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Friday, January 30, 2009

Thanks For The Memories

On Wednesday evening, the YesterUkes had fun singing and playing for the kind people at Broad St. United Methodist Church. About 90 people came out on a cold, rainy night for sausage casserole, grits, baked fruit...and the YesterUkes! We sang old songs, laughed a lot, and remembered times gone by. We are rarely set up on a stage, but this church has a fabulous facility, complete with a full stage, where we looked and felt like a "real" band. The place went crazy when Dick sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

Earlier this week, the YesterUkes lost one of their biggest fans. (He was my uncle). Uncle Phil loved fishing, the Carolina Gamecocks, and he loved the music we played. I learned much of this music second-hand -- from my parents, their collection of 78 rpm records and old movies on television. But when I would visit Uncle Phil, he would ask what we were playing now, and as we talked about the songs, he would tell me that he remembered seeing Glen Miller play that one. Or, that he and his lovely bride had danced to Tommy Dorsey playing that particular song years ago. And he remembered seeing Nat King Cole singing with a group, before he became famous. Hearing his stories made it all come alive. And most times, he would tell me that his favorite singer was Doris Day. And then he would always say, "You know...she and I are the same age."

Several months ago, he arranged for the YesterUkes to play at Morningside, where he was a resident. I was told that if we had flown in from Hollywood, he could not have been more proud to have scheduled our appearance. We will be back there in a couple of weeks to play again. How sad it will be to play without him there listening. But we hope that now, he is somewhere where the fish are always biting, the Gamecocks win often, and Doris Day is heard on the radio all the time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Food, Glorious Food!

The YesterUkes are on the road again.  Rested and refreshed after a holiday break, they resumed performing for groups across the Upstate.  The first program of 2009 was preceded by a wonderful lunch provided by the members of St. Matthew UMC, who braved the cold to come today.  The YesterUkes love good cooking almost as much as they love good music! (Or, could that be the other way around?)

After lunch, the band kicked off their set.  Voices joined together, singing bouncy choruses from the swing era.  Ukuleles are particularly well-suited to these jazz standards, breezing through the quick chord changes.  Listeners became part of the music as they sang along with these lively tunes.  How can you tell if they like the music?  Look for smiling faces, tapping toes, bouncing knees and lots of laughter.  A standing ovation, like the one the band received today, is a pretty good sign the the band is doing it right!

After the program comes the best part -- listening to the stories told as folks come up afterwards to speak to band members.  There are so many funny tales and moving stories connected to these old songs.  Every person has something different to share.  The temperature was still frosty when it was time to leave, but everyone went out into the cold with warmed spirits -- many still humming their favorite song.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Whole World Smiles With You

The start of a new year is a good time to look at what has happened during the one just past.  There was no grand plan to create a successful band. But the YesterUkes just followed the music to see where it would lead. Success has it's downside, though...fatigue was constantly nipping at their heels toward the end of the year. But a few smiles from well-worn faces or warm hand shakes from wheelchair bound listeners would give a much needed boost. And there were exciting moments, too, like playing for a pub audience, at a coffee house and a restaurant. Oh, and don't forget the many excellent covered dish dinners that followed church performances.  

Here are the stats--the YesterUkes grew from 10 members at the beginning of 2008 to the current roster of 15. During 2008, they played 33 performances in five South Carolina counties and made one trip to North Carolina. They entertained just over 1700 people during the year.  They found dedicated folks who followed their performances.  Groupies!  

People genuinely love this group and their music.  Maybe it's the memories that these old songs stir up.  So many after show comments would begin with, "I remember when..."  The YesterUkes are looking forward a new year and new adventures.  Maybe they will play at a location near you.

Like the song says, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you.  Not bad for beginners...