Archive for January 2012

To a Child’s Ears

January 29, 2012

        Today my FaceBook Song of the Day was “Bringing in the Sheaves.” When I was a kid I thought we were singing “Bringing in the Sheep,” and kept a check on the back door to see when they were gonna bring in the sheep. This led to a lively discussion from readers. It turned out readers had similar thoughts in childhood. Dennis Jones, the great bluegrass and gospel DJ at WNCW radio had a cousin who heard it as “Bringing in the Sleeves,” I suppose for the kids who needed some patch work on their shirts.

Jim Moore, who has just started a book called “Adventures of Growing Up in Church” always thought the Christmas carol was “Hark the Harold angel Sings.” I guess he never did find poor Harold. Also from Jim: “washed in the blood of the lamb”. I thought I was going to have to take a bath in lamb’s blood. Growing up in the country, at early age, I had witnessed slaughter time.”

From Pam Warren: “When I was a kid I thought the pledge of allegiance said “One nation under guard,” which is actually pretty close to the truth.

Naomi Carroll McClellan heard the song about the same as I did, except she thought it was “bining in the sheep.”

From Jewell Burke: “Even as a child, I used to try to visualize what the words in the songs and sermons meant! Oh boy did I ever come up with some humdingers! One ‘activity’ I enjoyed was reading the hymnals titles on both pages together! “Just as I Am, Down By The Riverside”. etc.

After reading these and some family discussion we came up with some more. My daughter remembered a kid from school days who heard the line “2 plus 2 equals” and was on the lookout for two eagles for weeks. Another heard a phrase as “For all “intensive” purposes.

        Heck I remember one fellow in the pre-med program who wondered why Clarence didn’t ever come to class after a discussion of the physiology concept “creatinine clearance.” (Don’t worry; he didn’t make it)

        I think Jim ought to make “How Kids Hear Hymns” the subject matter for one chapter in his book, don’t y’all?

Dr. B


Left, Right…Left, Right.. (A Mandolin Method)

January 25, 2012

        I once knew a golfer who had a standard reply if he’d had a bad day.

        “How’d you play?”

        “Army golf. You know, left right, left right.”

         It had two meanings. One was the obvious: he’d hit one shot left and the next one right. The other was more subtle: On that day he’d been unable to co-ordinate right and left brain activity.

        That doesn’t work in golf or music. Especially in music, if you need one more it might be the right side. I know players who seem predominately right-brained who play great, and left brainers who often have a lot of book learning but have trouble expressing it in their play.

        Now being a doc who came up in books I was afflicted with this malady at times, but I found ways to adapt. One answer for me was my bluegrass young’un, Darin Aldridge. He taught me so much over several decades. I am forever indebted to him. The second influence came along a bit later and that is my bluegrass brother Wayne Benson. I had known Wayne for years and began to take some lessons from him in 2007. As I have said many times if a man can’t learn to play with Darin on his right hand and Wayne on his left he’s hopeless.

       Wayne and I just stated a book project based on Wayne’s teaching method. His lesson plans are the first method I have seen that teaches practical mandolin theory to the student’s left brain and shows them how to transfer that intellectual knowledge to the right side. Instead of Bonaparte Crossing The Rhine” it is “Benson Crossing the Corpus Callosum,” the partition that divides the two cerebral hemispheres of the brain. It won’t make us play like Darin and Wayne but the knowledge will help move us in that direction. If should be fun.

        It’ll be at least a year before the book comes out, so in the meantime go to these guys if you live near them or book some time with an instructor in your area. There’s a bunch to learn, and it sure is easier with an experienced instructor to guide you.

        Left right, left right!!

Dr. B

“The Kid and Dr. B” at Riverside Studio

January 21, 2012

        Darin Aldridge is my “bluegrass young’un.” I have two biological children who I am very close to. Darin has been such a close friend that he is right next to family. He would often drop by the office at lunch to show me a new tune, and taught me a lot of mandolin over the years. I always wanted to do a mandolin duet CD with him, and we are have almost finished with it now.

        We recorded with Greg Luck at Riverside Studios, and bless his heart he took the time to work with old Doc and make it right. There are some pics on Darin Aldridge’s FB page of the day at the studio. We still have to mix and master and line up art work etc, but we are close. Like books, CDs take a lot more time than what folks know.

        The title of the CD is “The Kid and Dr. B- Mandolin Music Memories and Stories.” As far as I know this will be the only mandolin duet CD which also features story-telling and also a bit of generic medical advice; I always was a little different.

        Carmen Claypool from Missouri picked up on the fact that several cuts will serve as a companion CD to “The Mandolin Case.” There has been some talk of a movie. If that ever happened, I hope y’all will lobby for our version of “The Cherokee Shuffle.” Darin and did the mandolin duet and then Darin overdubbed  a guitar track and Luck filled in the bass line. We left several cuts spare by design and for a certain effect we wanted, but filled in this cut in case there was ever a soundtrack. Also I had any say in it the “Lost Indian” cut by Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson with Wayne’s super-talented N.C. student Jacob Moore would also make fine soundtrack material.

        Of course most of this movie talk is only daydreaming by an old Doc having fun, but the CD is a definite, and we hope to release it in a few months. As far as movies, well, a man has to have his dreams, and I think it is time for another good bluegrass movie, don’t y’all?

Dr. B

Another Way to Rent-A-Doc (or other) Books (Free!)

January 16, 2012

        When I did my book show at the Neuse Regional Library in Kinston N.C. I noticed how young the staff was. They seemed very tech savvy too. Like everyone else in this new cyber world they have to be to stay viable.

        My agent just wrote me about a new way to read “The Mandolin Case.” If your library has the service you can download it to your Kindle just like you’d check out a book at the library. Very cool! Harvey County Library is old-fashioned and hasn’t changed much. It is still right across from the mill; just a few doors down from Bolt’s Drug Store where they made the best Orange-Aide in town. Harvey Library is all dusty shelves and hardback books with broken spines, and thumb smudged pages with a musty smell I still love, but they aren’t into high-tech yet. However, I called a few counties west to my adopted home of Cleveland County. I was not surprised to find out the home of Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson was hip to new ways. They have the art going on over there. The librarian at the Cleveland County library in Shelby, N.C. said if you have a Kindle and an Amazon account and a library card, and you could check out “The Mandolin Case” (and many other titles) for two weeks. If you have a PIN number you can even do so from home. Great news for the shut-ins on these cold winter days! 

        I’m all for it. I’ve always loved libraries. If it hadn’t been for my wife and books, this country boy would have never survived.

        So, if do a lot of your reading on Kindle, call your local library and see if they are on board with the idea. In the long run it would save money to check it out at the local library instead of buying it. (It’s OK with me if you buy it too!) and it is another tool to help keep libraries afloat in a tough new world for them. Check it out!


Dr. B

Carolina Lightnin’

January 12, 2012

        I thought my readers would enjoy this clip. I first met Tommy Edwards way back when he was with “The Bluegrass Experience,” the 1972 Union Grove World Champion band. Here he is joined by some fine musicians and friends old and new. Dr. Peter Temple and Tommy were my first big bluegrass influences. If you are ever in the N.C. Research Triangle area (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill etc) look for them at places the Q Shack, The Blue Note Grill, and the Pittsboro General Store. Check ’em out. Fine picking and singing; the real deal for traditional music.

Dr. B

Doctors Gone Broke

January 9, 2012

        The headlines were splashed all over the Internet this weekend. Doctors, esp in Family Practice and General Surgery, are going broke. What amazes me is that anyone is surprised. This trend began decades ago and the end result was predicted by most of us in the trenches. No one paid us any heed. In the end the perpetuation of big biz mis-truths only served to enrich insurance executives and empower elected officials. It was a mistake. Try to get help from them if you have a belly-ache.

        I am old enough to remember when “managed care” came to town. At that time some touted a no co-pay plan. I was one of the very last docs  to sign on. “But we can see you for free,’  some patients said.

        “Don’t you understand what they are doing?” I asked. They are like Potter in ‘A Wonderful Life.’ They aren’t selling you anything; they are buying. They are buying you all up in mass. Once they have you they can do anything with you they wish. You’re not going to like having to beg them for your medical care in a decade.”

        I also predicted co-pays would soon exceed our office visit charge at the time. My nurses would witness to this fact. It didn’t take long. Soon co-pays exceeded our old office visit charge from just a few years prior. Where did the money go? As the headlines indicate it wasn’t to country docs. Insurance companies run ads on television that cost more than our entire annual office budget back in the early days. Many of their executives make more in a year than what a country doc could make for decades of sweat equity.

       The trend took hold though, and once I could plot out my demise on a graph I signed on too. It was that or run aground at the hands of rich and powerful people.

       I recall when I started practice. People said I would do well  because I was well-trained, did well on Boards, liked people, and I cared. A good friend of mine who had an MBA said, “In a decade that will not be enough. If you don’t have the right business connections you will not stay afloat.” He was right and I am glad I listened. I did my best to survive in a world that came to be dominated by money and power instead of patient’s needs.

        If you were stranded on a desert island and could have two kinds of  doctors, you should probably choose Family Practice and General Surgery. It wouldn’t be pretty, but they could handle about 80% of what comes in the door. Think about it. What other two would you want? How about Radiology and Dermatology?  You get my point.  I have nothing against any specialist. I can see thanks to modern ophthalmology and I am alive due to the efforts of my oncologist and his staff.

        Primary care and general surgery are not sexy or glamorous specialties in a silly celebrity oriented modern world and have been ignored to the brink of extinction. And the kids going into medicine understand. They face a lifetime of excessive regulation which strangles any hope for efficiency. They will be underpaid and  overworked for the foreseeable future. They are not dumb. When some mid level executive who is ABCDA can make three times a seasoned doctor’s salary it is discouraging.

        Oh well, the money/power people didn’t pay me any attention when I was young and healthy. Now that I’m old and sick I’m certain that won’t change. I have been at work on “Acquisition Syndrome” for a few years now, and it addresses many of these issues in real life practice. It is fiction, but as I’ve always said fiction should show the truth but tell no facts. It should be out this spring.

        I’ll be back soon to report on bluegrass. Maybe it’ll take over the world and make it a better place. Oh well. A man has to have his dreams.

Dr. B

Here’s a link to the article:… – Cached

Grandchild Christening

January 1, 2012

        This weekend was the christening service for the grandchild. My goodness.

        All of the family made it in force. The preacher had plenty of good words of wisdom out of The Book, and the baby didn’t fuss over the sprinkling. My daughter-in-law wanted us to play “Amazing Grace.” Darin was there and I brought a guitar and a mandolin so we were more than happy to comply. We also did “”What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” My brother’s wife asked for “Jesus Loves Me,” so we cooked up a quick rendition of that. I guess twenty years from now when he asks about the ceremony they can say the denomination was Christian, Methodist, and Bluegrass Gospel. The parents were the boss of course, so we let them plan it and did what we could to help make it happen. It seemed like a fine way for a baby to start out to me.

        We went back home to ham, all kinds of sides, Mom’s homemade potato soup, good bluegrass black coffee and pecan pie. Mercy!

        Darin and I picked a few more tunes, mostly out of the old Bomb Shelter repertoire from when my children were growing up, songs like “Catfish John,” “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky,” and “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home.” Everyone sang along. My son joined in on the stand-up bass, so that brought back memories too. 

        We raised ours in the music and it all worked out fine. My son and his wife want to raise the new baby in it too and I’m gonna help all I can.

        I’ll post pictures soon. I hope y’all have a Happy New Year. 

Dr. B