The IBMA and Your Health

Since this is the first edition of this column, I thought I’d take up just a few lines telling you what to expect in future submissions. First, the disclaimer: the opinions expressed here will not necessarily be those of the management, staff, or of any of the friends, relatives or groupies of the staff of Bluegrass Today. In fact they may not still be my opinions a few days after I’ve expressed them, once I’ve had a chance to really think about them.

Having said that, this will not be an opinionated sort of column anyway (I apologize for just having wasted 20 to 60 seconds of your time, depending on your reading speed). It will really be more about offering a perspective on the world of bluegrass from different vantage points: sometimes from the perspective of a road musician, sometimes from the vantage point of a bluegrass broadcaster, and other times from the point of view of a professional gambler/heavy machinery operator (I’m not one of those, but my uncle is, and he tells me a lot of stuff).

Now that we’ve dispensed with business, we can move on to the subject of this debut column: World of Bluegrass survival techniques, and their practical application.

Anyone who has attended IBMA week either in Nashville, Louisville, Owensboro, or that little-publicized year it was held in Istanbul, knows the health hazards involved. If I had to count, I’d say the number of years I’ve left IBMA without a cold, flu, sinus infection, or unwanted passenger in my car is approximately 1, and that was the year I only attended for 2 days (and wore latex gloves). I know I’m not the only one with this track record. I always found it amusing that in every IBMA location, people were quick to blame it on external factors like the hotel ventilation. Yes, I suppose 3 consecutive hotels could have had unhealthy ventilation, or, just perhaps, the problem is  that hordes of bluegrass people from around the globe are gathering in one building, never going outside, living on a diet of glazed doughnuts, coffee and alcohol, shaking hands incessantly and rubbing their eyes in between handshakes because they’re only sleeping 2 hours a night (the jam session ended 2 hours early.)

Well, this exciting but hazardous week is upon us, and so, drawing on my personal experience and speaking with health care professionals (I didn’t actually do that, but I thought it added credibility to say it), I’d like to offer some modest diet and lifestyle tips for the week, to keep you from leaving Nashville in compromised health. You’ll note that these tips become even more  modest as the week goes on, in order to keep expectations realistic (i.e. low). Below is an easy-to-follow, daily plan that can help you avoid the fate that many of us have suffered in the past:


After a minimum of 8 hours’ sleep (pacing yourself is key), start day with brisk walk outside (at least 1 mile recommended) to limber up for the week and to counteract all the upcoming time away from natural light.

Breakfast: 2 eggs any style, turkey sausage or some other lean breakfast meat, 2 pieces whole wheat toast, tomato juice, one cup of coffee (vegetarian alternative: substitute low fat cottage cheese for sausage). This breakfast is high in protein and will help keep blood sugar stable as you tackle day 1 of the WOB.

Lunch: grilled chicken sandwich, with side salad (vegetarian alternative: grilled cheese sandwich w/salad)

Dinner: pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, and caesar salad. Garlic is considered to have anti-viral properties, and just for fun, right after this meal, you might schedule the meeting with that irritating person you’ve been avoiding all year. (vegetarian alternative: pasta with marinara sauce, caesar salad)

So far, so good, right?


After a minimum of 7 hours sleep, do some simple stretching exercises in your room. Walk from your hotel to the WOB (if you’re staying downtown). If you’re staying at the Renaissance Hotel, get outside and walk around the block. Repeat in the late afternoon.

Similar diet to Monday, but substitute omelette for breakfast and increase coffee intake to 2 cups, if desired. Okay, 3 cups.

Snack: pork rinds and Perrier, in keeping with the diversity of the IBMA membership. (vegetarian alternative: Do they make “tofu rinds”?)

Try to get to bed by 2:00 AM.


Minimum sleep: 5 hours. Take the stairs instead of the elevator down to breakfast (cling to railing if needed).

Breakfast: french toast and bacon – why not at this point? (vegetarian alternative: French toast and a side of yogurt) 3 cups of coffee, to start. Non-coffee alternative: diet Mountain Dew and a Goody’s headache powder

Lunch: whatever they’re serving at the buffet

Snack: 8 peanut M&Ms

Dinner: Get out of the hotel for a change and get some Jack’s Barbeque (This is not an endorsement and no promotional fees were paid. However, if someone would like to pay some promotional fees–or just send me a sandwich–my address is provided below.)


Minimum sleep: 4 hours  You’ll probably find that the act of getting dressed passes as exercise. Step gingerly into the shower (before getting dressed).

Breakfast: coffee, raisin bran and lowfat milk, coffee (not a typo), one tablet of Airborne dissolved in water (this is a product endorsement and I don’t care who knows). Feel free to mix this with Alka-Seltzer.

Lunch: whatever they’re serving at the awards luncheon, if you’re up that early. Note: falling asleep with your face in the turkey and gravy at the awards luncheon is considered the height of IBMA tackiness. Just ask your seat mate to jab you with a fork every 7 minutes if you think there’s a risk of this happening. (vegetarian alternative: don’t eat the entree)

Dinner: something hearty like a steak or salmon, with rice or potatoes, salad. You have a long awards show ahead of you. (vegetarian alternative: garden burger, fish – if you eat it – or a vegetarian omelet)

Post-awards late night snack (2:00 AM): Pepperoni pizza, one more Airborne  . . . dissolved in moonshine. (vegetarian alternative: a granola bar)

alcohol-free alternative: red bull and Gatorade


minimum sleep: 2 hours.  Just laugh when someone suggests a brisk walk.

Breakfast: cold pepperoni pizza from the night before, with coffee in the room. (vegetarian alternative: a beer)

Lunch: something that can be easily seen on a plate while wearing dark glasses.

Dinner: Order Chinese food. Lose track of time and miss the delivery. Have whatever Starbucks calls their extra large coffee.


Minimum sleep: 45 minutes.

Breakfast: coffee in the room, a few crumbs of a cracker you find on the dresser. Realize it’s already 2:00 in the afternoon and you’ve got to get down to the fanfest because your favorite band started 15 minutes ago. Put on dark glasses and whatever you were wearing on Tuesday and go.


minimum sleep: whatever you can get in between checks of your vital signs.

breakfast: whatever they’re serving that day at Baptist Hospital.

See you next year!!