Most people don’t know this about me, but I have some serious country music roots. Growing up in Chicago, my dad and I used to listen to the White Sox games on WMAQ (670 AM). Nowadays, WMAQ is an all-sports station, but in those days they played country music (unless a White Sox game was on). Long before I was a Beatles fan, I was into country.
This may explain why I’ve been following the band Mayflower Hill so enthusiastically. Based in Edinboro, Mayflower Hill plays a lot of Top 40 country music, but lately they’ve been playing more of their strong original songs:
I saw Mayflower Hill last weekend at the Edinboro Hotel Bar. I had originally planned to stick around for only their first set. I don’t do well in crowds anymore, and it was getting past my bedtime. (And, I had a gig myself the following day.) But I started reflecting: How often does one get to see an actual band anymore?
The “Two Man Happy Hour” (https://www.2manhappyhour.com/) lists – each Thursday - all of the live music happenings in the tri-state region that week. Here is a sample of what went on last week:
The Colony Pub and Grille – Denny and Heather Acoustics
Sunset Grill – Tommy Link Acoustics
Oasis Pub – Monica Lewis Acoustics
Sparky’s Place – Mark Morris Acoustics
Lavery Brewing Co. – Dean Wells Acoustics
Are you seeing a trend here? Venues are increasingly hiring 1- or 2-person acoustic acts over full bands. I’m sure part of the reason is that acoustic acts cost less money than a full band would. But perhaps there aren’t many bands around anymore. Certainly this is true on the national level; over half of the songs on this week’s Billboard Top 10 were by solo acts and duos.
Forming a band is hard. One has to make huge financial investments in equipment just to get started. It would be a shame if the option to form a band was available only to middle- and upper-class teens anymore.
Another thing most people don’t know about me is that, in addition to guitar, I also play dobro, mandolin, and ukulele. (Player of several instruments, master of none.) A continuing source of enjoyment to me is Ukulele Night, held the second Wednesday of each month from 7 – 9 pm at Charlie’s Pub in Edinboro. Ukulele players of all skill levels are welcome to come and play. (Our leader, Drew Danielson, brings several spare ukuleles to each meeting for those wishing to try their hand at it.)
We call ourselves “NW PA Ukuleles”. Our website (https://nwpaukuleles.com), is an incredible resource for ukulele players.
Speaking of websites, www.stewmac.com sells kits where you can build your own ukulele for $125. Or you can buy a ukulele that’s already been put together on Amazon for $40. I wonder what kind of message this sends? Maybe the child of wealthy parents receives a ukulele kit for Christmas, while a child of poor parents gets the uke that’s already put together. The wealthy child is told, “You can build things, design things, create things.” The poor kid hears, “You can buy stuff.”
I am neither a child psychiatrist nor a sociologist, so perhaps I should stay in my lane on this issue. But it occurs to me that this is a topic ripe for further discussion.
The writer Goethe once postulated that we can’t truly appreciate a work of art if we see it only in its finished form. Therefore, I’ve assembled another collection of demos from my “songwriting” days, to be released as ANTHROPOLOGY, TOO on Arbacarba Records. These will be embryonic versions of songs that appeared on my albums But Enough About Me, The Boy Who Always Got Picked Last, and American Proust.
So here I am, with one foot in the jazz world and one in the rock world. (Hey, my big feet are finally good for something!) Thank you, as always, for your support and encouragement. Without you, there’d be no me.
Rock long and prosper,