The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, September 21, 2016 6:30 am

Spotlight: Jerry Noble, TRU Ukes Club

Corey McMaken | The Journal Gazette

If you're looking for some music to go along with your next slice of pizza, the TRU Ukes Club has you covered Saturday.

The club meets each month at the Pizza Hut at Coventry, 5735 Coventry Lane. Members of the group play their ukuleles, and restaurant patrons can sing along with music handed out. The meetings, which are usually on the fourth Saturday, begin at 11 a.m. and run through 12:30 p.m.

We asked TRU Ukes Club's Jerry Noble some questions via email. His responses have been edited.

Q. What are some popular songs people can look forward to? What is your favorite to perform?

A. Our club meetings tend to have a mini-theme, meaning out of 15 to 16 songs, maybe six to eight of them may focus on something like “summer” (July), Hank Williams (August), “trains” (this month). So we look for songs on such themes throughout the year. The rest of the list of songs each month are the result of suggestions from the group or songs that I pick out. Certain songs may come up more than once a year – such as “Bring Me Sunshine” because we created an arrangement with second verse lyrics about Pizza Hut. It seems like every meeting features at least one or two or three Beatles songs. It’s worth noting that George Harrison was a huge fan of the ukulele. This Saturday we will be playing "Yellow Submarine," "Photograph" and "With a Little Help from My Friends."

Most of my personal favorites are from the American Songbook and/or Tin Pan Alley – "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love," "You Made Me Love You," "When You’re Smiling," "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Smile," "Dream a Little Dream," "I’m Beginning to See the Light," etc.

Q. Why meet at Pizza Hut?

A. I have visited a number of uke clubs in other cities and states. Each one has their own personality as it were, but they’re all welcoming and great fun. My personal favorite club to visit is the Lansing Area Ukulele Group (L.A.U.G.H.) in Lansing, Michigan. We have visited there often and our club has attended their annual Mighty Uke Day Festival in May each year. They meet in Sir Pizza in Old Town Lansing. So it was natural for us to look for a pizza establishment as we imitate the L.A.U.G.H. club in many ways, to the extent possible. The pizza is just a great bonus. I notice that many clubs in the UK and elsewhere meet in local pubs.

Q. What drew you to playing the ukulele?

A. For me personally, my uncle gave me a plastic ukulele in the early '60s while he gave my brother a guitar. I took to the ukulele right away and seemed to know how to strum pretty much immediately. Then within a few months my brother put down the guitar, so I switched to learning to play that. Both instruments are similar in terms of chord shapes, scales and strumming. I was fortunate to have a father who had an extensive knowledge of music theory, so he was able to explain how chords go together in each key. It just opened up the world of music for me. Now I find that the ukulele is so convenient, portable, sweet sounding and accessible from a number of perspectives. I should point out that playing the ukulele at a satisfying level can be accomplished pretty quickly by almost anyone. There are many, many songs that use just two or three chords that can be learned in short order. That’s just part of what makes the ukulele so accessible.

Q. How many people are in the club and how many folks usually play at the Pizza Hut?

A. Our email contact list has about 72 names on it. Our monthly club meetings at Pizza Hut usually draw about 28 – 32 ukulele players, plus a number of additional family members or friends, and I think we even may have a few Pizza Hut patrons who like to show up when we’re there and kind of sing along with us. I generally bring a handful of extra copies of the songs to pass out for this purpose. It’s interesting that we have ukulele people who drive from as far away as Warsaw, Muncie and even Michigan and Toledo along with our faithful crowd from Fort Wayne. We are fortunate that we have a few members who are pretty active recruiters. One example is Bonnie K. who is an active tennis player at Wildwood Racquet Club, and Bonnie has brought in six or eight other women from her tennis league who participate every month. They even get together and rehearse songs and harmonies and they just add so much to our club.

Q. What other events does the club have in the works?

A. We have added a second monthly meeting on the second Thursday evening of each month at the Bittersweet Lakes Clubhouse at 6 p.m. This tends to be a little smaller meeting and is even less formal (if that’s possible) than our meetings at Pizza Hut. We’re planning our 5th Annual Christmas Party that will take place Dec. 2. A part of our club recently played at the Library Plaza for the Senior event last Thursday. A part of the club will play at other events such as a farmers market, class reunions and similar events. We have a married couple who regularly perform at retirement homes. We just like the sound of the ukulele and we enjoy getting together for the sheer fun and good times. Most everyone has a song in their heart they just want to get out there somehow.

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