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Placer County ukulele band focuses on fun

Classic pop, Country, Hawaiian songs covered
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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One Placer County band is more interested in creating joy and having fun than being famous. Auburn resident Loyce Smallwood founded The StringAlongs in November 2008, and the group has since morphed into a multi-instrument band with as many as 12 members. Newcastle resident Vic Yeakle, who is the band’s musical leader, plays multiple instruments, and Smallwood said the group didn’t want to force him to play only the ukulele. “We decided to grow and expand, because Vic is too talented of a musician, and I didn’t want to lose him,” she said. The band plays classic songs such as “Home on the Range,” “Tiny Bubbles,” and “Ramblin’ Rose.” The StringAlongs are also inspired by Hawaiian tunes and have a Country leaning. Band members play tenor, soprano, banjo and dobro-style ukuleles. Everyone in the group sings, too, Vic Yeakle said. “I try to get everybody to add their two bits in,” he said. Vic’s wife Barbara keeps the group on beat with the snare drum. “She used to play ukulele, but after she broke her arm we put her on the drums,” Vic Yeakle said. So what sets this group apart from other local bands? “I’m the manager, and I founded it, and it’s evolved to the point where I’m even knocked out by it,” Smallwood said. “We ended up being the only ukulele group in Placer County. We are your Placer County ukulele group.” The band plays local Auburn events as well as a bi-monthly concert at Auburn Ravine Terrace Assisted Living Community. “We play for whoever would have us in the Auburn community,” Smallwood said. Auburn resident Byron West said he didn’t hesitate when Smallwood asked him to join the band. “Actually I wanted to get involved in the group because … the good Lord has blessed me with a number of musical abilities,” West said. “So, when I had an opportunity to join the group here, I said, ‘Why not?’ because it would give me an opportunity to play some music and give joy to people.” Roseville resident Shirley Lundin said she has been in The StringAlongs for about six months, and she enjoys how easy the music is to learn, play and relate to. “People can sing along (with them),” Lundin said. “They are old songs people remember the words to.” Smallwood said the point of The StringAlongs is just to get together, have fun and relax, and none of the six band members interviewed could think of any major challenges they had overcome in the group. “With me it’s been learning to play the ukulele,” Barbara Yeakle said. Some special memories for the band so far come in their opportunities to play for the public. “A lot of it has been good, but they had a day in Old Town Auburn when we played outside, A Taste of Chocolate,” West said. “That was a nice outing.” Smallwood said she had another favorite concert and has hopes for a certain kind of performance for the future. “We also did the art walk in the town square,” she said. “I think it would be fun to do a grand opening.” The group is always on the lookout for new members, but would like musicians to meet the band and hear its music first. “We allow people to jam with us,” Smallwood said. “What we ask of you is really a high expectation: we want you to have fun.” Anyone who would like information on booking or joining the band should contact Smallwood at (530) 878-6280 or e-mail loy@foothill.net. “Usually people say, ‘I’m in love,’ and Barbara sells them a music book,” Smallwood said. “They have got their music, and they can go home and catch up.” Lundin said the group helped raise her confidence, because before she joined, she didn’t think she had much musical talent. Smallwood said the best way to hear the band’s music is just to experience it live. “If they want to hear our music, invite us to your Elk’s Lodge or something, and we will come play,” Smallwood said. West joked that if an audience doesn’t like the group’s performance, it doesn’t need to book a second concert. “And if we are bad, just don’t invite us back again,” he said. Smallwood said the group is not obsessed with creating a huge, polished image for itself. “Let’s relax in these challenging times and enjoy what we have,” she said. “We are awesome because we are doing it, and we are fortunate to be able to do it. And we are counting our musical blessings.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com