Friday, December 18, 2009
Yes, our ukuleles will be silent for a while and we'll take a rest from our blog for a few weeks while we rest and re-energize. All of the YesterUkes wish our readers the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of holidays.
But let us leave you with a story from yesterday's program, the final performance of 2009...
As some of our players arrived at the church, they discovered the fellowship hall was located down the hill from the main building. Some in our band have an assortment of bad knees and ailing hips (kind of goes with the age group). They unloaded their instruments and hobbled down the hill. As they were making their way to the wonderfully decorated hall, a couple of church members watched their approach with some concern. But a quick-witted Yesteruke, noting the raised eyebrows, told them, "Don't worry. We play better than we walk!"
Merry Christmas, ya'll! See you in 2010.
Silent Night, Gruber & Mohr, 1818
Thursday, December 17, 2009
We were lucky...the bad weather is supposed to come in tomorrow. So our final program of 2009 was held on a beautiful cold, sunny day. The folks at Northside United Methodist Church, many dressed in red, were ready to party. Before we sang, we enjoyed another excellent covered dish dinner. The food table stretched out forever. Too many yummy things to even taste many of them. And as long as this table was, the desserts filled another table at the opposite end of the room.
After this wonderful meal, the Yesterukes had fun singing and entertaining the great audience. This was our fifth Christmas program in 17 days--and our best. Yes, practice is a good thing. We've been doing a mix of our regular songs and our Christmas songs. A favorite at the beginning of our program has been the 1952 hit, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window. Our version comes complete with "barking dogs" in the background. Today's audience included a seeing eye dog (our first canine listener) who rose to his alert position when he heard the other "dogs" in the room. Not sure he enjoyed that part as much as the rest of the audience.
One lady told us afterward that this would be her biggest Christmas celebration. Another person who has faced some hard times recently said today WAS Christmas for her this year. And a gentleman, with a huge smile on his face, asked, "Can I come play with your group after Christmas?" His wife standing right behind him exclaimed, "And I plan to see that he gets there!"
It's been a great year for the Yesterukes. It will take a little time to gather the stats, but we're pretty sure we've entertained at more places and for bigger audiences than ever before. Our group has grown again. Our first concert was given by six of us in 2007. There are 20 Yesterukes as of today. But if the wife of the smiling man is right, we'll grow a little more in 2010!
Joy To The World, as of the late 20th century, it's the most-published Christmas hymn in North America
Saturday, December 12, 2009
The men with the big black cowboy hats arrived at the last minute. Other members of the Laurens County Cattlemen's Association and their families had already filled most of the seats, waiting for the meeting to begin. The Yesterukes were set up and ready. The meal was blessed and everyone headed for the buffet line, chatting and visiting as they went. There was no doubt we would be eating beef at a cattlemen's meeting but the delicious brisket was a wonderful surprise. Homemade brisket and homemade desserts!
This group meets monthly to learn more about things like pasture management and hay production, but tonight the program was brought by the Yesterukes. We'll admit there were a few puzzled looks as we filled the seats at the front of the room. Lots of ukuleles and lots of folks with "antique blonde" hair. (One of our players likes to say, "My hair's not white. It's antique blonde!") But faces broke into smiles as the music began. We played some favorites from our regular set list before we got into the Christmas music. And you know we were not leaving without doing Rawhide for this group.
Anywhere we go, it's fun to watch faces as we sing. You can tell when we've done a song that is a favorite for someone. Tonight, a couple of little sleepy heads perked up when we sang Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. A weathered face broke into a grin when we sang Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. The entire evening was was fun. We love being part of so many Christmas celebrations.
Home On The Range, the state song of Kansas, written in the 1870s and adopted as the state song in 1947
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
When all sensible people were heading toward higher ground last night, the fearless ukulele players of the Yesterukes braved the storm to get to Taylors First Baptist Church to entertain members of a Sunday School class. Everyone waded through puddles to get inside where food and friendly faces waited.
Someone commented last week about the committed players in this group. (hmmm--or did she say, "...should BE committed"?) Only true dedication to this group would have gotten these men and women to leave their warm, dry homes and come out on a miserable evening to play ukuleles and sing for their supper. We had a great time as the rain poured outside. The food was wonderful and the audience was delightful. It's easy to play for a group that looks like they are having fun.
The Yesterukes were rewarded with a standing ovation when the music came to an end. That doesn't happen often, so we loved it. People often come up as we are packing the sound equipment and tell how much they enjoyed us. But one comment last night stood out among the others. A kind lady came up to say, "You gave us a great gift tonight. Our congregation has dealt with some difficult things right here at the holiday season. It hasn't been easy. But tonight, for forty minutes, everyone here smiled and laughed and forgot about everything else. The Yesterukes were just what we needed. Thank you."
That made slogging through the cold rain on a dark night worth all our efforts.
We Need A Little Christmas, from "Mame", 1966
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This is the time of year when you hear Christmas songs everywhere. And like every other music group, we've polished up our holiday repertoire to play and sing. But can you guess what song has been most requested when people booked us for their December parties? We would have been wrong if we had tried. It's Rawhide! The person who booked the Christmas dinner for Hospice Thrift Shops volunteers (in the photos above) told us, "I don't care what songs you play for our party... as long as you play Rawhide!" And the volunteers loved it!
A lady called way back in April to schedule us to play Christmas music for her church party later this month. She called again this week to tell us she had just found the Yesterukes on YouTube. She asked, "Would you add a song to your list for us? I just watched you on YouTube and you just HAVE to do Rawhide for us!" And you can be sure we will play it for the Cattlemen's dinner next week.
So, this year mixed in with Jingle Bells and Silver Bells and White Christmas and Blue Christmas will be the whip cracking sounds and shouts of the ukulele "cowhands" singing that new holiday favorite--Rawhide.
Do You Hear What I Hear, Regney & Baker, October 1962, written as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Time to start singing all the Christmas songs we love! The very first day of December found us onstage and leading a giant sing along for senior adults at Mauldin First Baptist Church. We were glad to finally be at this church. Our appearance was rescheduled several times during the year. The original date was last March. That was cancelled due to an ice storm. A couple of other dates and conflicts passed across our calendar, but they really wanted us. A few more attempts and shuffling things around and we finally made it.
What did we play? We searched for some of the lesser heard songs to add to our list of holiday classics to keep things interesting. And we have learned what songs not to do. Last year we thought we'd try a version of the Hallelujah Chorus...probably not best played by a ukulele band. Or at least not our ukulele band. But after "song sampling", we put together 40 minutes of the songs we like best. Four more Christmas programs to go.
Okay, reindeer...bring it on. We're ready!
Christmas is A-Comin', by Frank Luther, 1953
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
To keep things lively in our programs, we sometimes add some interesting rhythms to our songs. A song that has been a crowd pleaser is "Sixteen Tons", complete with hammer and spike. Until yesterday, it was not fully understood what a feat this is. Upon close inspection of the "rhythm instrument", you'll see that the actual spike used is about the same diameter as the head of the hammer. To get an authentic sound, our own "steel driving man" has to hit that small target with force and hit it precisely. It just rings out as accompaniment to the rich bass solo.
But yesterday, the steel driver missed one time. It's entirely possible--just maybe--that there is a chair with a dent in it, neatly stacked among the others from yesterday. We don't think we're going to look. We really don't want to know.
After our program at Buncombe St. UMC, we were treated to the definitive Southern lunch--fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, lima beans and homemade yeast rolls. Some in our group have roots that run deeply into this Southern soil. And others are newly Southern. But all of us know that any church dinner worth attending will have macaroni and cheese on the table. It's an absolute favorite.
For those of you from other parts of the globe, you need to know this version is unlike what you find other places. No cheese sauce here. (And heaven help you if you show up with mac and cheese from a blue box!) Old timers called our upstate SC version "macaroni pie". Besides church dinners, you'll always find macaroni pie at family dinners, holiday dinners, funeral dinners, and even the occasional picnic.
Anyway, we just want you to understand how much of a favorite this dish is. If you would like to make this macaroni and cheese, just email the Yesterukes at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and ask for the recipe. This particular recipe has been passed down through several generations of cooks right here in upstate South Carolina and has made an appearance on hundreds of dinner tables. And it tastes just like what we enjoyed yesterday.
Next time we'll talk more about ukuleles and less about food. Promise.
My Favorite Things, sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, 1965
Sunday, November 8, 2009
When we can do something that is fun for us and help raise over $1800 for charity, it's a great night! The YesterUkes outdid themselves tonight musically at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church where the women of the church held their basket auction and hot dog supper. We were so glad to be part of this. The standing room only audience was a perfect mix for us--many of them (like us) were in the "old but not ancient" category. Exactly the group that knows the songs we sing. But we also had young families with small children who danced in the aisles as we sang. Fun for all ages. The program ended with a standing ovation and maybe the longest applause we've ever received. Gotta love it!
The best and the worst part of a performance comes at the very end. Packing up the sound equipment is just plain work, but sometimes it's the best part of the program because that's when people like to come up and talk. Tonight one lady said, "This was just wonderful. My husband used to play and sing these songs all the time. I lost him eleven years ago. Tonight...(deep breath)...brought back such good memories. I loved it."
Someone else came up to add, "I grew up in an orphanage and we spent lots of time there listening to these songs on the radio. Hearing you sing tonight brought back some of the best memories I have from back then." An attractive blonde exclaimed, "Gee, I wish I was old enough to play with the YesterUkes!" (We have no age requirement--you just have to be able to practice at 1:30 in the afternoon.) The favorite comment of the night was from the lady who paused as she was leaving to tell us, "Well, you know are old when you can sing every song you played tonight without looking at the song sheets! I am officially old."
Everybody's Talking, from Midnight Cowboy, 1967
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Easley Presbyterian Church might win the contest for "most fun name" for a senior group. The Yesterukes played today for the Amazing Grays! This group was most welcoming and enjoyed a musical journey back through time as we sang old standards. So many comments after the program were about good memories from high school and college days...back in the 40s!
We love playing and singing for anyone but it's the most fun when it's for a group that knows the music and sings along. The Amazing Grays all sang along with us and laughed as we shared stories about our ukulele adventures. We were also happy to welcome the leader of a Greenville ukulele group who came to hear us. Wouldn't it be fun to get all of us (that would be nearly 40 players) together for a HUGE ukulele event?
As our long-time readers know, the YesterUkes love to eat almost as much as they love to play ukuleles. Today was a real treat as we were served homemade chicken and rice soup. Nothing from a red-and-white labeled can here! After the good soup, there were desserts brought by church members. It may be about time for us to devise a "ukulele exercise plan" to help keep in shape. Any suggestions?
We now have over 100 fans on Facebook! If you haven't become a fan, check it out at here. You'll find more photos there.
Sentimental Journey, Les Brown Orchestra, 1945
Sunday, October 18, 2009
When the weather turned cold and rainy, people crowded into the dining hall at Palmetto Cove RV Park to hear the Yesterukes. (An outdoor concert had been planned.) About 100 Airstreams gathered in the South Carolina mountains for the North Carolina/South Carolina Airstream Rally this weekend. We were invited to be the afternoon entertainment. This was our perfect audience--old enough to appreciate our music and young enough to be enthusiastic and sing along with us. For an hour we rocked the place with lots of favorite songs. And just for this group, we sang "Airstreams for sale or rent, rooms to let, fifty cents...." Our version of "King Of The Road."
After the program, people pushed to the front, money in hand, to get their own Yesterukes CD. That's the way we like to end a program. As we were packing up, someone was already playing our CD over the sound system. There is always a bit of a delay when we hear it unexpectedly, and then we realize, "Hey, that's us!" We'd like to think they'll be listening to us as they head home, singing along with the CD.
One lady told us afterward, "This was a delightful surprise." We hear that a lot. Evidently, folks have pretty low expectations when they hear the words, "ukulele band." Glad we surprise them in a good way. Someone else said, "I've only heard you on YouTube, but the videos don't do you justice. You guys are so much better in person. This was great!"
The best comment was from a relative of a band member. She said she often talks about interesting family things at work, so one day she mentioned having a cousin who had a senior citizen ukulele band. Her co-worker said, "You're making that one up, aren't you?" No, we're for real---a traveling band of gray-haired ukulele players. Sounds perfectly normal to us!
King Of The Road, Roger Miller, 1965
Find us on Facebook. Be a fan! A special treat for fan #100!
Monday, October 12, 2009
How could there not be a post on this rainy Monday? It was too hard to pass up using this song for our blog title today. It might be a long time before it rains like this on a Monday again. Days like this make us look forward to getting together soon. The Yesterukes started as a music group, but strong friendships have developed and probably are the most important thing for us now. These are the nicest folks you'll ever meet, brought together by the magic of the little ukulele.
We hit a new record last week. We booked a date for over a year from now! Crazy, isn't it? Ron, the whistler in our group, said a long time ago, "At our age, we don't even buy green bananas." With that in mind, the date is on our schedule (Nov. 2, 2010), but with a promise that they will check with us next summer to see if we are still kicking. But, boy, does it does make us feel wanted!
We need your help. Our fan page on Facebook is soooo close to having 100 friends. By many standards that isn't that many, but look at our group photo--we are not the prime generation using Facebook. But our children and grandchildren are of the "Facebook generation." So help us spread the word that it's easy to become a "fan" of the YesterUkes by going to YESTERUKES FAN PAGE. If you are not a Facebook user, you can still view the page by following the same link. Let your friends know that we have a fan page. You can just search for "Yesterukes" on Facebook if you don't remember the link. And there will be a little treat for Fan #100!
Rainy Days And Mondays, The Carpenters, 1971
Thursday, October 8, 2009
The Yesterukes have learned so many new things since our adventure started. We figured, why stop now? Our latest challenge is to try "playing by ear." It's one of those things, that's easy if you know how, but pretty hard if you've never done it. Every week someone chooses a three or four chord song to bring to the group and we see if we can play it. We've only been doing this for a few weeks, so sometimes it's a train wreck and sometimes we surprise ourselves, and it's pretty good. But it's always fun!
Our group is made up of both seasoned players and relative newcomers to the music world. So for some, this is very comfortable and for others, it's a stretch. Today's song is one of those "three chords and the truth" kind. Sit in with us as we try it to learn it. (We're only looking at the words. Honest.) Remember, it's a new song for us!
The youngest of our Yesterukes is out of commission for a while, after an encounter with one of those germ-y things that lurk in hospitals. This is also a video greeting to her from all of us. Get well!
What's New, by Bob Haggert, 1939
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Here in the South, our weather can stay warm well into fall, but today there was just a hint of "cool" in the air. An absolutely gorgeous day. The Fall Festival at White Oak Estates was held today in their beautiful outdoor pavilion. People browsed through the handmade jewelry and pottery at the craft booths and admired the beautiful fall displays. More crafts were set up inside.
And then..oh my....there was the food. When we arrived, a huge stone grill was already fired up and loaded with hot dogs, chicken skewers, and corn. The smoke drifting through air was making us all hungry. There were four other food stations, filled with side dishes and "fixin's". You could satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to the cotton candy lady or a stop at the freezer filled with ice cream treats. This event was like an advertisement for retirement.
The Yesterukes were in fine form as they entertained the lunch crowd for about an hour. Our typical audiences sit still and watch us as we play. But today people were free to enjoy lunch, wander through the booths, and visit with friends. It was like playing for a big party. So much fun. We loved it when one of the ladies came up and sang with us! Can you tell we had a really good time? Yes...yes, we did.
Oh Happy Day, recorded by the Edwin Hawkins Singers, 1967 gospel music arrangement of an 18th century hymn
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We have entertained groups at many, many churches in the past two years. But it was our first time at a cowboy church--the Happy Trails Cowboy Church, to be exact. We weren't sure what to expect...horses tied to a hitching post? Everyone in cowboy hats? The church does meet at a rodeo arena, but, no, there were no horses there last night. It was a warm, welcoming congregation.
We did sing about cowboys and the open range. "I'm An Old Cowhand" and "Don't Fence Me In" were a couple of songs we added just for this group. Such great music! We loved having the perfect place to play it. The Yesterukes had a great time with this group, shared good food before the program and enjoyed talking to many members after we finished.
There is another old song, "The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people." And we experienced this first hand last night. God bless them all!
Happy Trails, by Dale Evans Rogers, theme song of the radio and TV "Roy Rogers Show", 1940s & 1950s
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We had a call this morning from someone wanting to book the Yesterukes for a program in October. Today is September 23. When she heard our calendar was full for October, she quickly asked about November. But we are now booking programs for spring 2010.
Total silence followed that statement. You could hear the questions in the silence. "How could a group of gray-haired old folks** playing ukuleles be booked that far ahead? Surely they are not that much in demand!?!"
We wonder the very same thing. Why are so many people anxious to hear us play? Now, our music is pretty good. And, hey...we ARE kind of cute. But it must be more than that. What we hear over and over, everywhere we go is, "We watch you play and it's obvious you are having so much fun. It's just contagious! I don't know when I've had such a good time."
That must be the secret. What we do IS fun. We are having a blast and the audience has fun right along with us. If making music and having fun makes you live longer, we should make it to 100! (And we will get to that request in the spring.)
**WE don't think we're old, although the occasional glance in the mirror says otherwise. Can we call it "mature?"
Why, recorded by Frankie Avalon, 1959
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Friday, September 11, 2009
Why does one start a band? The Yesterukes (un-named at that point) started because we knew a dozen songs and we all owned a music stand. Surely groups have started for lesser reasons than that. Maybe.
Exactly two years ago today, the teacher of a beginning ukulele class and the five adults who completed the 8-week course, played a few songs for a group of residents at Martha Franks Baptist Retirement Center (which hosted the class.) That was so much fun and so well received that we thought we would do it just one more time.
Then players began to invite friends to join us. "She would really enjoy this." "It would be so good for him to do this." "Oh, he sings so well, it would help the group." And on and on it went. Then strangers began to find us. "Can I just visit one practice to see what you do?" (He stayed with us.) "I used to play with a group in Ohio and I'd like to visit your group." (She stayed with us.) "I heard about this group and it took a while, but I found you!" (He's still with us.) There are other stories just like these.
And so it went until our tiny group of six became a band of 17--with a name, a logo, matching shirts, a CD, and more fun than we could have ever imagined. We have played for thousands. It's been the perfect musical venture, providing as much enjoyment and delight for those playing as for those listening.
So Happy Birthday, Yesterukes! Get out those ukuleles and sing Happy Birthday to yourselves.
Happy Birthday To You, by Preston Ware & Mrs. R. R. Forman, 1935
Friday, September 4, 2009
We love to hear from our fans--who occasionally are not related or married to any of us. This week has been one when we've had more comments than usual.
A gentleman who heard us play Sunday night at Green Pond UMC encountered the Yesterukes leader last night at a dinner meeting. He made a bee line for her to say how much he enjoyed the program. Then he added, "When I heard it was a ukulele band coming to our church, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. But you were not at all what I pictured in my mind! You all are GOOD!"
A phone call came yesterday from a lady who had attended a short program at Westminster Presbyterian Church with a friend a couple of weeks ago. She said they went back to their community, several counties away from our "home area" and told all their friends about the Yesterukes. "They just don't understand why we are so excited! Can you come do a program for us? We want all of them to hear you. That's the only way they'll know what we're talking about."
A small child headed straight for one of our singers on Sunday night and told him, "Mister, you sure do sing good." We tend to think that our programs are meant for senior adults, but children enjoy our music, too. Maybe part of our mission is to plant "seeds" for the next generation of recreational musicians.
But the best remark was in an email sent to a Yesteruke member this week. It said, "...maybe getting together is more good for you guys than you realize. It's like Clark Kent stepping into a phone booth....When you guys get together you change from "old folks at home to "Super Old Folks" and have fun together. May we all be so fortunate."
So, let us head to that phone booth, and rip off the suit to reveal the blue shirt with our Yesteruke logo. We certainly aren't faster than a speeding bullet and we aren't planning to leap any tall buildings, but we might be coming soon to a church or retirement home near you. And that's good enough for us!
It's The Talk Of The Town, by Jerry Livingston, 1933
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Green Pond United Methodist Church, established in 1866, is tucked away in the corner of a rural county. The Yesterukes found their way to the country church in time for supper before the program. They were delighted to learn that the church is famous for their tomato sandwiches...made the classic way--nothing but sliced ripe tomato, white bread, mayo, salt and pepper. Just imagine several platters of these wonderful sandwiches and enough other home cooked food and desserts to fill three tables. And people wonder why the Yesterukes like to play so many places!
But we had come to make music. And make music we did. After dinner, folks young and old, and every age in between, gathered in the sanctuary. A dozen Yesterukes, dressed in their blue shirts, sang for about 40 minutes. Little kids bounced in rhythm to the songs. Adults sang along, heads bobbing, fingertips tapping out the beat on the pews. Each age group heard songs they knew and loved. A couple of the oldest listeners told us afterwards that they were so glad they had come. We were honored that some, not in the best of health, made such great effort to attend.
When the music was over, the Yesterukes got to visit with the Green Pond UMC members. Getting to know people all over the upstate of South Carolina has been fun for us. Then it was time to go home. The Yesterukes had just the kind of evening they enjoy---wonderful food, good music and a great audience. What more could we want?
And, yes, our blog title, as always is a song title. It's a popular song from songwriter Guy Clark. A couple of lines from the chorus tell us...
"There's just two things that money can't buy,That's true love and homegrown tomatoes."
Homegrown Tomatoes, by Guy Clark, 1983
Friday, August 28, 2009
On a day that was hotter and more humid than predicted, the Yesterukes began arriving at Lake Greenwood. Several took the "scenic route" as they tried to find the cabin by the lake. The road where we met does not exist--according to GPS and MapQuest! The best seats in the house were the ones on the porch under the fans. Take a look at our day. If you are on Facebook, become a fan of the Yesterukes (just search for "Yesterukes") and see the entire photo album.
In The Summertime, by Mungo Jerry, 1970
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tiny bubbles. Not the song--real bubbles. Tiny bubbles, large bubbles, too many bubbles, not enough bubbles.
We often end our programs with our version of the song that ended the Lawrence Welk TV shows many years ago--"Goodbye, Ladies." (We changed "goodnight" to "goodbye" since most of our programs are in the daytime.) Everyone remembers that song.
Always wanting to make people smile, we thought bubbles would be the perfect touch for this song. And it has been...most of the time. The first time, there weren't enough bubbles. Do you know how much air it takes to blow lots and lots of bubbles? Someone suggested a kids bubble machine. Great idea! But the machine overflowed, leaving a very slick floor in a nursing home. The bubble machine was banished.
Since then we've tried assorted bubble wands. Single hole. Multiple holes. Today it was a giant wand, which didn't want to cooperate. The audience wondered why the gentleman in the back was standing behind us, waving his arms about while we sang. Then, at last, lovely large bubbles appeared. They floated up and out over the band. And the crowd cheered and burst into applause!
Those bubbles did make a glorious ending to our program today -- a huge gathering from the Foothills Presbytery. Think they would have loved us, with or without the bubbles.
"Tiny Bubbles", by Don Ho, 1967.
Monday, August 10, 2009
100 degrees! The weatherman just proclaimed today the hottest day of the year. No argument from any of us. But the temperature was just fine inside.
Almost 70 seniors gathered for good food, fellowship and music. As people were coming into the fellowship hall, they heard music playing over the church sound system. It was our CD! Even some of our own band members came in, listened, tilted their head as they listened harder, and then asked, "Is that us? We sound pretty good!"
We had a great time sharing and singing, remembering things as we went. Like when houses had one television, three channels and more good TV shows than we could count. And now a home is likely to have three or four TV sets, 300 channels, and nothing to watch! Our TV tribute song today was the theme from Rawhide. Just think, a ukulele version of Rawhide, complete with whips (well, the whip sound) and shouting. All we lacked were the cows.
The YesterUkes sang many songs. And because no one was in a hurry to go out in the heat, we sang some more. We had lots of fun meeting the people of Calvary Baptist Church and their friends.
"Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight", by Metz & Hayden, 1896