Shel-Town Strummers make a joyous sound
Shelton ukulele group seeking new members
November 25, 2021
Daryl White was a teenage guitarist when he saw Elvis Presley play a ukulele in the movie "Blue Hawaii." He bought a cigar box ukulele for $90 at an outdoor bazaar in Olympia.
"I learned the ukulele in about five minutes," he said.
Barbara Gomez mastered her first three chords on a $26 soprano ukulele. Joel Myer grew frustrated with his first model, but became hooked with a better model and now owns 26.
"It's an accessible instrument, but it's also an accessible sound ... It's not threatening – it's a welcoming happy sound," Meyers said.
White, Gomez and Meyers will be playing the instrument when the Shel-Town Strummers perform at the Holiday Magic event from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 in downtown Shelton.
The Shelton-based group performs country, classic rock, oldies, songs of the 1930s, Elvis Presley and John Denver hits, and of course, Christmas favorites. The group concludes every show with the Darius Rucker tune "Wagon Wheel."
"We don't play any Hawaiian songs at all," White said.
White, a former Shelton High School English teacher and coach, founded the group a decade ago. He remains the director.
White owns 11 ukuleles. Some are made from graphite, one is a piece of art fashioned from 13 different woods. He owns tenor, baritone and bass instruments.
The ukulele is "the hardest to master, but the easiest to play ... You can play Christmas songs in three chords, C, G and F," he said.
White added, "I think together they sound really good ... It's a mellow sound that's not overpowering."
In 2011, White sent out an email to co-workers at Shelton High School, offering to teach anyone to play the instrument. He wasn't sure what to expect.
"I thought they'd make fun of me," he recalled.
Barbara Gomez and Les Rogers were among the people who responded, and along with White, are the remaining founding members.
Gomez's introduction to ukulele - "unfortunately," she adds - came courtesy of Tiny Tim and "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" – Google it. She plays an eight-string ukulele.
"I'm very private, introverted," she said. "I never want to perform. But I love playing at the senior centers. It's thrilling to see their smiles. That's what makes it worth it."
The Shel-Town Strummers made its debut performance in 2011. The band has performed in the lobby of Shelton High School's Performing Arts Center prior to the annual holiday concerts.
White's mother suggested they perform at nursing homes. Sometimes the residents stand up and dance.
"They like the songs from the '60s," he said. "They can remember them."
Myer joined three years ago.
"I wanted to learn the guitar, but I was really awful at it, but I wanted to learn to play a stringed instrument," Myer said. He heard ukulele was one of the easier instruments to master.
In 2003, he bought his first ukulele for about $25.
"It was awful," he said "I was so disappointed in the sound that I almost quit."
Myers explained his dilemma at an Olympia music store, and walked away with a $75 model that sounded better. "I was hooked ... It's fun, it's happy," he said.
Now Myer owns 26 ukuleles, from inexpensive models to vintage instruments. He plays four or five of them.
After playing alone for 16 years, White asked Myer to join the group in time for the holiday performances in 2019.
"It's given me the opportunity to play with other people and learn," he said.
During the pandemic, the members performed together on Zoom, but the sound was "garbled," White said. Recently, they gathered together to play in the meeting room at the Shelton Timberland Library. They also gather for rehearsals and potlucks at the home of members.
Myer urged people to give the instrument and the group a try.
"It's very nonjudgmental, very supportive," he said.