DOCTOR NIGHTLIFE has been playing "B-Movie Boxcar Blues" over and over in anticipation of Delbert McClinton's return (to the Birchmere Tuesday: $15; 202/432-0200). Elsewhere:
ALPHABET SOUP -- Is just one of the canned or nonperishable foods you could bring to the Speidel, Goodrich, Goggin & Lille -- known to their friends and Doctor Nightlife's tired fingers as SGGL -- concert to benefit So Others Might Eat and the Jefferson Scholarship fund at Lisner ($12; Tower and Olsson's Records or 301/481-6000). SGGL is a user-friendly guitar-heavy foursome who might bring back the harmony quartet's good name.
SPEAKING OF GUITAR HEAVIES -- In a rare retro-hip club noir appearance, Washington easy riders of the solid body guitars, redneck jazz Danny Gatton and ex-Lost Planet Airman Bill Kirchen, double-bill at the 9:30 ($9; 202/393-0930).
SPEAKING OF ALPHABET SOUP -- It's the funky-soul patriarchs the O'Jays, with soul diva Regina Belle, 7:30 and 11:30 at Constitution Hall. Dress to impress ($23.50; 800/543-3041 or at the box office after noon).
LOCAL LADY SINGS THE BLUES -- It's jazz really, and it's really jazz, when vocalist Ronnie Wells and piano pro and longtime collaborator Ron Elliston make a rare downtown stop at Anton's 1201 Club for two nights (Friday and Saturday). It's also a rare middle-level cover for Anton's -- $15 (202/783-1201). Incidentally, both Wells and Elliston teach music at the University of Maryland, which says a lot about the flowering of our own backyard.
THE KID'S DOC -- The fact that the avuncular national treasure Doc Watson is playing with the Seldom Scene Friday and Saturday at the Birchmere is good news ($18.50; 202/432-0200), not only because you never know when Doc may be serious about his "retirement tour," but also because Scene fans who can't go out on Thursday nights have two more chances to see them. But it's Doc's special children's concert at 3 that might be the most fun. Tickets are $5 for kids under 12, $10 for their parents, or $15 for unaccompanied adults. Incidentally, Thursday night regulars should also note that this week the Seldom Scene has special guests, area faves Schooner Fare ($16.50; 202/432-0200).
THE COLOR PURPLE -- It's true the Doctor usually casts a jaundiced eye toward the ethereal neo-folkie groups that pass for "a feminist movement" in the record biz, but she retains a fondness for the not-too-treacly Indigo Girls.They're at DAR Constitution Hall Saturday ($19.50; 800/543-4031) and at the Birchmere Sunday ($18; 202/432-0200).
JOHNNY CAN'T ZANTS -- Ronnie Van Zant made Lynyrd Skynyrd into a full-gauge attraction, and Donnie Van Zant did fairly well by the middle-caliber .38 Special, but with little brother Johnny Van Zant shooting arena rock, the bore has gotten pretty small, playing off a peculiar mix of '70s Southern-boogie nostalgia and '90s Top 40 (at Hammerjack's: $8.50; 800/448-9009).
PLASTIC FANTASTIC LOVERS -- We can hear the ad now: "In Washington, D.C., the young black-clothes crowd lines up to squeeze into the 9:30 club. But be sure to bring your Visa or MasterCard, because at the 9:30, they don't take reservations and they don't wear animal products -- and they don't take American Express." Yes, folks, beginning Wednesday, the back bar (back bar only) will accept Visa and MC, and to celebrate this new '90s thinking -- drink now, pay later -- the 9:30 will (one night only) cut 20 percent off any credit card bill. It's their answer to the gas crunch -- a sort of new guzzling system.
RATHER WITH CLEVELAND -- Fred Koller is a songwriter's songwriter -- it's a rare compliment to have John Hiatt and James McMurtry cover anybody -- and thanks to Jeff Healy's version of Koller's "Angel Eyes," he may get even more attention. But the other half of this Barns of Wolf Trap double bill, Ashley Cleveland, is not only a Nashville showcase secret, she's a songwriter's sideman: She was the Goner playing guitar for Hiatt at Constitution Hall last year ($10; 202/432-0200).
BAILEY'S IRISH CREAM -- Mack Bailey is a good excuse to visit the King of France Tavern in Annapolis, but sometimes the cover's a little steep. So for the bluejeans crowd, Bailey makes a rare appearance at the Folkal Point, upstairs at the Cacao Lane Restaurant in Ellicott City ($6 cover; 301/982-0686 or from Baltimore 301/922-5210). Local humorist and under-publicized folk footworker Sue Trainor opens.