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My First Paying Ukulele Gig

by Terry

Ok, you may find this hard to believe but I actually had my first paying gig as a full time ukulele player last Saturday.

I know what you must be thinking, what the hell?

Your trusting me to teach you ukulele and you may have already done more paying ukulele gigs than I have.

I’m stocked myself, but when I really got to think about it, it’s true.

Many of you know that I have spent my musical career as a educator, studio musician, and composer.

Even though I began playing ukulele back in the 90’s, yikes, it has only been the last 2 1/2 years that I got completely dedicated to ukulele.

Then life happened which included twins, a up-rooting from Los Angeles after 20 years to move back to San Diego, a focus on my family and the Uke Like The Pros website.

I didn’t really have the mindset to do a lot of gigs, I had responsibilities as a father and husband to be home and not be out late working.

So I essentially didn’t take or look for a lot of gigs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have done quite a bit of playing during this time, including several sold out concerts at Santa Monica Performing Arts Center (although that was with my classes and although I was technically paid by the college for those, I don’t consider it the same), numerous beach jams (and some people came up and put money in my ukulele case, but again i don’t consider it the same), and bi-monthly gigs at my church (but I volunteered my time and wasn’t paid).

Plus I have filmed probably over 300 lessons in the last 18 months and even though I get income from that, again I don’t consider it the same as a paying gig.

You may have read my connection with Ukulele Ray who passed away about a month ago. He was the one that got me back to being excited about playing gigs.

And even though we didn’t get to do a gig together, I realized that my schedule and desire has opened up to wanting to get out again.

So last week I got a called from Ukulele Ray’s longtime girlfriend, Olivia, and she said I have a gig on Saturday would you play and be the lead ukulelist?

She said I’d be playing wth Ray’s band which included a drummer, guitar player, and a great bass player (who use to play with Meat Loaf). She even had a sound and light guy to come and play.

Little I did realize that I wasn’t just the lead ukulele player but essentially the lead singer and band leader for this 2 hour gig.

Btw, the gig was a party for a lady in Encinitas (where I surf) who had just graduated nursing school and was celebrating.

As I like to be prepared, I talked to the band and we decided on some tunes that we were going to play.

The setlist was basically a bunch of Beatles, Doors, and other classic rock hits like Born To Be Wild, Sympathy For The Devil, Folsom Prison Blues, Hound Dog, Stand By Me, etc…

Although I knew many of the tunes there were a handful of tunes that I didn’t play on ukulele. So into the woodshed I go.

I don’t know if you have had to learn 12-15 tunes within’ a few days? It’s just put your nose to the grindstone and learn the tunes.

So even though finding extra hours in the day to learn tunes, can be tough, come Saturday afternoon I’m feeling pretty good about the gig.

I have worked on all the tunes, warmed up my voice, and had my notes for some of the songs that I wasn’t too familiar with.

The gig went great. We rocked the party for 2 hours, played the entire setlist and even had to improvise a few, the crowded danced and had a good time.

As you know I have very high standards for myself, but I have to say that by the end of the night I had fun playing for a group of people, playing with new musicians, and getting to take extended solos so people could keep dancing.

Could it have been better? Of course it could have. This was the first time I had played with these guys, we didn’t get to rehearse, so playing the songs live was the first time we played the songs, and this was the first time in a while that I took my amp and pedals out for a live show.

And the best thing, at the end of the night is that we got paid. It was only then that I realized whoa, I think this was my first paying gig as a full time ukulele player.

I don’t know if I have a point to this but felt like I wanted to share it with you. Maybe you get to know me better, maybe you get inspired, or maybe you just enjoyed the story.

Either way, thanks for everything and I’ll talk to you soon.


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