Posted tagged ‘bluegrass music stories’

Are You Tommy Bibey?

July 7, 2009

        98.3% of what goes on in bluegrass music is good.  But even in bluegrass every so often there will be a problem.  In interest of full disclosure I feel the need to report it all.

        Red White and Blue was a great festival, and went almost without incident.  I did run into one problem fellow, though.  First of all, let me say he was in violation of the rules.  No alcohol is allowed on the festival grounds.  It didn’t take a doctor to make the diagnosis of intoxication.

         He stopped me as I walked to go get a cup of coffee.  The man was red faced, sunburned and shirtless.  He had on a ball cap with a pig on the front.   “Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”

        “You’re the third person who has mistaken me for him.  Why do you ask?”

         “That there band is too d@#^ loud.  That ain’t bluegrass.”

           I glanced over at the stage.  “Hm. Well, I’m O.K. with ’em.  Yeah,  I guess they are a bit progressive, but I don’t want them all to sound the same.”

        “You need to see to it they don’t book no more bands like that.”

        “Man, I don’t have any control over that.  I’m not in charge.”

        “Ain’t you Tommy Bibey?”

        “No sir.”

       “Well he wouldn’t have a band here like them boys.”

       “Hm.  I know him.  Next time I see him I’ll talk to him about it.”

        “I hope you do.  You know who runs this thing?”

        “No sir.”  I handed the man two quarters.  “Tell you what.  Take this over to Mr. Harold and put it towards some ice cream.  Tell him Tommy Bibey sent you.”

        “I thought you said you weren’t Bibey.”

        “I’m not.  But I know him.  That’s what he would recommend.  He’d say get some ice cream and eat it while you wait for the next band to come on.   There’s some tables down yon way.”  I waved my hands towards the picnic tables off in the distance.  “Name’s Edward.  I’ll tell Tommy I ran into you.”  I stuck out my hand.

       He shook it, and gave me a strange look.  “Ice cream?”

       “Yeah, I recommend the peach.”  I pointed towards Mr. Harold’s trailer.  “Right over there.”

       “O.K.  I’ll go get some. ”

         I went back to my seat to take in the show.  I can play a little, but I couldn’t stay on the stage with those boys.  They were excellent.  I looked over my shoulder and saw the man seated at a table at the far end of the festival grounds eating his ice cream.  I hope it was peach.  I wanted him to have as much fun as I was having. 

        At the same time, I didn’t want him to find me.  I hope he remembers my name was Edward.

Dr. B


The Bluegrass Kilroy, or Who is That Mandolin Player?

May 27, 2009

        Readers my age will remember Kilroy.  He was the elusive GI in WWII who showed up in all the most improbable spots.  Some boy from Kentucky would hack through the jungle in New Guinea and come across his scrawl; ‘Kilroy was here.’

        Well I can’t get around like Kilroy, but in the mandolin world I do try to travel as far as my day job will let me.

        One weekend I was in Western N.C. with my son, and I got a call from a friend who said he heard I’d been spotted in Georgia.

        “No, man it wasn’t me.  I’m sure.  I’m sitting here with my boy eating a cheeseburger.”

        “Well they said the fellow was gray haired and played the mandolin.  He might have been a Doctor.  Maybe he was a dentist…”

        “That narrows it down.”

        Not long ago, it happened again.  A fellow was at a party in Tennessee.  He was a writer.  He knew very little about our music until he started to read my blog, but had become intrigued with bluegrass culture. 

        There was a bluegrass band there.  He could not recall the name but said they were very good.  The mandolin player was a gray haired gentleman.  He took a chance and went up to speak.

       “Enjoyed your music.  Most excellent.  Are you a Doctor?”


        “Are you Tommy Bibey?”

        “No.  Do you know him?”

        “Yes.  Well, no.  Well, I read Tommy Bibey, but no I haven’t met him,” the writer replied.

         “I heard he was over in Chattanooga a couple months ago.”  The man rubbed down the fretboard with a cloth, and put his mandolin in the case.  “If you run into him tell him I’m looking for him.”

       “Does he owe you money?”

        “Oh no.  I heard he finally figured out the bridge to ‘Wild Fiddler’s Rag.’  I’ve been trying to learn it.  I bet Alan showed it to him.’

        “Are they related?” the writer asked.

        “Sixth cousins on the mama’s side.  I read it on his blog.”

        “Hm.  Say you’re a Doctor?”


         “What kind?”

        “Nuclear physics.”

        “Yeah, I guess you aren’t Bibey.  I think he’s a country Doctor.”

        I have lot of new readers and I want to be sure you know how to find me at a festival.  (I hope my regular readers will bear with me; you have heard some of this before.)  I’m the gray haired Doc with the straw hat.  (My Dermatologist makes me wear it.)  On the advice of my ophthalmologist I usually wear sunglasses, but when I take them off, you’ll see I have one green and one blue eye.  

        I mark my golf balls with one blue and one green dot.  It stands for bluegrass, but also for old blue eye/green eye.  If you play golf in the South and fish one outta the creek marked like that you’ll know I’ve been there.

       You’ll see my card at festivals.  Like Kilroy, the back is inscribed with the logo, ‘Bibey was here.’  When I am lucky enough to meet you in person, remind me and I will inscribe it with my logo of a Kilroy-like figure who peers over the fence on the bottom of the card.

        Y’all keep on picking and having fun.  As a Doc, I know for sure ain’t none of us gonna get out of here alive.  But in my prayers God says bluegrass music is good preparation for eternity.  There though, He requires at least two gospel numbers in each set, and they don’t allow no killing songs.

Dr. B

A Patient’s Childhood Bluegrass Memory

May 26, 2009

        I saw a patient today who said he grew up next door to Earl’s sister Ruby.  He recalled one day when a long car drove up and stopped. The door opened and out stepped Earl and Lester and the Foggy Mountain boys.   They sat on the front porch and picked for a few hours.  The man was only six years old at the time, so it was many years ago.  He said the memory was as vivid as if it’d been yesterday.

       My how I’d a loved to have been there.  He made my day.  The man was on blood pressure medicine.  We are supposed to only give out one month’s worth of samples at a time, but I gave him two.  Don’t tell anybody.  But I figured he deserved it, ’cause he was true bluegrass.

Dr. B

The Bomb Shelter Boogie and Little Richard

May 23, 2009

        One time years ago some folks were in from England.  They were on a tour of N.C. and wanted to take in some local culture before going to MerleFest.

        They must have had good contacts, ’cause they asked around and wound up at a place in Statesville called Perry’s Auction Barn.  The owner, Tim Perry, used to play with a band called Carolina Crossfire. 

        The Auction Barn was on a spare budget; I recall old coffee cans rigged up to serve as stage spotlights.  Instead, they put their money into the performers.  Tim brought a lot of fine music to N.C.; folks like the Scene, Lost and Found, and Larry Sparks.  One night Rhonda Vincent came through.  She put on quite an energetic show.  My wife thought her clothes were just a bit snug for a bluegrasser, though.  Marfar didn’t raise no dummy Doctor; I agreed with her 100%.

       The night the group from England was there we were the opening act.  I believe it was for Sparks.  Anyway, they asked Tim where they could find a good jam session.  He pointed at me.  “See that fellow in the shirt with the pineapples on it?  That’s Dr. B.  Ask him.”

       They took his advice, and we struck up a friendship.  I invited them to the Bomb Shelter, a bluegrass hangout I knew well.  As luck would have it, Charlie Waller was there that night.  Darin Aldridge was his mandolin player, and the Country Gentlemen had stopped at Darin’s house for the day.  Darin invited the boys to the session.  As you can imagine, our new friends decided they had hit the bluegrass mother lode.  Charlie was elderly at the time, but his voice was as rich as ever.

       Everything in bluegrass comes full circle.  Not long ago it was the official last night of spring; the last session inside the Bomb Shelter proper before owner Jack Barber closes it for the summer, when we move outside to the Cabin.   A lot of the same crowd was there. Charlie is gone of course, and he will forever be missed.  What a voice. 

          I had a med student with me.  ‘Little Richard’ as we call him, had tagged along for the night.  Just like Dr. Peter Temple who mentored me, you can an ‘A’ in my rotation if you do right by the patients, but to get an ‘A+’ you have to do that and also take in bluegrass culture.  

        We parked the truck in the field, and walked down towards the Shelter.  Jack and the boys had a bonfire going in a fifty gallon drum.  The fire crackled and the sparks drifted up and disappeared in the night air.

         “Still a bit of a chill, huh Jack?”

          “Yeah, Doc.  The last night of spring.  Gonna move to the Cabin next week.”

        “Ah Lawd.”  Another winter come and gone.  “The field is full.  Lot of good pickers?”

       “Yes sir, Doc.  Good session sure enough.  “Who you got with you?”

       “Oh, I’m sorry.  This is Little Richard.”

       “Some R ‘n B tonight?”

        “Oh no, not the same one.  He’s a med student.  We want to get him to come back here someday.”

       “What kind Doctor you wanna be?”

        “Country Doc.”

        “You follow old Doc then.   He knows all us country people.”

        “Yes sir.”

       Jack threw a few more logs on the fire.  “Good to have you, son.  Before you leave, make sure you sign the wall.  And if anyone asks where this is just say, “You can’t there from here.”

        “Yes sir.”

        We ducked through the door and went inside.  A doghouse bass thumped away.  It was Sealtest; I knew his rhythm anywhere.

         Moose Dooley kicked off ‘Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee.”  I got my mandolin out of the case, tuned up, and caught the baritone on the first chorus.  “Little girl of mine in Tennessee…I know she’s waiting there for me….”

        Stacy flatpicked the opening lines of ‘Freight Train Boogie.’  Some well known N.C. pickers like Buddy Wrong and Dr. Dean Jenkins were there, along with national mandolin sensation Darin Aldridge.  Sealtest, who has toured with several groups held down the bass.  Moose Dooley wore out the five string. 

        I hadn’t picked with Tim Perry since the Auction Barn quit doing shows, but there he was along with his old bandmate ‘Fangers’ Lynch.  Fangers played with Brushy Creek years ago, and the band finished second in the country to Radio Flyer back then in the Pizza Hut Showdown.  Rumor has it they managed to outdo a very young girl named Alison Krauss, at least for that one day anyway.

        At one point ‘Fangers’ did ‘Sea of Heartbreak,’ a tune I’ve loved for years.  “You know, it’s hard to beat an old Don Gibson song,” I said.

        There was some young fellow there learning the guitar under Fanger’s tutelage.  He scrunched up his face and scratched his head.  “Gee Doc,” he said.  “I thought that one came from Carolina Crossfire.”

        Bless Fanger’s heart, he gave credit where it was due, and told the young man they learned it from Don Gibson.  It was good to see all those guys.  We’ve all run in the same Carolinas bluegrass circle for many years.  And as the song says, it will never be broken.  God bless every one of ’em.  My life was much richer for knowing them.

        Little Richard signed the wall before we left.  On the way home I asked him,  “Hey man, you remember how we got to the Bomb Shelter?”

        He lit a cigar and took a puff.  “Can’t get there from here, Doc.”

        “Son, you are gonna make one more fine country Doctor.  I gotta get you to come back here and look after me in the Nursing Home some day.”

       “Dr. Bibey, it’d be an honor.  That Moose Dooley, he can pick the fire outta that banjo, huh?”

        “And did you hear Fangers sing ‘Oh Lonesome Me?'”

       “Good Lord have mercy that was the saddest thing I ever heard in my life….”

        “Yep.  I don’t think Little Richard himself could sing the blues any better than that.”

        “Hey, that girl today with the negative mono test?  How come you put her on Vibramycin?  She didn’t recall a tick bite.”

        “Her rash was suspicious.  She went camping with her boyfriend two weeks ago.  The Mama was in the room with her.  I thought she hesitated.  I wasn’t sure she told me the truth.”

        “Why didn’t you just do a blood test for spotted fever?”

        “Hell boy, by the time I get those tests back from the State I’ve either cured her or she’s dead.”

        “Ain’t you worried she’s pregnant?

        “Temple Law.  Good work, son.  She’s been reliable on the pill.  She said her last period was two weeks ago.”

        “Yeah, well she mighta fibbed about that too.”

         “Maybe.  But you know that urinalysis I ran?

         “Yeah it was negative.  No infection.”

          “Look here, Mr. R ‘n B, I ran a pregnancy test too.”

          “Negative I take it?

          “Dang right.” 

          “Damn Bibey.  You’re a sneaky rascal.”

        “I haven’t stayed out of trouble in this business for three decades by being a dumba^^.  Temple’s Law.  Don’t forget it.”

         “A woman is pregnant till proved otherwise.”

       “Correct.  You’ll never x-ray a pregnant lady.  ‘A+’ son,  A+.”

        I stopped at the Quick Pik to get a Co-Cola and some nabs.  “Want anything?”

        “No thanks, Doc.  I’m good.”  Little Richard blew some smoke out the window and smiled.   Maybe this country Doc gig wasn’t glamorous, but it sure was real. 

Dr. B

Bluegrass Work Note Excuses

July 23, 2008

        You know how folks come up with all kind of excuses when they miss work?  The bluegrass world is no different.  Back in the days before Neuse River’s personnel stabilized and reached our current level of maturity (ie we all done got old) the Moose and I heard every excuse in the world.

        One time Moose went to pick up Raymond, our second fiddler.  Sometimes the boy had a legitimate reason to miss, like when they’d call him in to drive a truck for the local moving company.  This time there warn’t no excuse, ’cause he’d had a DUI and lost his license.  And, Moose was more than willing to pick him up at the house.  Moose got there and the boy came to the door and said, “Sorry, Moose I can’t go tonight.”

        “Whadda ya mean you can’t go?  We’ve got a sound check in an hour!”

        “Naw, man. I’m gonna stay home.  Mama wants to watch rasslin.”  And that was that.  He went back in the house and wouldn’t budge.

        Another time Billy was gonna play bass for a show downtown.  He called the office with three hours to go and told my staff he couldn’t make it- it was an emergency.  I doubted it was medical.  As it turns out they were calling for rain, and he wanted to build a new doghouse.  The old one had a hole in the roof.  It worked out O.K., though ’cause I had Paig call Darrell.  He didn’t own a bass, but he knew where he could borrow one, and showed up on time for the gig.

        Well, the Lord moves in mysterious ways, ’cause that was my first gig with Darrell.  His mom had to bring him- he was only fifteen and didn’t even have a driver’s license.  He was known for his mandolin and guitar work, but did a fine job on the bass.

       I had to ask.  “Darrell, where did you you learn to play bass like that?”

       “Awh, Doc.  We’ve got a man who plays the doghouse in church on Sunday morning.  I’ve been watching him.  Warn’t nothing to it.  That was good material y’all done.  Where didja get it?”

        “Where did we get it?”  I was incredulous.  “Son, that was Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanleys.  Ain’t you ever heard them?”

        “Naw, man.  We listen to III Tyme Out and Doyle Lawson.  Who are them guys?”  Darrell asked.

        I couldn’t believe it.  Here the kid played a perfect gig with no rehearsal on an instrument he didn’t even own, and had never even heard the material.  For once a work note worked out.  Darrell went on to become a great friend and a monster multi-instrumentalist.  We play an occasional show together to this day.

        I’ve heard all the excuses in both of my lines of work.  Guys with five different grandmas dying, prescription eating dogs, you name it.  Often the situation had to do with a woman, either a wife or another one, like the time Franklin, our first fiddle man, took up jogging.  It all went fine till his wife realized he only jogged around the block, then stopped to visit the new neighbor lady.   When he came back and hopped in the shower- well, all I can say he warn’t sweating ’cause of road work. 

        We had to let Franklin go.  One time he came to a gig in with bullet holes in his car ’cause his girl friend’s husband came home early from the night shift and hit him in the head with a shovel.  It was lucky then man didn’t kill the fool boy.  Fiddlin’ Frank’s wife put all his clothes on the porch and locked him out, so he went to stay with his best friend Flakie in S.C. until he ran off to Georgia with Flake’s wife. 

        I was glad we fired Franklin.  Flake’d get drunk and show up at our gigs with a pistol and want to talk to him.  I made sure to wear a different color of shirt than Franklin wore- I even went to the car to change one night-and I’d stand on the opposite side of the stage.  And you can be sure I made certain Flakie knew the difference between a fiddle and a mandolin.  I didn’t want Flake to get confused, and when he’d drink he could get that way.  I knew ’cause I was his doctor.  Even so it was too dangerous to keep Franklin on, so we parted ways.  I hate it though, he could sure play a fiddle.

        All that being said, I have to tell you for the most part my guys are now quite tame, and what wild streak they once had has been pretty well domesticated.  Now we are old and play music so we can pretend we are young.  But along the way, I think I’ve seen about every bluegrass work note excuse there was.

        What kinds of work are y’all in?  I guess people are the same everywhere, and I’d be interested to know what kind of excuses you have run into.  I’ll bet the lawyers, paramedics, nurses and the like who deal with a variety of people have seen it all twice just as I have.

        My only request is please, no real names.  We don’t want any HIPAA violations here. 

        Gotta go back into work first thing in the morning.  In all these years, I ain’t missed but one day, and that was for cataract surgery, so I want to keep the streak alive.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Characters I Know

October 7, 2007

        I tell you friend, if you hang out in the world of bluegrass music, you’re gonna meet some characters.  My name is Dr. Tommy Bibey.  I am a semi-retired country doc from eastern N.C.  I was in practice for decades, but always played in a bluegrass band, my best one being Neuse River.
        Now there ain’t no way you can talk about Neuse River without telling you about Moose Dooley.  I reckon Moose is about the best banjo player you ain’t never heard of.  He never hit the road, ’cause as Steve Martin said, “He never heard anyone tell the banjo player to throw that instrument in his Porsche.”  No, the Moose was too wily, and made his fortune in the diamond futures market. The wealth never stopped him from loving bluegrass music, though, and he was my faithful sidekick for fifty years. It was a good thing.  I was a good country doc, but slender and naive.  Moose was strong as a dad-gum bull, and always my protector on the road.
        Moose had made enough money that he could have any banjo he wanted, but his favorite was always the ’27 Gibson flathead.  He’ll correct me if I am wrong, but I believe it is actually a tenor conversion with a Frank Neat neck.  The tone ring is vintage Gibson 30’s; one the Moose excavated on one of his Arctic Diamond Expeditions.  I’m telling’ ya,’ that banjer cracks better than the polar ice caps in global warming.
        If you know any bluegrass stories I need to document for posterity, please comment. Now that I am retired, I view the documentation of the people’s music, and the exploits of memorable characters in bluegrass as one of my final missions on this earth.

Dr. B