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Music holds the strings to his heart

Community Portrait
By: Story and photograph Michael Kirby
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For Vic Yeakle, music has always been a part of his life. At 63, Yeakle dedicates at least four hours a day to playing music on one or more of the nine or so instruments he has mastered. Excepting keyboards, Yeakle plays all stringed instruments — fiddle, viola, cello, mandolin, banjo, bass and dobro, and his acknowledged favorite, the guitar. Yeakle was born in Wichita, Kansas and was always around music, listening to his father play, and it was a natural thing for Yeakle to be a player. “I grew up around it, taking fiddle lessons as a kid and I played in the school band, but country and gospel were really my background,” Yeakle said. His family moved when he was young to California and settled in Bakersfield in 1963 when Yeakle was about 16 years old. Landing smack dab in the middle of one of the country’s musical hot beds, Yeakle became immersed in the sounds of country music. Though Yeakle played in many bands and even put in time in recording studios, he never really played for his only source of income. “I was always hoping to be a full-time musician, but you know how it goes. It was always, ‘Don’t quit your day job,’” Yeakle said. His day job was auto body repair, pursuing a passion for painting and fixing cars, a career he maintained for 40 years. But Yeakle loved playing music and one of his instruments was never more than an arm’s distance away, and he never stopped playing, ever. Along the way, Yeakle rubbed elbows with some of the greats of classic country music: Buck Owens, Glenn Campbell and even Merle Haggard. His bands took the stage in bars and clubs around Bakersfield and Yeakle had the opportunity to play piano, bass or rhythm guitar, backing up impromptu appearances of famous country stars at such mainstays as The Blackboard and The Barrelhouse, well known clubs in Bakersfield at the time. Once, combining his painting skills and music connections, Yeakle, working for a guitar company in Bakersfield, executed the patriotic red, white and blue custom paint job on Buck Owens’ guitar. Yeakle moved north in 1982, settling in Newcastle and opening a small body shop on Taylor Road and then taking a job with the City of Auburn maintaining city vehicles. But again, he was never very far away from the local music scene. He wrote musical introductions and did a music interview show for and with Loyce Smallwood on local radio station KAHI. Yeakle also found himself involved in a local all-ukulele band which soon became The StringAlongs and welcomed all stringed instruments. “Anyone playing a stringed instrument is welcome,” Yeakle said. The StringAlongs quickly jelled and the band is currently a favorite at area senior care homes and local events. Yeakle does a gig by himself at the care homes and every other Tuesday night he sets up shop at Old Town Pizza in Auburn with his entertaining one -man-band show. Playing popular classic country and rock, Yeakle plays a keyboard, guitar, mandolin and banjo to serenade regular Old Town Pizza diners. Yeakle also builds and repairs stringed instruments, and with his wife, Barbara, who is also a musician, travels to bluegrass festivals jamming with other festival-goers.