessman. His goal was to align with an institution that would also allow him the latitude to practice medicine in the most patient friendly manner possible, and also not be taken advantage of. It was quite a struggle for him. I’d tell you how worked out but it would take a blog post of novel length, and besides it’d ruin the story for you so I guess I’ll wait till spring when we anticipate the book will be released. We are in the final edit and it still has to go through layout, graphic artists, test readers, line editor, etc. etc.

        So, stay tuned. I will keep you posted as to the progress.

Dr. B


A Mandolin Duet CD – “The Kid and Dr. B”

October 26, 2011

        I just started work on a mandolin duet CD with Darin Aldridge. It is titled “The Kid and Dr. B.” Darin is no longer a kid, but I have known him since he was one, thus the name. As far as I know it will be the only mandolin duet CD which also features storytelling and some generic medical advice; something different anyway, huh?

        The first session went well. If you hear a few clanger notes I assure you it is me and not Darin, but we are working with Greg Luck and he’ll help me pare away the flaws to a minimum. The CD has several goals. One is to honor the relationship with Darin, who has taught me a lot of mandolin over years. Also, I have worked with Wayne Benson since late 2007. I’ve often said if a student can’t learn the mandolin with Darin on his right hand and Wayne on his left there is no hope! As they say on the PGA tour, “these guys are good!” Wayne and his fine student Jacob Moore, and also Alan Bibey (“Cuz”) and one of his students plan to put one cut on the CD. I studied under Alan at the Roanoke sessions and some of his workshops years ago. If you could pick three instructors, I didn’t do too bad huh?

        We have another session scheduled next month so I’ll keep you posted as to the progress.

Dr. B

Art of Sound Music Festival

October 23, 2011

        I had planned to tell you about the progress on “Acquisition Syndrome” today, but played music this weekend. Art of Sound was much fun, and Darin and Brooke were stronger than ever. My goodness, I don’t see how they could get any better. Between the festival and a few naps, I didn’t get to write much. I’ll return to the fiction blog next Monday, but I sure did have a fine weekend.

       I was the mandolin sideman for singer-songwriter Al Dunkleman. His set list is very eclectic and a sideman’s dream because you have to invent mandolin solos for most of the songs as they were not recorded with a mando track. He plays everything from Bruce Springsteen to old-time so you have to be creative and dream up the back-up. Much fun.

        My daughter took a couple of pics. I’m the cotton-topped guy with the little guitar. (A medical definition for the mandolin is a guitar with a thyroid condition.)

        A word for my sponsors. The pic of the case got blurred, but I now carry my mandolin in the official “Case of The Mandolin Case” case by Cedar Creek Custom Case Shoppe. One gentleman there told me he purchased a guitar case from them and really liked it. Also Dr. Dean Jenks of Flint Hill uses a Lakota banjo strap and one aspiring banjoist bought one based on his recommendation. The young man will never need another strap. They are made to last.

        I’ll be back soon with an update on “Acquisition Syndrome.”

Dr. B

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Blog Program For This Important Annoucement

October 16, 2011

        We used to sing an old Reno and Smiley number around the house a lot. One line was “An Angel sent from Heaven you’re everything that’s good. You’re perfect just the way you are I wouldn’t change you if I could.” Well, except for diapers it’s true all over again.  

        We just had the addition of our first grandchild to our family. He has a full head of hair, a fine smile, excellent temperament, nurses well, recognizes family already, and I believe he likes mandolin music. I played “Over the Rainbow” in a chord melody for him, and he went right to sleep. (A full stomach didn’t hurt anything, I’m sure.)

        I once read that some men are driven to be creative because deep down inside they know they can never create anything as wonderous as a baby. I agree with that. How could anything be more beautiful?

        We have hundreds of pics, but I won’t hit you with all of them. These two are of me with the baby and my daughter right after the lullaby.    

        I’ll tell you more about my artistic projects soon. I will do my best, but don’t expect them to be that dramatic. Nothing could ever trump a grandchild.

A Coloring Book for Both Children and Adults

October 9, 2011

        Over the next month to six weeks I plan to update you on my artistic projects in the works. I’m going to do this in the rough order that I anticipate their release.

The first of these projects was inspired by the announcement that we were going to be grandparents. As soon as we got the news my son and daughter-in-law appointed me as lead mandolin instructor. (when the time comes and if the child shows interest; I will not push but will lead by example) After they broke the news I’d lay awake at night and dream of the best way to teach a child music. I had some experience. I taught my boy mandolin, banjo, and guitar and he his mom learned the bass together. My daughter took piano and  played violin and bass in the high school orchestra, and picked up some mandolin and guitar from me.

        Our kids turned out fine but I broke a lot of the rules. I always read that you should not be a friend but a parent to your children. I pretty well ignored that one. We were best friends. Of course I was nothing but a large child who was fortunate to have a decent grown-up doctor brain.  In fact, after she was in about the third grade my daughter ’bout half raised me. (My boy helped too, esp on the golf course) My only rule of music was if the venue wasn’t suitable for a child I didn’t sign up for the gig. Consequently I played a lot of church suppers, charity fundraisers, small festivals, and private parties. We didn’t do the bars or “drunk fests.” So after all those years I had a dream we could put some of our family ideas in a format that could be transmitted by the printed word. The result of all that was a children’s coloring book for both children and adults.

So you might ask what does that mean? Well this book could be approached on several levels. The initial prototype will be strictly an old-fashioned coloring book. On their own a child could color in all the pictures, have fun, learn a little music, and not hurt their development. (In medicine we always say, “first, do no harm.”) However, to take it to a higher level, the book is designed to be an interactive adventure between an adult and a child. By going through it in a systematic fashion and following the instructions the adult will also learn some basic music. It is my belief that even an adult with no background in music whatsoever could teach their child or grandchild something about the mandolin and music in general via this coloring book if they follow each step of the adventure as prescribed.

        Think of it almost like a treasure hunt. And remember; I’m nothing but a big kid. If nothing else you’ll have a lot of fun. I took Jesus, family, heart attacks, cancer and big GI bleeds seriously. Most of the rest of life was a whimsical lark for me. I played music at the highest level I could, but I figured if I missed a note no one died. This little book adheres to that philosophy.

        I had my banjo pal Kristin Scott Benson look over some very early versions of this book. It appealed to her even more as a mother of a four-year old than it did on the basis of her experience as a professional musician. She thought the book had a lot of potential to bring people to understand the fundamentals of music and even if they had no training or background in it. I also talked to the great jazz and Scruggs banjoist Alison Brown of Compass records about the project. She has not seen the early prototype yet but said she would be glad to try it out on her children, which is a thrill to me. Check out Compass Records. They have a fine roster of traditional artists. Compass’ll keep you pointed in the right direction. 

This prototype will not be an expensive item. If it is well-received then we may get it on iPad and other applications. I will say that any book that finds a way to integrate Pythagoras, ancient Greek theories of scales and harmony, Bill Monroe, Roy Huskey Jr., the light spectrum of the rainbow, and mandolin music in a simple enough manner that a child could put the concepts together and do it all from one little coloring book, well……it’s a fun project and I guess it would take some old doctor with a big imagination and too much time on his hands to dream it up.

        Again, I’ll try to present my projects in the order that I think they might see publication. I hope this one will see press by the first of next year. I would love to have it by Christmas but I think that is a little optimistic. Look for posts from me every Monday for a while about what all I’ve got in the works. I appreciate your interest in my work. After I turned up with a brain tumor and did not have the full-time doctor gig I had to do something to feel useful. My music, art, and the writer gig are all a big part of that. I will only be a part-time Doc until next summer when I finish chemo. I hope to get my books off the ground by then so if I improve and can return to full-time Doc status my artistic projects will already have legs and I can concentrate on my patients. In the meantime, if it weren’t for Faith, Family, Music, and writing I don’t think I would have coped with all this nearly as well. Bless all of you for being a part of my healing.

Dr.  B

Almost ‘Bout Perfect Life

October 5, 2011

        Except for the fact I have a brain tumor to beat I would say my life is about perfect. I still get to see my patients, at least on a limited advisory role basis, I write, and as one of the few mandolin guys in town who isn’t on the road I get called to do enough gigs to keep me happy. 

        Take today for example. I practiced with my wife’s band, “Guitar-ed and Feathered.” They have a Sunday School supper coming up and a fund-raiser for a patient (some of my specialities) and I’m gonna play on what Wayne Benson once called “the husband rate.” I think every band needs at least one female, and they have  a whole group. They sing and play well, they make great snacks, don’t chew tobacco, and remember everyone’s birthday. Tis much different from when you play with the boys. 

        I have great life; ’bout near perfect. My wife lets me play all the music I want with pretty ladies as long as I am loyal and faithful to one woman, an easy bargain to keep. (Forever is forever to us, and will be in Eternity too)

        Y’all take it from old Doc and cherish every day the Lord gives ya.  Play hard!

Dr. B

A IBMA Awards, and a Word From Our Sponsors, Cedar Creek Custom Cases and Lakota Straps

October 2, 2011

        Last week after chemotherapy we hopped in the car and drove as far as we could. We made it to Harriman, Tennessee by dark-thirty, then got up the next morning and went on in to Nashville for the IBM trade show and awards ceremony. Winners included Balsam Range, N.C. boys who are now International. We are very proud of them for Song of the Year and Album of the Year, “Trains I’ve Missed.” (Correction: The album of the year was “Help My Brother” by the Gibson Brothers. -Sorry guys.  Dr. B)

        Also from N.C. The Steep Canyon Rangers and Steve Martin won the Entertainer of the Year award. They are very deserving, not only because they are wonderful performers but also because they will bring new folks to traditional music and in large numbers too. They are managed by the Don Light Agency out of Nashville, one of the big talent agencies out there for many years. Look for more and more exposure for bluegrass from all these guys.

       All of my personal favorites didn’t win but everybody who did win was quite deserving of their award. It’s like they say on the PGA Tour “these guys are good.” For example on the mandolin there are players who have never won like Wayne Benson of III Tyme Out, (and needs to win someday soon) my pal Darin Aldridge who we don’t hear play as much mandolin these days because he’s busy with the guitar and fronting his band, Emory Lester who mixes hot play and melody as well as anybody I know, “Cuz” Alan Bibey of Grasstowne who is both jazzy hot and bluegrass all at the same time, Joe Walsh of the Gibson Brothers adds just the right touches to those wonderful brother duets; the list goes on and on. There are many others. There are countless journeymen players who are far better musicians than I am who might never as well-known as they should be. I think they all deserve an award, so I send them all a special commendation for the pursuit of excellence; often against all odds.

        While we were there, Tom Dougherty of TKL Cedar Creek Custom Cases presented me with a new custom mandolin case. It is the official “Case of the Mandolin Case” case. Tom and I have worked several shows together and when I got sick he did not abandon me as a sponsor as of my book tour. I have not been able to do this much in return for him as I would like, but I am confident my health will improve and we’ll work some more together. In the meantime he does have some books on hand, and will include a free book with the next half-dozen or so cases ordered. 

        I’ve included some pictures off my new case below.  Tom was very kind. He wanted to match my hair color and thought “Vintage Silver” salt and pepper was about right. I’m probably closer to electric silver (or white) these days but I appreciated the compliment. I still have a some dark hair left and appreciate his recognition of that. If you want one the official color is “Vintage Silver.” the inside is a beautiful burgundy. 

        Here is their website: If you need a new mandolin case he can build you one just like mine (he official case of “The Mandolin Case” or he build one to any custom specs you like. They also build guitar banjo and other instruments.

         I also touched base with Lakota instrument straps while we were there.  For my money this is the softest and most durable instrument strap in the world. They are hand-made by the Lakota Indians out of bison, buffalo, and elk. No one has more experience with these materials than the Native Americans; they go back long before the Europeans arrived! With their relationship with Lakota the company has a genuine interest in Native American culture. They have connections with the Navajo and plan to ask some of them to read “The Mandolin Case” case for authenticity as far as the references to code talkers. Website: Website:

       In addition my book tour is sponsored by DR strings. I did not get a chance to get up with them while we were there as we had to come back home. Don’t tell too many people but I had a rock ‘n roll gig with my solid body electric mandolin Saturday night. It looks like a Telecaster that got hung up in a clothes dryer. (Don’t worry I’m still bluegrass guy at heart.) We played some blues including B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” and also Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” I also included a picture of this gig below.

         I have several books and art projects in the works. Over the next few weeks I will try to bring you up to date as to their progress. After I got sick my blog became more of a running personal diary for my children and upcoming grandchild to look back on in case something happened to me. However, all indications are this is not going to kill me so I hope to return to more of a freewheeling fictional blog instead of just a personal journal before long. 

        Talk to you soon.

Dr. B