Posted tagged ‘bluegrass music’

Darin and Brooke Aldridge Festival

April 9, 2012

        This weekend is the annual spring Darin and Brooke Aldridge Bluegrass festival, so you know where I’ll be. In additional to the Aldridges, the Grascals will be there friday, and The Harris Brothers on Saturday, and many other fine bands are booked. Their website has all the details:

        There is also some open mic time, so you never know will show up. Fine friends, music, food and pretty spring days. Hope to see you there.

Dr. B


Pythagoras’ Bluegrass Band

March 10, 2011

        You remember Pythagorus from high school? You just never know when these classic cats are gonna show up in your life again.

        Lately I’ve been on this Greek classic kick. Pythagoras examined the notion of balance way back then. He probably invented the diatonic scale, and the Greeks came to believe the intervals of the scale were in balance with the colors of the light spectrum. I guess instead of doe, re, mi, it woulda been red, orange, yellow, green, blue, etc. for them.

        Roy Husky Jr. was a great Nashville country/bluegrass bass player who heard notes in colors. He did not read music, not that he needed to. I think for Roy it was intuitive, but maybe he studied the ancient Greeks; I don’t know.

        I plan to study this issue more, but it does reinforce what my Lit agent once said, “Son, you must write what was true before you got here, what is true while you are here, and what will be true long after you’re gone.” I think he’s right. The Greeks understood balance and harmony in a more sophisticated way than many modern people. I plan to look into how they did it more depth over the next few months.

        I bet Pythagoras would have liked bluegrass for its harmony and balance, and my guess is he’d a hired Roy Huskey, Jr. for his band if they’d been around at the same time.

Dr. B

Journey of The People’s Mandolin Update

April 24, 2010

        The People’s Mandolin is ready for its long journey home.  As I said I’m gonna drop it off at MerleFest to start its voyage.  There it will be picked up by Ted and Irene Lehmann. They have had some discussion with Gabrielle Gray of The International Bluegrass Music Museum about the best way to send it off, so we’ll see what they have in store for it.

        I know there are skeptics from the non bluegrass world. They say it won’t make it. I’m betting it does. Ms. Gray and Lehmanns think it will too. You see, John Hartford used to say bluegrass was the last American small town where everybody knows everybody; a place where you can leave your doors unlocked and windows wide open. I am not naive. I know the world has changed. I also know bluegrass is growing and we have new people all the time. Still, my bet is we haven’t changed that much.

        Just think, if the case makes it five years and winds up back at MerleFest in 2015, we all have a chance at a tiny corner of the world’s biggest bluegrass museum. I can envision it in a shadow box with a legend to identify each geographic area represented by the travels of the case. It could even be set up with one of those little gadgets where you could punch in a number to hear a certain clip. Let’s say Missy Werner from Cincinnati or little Kathy Boyd way out in Portland ran across the mandolin on its journey and logged onto my blog with a YouTube clip of their band at a festival out there. We could turn all those posts over to the museum. Then someday when you see the exhibit of “The People’s Mandolin” and click on clip #73, there they’d be for all time. You’d hear them and learn where all the good festivals were around the country. Pretty cool huh?

        One disclaimer here, though. These are just my early thoughts. Ms. Gray has a museum to run and I’m just a country doctor. How they decide to present it I’ll need to leave entirely to their judgment.

         Of course all this is just a bunch of dreaming of old Doc. If the naysayers turn out to be right and the case is lost, it can’t wind up in the museum at all, so we’ll see. But again, I like its odds.

        By the way, folks have already written to tell me the page for “The Journey of The People’s Mandolin” is hard to find.  Right now it is in the upper right hand corner of my blog just below “Home,” “About Dr. Bibey,” “Disclaimer,” and “The Charitable Arm.” A web site is in development for “The Mandolin Case” and will have a link or a page devoted to the “Journey of  The People’s Mandolin.”

         And also I wanted to tell you I have seen the layout of my book. Very, very, cool. I can’t help but believe it is gonna be good for bluegrass. I say this because already folks from my other worlds (medicine, law, business, etc.) want to know where my serenity comes from. They come out of environments that are often hyper-competitive, aggressive, or just downright mean. When they step into my music world they have trouble believing it could be real. After a while they realize it is, and more than one has decided we bluegrass folks are onto something.

        We coulda all told ’em that a long time ago, but some folks are slow to believe. One at a time though, they’re coming around.

Dr. B

If I Were King of The World This Sunday Morning

April 11, 2010

        If I were King of The World this Sunday morning, I’d make sure every school child on the planet got to eat home-made ice cream on the front row of an acoustic music festival. I think it’d end all hate and violence.

        How could any human being ever harbor any ill will as they listen to Ricky Wasson croon country on “Lefty’s Old Guitar” or Balsam Range rip through “Last Train to Kitty Hawk?” Pass me some of that peach, brother.

       It that doesn’t cure folks up, how ’bout The Harris Brothers as they slide through some soul and the electric suitcase thumps through your chest? If you aren’t there yet throw in some double D twin mandolin work on “I Got My Mojo Working.” (Darin Aldridge and Darren Nicholson).  By the way, a couple scoops of strawberry were just right.

        At night get a cup of coffee and hear Brooke soar along on “White Robe.” You could see her breath with every phrase; she was undeterred by the night chill. That right there is a child of God.

        We piled up in the car and bumped along the field until we reached the road. I fell asleep before we hit the black-top. (My horse was in town to take me home.)

        I ain’t King of The World, but when He comes back I’ll be ready. I’ve had more ice cream and music in my life than what any human deserves, and I am forever grateful.

Dr. B

Bluegrass Music: It’ll Cure What Ails You

October 1, 2009

        It was a great 48 hours in Nashville.  I just couldn’t be gone a week.  It was our first full week in the new office and they wanted the senior partner (the one with the most gray hair) around.

       This morning Joe greeted me at the back door.  “Got you some muskee-dines, Doc.  You ain’t gonna go be one of them bluegrass stars are ya?”

        “No, Joe.  Trust me. These guys are good.  I wouldn’t have a chance.  Besides, Doc is all I know.”


        I went into my office and set my briefcase down.  A picture of Lester and Earl hangs on my wall right across from my desk at the five foot mark.  (for the lady of the house’s eye level; my wife.)  Lester was up to his ears in charts and messages; a bad sign.  All I could see was his hat and a bit of his Martin guitar headstock.  Les is a very accuate predictor of your day.  Anything beyond his chest is gonna rock. 

          It was a “Doc, my bowels are locked up and my nature’s done left me” kind of day.  I didn’t see Lester’s eyeballs till near lunch.  There were several emergencies and one unstable myocardial ischemia.  (light heart attack)  Almost everyone was somewhere in between lonely, tired, mad, scared, or hurting.  I did my best to sort through it all. 

        I never tell a woman’s age, but one nice lady in triple digits asked if it would be too much trouble to get a flu shot.  I coulda hugged her neck.

        Don’t feel sorry for me.  It’s just my job.  Everyone on the other end of the stethoscope was worse off than me.  Say a prayer for them.  I am lucky the Lord gave more stamina than what I deserve and the right temperament to deal with it all. 

        And it isn’t that hard.  It sure ain’t rocket science.  The sound man for Sam Bush has a more technical job than I do.  The cat runs three computers and rack full of EQ technology to tweak the boss’s sound.  His is more than rocket science; it is more like quantum mechanics mixed with magic.  He is obsessed to get the best sound possible.  Of course, he has a lot to work with.  Tiger Wood’s swing coach does pretty good too.

       I got ten minutes at lunch and downed a sandwich and played a few bars of “Who Will Sing for Me?”  I was told several folks in Nashville did so today.  In spite of all the suffering I could hear the music.  Every one of you who has ever played a note of this music has saved a day for me somewhere along the way. 

        Good luck to all of you at the Awards Ceremony.  If it was up to me it be like a middle school soccer game where every one of you would win.  You all deserve it.  Even though I gotta keep doctoring, I plan to lead as many folks to our music as possible.  It sustains me and I want my people to be as blessed as I have been all my life because of it.

        When I got home a book I had wanted was on my desk.  One of my bluegrass pals had called my wife to see if I had it yet, and had it sent to the house.  It was Jill Bolte Taylor’s ‘My Stroke of Insight.’  What a nice surprise; a new book after a tough day.  Bluegrass folks are the best.  I’m gonna read it this weekend.

        While y’all are singing, how ’bout doing one for my heart attack patient?  She needs it more than I do, and I think y’all might just cure what ails her.  Bluegrass has a way of doing that.

        Gotta run.  Will try to catch part of the Awards Ceremony.  All the best guys.

Dr. B

Darin and Brooke Aldridge, Progressive Traditionalists

September 29, 2009

        IBMA showcase; Monday night.  We made our way to some empty seats up front. My advice to the kids was they were prepared and had no reason to be nervous.  In spite of that my heart pounded and my eyes were moist.  They were here.  Barring power failure or some such catastrophe, they were gonna stand and deliver.

          It was quiet for a moment.  Glasses clinked around the room as folks finished dinner.  Darin came out first.  He wore his Sunday best.  He took just a moment to check the mic.  Brooke was in a pastel evening dress.  Even an old bluegrass doc could see was she was elegant.  The boys were in dark pants and light shirts with ties.  The band carried a class professional persona before they struck the first note.

        Right out the gate it was perfection.  Brooke’s vocals filled the room, and Darin’s harmony matched her with every phrase and trill.  The instrument fills augmented the words with just the right touch.  

       They broke into their wonderful country duet, ‘The Sweetest Waste of Time.’  Someone dashed out of the room.  I later learned they had gone to alert Eddie Stubbs, the voice of WSM radio.  I have no way to know what they said, but I expect it was something like, “Eddie, you gotta hear these kids.”

         Not only did Mr. Stubbs hear them, but so did radio listeners everywhere.  Eddie Stubbs is the voice of WSM, the original country music radio brand, and I understand he put them on a live feed for the WSM listening audience.  He interviewed them after the show.

           The crowd packed in tight.  I noticed several moved up as close to the stage as possible.  My new friend from France, Henri Deschamps, tapped me on the shoulder.  “Hey Doc, they are good.”  It was a proud moment for North Carolina.  The Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet now belong to the world.

        The keynote speaker for the night had been Mr. Pete Fisher, the General Manger of the Grand Ole Opry.  I thought of his words as they sang.  Mr. Fisher said we need to respect tradition, and yet not have it be an anchor that weighs us down.  The man had already made good on his word when he inducted the Stanley Brothers into the Opry.  There are few groups more traditional than the Stanleys.

          At the same time Mr. Fisher is correct that to maintain and develop a commercial presence in a music world that changes faster than old Doc can type, we must push forward. We have to balance the old and the new to stay alive.

        As Darin and Brooke played, it struck me this is exactly what they do.  Darin has studied the Stanleys, and every bluegrass and country artist he can get his hands on.  He and Brooke made that heritage the foundation of their sound, and yet knew their destiny was to create their own.

        And they are unique.  From the first line the music jumps off the stage as something you’ve never heard.  Somehow though it still strikes a nostalgic chord deep inside.  You know you must have been there before, but you can’t quite recall where.  

         The closest analogy I can make it they sing in a Louvin Brothers duet style, except one voice is female and one is male.  I asked Nashville veteran Jerry Salley and he said he thought that was about right.  He went on to say in that style he felt Darin and Brooke were unrivaled in today’s country music.  Don’t take it from Doc, I’m just a music lover.  Ask Jerry; he knows the business.

        Mr. Fisher also talked about the importance of brand.  He was right again.  What brand can ever symbolize country music more than the Grand Old Opry?  When I interviewed for med school, some old Professor asked me what I knew about opra.  I pondered that a minute and said, “Sir, I don’t know too much about opra, but I can tell you all about the Grand Ole Opry.”  I got in, and I hope I’ve done okay for a country boy.  I’ve sure done my best.

        So do Darin and Brooke.  When Mr. Fisher talked about brands, I was reminded of the words of Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon.  Someone asked what he sold, and he said, “We don’t sell cosmetics, we sell hope in a bottle.”  Mr. Revson understood the importance of brand.  The rewards of brand can only come from the responsibility of quality and consistency.  As Mr. Fisher said, (paraphrased)  “You must not just meet, but exceed expectation without fail.”  

          Darin and Brooke do that.  Like Charles Revson, their brand is also hope.  They respect their elders and tradition but still push their music to new boundaries every time out.  They sell hope too.  Old guys like me who love music and rely on it to see them through the hard times know young people like Darin and Brooke are gonna keep the tradition alive.  As groups like this emerge, we can know our music will never die on the vine from failure to move forward.  At least for this music lover, that is what I look for in a brand. 

        As Mr. Fisher said, we all must strive to exceed expectations in whatever we are called to do.  Darin and Brooke do just that, and North Carolina sure is proud of them for it.

Dr. B

IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association)

September 28, 2009

            We got into Nashville late.  It’s a pretty good drive from Harvey County, and I got a bit of car lag from the drive.  I might take a train next time.  I wonder if it stops at Union Station.

        The Holiday Inn Express is fancy for a country boy.  Six floors up is quite a view.  The night-light twinkled and inspired my ‘Song of the Day,’ ‘Nashville Skyline Rag.’  

       We are here for the IBMA convention.  I have played all my life, but this is my first venture into organized bluegrass.  Hm.  I wonder if ‘organized bluegrass’ is anything like ‘organized medicine.’  They say organizing doctors is like herding stray cats.  I know a bunch of musicians and I am one myself.  Bluegrass musicians are even more independent than docs.  I don’t know exactly how headstrong that might make me, ’cause I am both.

        Though a neophye to the organization as a professional, (I have been a grassroots member for years)  I am sure they will welcome me in.  The only requirement is to love the music and respect it’s traditions.  We still respect our elders in bluegrass, so I have an advantage there.  Gray hair makes patients think you are wiser than what you are.  

        I’ll find my niche.  I am now a professional member in print media.  As far I know I am the world’s only physician bluegrass fiction writer.  I have been blessed with more than my share of drive and energy over the years.  Many people from all walks of life have asked where it comes from.  I tell them I give the credit to the Good Lord, my wife and family, and the bluegrass community.  They are what sustains me. 

        Then I reach in my cabinet and hand them a CD.  I try to choose one that fits their personality, and I seldom miss.  They come back later a say, “Wow, I didn’t know you folks played like that.  This is great!”

        These days I am a part-time doc, and closing in on an old man.  The music has been good to me and sustained me in hard times.  It still tears me down to lose a patient, and the music gets me through.  With ‘The Mandolin Case,’ I hope to show the outside world all about it.  So many folks have asked me about it, I felt compelled to show my story.  I hate for anyone to got through life and miss out on this wonderful music and all the fine people involved in it.

        If you don’t know of bluegrass music and our extended family come to FanFest at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville and check it out.  It’ll change your life.

Dr. B

The Grace of the Good Lord, Bluegrass Music, and Door Knob Diagnosis

August 9, 2009

        Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna preach at y’all.  I’m not good enough to tell anybody how to live.  I’m just as imperfect a  sinner as the next guy.

        I do want to tell you though, that what humble success I have had in this world is not my doing.  I was blessed beyond what anyone deserves.  I can’t tell you how many times I had my mind made up on diagnosis, and right as I got to the door, a voice would call and say “Son, I’d advise you rethink that.” 

        Sometimes it’d be when my patient asked one last question.  “Hey Doc, by the way…”  Other times it was because they had a funny look  their face; just a hint of disappointment that Doc had only made a ‘B’ on that encounter in a business where anything less than an ‘A+’ is unacceptable.  And often it was simply the voice.  “Son, you didn’t finish your job here.”

         I call it a door knob diagnosis.  My hand was on the door to open it and move on the next room, and but for the Grace of God I would have.  There were a few times along the way where the implications of difference were so profound I had to go in my office, close the door, and sit there for a minute and dry up the tears and recompose myself.

        God also sent me my music.  He gave me just the right amount of talent; enough to enjoy it to the fullest but not enough to get confused about what I was supposed to do for a living,  If anyone loves it more than me I am happy for ’em, but as the song says there are 1352 guitar pickers in Nashville.  If Steve Earle knows the competition is stiff, Doc didn’t have to be brilliant to know he’d best keep his day job.

         I’m don’t think I’d a made it without music.  Many a night I drove home dead dog tired and only stayed out of the ditches ’cause the cassette player in my Scout blared away Flatt and Scruggs or some other favorite.  I listened to  a lot of bluegrass going back and forth to the hospital.  If you ever played a note I thank you ’cause somehow it filtered down to old Doc and very well might have saved my life one of those lonely nights.

            Well I said I wouldn’t preach so I’ll get off.  God bless all my music pals.  Life as a Doc can have some hard times, but between the Good Lord, my family and bluegrass music I managed to get me by.  I hope all of you have a blessed Sunday.

Dr. B

Opening for David Holt

July 10, 2009

        Well the ladies did just great.  After only two years of playing they opened for David Holt and did a fine job.  The Banjo Diva had ’em up and stomping to ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ and Ms. Emma wowed ’em to the point of singing along on ‘When You’re Smiling.’  Kelly on the rhythm guitar and my Marfar on the bass were a solid rhythm section and old Doc was the snare drum backbeat on the mando.   As we anticipated, the sound guys were seasoned pros, and made it easy.

        I was like a proud papa.  They told me I could stay as long as I wanted.  All of them are younger than me, but they even promised to pick me up at the Nursing Home when the time came so I could keep on playing.  I like loyalty.

        I have to admit my favorite part was a duet with my Marfar on ‘Gold Watch and Chain.’  You know the line.  When we got to the word ‘love’ she’d cut those big brown eyes my way as if to say, “Old man, I don’t how you keep getting me into these things, but O.K. yeah, I do dig playing to 1,000 people.  Cool gig.”

        If you’ve never been to a David Holt show please go.  He is the world’s leading authority on old time music.  The man went to the source and lived in the N.C. mountains for years to study traditional music.  He is an expert on clawhammer banjo, guitar, jaw harp, harmonica, percussion oddities of all sorts, story telling, and Appalachian history.  His bass man was Will McIntrye and he is steeped in three decades of traditional music too.  If you want to see something real, go see them.  David is an American treasure.  We sure were proud to open for him.

         We hadn’t eaten all day, so after the show me and Marfar went to the Waffle House to get a bite to eat.  As we sat there, I thought about how lucky I am.  I have been a full tilt Doc all my life, but my partners are willing to cover me long enough to pursue my other life too.  I’ve gotten to open for some of the best musicians in the world.

         But most of all I have  a lovely wife who plays a mean bass, sings good, and is still a cute girl who is willing to follow me on my crazy journey with enthusiasm.  I’m at the age where a lot of women would want me sit home and watch T.V. and I just can’t do it.  And she still counts the Waffle House as a fine place to go on a date and has no complaints when it is all that is open.

        I don’t see how a man could ask for more than that.

        I got an e-mail from my agent.  A couple of publishers are intrigued by our story.  They say, “Let me see if I got this right.  A Doc who plays bluegrass music.  A complicated medical legal saga solved by bluegrass musicians and the hospital maintenance man in a small County in North Carolina?  And the Doc’s best friend was part Choctaw Indian who drank too much and played the fiddle?  Is this guy for real?”

         I expect those of you who have been reading my blog a while would have the same reaction as my wife did at the Waffle House.  Some one came up and asked, “Is he a real Doctor?”

        Marfar smiled and said, “I’m afraid so.  You want to hear the whole story?”


         Marfar handed her a card.  “Read his book when it comes out.  If you get him started we’ll be up all night, and the boy is gonna wear me out.”

       The lady looked at the card and stuck it in her pocket.  “O.K. I will.  We enjoyed the show.”

       We waved bye to her.  “See you out on the bluegrass road,” Marfar said.  “You haven’t seen the last of us I’m sure.”

        “Oh, I hope not.  It was a fun show.”

       I’m gonna crash for the night.  Before I do though, I’m gonna say a prayer for my little Australian buddy Possum who is scheduled for open heart surgery.  And then I’m gonna add one for the kids out there I don’t know who face something similar.  Y’all sleep tight.  This old energizer bunny needs to put the battery on recharge.

Dr. B

Don’t Worry Till Dr. B Says Worry

July 9, 2009

        Today’s post is dedicated to my blog pal Ms. Karen in Australia.  Her son Possum is scheduled for open heart surgery.  My post is all but unrelated that serious event, but I thought she might enjoy the levity for a moment.

“On the Road With Guitared and Feathered”   

        Well, they are ready.  They have practiced their set for two months.  I like to think I’ve helped.  A couple years ago when the mandolin player in my wife’s band got married and moved away, my wife asked if I would fill in.  I guess it is like when I married my wife.  Once I’m committed I never leave, and I’m still with her band too.

         “Sure, I’ll help out.”  How could I say no to someone that cute?  They were early in their music journey, but they were having fun, and besides they always had the best snacks.  Teach bluegrass music to a bunch of beautiful women?  Hm.  It’s tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.    

         They are all set to open a show for David Holt.  They are so scared it’s cute.  I gave ’em a pep talk.  “Look guys, it’s only music.  If we miss a note no one dies.   Think of it like neurosurgery.  If you mess up just don’t say oops.”  There was an uneasy collective laugh.  “Besides, y’all are so good looking, they’re gonna overlook it if you hit a bad note or two.”  They all smiled.  They really are that good looking, especially the bass player, but a bit of honest flattery never hurt me in marriage and I figured it wouldn’t with the band either.

        I’ve taught ’em all about set arrangements and ear monitors.  We have all the breaks co-ordinated.  The Banjo Diva is our emcee and I am her straight man.  If they get nervous and can’t think up something to say I have long since memorized the “The Bluegrass Book of 1001 Tall Tales” after years on stage.  The harmonies are tight and they work that two mic set-up I got them started on with a choreography the Ziegfield Follies Dancers would be proud of.

        There was one thing I couldn’t coach ’em on though.  No one is gonna accuse me of being a good lead singer.  But they followed my advice even on that subject.  They went down to the church house, listened to all of them, and recruited the best one in the choir.  “Almost all good bluegrass singers came up singing in church,” I told ’em.  “Get that one if you can.  As far as lead singing, that’s the only way I can help you.”  (Over time Ms. Emma helped me some on that.  Now I can get by on a couple numbers, but I don’t need to give up my day job.)

        All their gear is packed up and ready to go.  They all have extra strings and each one carries a spare nine volt battery for the in-ear monitors.  We’re gonna use the same stage set up they are accustomed to, but they will have a pro sound man.  In the ear it’ll sound just like the living room.  I figured that would relax them. 

        At the last practice before the gig they presented me with a fuchsia shirt and a hair clippy to use with my ear monitor.  They said for a guy I was just one of the girls.  I took it as a compliment.

        They might be early on in their music journey, but I am no pro either, and it is all fun.  Besides it has it’s benefits.  The last time we played the Nursing Home one elderly lady recognized me from T.V. and asked much I got paid for playing with them. 

        I borrowed a line from Lee Trevino.  “Well ma’am, the money ain’t that great, but the bass player lets me sleep with her.”   Marfar turned red and I thought she was gonna kill me, but by the time I loaded up all the sound equipment by myself, she’d gotten over it.

        Well so much for foolishness.  We have a saying at the office:   “Don’t worry till Dr B. says worry.”  And the truth is I worry a lot but prepare more.  One you’ve done all you can that is all you can do.  And in the case of little Possum’s open heart surgery, that is why it, like the show with David Holt, will come off without a hitch.

          I will let y’all know how the gig goes, but far more important y’all say a few prayers for Ms. Karen’s young’un.  If everyone prays hard his odds are so much better.  I am a man of science (and art) and there are good studies that demonstrate improved medical outcomes from spirituality.  Ms. Karen, don’t worry till Dr. B says worry, but at the same time be prepared.  I know you will be.

Dr. B