Houkulele spells music in Houston
- Written by Annie Harmon
Kingwood has a unique group of musicians that meet in the back room of Denny’s (22671 Highway 59) every third Thursday. They eat, they socialize, and they play ukuleles; often eliciting the attention of other patrons. Attending the Thursday meet up at Denny’s on Sept. 19th was a guest of the group, Laura Lopez, “I had been thinking of picking up a new hobby, and I thought, I love Hawaii, I love the music, love how happy it sounds. So I went to the Meetup site to see if there were any ukulele groups in Houston and I saw this one. It was close to my house. It was awesome. Every time I go [to Hawaii] I always want to buy a ukulele but I say, I won’t ever learn to play it. This time I’m going to buy one.” Kingwood resident Cathy Rhodes when to Hawaii in 2011 and came back with a souvenir that would wake up her love for music. “I had been eyeballing the ukuleles that were in the gift shop in the hotel and finally I just said, ‘I’m going to get one. That will be my souvenir and I’m going to learn how to play it’. While I was still in Hawaii I went out and sat on the beach trying to tune it using my iPhone tuning app when this old hippie dude asked if I needed help, and I said, ‘yeah, I do’. So he grabbed it, and tuned it, and started playing away. It was fantastic.” Rhodes adds, “When I got home I kept thinking it had been six months and I still hadn’t made any progress so I went online to see if I could find a ukulele instructor.” She found Brian Turner at the Humble Music Store. He became her instructor and it was through him she found out about the Houston ukulele group. She started going to the group at Denny’s and liked it. Rhodes assures, “The ukulele is really, really easy. So much easier than the guitar.” And the ukulele is portable. Rhodes says, “I carry mine around in a tennis racket bag.” The Houkulele group currently has 187 members and is quickly growing. Member Brian McKendree came up with the name for the Houkulele group, combining Houston with ukulele. Although the name is new, the idea of a ukulele group in Houston is not. A group had been formed in the past under a different name. Langley recalls, “It was always in one area one the far side of town. It was nowhere near where I lived and it just fizzed out. Then two years ago someone else reopened it on meet up, and all of a sudden we got on facebook, and got a webpage and it sucked together fast. Faster than anyone expected.” In trying to explain the sudden popularity of the ukulele, Langley says, “There’s all these new musicians like Jason Mraz and these other guys who are doing a ukulele song and so all the kids are wanting to pick it up now too and play it.” To support the Houstonites who love this little instrument, the Houkulele group meets in different parts of town. Group member Rodney Lopez says, “We try to accommodate the people who live far. So we form these little groups.” Event organizer, Buck Stonebroke expanded that thought, “We’ve got people out in Katy, and people out in the east side, we finally got ourselves a central location that we play inside the loop. We encourage everybody, whatever area that they live in to have a little meet up group and then hopefully we all get together once in a while and have a big meeting.” Rhodes would encourage anyone interested to try it out, “Some of the people in the group are professional musicians and you just can’t believe what they are doing on the ukulele. Others are just learning and can only play five or six chords and can barely keep up. There are children, and old people and everyone in-between. And it’s really fun.” Langley clarified, “It’s about people that are more educated, educating people that are less educated.” As well as the third Thursday of each month group at Denny’s, Houkulele will have a new first Tuesday of each month meet up starting Oct. 1st. at R B Tullis Branch Library in New Caney. To visit their website go to www.houkulele.com. They can also be located at www.meetup.com/houston-ukulele/ cutline: Buck Stonebroke, Rodney Lopez, Susan Lopez, David Rogers, Mike Nicolosi, Cathy Rhodes, Mike Kay, Chuck Konz, Brian Mckendree, and Jonathon Langley gathered at Denny’s to share their love of the Ukulele.