Getting Back to a Four-Piece: Rhythm Uke?

After recruiting the “Kool Kat,” we were back to three-quarters of a band.  And we had time to get ready for the July Sunday Surf Party.  Given Robert’s improvisational skills and freedom from any historical confines of surf music, we surely could perform as a trio.  Power trio?  No.  Trio?  Yes.

This was going swimmingly.  So why give up on a 4-piece?  At the Sierra Surf Music Camp, when discussing Paul’s moving with Ferenc Drobronyi, I asked how to arrange songs for a trio.  His advice was to have a 4-piece if at all possible.  He pointed out -- correctly -- the fullness and depth added by a second guitar. 

His advice was particularly cogent at the time as I knew that my talent deficits would be exposed in a trio.  We might get away with it for one or two shows but beyond that . . . .

What is the process for getting a rhythm guitar player?  An ad on Craig’s List or in the News & Review

“Wanted.  Rhythm guitar player for instrumental surf and retro rock band.  Lead guitar suspect.  Band plays for fun and not that often.  None of the members likes to stay up very late.  Any tips or door money split with bass player.”

Who would answer that ad?  And posting that ad would require dealing with rejection or complete strangers.  So an ad was not going to be part of the mix.

Once again, the old mental check list was consulted.  Who could play rhythm and be open to test driving the Pups for at least one gig?  The answer sat across from me nearly every Sunday morning for breakfast at Willie’s:  My sister.

She knows many of our songs and has jammed with Glenn and me at the Doghouse.  In the words of her music teacher, “she can play rhythm with the best.”  Our jam sessions demonstrated that that assessment is absolutely correct. 

But she is a ukulele player, not a guitarist.  She has set up an SG lookalike with 4 strings to that she can play it like an amplified baritone uke or a tenor guitar.

Our almost weekly breakfast came.  Initially, I tried the indirect approach.  “We are willing to go as a trio but would like to find a rhythm guitarist.”  “Well, maybe you’ll find somebody.”  She then mentioned a friend who had expressed an interest.  “He’s been sick and doesn’t have the time to get ready.”  “Oh, I thought that he always wants to play.”

“Any other suggestions?”  “No.”

Okay, how about the direct approach?  “Would you like to try it?”  Sue paused.  I thought, “Oh, come on, don’t even think about saying ‘no.’  Say ‘yes’ please.”  After what seemed like an abnormally long pause, she said, “I’ll check it out and see if it is something that I can and want to do.”

A conditional acceptance was good enough for me.  As an eternal optimist, my belief was that, once she gets into the camaraderie of the band and the flow of the music, she would play.  “We’re practicing today at 1:00 at the Doghouse.”

We were back to a four-piece.  “And on rhythm uku-tar -- or guit-ulele -- or whatever, my sister, Sue T!”  Hey, this is really going to be fun!

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