Posted tagged ‘bluegrass music’

Thanks to The Bluegrass Blog

April 28, 2009

        I got a call from a touring musician today.

        “Hey Doc.  Did you know you are on the front page of the Bluegrass Blog today?”

        “Uh, well, no.  I let them know about my MerleFest posts, and that I had a book in the works, but no I had no idea I’d get on there.  Wow.  Cool.  I guess that is pretty big.”

        “Pretty big?  Bibey, that is like ‘U.S.A. Today’ for all of us on tour.  It’s the first thing we check every morning.”

        “Right before noon, huh?

        “Funny.  No kidding man, the Bluegrass Blog is the ticket.  You better send them a thank you note.”

        I thought about that for a moment, and decided maybe I’d do one better.  If my blog got even one of y’all got interested in bluegrass, I hope you’ll click on the link below and let them know.  Who knows, it might get me and my mandolin on another MerleFest stage some day.  It was first thing this morning, so you’ll have to scroll down a ways.  It is right after the story about Ralph Stanley.

      And thanks to all for y’all for reading my blog.  The best thing to come out of my blog is all my new friends, and I appreciate every one of you for the insights you have shared with me.

the link is:

Dr. B


Lousy Golf and a Good Woman’s Love

April 22, 2009

        If y’all have never heard John Cowan sing ‘A Good Woman’s Love,’ you need to.  I don’t see how a man could take his wife for granted if he listened to it real close.  When Cowan wails out that one, I feel his pain.  The old boy would be lost without her.

        I played golf today.  It was a lousy 83 in a twenty-five mph wind, but we won a three way split on the back nine.

        I always put my winnings on the table.  “How’d you do?”  Marfar asked.

      “83,” I mumbled.   “Fifteen bucks is all we won.”

       “83 in that wind?  I think that’s great.  I’ll take Betty Jo to lunch tomorrow.  I’m gonna tell her you’re the best.”  She picked up the three fives off the table, put them in her pocket, and kissed me on the cheek.

       I brightened up.  Maybe I’m too old to rassle the rangatang at the County Fair or even hit that bell with the sledgehammer and win her a teddy bear, but she’s smart enough to know I still need to have a little bit of boy in me and bring home something for my girl.

         Maybe fighting the elements on the links to bring home lunch money ain’t the same as a caveman who bags a woolly mammoth, but it’s all I’ve got.  Thanks goodness she lets me pretend.  It beats the heck out of checking in to the Nursing Home just yet.  

         I guess we all interpret music based on our personal soundtrack, but when I hear John sing that one, I know he has to be referring to my Marfar.  Just has to be; ’cause there ain’t another one like her.

        Somehow I feel good about not breaking 80 today.   If she thinks it’s good, it must be so. 

Dr. B

Bluegrass Youth Movement

April 9, 2009

        Last night I was invited to a jam session.  Marfar played some bass, and Moose Dooley picked the banjo.  A few of the old timers were there.  Wild Bill, whose straggly locks and tobacco stained snaggles once earned him a cover shoot with Pet Care magazine, sat in the corner, nursed a Mason Jar and stoked the fire.  Every so often he’d rouse up and yell “play something peppy,” especially after the breakdowns.

        Wild Bill looks the part, but he has an unexpected soft touch.  The man can be half drunk (a perpetual state) and pick up a baby off the sidewalk with a front-end loader and not get a scratch on the child.

        The night belonged to the young’uns though.  Put the rumor to rest; bluegrass ain’t just for old people.  There were boys in football jerseys and young girl friends with shy smiles and perfect teeth.  The boy next to me played mandolin.  He recognized me from some of our shows, and from years of hanging around jam sessions.

       “Good to see you, Doc.  Y’all still picking?”

        “Yeah, we get out some.”

        “Your boy doing good?”


          I checked out his mandolin.  It was a nice piece, but the action was a little high.  I handed him mine.  “Try out this one.  I had it set up by a guy in Asheville named Randy Hughes.”

        He struck a few licks.  “Dang, Doc.  This is butter.”

        “Play it  a while.” 

        They were all coming right along.  Most of them were high school kids, part of the Darin Aldridge farm team.  I’ve seen them around for years, but all of sudden they have learned to play.  Darin deserves a lot of credit; I think he musically half-raised most of them.

        At one point, the bass player took a rest.  I played it for a while, but for my forearms the bass is akin to wrestling with a weedeater.  The mandolin player in the football jersey handed my Gibson back to me. 

        “I like hearing you play the mandolin, Doc.  Let me tug on that bass a while.”  What a nice kid; it was a polite way to say Doc ain’t much on the bass.

        I used to stay up until the last one went home, but as I get older, I need to turn into a Doc at midnight and get some rest.  (At least on the week-nights)  If I don’t it just isn’t fair to my patients.

       “Guys, y’all are doing great.  Lord, Audie, I had no idea you could sing like that.”

        “Thanks Doc.  I’m trying.”

        “You keep working on a building, son.  You’re making me proud.”  I put my mandolin in the case.  “Y’all take care.”

         “Yes sir.  Come back.  You rock Doc.”

          I’m gonna do it.  Anywhere the kids are still kind (and smart) enough to say old Doc rocks is good by me.

Dr. B

Signal Mountain Opry

April 4, 2009

       In my travels, I always try to find a  good jam session.  When I stopped at the Mountain Music Folk School they said to go back towards Chattanooga and turn right on Signal Mountain Road.  Then go past the Fire station and hang on right in Fairmont; you can’t miss it.

        About the time I thought we were lost we came up on a parking lot jammed with cars and a building that looked like an old church that had been converted to a music barn.

        We walked in.  I asked the man at the soundboard if it was a stage show only or if it was O.K. to jam. 

        “See that American flag hanging there?” he asked.


        “The first door past that is the bathroom.  Go to the next room on the left; they’ll be jamming in there.”

         “O.K. for strangers to join in?”


         I walked past the stage.  The fiddler nodded to acknowledge me as a newcomer and motioned towards the jam room.  No one had the mandolin covered so I got mine out.  A teen-aged girl with a powerful voice sang some old time country.  A fellow wailed out ‘Sweetheart of Mine Can’t You Hear Me Calling.’  A lady guitar player covered the tenor, so I took the baritone; it made for a tight trio.  Some young man named Chris Rutherford played an excellent Scruggs style banjo.

        Most of the group went out to play and the teenagers (and me) were left behind, and I played on with them.  The girl singer had a fine voice.  When she did Ron Block’s ‘Living Prayer,’ I stood up, walked over her way and did some mandolin back up.  An older gentleman in the corner came over to listen.  “She’s on next.  Will you help her out?”


         We went through a couple of numbers and with no more rehearsal than that we were on the stage.  She did ‘Wayfaring Stanger’ and “Delta Dawn.”  She turned and asked if she should do ‘Hotel California.’ 

        “It’s not exactly bluegrass,” she said. 

        “Sure kid.  Play whatever you want.  I’ll follow you.” 

        We did the Eagles tune then closed with ‘Living Prayer’ we had worked up backstage.  I liked this young lady’s voice; strong, good emotion, right on pitch; easy to follow with a harmony line.  For fifteen minutes of rehearsal I thought we did pretty good.

         “What’s your name, kid?”

         “Megan Davis.”

           “Hm.  Seems like everyone I know named Megan can sing.  Do you know Megan Peeler in Nashville?”

         “No sir.”

        “She’s about ten years older than you.  She’s setting it on fire.  I’d keep a lookout for her work.”

        “I will.”

        We exchanged cards and e-mail.  She’s a myspace young’un and I am on FaceBook (I called it MyFace) I had to admit I had no idea how to text anyone on the planet, but I promised to get back up with her for a book store gig if I ever got my book placed in Chattanooga.

         I’ve got a notion I haven’t played my last gig at the Mountain Opry.  They all asked me to come back, and directed me to a table with all sorts of fliers for regional events.  Like N.C., Tennessee is strong bluegrass country, and these were fine bluegrass folks; friendly and hospitable.  I was glad I found the Mountain Opry.  It is a must for a mandolin guy wandering through Chattanooga area.

Dr. B

Mike Compton and the Mountain Folk School

April 2, 2009

        Not long ago my wife and I were on a trip.  I was going to take her to see Rock City, but we got lost.  I couldn’t find all those barns I remembered as a kid.  We came through a little place called Red Bank and saw a music store.  Of course, I had to stop.

        I knew it was our kind of place.  A sign on the front door said they were closed, but you could hear music around back.  A washtub bass sat on the side porch.  I rapped on the door and gave a hollar, but the music went on, so we went in.

        As it turns out, they are gonna have Mike Compton there for a mandolin workshop on April 18.  For those of you not familiar with his work, Mr. Compton is the premier Monroe style mandolin player in the world.  He comes by it honestly too.  I have heard Bill Monroe only took him under his wing when Mike agreed to work on Mr. Monroe’s farm one summer.   I can see it now, (paraphrased)  “Son, split that pile of wood and we’ll get to ‘Wheel Hoss’ first thing after supper.”  

          Mike Compton has played for years with the Nashville Bluegrass Band.  He also toured with John Hartford, and even got a gig with the ‘Oh Brother’ phenomenon.  If you live anywhere in the Chattanooga area, this would be well worth your time.  I took one of Mike’s seminars a decade ago. I still can’t play like Monroe, but then other than Mike Compton, who can?

Dr. B

        Information can be obtained at their weblog:  or email:

       or google Mountain Music Folk School, Chattanooga

Lonely Ain’t Allowed- the Bluegrass Way

March 29, 2009

        I just got in off  ‘the road.’  How my friends do it on a regular basis is beyond me.  We didn’t have far to go at all, and we are tired.  Still, we had a fine time of it.

         John Hartford used to say bluegrass was America’s last small town.  Everyone knows everyone, and you don’t have to lock your doors.  I always did like John, and I think he was right.

        We went to Lorraine Jordan’s Carolina Road festival this weekend, and John thoughts came to mind.  Lorraine is a successful business woman, but she also maintains a regular band.  They play most weekends.  In spite of that schedule she shakes and howdys with folks like she’s got all day.  It’s the bluegrass way.

          We don’t allow lonely in bluegrass.  If you know three chords and have a guitar and a capo you can join in.  You’ll learn the unspoken etiquette.  The inner circle will be red hot young’uns like Josh Goforth, or silky singers like Jerry Butler.  Guys like Doc here have been around so long they get to hang in there too.  (But I’d better not give up my day job.  These guys are good.) 

        Even the beginners are encouraged to participate.  If it is a real hot session that might play on the periphery till they get their feet wet, but they are more than welcome.

        All that is required is to love the music.  One fellow might be a mechanic, the next a teacher, then maybe a business person like Lorraine or an English Professor.  The bluegrass crowd is so equal opportunity they even will let a stuffy old Doc in the mix.    

        Many times in my career people have asked how I have maintained my serenity.  After all, in my line of work friends get cancer and folks die.  I can take it to heart and I fret over all of them. 

        My answer has been the same for many years. First, the Good Lord hasn’t just been my copilot; He’s my Captain.  It was not possible to stay out of trouble as a Doc all these years without a lot of prayers to come up with the right answers.  I don’t believe it was just luck.  Heck even Tom Bailey from med school days wasn’t that smart, and I know I’m not.  (Wish I was, though)

         Second I was blessed with a fine family.  My wife and kids are the best, and have put up with a bizarre schedule over the years.

         But today I want to make sure you know that my music has played a large role in keeping me sane.  (I hear ya, who said you were, Doc?)  The only way I know to thank all my friends in bluegrass is to keep on promoting them until they are least as big as NASCAR, and that is what I am gonna do.

        I opened a FaceBook account this weekend, and I was astounded how many old music friends I was able to contact in 24 hours.  Some I hadn’t picked a note with in a decade.  We took up right where we’d left off just like you would an old college roommate. 

        So, if you have even a remote interest in traditional music, or just want to learn about a good group of people, I hope you’ll take a look at modern bluegrass.  Tell ’em old Doc Bibey sent ya.  Most of them know me at least a little.  C0me shake and howdy.  In bluegrass lonely ain’t allowed.

Dr. B

A Face Made for Radio (My Facebook Page)

March 28, 2009

        My agent has been after me forever to start a Facebook Page.  For a long time, I never got around to it.  “Awh, heck boss, my people know where to find me.”

        He persisted.  “Come on, Doc.  Are you gonna insist on being a Neanderthal forever?  You use new meds don’t you?”

        “Well, yeah, but that’s different.  Even in medicine, I want to be like in the Army.  I don’t want to be first in line, but I don’t want to be last either.”

        “In this case you better hurry up.  You might be the last writer on the planet not on Facebook.”

        “Really?  Say it is that big?”

        “Trust me.”

        I’ve spent my whole life as a Doc and a bluegrass picker, and had no idea where to start.  One day I mentioned it to a little friend of mine, a bluegrass fiddler, and she said, “Good Lord have mercy, Doc.  We can set that up faster than Moose Dooley can pick the Bluegrass Breakdown.”

         And that is how it came to be.  She was brilliant.  Why with a few keystrokes, she pulled up names I knew from years back.

        “Look here, kid.  I picked with this cat when he played with Knoxville Grass.  Why that has been twenty-five years.  And check this out, this lady here has written tunes for Alison Krauss.  Hey I met that guy at Galax.  Lord can he flat pick a guitar.  This dobro man; mercy!” 

         Page after page came up. Along the way, I had played a note or two or at least knew every one of them.

        “You know what kid?  By the time old Doc  is through bluegrass is gonna be on the brain of every school child in America.”

        She smiled and shook her head.  “Doc, you do love the music, don’t you?”

        “Yeah boy.  Hey, check this one out.  You talk about a fiddler…..”

        My agent was right. (again)  This Facebook is gonna be the ticket.

Dr. B

Classical Bluegrass and III Tyme Out

February 22, 2009

        As a bluegrass investigative reporter my charge is to bring you the inside story.

        Here it is folks.  You heard it here first.  I have it on good authority that as III Tyme rides the bluegrass road in their tour bus, they have been secretly immersed in classical music. 

       I hear you now.  “Classical, Dr. B?  Are you sure?  Yes, Russell Moore is a classic voice.  I know the band defines the classic sound of the second generation of bluegrass, but classical?”

       I am positive because I heard the strains at their show last night.  As banjo player Steve Dilling told of his truancy days in high school, (the guidance counselor stayed for the second set at Bass Mountain before she reeled him in)  I heard Wayne Benson noodle some Bach on the mandolin.  

        Dilling cut his eyes to his left.  (Your right as you look at the stereo speakers)  “What was that?”


         “Like in Carry me Bach to old Virginia?”

        “No.  Bach as in Johann Sebastian.”

        “Wasn’t he with the Loving Spoonful?”

        “No man.  Classical music.  Monroe had some Bach influence.”

        It was one of the few times I ever saw Mr. Dilling at a loss for words.

        I know where this all comes from.  Justin, the fiddle man is an old soul at twenty-five.  He came up in classical violin, and Wayne has been studying it on the mandolin under the tutelage of Mike Marshall.  The next thing you know he and Justin are gonna jam on Beethoven, and not ‘Roll Over Beethoven,’ although they can do it too.  These guys are artists.

        But they haven’t got anything on Dilling.  I expect that boy knows every good breakfast joint between here and Missouri.  I hear he is working on an endorsement deal with a well known restaurant chain, and it is a classic too.

        One of these days I’m gonna have to ride out with these guys.  Any group that argues over how much influence Bach had on Bill Monroe over a plate of chops and eggs is my kind of band. 

        Pour me up another cup of coffee boys, and keep on picking.  You guys are today’s classical music.

Dr. B

Bluegrass CD Pick of the Week- Balsam Range

February 21, 2009

        Balsam Range is the pride of the North Carolina mountains.  It is hard to believe they could duplicate the magic of their first CD, but they did so.  Their second release, ‘Last Train to Kitty Hawk’ re-confirms their position as a nationally acclaimed band.

        Whether it is an original like ‘Jack Diamond’ or a Stanley Brothers reissue such as ‘I’m so Lonesome Without You,’ every cut rings true.  Buddy Melton can sing any kind of tune, but he delivers the sad ones so lonesome it give me goose bumps on the arms and the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  There are breakdowns and gospel numbers, love songs and ballads that tell stories, straight bluegrass and touches of country.  While it does not stray too far from traditional, the collection is an acoustic music variety show.

        All great bands have diversity, and Balsam Range is no exception.  Buddy brings a bluegrass pedigree with a country flair from his days with Jubal Foster.  Tim Surrett has played bass with artists as diverse as Tony Rice and the Kingsmen.  He is also a bluegrass guy, but I like the hint of Southern Gospel in his lead and harmony vocals.

        Mandolinist Darren Nicholson was on the road several years with bluegrass diva Alecia Nuggent, and can play Bill Monroe style or modern bluegrass with equal facility.  He also is steeped in classic county, an influence that shows in his work.  Marc Pruett has toured with everyone from Lester Flatt to Ricky Skaggs and keeps the bluegrass sound prominent in the mix with his classic banjo work.

        An Caleb Smith?  I’ve seen this young man stand shoulder to shoulder with Tony Rice.  He can trade licks with the best and is also a very effective lead singer.  With three who can sing lead the band never falls in a rut.  You get something fresh on every track.

        With these guys there is something old, something new and forever something blue.  Give ’em a listen.

        The link to their website is:

Bluegrass First Class 2009

February 13, 2009

        I’ve been around bluegrass a while.  At BGFC everyone gets a name tag. When I checked in to the show mine read, ‘Dr. B,’ and that was it.  No full name needed for old Doc.

        The first band we saw was the Snyder family.  They are mere children, but these kids could play.  There is a reason Jethro Burns said never follow small children or dancing animals.  It is a bit embarrassing for them to be so young and that good, but I was proud for them.  I found out we are on on a show with them in the fall.  It will be good to see them again, but I hope we don’t have to follow them.

        The Grascals might be the most entertaining band in bluegrass.  They got their start as Dolly Parton’s band for a couple years, so they learned from the best.  Terry Eldridge is part bluegrass and part old-time country singer, and Jamie Johnson sees to it the audience has a better day than before they got there.  Big stars like Earl Scruggs, George Jones, and the Osborne Brothers are singing their praises.   

        Kristin Scott Benson is the new banjo player for the group.  She is IBMA bluegrass banjo player of the year.  About the only drawback for the Grascals is the boys are just not quite as good looking as they were before Kristin showed up.  She is not just a pretty face; the kid can play the breakdowns or the slow tunes as well as any man alive.  I especially like the way she bends the strings on bluesy numbers like ‘Keep Me from Blowing Away’ or ‘Hard Times.’  That kind of soul can’t be taught, at least not overnight.

        The Grascals new project came out in LP vinyl.  I like that; all warm and analogue with pops and hisses when the record gets worn a bit. 

        III Tyme Out has been a favorite for years.  If I was on death row, and could only sing harmony with one last cat, it would be Russell Moore.  And Wayne Benson is one of my two favorite mandolin players in the world.  Their song ‘Erase the Miles’ is a work of art you should not miss. 

        Seldom Scene out of Washington, D.C. closed out the first night.  The quintessential bluegrass party band, they sprinkle in off-beat political commentary with perfect harmony singing.  (Example:  Roe vs. Wade:  two ways to cross the Potomac.) 

        The Scene always put in the mood to play, and there is a jam session in every hall, so me and my mandolin are gonna go.  I’ll report back to you after some morning coffee.

Dr. B