Posted tagged ‘music’

Where to Find a Country Doc on a Sunday Night

March 23, 2009

        The short answer is in a country church.  If I am on call, I can’t leave Harvey County, but when I’m not I have started to stretch out a little.

        This past weekend I got a call from Darin Aldridge.  His dobro man had to be out of town, and he wondered if I’d play some mandolin for the Quintet for a Sunday night church service.  It didn’t take long for me to say yes.  I hoped I was up to it.  As you have read in some of my reviews they are top shelf.  Their recent CD got as fine a review as I have seen in ‘Bluegrass Unlimited’ in twenty-five years.  It made it all the way to number one on the rural roots bluegrass gospel charts a few weeks. 

         It was a little country church, and the folks put my fears to rest.  Some of the congregation had heard me play with Neuse River along the way, and they invited us to supper when we got there.  It was my kind of place.

         The Pastor got up with an acoustic/electric guitar and a boy played the electronic drums; the house rocked before we ever played a note.

         Darin is a world class picker and his wife Brooke is a powerful singer.  When she sings ‘I’ll Go With You’ it gives me goose bumps every time.  Eddie Biggerstaff and Chris Bryant were so solid on the bass and banjo it wasn’t hard to fall in with them.  Perry Woodie was out that night, but he is a fine dobro man, and perhaps the funniest story teller in bluegrass. 

        It was the first time I had been nervous for a gig in years.  Darin makes his living in music and I wanted to do my best to keep it to their standards.  Darin gave me a nice introduction, and then I proceeded to wreck the kick-off to ‘River of Jordan,’ but they were all good Christians and I was forgiven.  After that I got in the groove and thought I did O.K. considering I had not rehearsed with them.  I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

        So, if you want to find Tommy Bibey on a Sunday night in the N.C. Piedmont, look for the Darin and Brooke Aldridge Quintet at a church near you.  If I can go, I’ll get out and play a few gigs with them.  Neuse River plays most of our shows on Friday or Saturday, and 98% in Harvey County, so as long as it does not conflict with that schedule, and it isn’t too far outside the Piedmont area old Doc might just come along for the ride. 

        I hope your church will consider booking them for special music one night.  After this last CD, they are getting bigger bookings with every month that goes by, but they are still do the Sunday outings for a love offering.  The guys offered to compensate me, but for me this gig is about the fellowship, the experience, and a chance to get out and meet some new folks.  So, if you book them let me know and I’ll try to make it.

          If was far too spiritual not to go out with them again.

Dr. B

Doyle Dykes

March 19, 2009

        If you get a chance to see Doyle Dykes, please take my advice and go.  He is the best country finger style guitarist I have ever heard, and many say he is the best in the world.  (For all you folks in Australia Tommy Emmanuel is tough too.  He and Doyle are working on a CD together.)  

           As impressive as his guitar skills are, and they border on unbelievable, what impresses me even more is what kind of man he is.  He has worked hard to be the best guitarist he can be, but he knows his gift is not from human hands.  It shows in his  humility.  He gives his Maker all the credit. 

        Doc Watson is my favorite flat-picker.  He once said he hoped he’d be remembered as a good man rather than a flashy guitar player.  Doyle Dykes is beyond fabulous as a player, and my favorite finger style guitarist.  My guess is he would agree with Doc Watson.  It seems the great ones are forever humble.  They understand the Good Lord chose them for His reasons and their job is to follow.

        I am pretty fair country picker, and I have seen a number of great players in my day.  But when Doyle soars though ‘How Great Thou Art” it is so beautiful it brings tears.  When his lovely little daughter Haley sings ‘Amazing Grace’ as he backs her up on guitar they flow again.  I can’t help it, it is that inspiring.  They do country and jazz, and originals, and medleys; I could go on and on; go check them out.  

          I play music and listen to it because I love it.  I see a lot of terrible things in my work; friends with cancer and seizures and heart attacks and death.  I do it because I was O.K. at reading books and filling in those little bubbles on standardized tests, and because in my prayers I felt it was what God had in mind for me. 

        I think God gave me music so I could have a safe place to escape all that reality for just a moment.  Doyle Dykes takes me there with his work.  For me what he plays is not earthly reality but heaven sent.  

        I try to catch Doyle and Haley whenever they are in our area.  After I listen to them I am inspired to be a Doctor for another year.  I like to think that is some small part of why God put them here on earth.  When  I hear them I know I was meant to be a Doc instead of a musician, and I am always content with the life that was chosen for me.  And with their music they forever inspire me to be the best Doc I can be. 

        They make my burdens easier to carry long after they’ve gone back to Tennessee.  Best wishes and safe travels guys.  Keep inspiring us.

Dr. B


Doyle Dykes website is:

He travels for Taylor guitars:

Check out the Doyle Dykes signature model, and next time you see him ask about the white rose inlaid on the headstock of every Doyle Dykes signature Taylor guitar.

Heather’s New Home

March 15, 2009

        This post is not about stray animals, although we love them.  We have all we can handle, and should not take on any more if we want to stay in the good graces of the neighbors.  Musical instruments are another matter.  

        Take this new one I ran across.  I couldn’t help but fall in love.  She was a broken down little tenor guitar, and needed a home so bad.  We took her in and nurtured her like a lost puppy, and she has found new life.  We named her Heather, after a line in an Irish tune. 

        A couple years ago, I helped a fellow with his CD.  He played dulcimer and wanted a few mandolin tracks.  I was happy to oblige.  He offered to pay me, but I knew his project was on a tight budget and I wanted to help him out and do it professional courtesy.

        People don’t forget though.  I was looking for a tenor guitar to play with Al Donnelly, an Irish folk singer I sit in with every so often.  My dulcimer friend heard and gave me a call.

        “Hey Doc, I hear you are looking for a tenor guitar.”

        “Yeah.  Al would like some of that sound in his Celtic work.  I haven’t seen one in years.”

       “Well have I got a deal for you.  I found one.  You want it?”

        “I’d love to look at it.  How much do you want for it?”

        “It’s not for sale, but I’d love to give it to you.”

        “I couldn’t let you do that.”

        “You might change your mind when you see it.  It has been in my attic for years.  The thing is in pieces.  I forgot it was up there, but I saw it the other day and thought of you.  If you can put it back together you’re welcome to it.”

        It was in bad shape sure enough.  The neck hung by a thread and was bowed like a ski slope.  A couple of frets and a tuning key were lost to posterity.  There were several cracks and it was covered in tar and splatters of paint from when they remodeled their house.

       “She’s beautiful.  We’ll take it.”

        I had some old Stew-Mac banjo tuners at the house.  I put all of it in a cardboard box at took it down to Johnny’s Music.  Our local guitar guru opened the package and pulled out the pieces with tender care. 

        “I agree Doc .  She needs a new home.  Yeah, I can put her back together.”

      “How much?”

       “Hmn.  Fifty bucks and one office visit.”


        The ‘Harmony’ decal is half gone, and the lower bout has a huge crack we didn’t try to repair since it got auto-sealed with roof tar.  We couldn’t get out all of the splotches of paint.  It has nicks and gouges and probable bar room battle scars.  Lord if she could only talk.

        But then again she does talk her language.  Tenor guitar is tuned in fifths like a mandola, and has a dark lonesome sound.  When you play ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’  it is, to borrow a line from my friend Wayne Benson, about as Celtic as man can get if he grew up two blocks from Burger King.  

        I played it this morning.  The thing looks like you drug it home tied to the rear bumper of your car.  We believe it dates back to the 40s, but is only worth about $75.00 on the market, though much more to me.  After all, Heather is like a stray pup and now part of the family.   She is a mutt, but they are always the best ones. 

Dr. B


Here is the chorus to ‘Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?’

“And we’ll all go together

To pull wild mountain thyme

All around the blooming heather

Will ye go, lassie, go?”

Hey Good Looking

March 10, 2009

        We had a gig last night.  It was for a local charity, and I enjoy those.  The guy I played with came up in old time and folk music, but is very eclectic.  Our show is a mix of folk, old time, bluegrass, and a little classical rock and old time country.

        Afterwards folks came up to speak.  I especially enjoy the influence our music has on the young people.  One told me he had picked up the mandolin because of me.  Another started a traditional music club at the school, and I always want to check in to encourage him.

        Overall it was a good show for a doctor.  Of course, I have had a lot of help.  Darin Aldridge has been a major influence for years, and continues to help me.  For the last year and a half I have studied under Wayne Benson too.  If a man can’t learn to play with Darin on his right arm and Wayne on his left, he is hopeless.  I can’t carry their cases, but they have shaped me into a decent amateur.

       But the main influence on me is my Marfar.  She is a busy woman and can’t come to everything I play, but she was there last night.  She had a meeting but slipped away early so she could catch the show.  

        Way back when I started on electric guitar it was in hopes of meeting girls. Well after Marfar came along I gave all that up.  But I gotta admit when I play mandolin and she shows up there is a bit of little boy in me.  When I saw her in the audience I couldn’t help but light up. 

        When we did ‘Hey Good Looking’ I dedicated it to her.  There is a line that says the fellow was gonna throw his black book over the fence.  Well for me when I met Marfar I tossed away my black book, traded it for a black bag, became a doctor and lived happily ever after.

        So, as the song says, “Hey Good Looking.  Whatcha got Cooking?”  Better go practice my mandolin.  Gotta do my best when Marfar is in the crowd.

Dr. B

Seventy-Five Bucks and a Box of Chocolates

February 27, 2009

        I had a fine week.  I saw a bunch of patients and they were all happy with what I did for them.  As far as I know I did not mis-diagnose a one.

        As you have read I won fifty bucks Wednesday for Marfar gambling in golf.  Tonight I picked up another seventy-five to put at her place at the table from a music gig.  I give her all my proceeds from golf gambling and music gigs.  We call it her mad money, ’cause it is hers to spend irresponsibly.  (After all that is how I came by it.)  Also it is ‘mad’ money because she is never upset when I go out to play.  In fact she encourages it.  It has worked out great for both of us.

        The gig tonight was a church social.  Back in my youth at Harvey Methodist I spent much of my Sunday School time at the Gulf Station.  I guess they have either forgiven or forgotten.  I always went to preaching though.  My parents would a missed me if I hadn’t. 

        Tonight was the over seventy-five crowd, so we weren’t out late.  As usual most of them were my patients.  This show was with a local country singer.  When we got there we realized it was a Valentine’s Banquet so we ditched ‘Your Cheating Heart’ and subbed ‘Can’t Stop Loving You.’  They had a contest to guess the number of candy hearts in a jar and I won a box of chocolates, so I got to bring Marfar a present too.

         She was tickled.  You can’t go wrong if bring a woman home seventy-five bucks and a box of chocolates.  I think she is going to use some of her mad money to buy a new pair of sunglasses.   I tell you what’s the truth, this boy has a turn key life, and I never forget to be thankful for it.

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:

The Coffee Song Contest

February 16, 2009

        This is the coolest thing I have ever run into.  A couple blogs ago I posted the ‘Coffee Song.’  I came up with some words and a melody, then posted the lyrics.

        The next thing I know a fellow blogger, a Paramedic who goes by MM, sent me his version of it.  I was shocked how close his interpretation was to what I had in my head.

       I thought it would be fun to see what other versions people might come up with.  I have this intellectual property rights lawyer cat who deals with all this so I can just have fun, and the song is BMI registered, though under my songwriter pen name.  MM recognized all that in his e-mail; like me he’s just having a bunch of fun with life, and asked if he could send in his version.  I dug it.  

        Along the way I have had a few tunes recorded by professional bluegrass bands.  So with all that is mind I think I’ll open my first contest, and do so in honor of MM.  Send in your version and if anyone records it, I’ll make sure the person who inspires them to record the tune gets mentioned in the liner notes on the CD.

         You might think all this is far fetched, but I know a bunch of these bands on a first name basis.  And, the fact is there are already two food outfits who sponsor touring bluegrass bands.  The oldest tradition is with Martha White Flour, which first sponsored Flatt and Scruggs, and now Rhonda Vincent.  The newest one is Mayberry Foods, which sponsors the Grascals.  (Lead singer Terry Eldridge endorses Viagra, but that is another story.  My wife says Seldom Scene needs to go for Cialis; Ben Eldridge does a fine version of ‘Lay Down Sally.’) 

        I’ve got some age on me, and I’m more of the Folger’s vintage these days, so who knows?  Maybe someone will record the ‘Coffee Song’ and tour around the country in the Folger’s or Maxwell House bus.

        By the way, what is it with paramedics and music?  I played with one this weekend who could saw the fire out of a fiddle.  I think they are like old Docs and music helps them deal with the tragedy they see on a regular basis. 

        Anyway, you can hear his version by clicking on his comment.  His is the first one up, so this post is in honor of MM.  Very cool.

        Send in your version.  Maybe it will be good for a few minutes of fame on some bluegrass CD liner notes or a ride to a concert on the corporate bus one day.

Dr. B

Saturday Bluegrass First Class

February 15, 2009

       Saturday I realized I had blended into the crowd well.  One fellow came up and said he loved my mandolin playing, but called me Bill.  I guess Bill looks like Dr. B and was a heck of a player.  The event promoter Milton Harkey said from the stage my article in the Laurel of Asheville was a big success.  He did not realize I had bought a ticket and was in the audience.  When somebody talks nice about you and you aren’t even there, that is extra special.

        The talent level was equal to Friday.  Asheville’s own Balsam Range packed the house with the weekend’s biggest crowd, and played the hometown folks into a frenzy.  Junior Sisk sang old time authentic bluegrass and Wyatt Rice played modern flat-pick as only the Rice boys can do.  

        Sierra Hull, the precocious young lady of the mandolin, is only a teenager, but is a marvelous performer for any age.  She doesn’t need much help, but Ron Block (of Alison Krauss fame) produced Ms. Hull’s record, and played guitar and banjo and sang with her in Asheville.  Mr. Block has long been one of my favorites.  His work is both of style and substance. The man has a passion for what he does, and is not just going through the motions.  He could have just as easily retired for the evening, but I noticed he stayed late to share some thoughts with a few of the young pickers who hung around after the show.  They will do well to pay attention to his advice.  Ron Block still works at his craft every day to be the best he can, and believe me he is already very good!

        As I type it is 12 bells, (eight bells military) but there is a jam session next door, so I’m gonna split and check for typos in the morning.  As keepbreathing would say, someone get the coffee pot ready; morning is not far away.

Dr. B

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