Archive for the ‘Writing’ category

Project Updates

March 4, 2012

        My progress, as in every other aspect of my life, is slow but moving in the right direction. My health slows me down but it has not stopped me.

        “Grandpa’s Mandolin Book,” a Coloring Book For All Ages.” I just sent in one last fret-board diagram, and have completed my part for this one. It’ll take a few months after that, but I promised spring and I’m gonna make it. Everyone has been patient. Under normal circumstances I’d been finished with my part back in the fall. It might be my favorite project of all, but my health problems slowed me down. This book was inspired by and is dedicated to our grandchild. When my son and his wife announced the pregnancy, I was so excited I had trouble sleeping, and dreamed up the book as a way to start the child out on the mandolin.

        “Acquisition Syndrome,”From Healing Art to Business.” I turned in my last edit to my Lit agent, who sent it in to the publisher. They like it and believe it will go to press about the same time line as the children’s book. Be forwarned. If you don’t want to know of the greed and exploitation that sometimes invades what should be a healing art, don’t read this one. On the other hand, there is hope. In his journey, Bones Robertson found that most people are good. 80% will do the right thing because that is their nature. The other 20% will do the right thing when they begin to realize that it is their best interest to do so. You can improve the odds they will do right once you understand what motivates them. Of course there are some folks you just can’t deal with, and just have to hope to avoid. There are some of those in the story too.

        “The Kid and Dr. B.”  This is a mandolin duet CD (Along with storytelling and some generic medical advice) with Darin Aldridge. Also Wayne Benson put a cut on the record with his fine student, Jacob Moore. “Cuz” Alan Bibey also plans to send in a cut. I can promise you this: All of these guys are good. If you hear a clanger note, it’s old Doc, and not them, but we’re having fun. I was very pleased they wanted to contribute a cut as I wanted to honor the teacher student relationship. My teachers along the way have been Darin, Wayne, “Cuz” Alan Bibey at Roanoke and other workshops, and also “America’s teacher,” Butch Baldassari, who we’ll always miss. I went to two of his seminars in Nashville back in the 90s.

        “Practical Theory for Mandolin” by Wayne Benson and Dr. B. This one is due out in 2013. I am but the scribe on this project. I have taken lessons from Wayne since 2007, and this is a written documentation of Wayne’s lesson plans. We just started the project and it will take a year or so to complete. I believe it will allow the less intuitive player (like me) to play the mandolin at a higher level than they would have been able to without his roadmap.

       So, in spite of illness, I’m trying to stay busy. I’m only good for about two hours a day of productive activity, but I can’t just roll over and give up. I’d surely die if I did.

Dr. B

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Ice Cream

March 1, 2012

        I once read that no one had ever been on their death-bed and wished they’d eaten less ice cream. I don’t I am at risk any time soon but when my time comes to go I don’t have to worry. My wife has seen to it that I have plenty of ice cream on hand. As long as my weight, blood sugar, cholesterol etc hold steady, I don’t see any harm in it, and when I’m gone I plan to have no regrets. You can’t have too much music or ice cream in life.

Dr. B

Saturday Night Sunday Morning

February 26, 2012

        Ralph Stanley had a CD out several years ago by this name. Tis the bluegrass way, huh? It was that kind of weekend for me. Saturday night I had the pleasure to sit in with Charles Ebert, the jovial West Virginian, and Timberline Bluegrass at at Barley’s Taproom in Spindale, N.C. It was great fun, fine pizza, and music therapy for Doc. I told the mandolin player of my bluegrass side-man plan from a few posts back and he was cool with that. I don’t like to crash anyone’s gig, but if I can help out I enjoy that.

        Then Sunday morning I talked to the church Praise Band about doing a little fill in work. (My health won’t allow any full time commitment right now, esp during chemo week. They have young lady on the mandolin so if she’s out I’ll cover her part, but when she’s there I’ll either do some mandolin harmony work or play mandola. If we do a Hee-Haw type gig, I can cover the banjo. (At least the basics) It is all so good for me; makes me feel needed.

        I should have news on “Acquisition Syndrome” before long. One publisher is ready to go, but a couple others have it under consideration, so my agent wants to hear from them before we make a decision. I hope to be able to tell you more soon.

        Here’s wishing all of you many Saturday night/Sunday morning weekends. Years ago one med student told me I both worked and played harder than anyone he’d ever met, and he was gonna go back to the Medical Center to get some rest. I didn’t miss much along the way, stayed out of trouble, and had a lot of fun. I have no regrets regardless of where this tumor takes me. (So far still moving forward; don’t worry till Dr. B says worry.)

Dr. B

Spring

February 23, 2012

        Tis almost here. I hear spring peepers tonight and banjo frogs too. A balmy breeze wisps by my ears; not a smidge of chill to it. As Russell Moore used to sing in “I’m Leaving Detroit,” ‘I’m going where those southern breezes blow.’ (Me, I get to stay here.) Little springs of green have begun to sprout and the birds wake me up in the mornings. I believe they are bluegrass birds; they seem to sing in three-part harmony.

        I went out this evening to hit some shag balls. It doesn’t even resemble golf, but it is still fun to be out in the sun and the breeze. It reminds me of when my boy was young and would go out with me at dusk to hit a few. He was  a quick study and was good at the game in a few seasons. Like music it’s best to start young. He doesn’t remember not being able to play. Hm. Maybe I’ll be struck with youthful exuberance and somehow learn the game again. Tonight’s wild shot dispersion reminded me of the days of youth when I took up the game. (around 12 or 13 years old.) Hey, I can still be a kid for a while!

        Before the sun sets I sit on the back porch with my wife, have a Coke float, and pick on the banjo. (Just loud enough for my own amusement but not enough volume to bother the neighbors). I’m such a simple man; simple things made me perfectly happy and content. As my daughter always said, “Daddy, you’re so simple you’re complicated to people.”

        Y’all have a blessed spring. It is almost here. Say a prayer for our recently departed here at home who didn’t get the luxury of one more season.

Dr. B

Jazz and the Grammys

February 15, 2012

        I didn’t realize there wasn’t a jazz category in the Grammys. I’m no expert in the music biz, but it seems wrong to me that an American original art form that is now loved around the world doesn’t have a recognized category. Maybe I’m just all about underdogs; bluegrass doesn’t get the recognition I think it deserves either.

        Part of my practice routine is to play my mandolin at chemotherapy. Today’s selection was Duke Ellington’s “Take the “A” Train.” The other patients seem to dig jazz and bluegrass both, and it does me good to see ’em smile. Maybe neither style of music will end up as a mogul money machine, but with all of us doing what we can at a grassroots level, real music can’t be denied, and jazz is as real as bluegrass. Long live both genres.

        Correcton: I heard from Don Stirenburg, the great jazz mandolinist from Chicago and he said there was a jazz category, and also a classical, but he wished they would have these artists perform more on the show.  I agree with him. Thanks for catching this, Don. As far as mandolin jazz and chord melody work you won’t run across any better than Mr. Stirenburg.

Dr. B

Bluegrass First Class

February 14, 2012

        Bluegrass First Class is this weekend. It is in Asheville at the Crown Plaza Resort. Bluegrass has come up in the world. I remember when we used to sleep under the stars or a flat-bed truck trailer if it rained. As the event title implies, both the accommodations and the talent are always first class.

        I’ll be there, so if you spot me come up and shake and howdy. I’m not gonna try to manage a booth this year as my health won’t allow, but I’ll have  a few books should anyone want one. I think the show is already sold out, but if you have a ticket, see you there.

Dr. B

Blugrass Inn #2/ A Good Fund-Raiser/ Doctor Sponsored Bluegrass Side-man Sick Pay Plan

February 12, 2012

        I played Saturday night with singer/songwriter Al Dunkleman and sat in for part of a set with Max McKee at the Bluegrass Inn #2. It was great fun. I’m not up to a commitment to an every weekend gig, but the arrangement with Al is perfect. He does all the prep; I am just the side-man, but I try to be a reliable one. We play somewhere about once a month. In March we have a big fund-raiser for the Abuse Prevention Council at Cleveland Community College. It’s one of my favorite gigs. I know I am a Pollyanna but I belive if everyone was busy with their family and career and played music they would be too content (and tired) to be so dadburn aggressive.

        Right now my health won’t allow me to reliably front a regular band. In fact, until someone wants to hire a doc for two hours of light activity followed by an hour nap and a shower, I’m not up to the regular doc gig either. However, even if disabled I will always visit once or twice a week as long as I am able to walk. The patients and the staff mean too much to me not to.

        I miss not having a regular band. At the Shelby Music Center jam last Saturday I got to pick with my old band mate, banjo man Moose Dooley. It brought back memories. One time years ago we did a banjo duet on a flat-bed truck stage at the Harvey County court-square. Moose suggested “Remington Ride.” I kicked it off, but lit into the wrong song. When Moose realized what I’d done he switched to the tune I kicked off,  so were in synch for a moment. Then I managed to break into “Remington Ride” while he continued on with the tune I first kicked off. It was an unusual duet! I was always doctor first and musician second. I learned a lot of music from those boys.

        At the jam, one mandolinist told me he had to have some surgery and was gonna be out six weeks. He asked if I would fill in if they had a gig to come up. I said yes of course, and it led my brain to dream up “The Doctor Sponsored Bluegrass Side-man Sick Pay Plan.” I’ll fill in with any local or regional band, health willing, and do so professional courtesy. I figure I’m the only side-man around who can cover your gig, write you a doctor’s excuse, let you get sick pay for your gig, and have zero motivation to try to steal your job while you are out. I am not up to any regular commitment anyway, so no one needs to fear that kind of treachery from me. (They didn’t before I was sick either) My only reservation is that I do have to be sure the gig is not the week of chemo. I missed one because I failed to account for this variable and was too sick to play. It was the only show I ever missed, and I felt bad about it.

       We are semi and near retired and live out in the country. We wanted to be near the home of Earl Scruggs, but still be within shouting distance of good old Harvey County and also the central part of the state where my daughter lives. So if you need a side-man and the gig isn’t in chemo week, well, have mandolin will travel. (short distances only) I’ll go about an hour’s drive from Charlotte N.C.; any direction with enough notice. We love the mountains too and get to the Asheville area every so often, and I’ve played in Fletcher at the Feed ‘n Seed. Of course much of this is big talk; if I’m sick I can’t make the gig, but I do my best to never promise what I can’t deliver.

        Y’all play hard.

Dr. B

4th of July in Febuary

February 8, 2012

        It might be cold and gloomy but my wife pays it no never mind. She knows I love the 4th, so last night we had hamburgers on the grill, corn on the cob, baked beans, sweet tea; the works. For a while there it was all sunshine and blue skies and winter seemed to slip away. Besides, she’s right; spring is just around the corner. I know this for sure because Bluegrass First Class is next week-end. It is the official start of the spring festival season here in N.C.

        Y’all keep on picking; better times are coming. Let’s see. Where did I leave my Sam Bush Hawaiian shirt last year?

Dr. B

Half-Time Music ?

February 6, 2012

        If we’re gonna dream, we might as well dream big, but I sure would love to see some real music at half-time. Sousa would be excellent, and if they wanted to get way out there a bluegrass band on center stage at the fifty yard line wouldn’t hurt my feelings. (Flatt and Scruggs used to play in town on top of the concession stand at the drive-in movie theater)

       I could picture myself playing mandolin at half-time but there are at least four thousand who deserve to be in line ahead of me, and I’d be the first to vote for ’em. But I sure can’t picture myself and one of those little guys in the genuine fake imitation gold-plated amour protective suits with the gold curly cue horns. I guess I’m old, but it’s just not my style.

        Oh well, to each his own. I went for popcorn at the break. At our house it is still very much in style.

Dr. B

SPBGMA

February 3, 2012

        This weekend all my music pals are out in Nashville at the annual SPBGMA convention. It was chemo week for me, so there was no way I could make the trip. I just now got up; I expect they all just went to bed. Way back when I used to call Darin when I left in the AM for the hospital, and he was often just coming in from a show. 

        So to “The Sweethearts of Bluegrass,” and my adopted bluegrass youn’uns, (except they are married to each other) Darin and Brooke Aldridge, “The First Family of Bluegrass,” my adopted bluegrass brother and sister, (except like Darin and Brooke they are married to each other) Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson, to my 6th cousin “Cuz” Alan Bibey (he won the world mandolin championship in Knoxville,Tenn when he was my relative minor; (6th, get it?) to all of you guys all the best. I hope you all come home with an carload of awards. For that matter, I wish every pro out there could win. For my money y’all play the best music in the world, and I feel sorry for any human being who misses the joy of bluegrass in our short stay here on Earth. My bet is God allows a perpetual jam session in Heaven as long as we play at least one gospel number in every set.

God Bless all of you,

Dr. B