Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Meet Dr. Tom Bibey

According to the “About Me” section of his weblog, Dr. Tom Bibey is a retired physician and semi-professional bluegrass musician. I’ve never heard him play the mandolin, but I can tell you he’s a heckuva writer. He tells stories about his adventures in bluegrass music with his band Neuse River and the assorted characters he picks with at The Bomb Shelter, a well hidden retreat for pickers. He also writes about his medical practice, exploring the ways in which his experiences impact both his life and music. Strangely, most of his medical posts can be found in the archive as “Philosophy.” I suppose Hippocrates was a philosopher, too, although he’s credited with turning medicine from philosophy into a profession. Maybe we’d be better off if more physicians were more philosophical. Anyway, Dr. Bibey is both and that’s part of what makes his weblog both fun and enticing. The other part is his cast of characters, including himself. Dr. B casts an affectionate and appraising eye on his fellow musicians, who include Moose Dooley, Darrell, and the Warbler. The story of Neuse River’s first trip to Merlefest, very early in the history of that great festival is a classic. It’s also a road trip I wish I’d been on. Another great story explores what happens when a newcomer to The Bomb Shelter isn’t well attuned to the nuances of this particular jam. How many of us have found ourselves in trouble by not having our ear open to local etiquette?

Early in the history of his blog, Dr. Bibey makes this invitation: “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.” I’ve taken his invitation up and sent him a couple of stories. I have no idea how he’ll use them. You can contact him through the comments section of his blog at the end of each entry.

The world of bluegrass is a small, welcoming, and wonderous community of people from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. Dr, Bibey brings sharp eyes and ears to his efforts as well as a warm humane world view leavened with humor. His writing is unusual in today’s literary world because it is almost without a hint of sarcasm or irony, just gentle humor. No known picture of Dr. Bibey can be found on the net or in my picture files.