Is This Heaven?

To paraphrase Shoeless Joe Jackson’s exchange with Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, No, it’s a beach … and a ukulele!


The “Is this heaven?,” “No, it’s Iowa” exchange from Field of Dreams isn’t my favorite, though.  This one is:

Ray Kinsella: So what do you want?

Terence Mann: I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. I want my privacy.

Ray Kinsella: No, I mean, what do you WANT?

[Gestures to the concession stand they’re in front of]

Terence Mann: Oh. Dog and a beer.

Gotta’ be a First Time for Everything

Blues_player_tnb Played harmonica in public for the first time, last night at the weekly Acoustic Open Mic at the Torch Club.  Musta’ been OK, ’cause they didn’t throw me out.


For those of you who know harmonicas, it wasn’t all that difficult.  I looped chords and bass line for the four-chord opening pattern in Sir Paul McCartney’s Beatles hit “I Will” (Lennon – McCartney, copyright Northern Songs 1968) in F (F – Dm – Gm7 – C7), and then pulled out an F diatonic harmonica (Hohner Special 20).  The benefit of a set-up like that is that there are no “wrong” notes on the harp.  And a lot of nice sounds.


Think I’ll woodshed some more and give it another try soon!


Mardi Gras in SacTown USA!


So here’s the sort of thing that goes on in Ukulele Rob’s “hood,” Midtown Sacramento:  This past Tuesday’s annual “Fat Tuesday” second line (as in New Orleans-style second line brass band) march to various local bars, ending with a big party at the fabulous Torch Club.   With unseasonably nice weather (not complaining or anything, but we really could use a ton of rain and snow) this year’s edition had four times the crowd as previous events.  And the band, Sacramento’s own Element Brass Band, was bigger as well, with two of the three world-famous Au Brothers (Brandon and Justin) taking a break from touring to join in.

Thanks to Sac PD and its great bicycle-mounted patrol for insuring a safe journey as the band and its followers navigated busy rush-hour street crossings in the twilight.  (That’s our Mayor, Kevin “KJ” Johnson, in the stock photo below, about to get ticketed for not wearing his helmet.)


And thanks again to the Torch Club for sponsoring this great event.  Make your plans now for Fat Tuesday 2016 (Feb. 9th)!


Adieu Palm Springs … See You Next Year!


This past weekend’s first-ever Palm “Strings” Ukulele Festival was fantastic!  Put on by Doug Reynolds and his PlayUke LLC team (, it came off without a hitch, and plans are already underway for the “Second Annual.”  Can’t wait.

The weekend started with a pool party featuring Seattle-based jazz guitarist and ‘uke whiz Michael Powers (  Yours truly spent a lot of the party sitting in a hot tub, enjoying the music.  The weather was perfect, with clear skies, highs in the mid-80s, and lows in the low 60s.  Saturday I started off with a short run though some of Palm Springs’ classic Mid-Century Modern residential neighborhoods, and I skipped out of some of the workshops to take in places like Shag’s gallery (, “Mecca” for tiki and exotica aficionados.  Saturday evening’s sold-out concert was three hours of musical joy, as each of the workshop teachers took the stage to show their stuff.  Imagine this bill:  Cali Rose & Craig Brandau (,, followed by Fred & Lynn Sokolow (, then Jason Arimoto with Brad Ranola on percussion (, followed by Michael Powers, topped off by headliner Victoria Vox (

There was lots of jamming in the lobby (the Hilton is nicely retro-dated to its 1950s origins; see photo, below), musical chats with new friends at the bar and around the pool, and a vendor area featuring some of California’s top independent ukulele makers and shops.

lobbyNot enough can be said about Victoria Vox.  She did an afternoon seminar on using note lines in chord changes in songwriting that went far beyond musical theory into what really makes a songwriter tick, and then followed it that evening with a wonderful performance of some of her best songs.  She’s on the road promoting her new CD, “When the Night Unravels,” literally traveling all over the world.  (She came out to Palm Springs following shows around her hometown of Baltimore, and right after the Festival flew to Wisconsin for a songwriter conference in Sturgeon Bay.   The months ahead will see her in Florida, Vancouver Canada and Melbourne Australia, before she returns to the Atlantic Coast.  Check out her schedule at  No matter where you are in the world, she may very well be coming to a theater near you!)

Finally, a shout-out to Palm Springs’ wonderful Art Museum.  A great combination of traditional art with some new stuff that gets amazingly edgy.  And admission is free on Sundays!  Here’s Victoria checking out a painting that might be a little bit oversized to take home in carry-on luggage:


See you in Palm Springs next February?

Help John Malcolm (and have fun too!)


This past December Sacramento music-scene regular John Malcolm (Cuthbertson) was badly injured when he was struck by a car.  As most folks know, medical insurance, Medicare, and other sources of help don’t come near enough to covering what it takes for someone to deal with this sort of thing and try to get his or her life back in order.  So …

This coming Sunday afternoon and evening (starting at 3:00 p.m.) there will be a big fundraising event and show at one of John’s favorite haunts, Sacramento’s iconic Torch Club (, 15th Street between I and J, across from the west side of Memorial Auditorium).  John’s a frequent contributor to the Torch Club’s Wednesday evening acoustic open mic, so of course there will be an open mic session as part of the festivities, hosted by the wonderful Sandra Dolores (

But as they say in the TV infomercials, “but wait! there’s more!”  There will also be live music, and plenty of fun auction items to bid on and take home.  A large number of local musicians, including G.P Bailey, Leigh Guest, and others, have pitched in to make this event a great one.


At 68 years old, John has a wonderful musical history, going back to performances with bands in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Not only does he write a lot of his own material, but he is also a gigantic storehouse of music and stories from the “Summer of Love” era.  But that’s not all.  He’s also a huge fan of the best of Tin Pan Alley, the Great American Songbook, and the wonderful tunes from Broadway musicals.  He can literally do it all, with a great voice backed by his own guitar and harmonica playing.

John is also one of the most generous and self-effacing musicians one could ever hope to share a stage with.  When you ask John to step up on stage and perform with you, you know that he’s going to put everything into making YOU sound good.

Life throws some curveballs at everyone, and John’s been hit with a nasty one.  But this coming Sunday’s event is one where everyone else on the team can come through to help him out.  Whether you’re a Torch Club regular, or this will be your first visit, you’ll have a ton of fun, and you’ll be helping John at the same time.


Unfortunately, yours truly has a prior commitment (at the first-ever Palm Springs Ukulele Festival – keep your eyes on this blog for news); however, I’ll be contributing an interesting combination of items that you’ll definitely want to take home, so be prepared for some fierce auction bidding.

Get well soon, John!