Photo by PHYLLIS BATOR, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo
1215 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco
Duncan Wheeler came to my attention several years ago at the Snook Inn where he was playing the guitar and singing. Following his career, seven years later his performance is as good now as it was then, if not better.
Wheeler is very relaxed, smiles a lot, and is very personable. People truly enjoy his music, friendliness and laughter and continually put money in the tip pitcher as well as applauding after every song. He certainly is worth it.
As usual, Wheeler is very casual, sitting on a stool and playing his Takamine guitar while barefooted. With a variety of musical beats and styles, his songs will really have you tapping the table with your fingers or keeping time with your feet, unless, of course you choose to get up and dance, which leads me to a little boy named Sammy, approximately 2 years of age. He just couldn’t help himself when he heard Wheeler play and would clap and jump and really get into the music. It was the cutest thing, proving Wheeler appeals to all ages.
Using an iPod that has about 5,000 songs on it, he said, “I use it on shuffle because I listen to lots of different things. I have a pretty eclectic taste for music. And when I play, I try not to blast anybody out or annoy them.” That, he doesn’t do. Sitting as close to Wheeler as I could, no song was overpowering.
Even though he uses a drum machine which adds background to his music, I was especially intrigued when he didn’t use it but played some songs by plucking single strings. It’s just such a true sound of his guitar and talent. But no matter what song he plays, it’s more than a pleasure to hear. It’s even difficult to leave because in my case, I wanted to hear more.
Wheeler still sounds like Gordon Lightfoot when he sings “If You Could Read My Mind.” When I mentioned it, he said, “Every once in awhile, I pull that song out. I just happened to do it tonight.” I was glad he did, because Lightfoot has always been one of my favorite singers. But he also sounds like Jimmy Buffet when he sings “Margaritaville.”
He considers the music he plays folk rock. “I do some of the newer country stuff, too, but most of the stuff I grew up on would be considered country today, like the Eagles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young,” Wheeler stated.
His current guitar is newer than when I first heard him years ago. “I had a decent guitar then but I have a little better one now. I haven’t broken down and gotten a Taylor or Martin yet.”
Wheeler has a lot of friends who faithfully come to see him at the Snook Inn. “I’ve worked here for 21 years. I bartended for 15 years and have been playing for seven or eight years. I see kids that I knew when they were young and now they have their own families and they come here. It’s nice to see them. I’ve even had a college roommate stop by. It’s funny,” Wheeler continued.
His friend, Charlie Zimmer, interrupted the interview. “He’s the best,” he said, “but he can’t go to the left. Most of the time, he behaves.” I know he meant the music in the beginning, but I was baffled with the reference ‘to the left.’ Wheeler explained that Zimmer was talking about basketball. Then Wheeler said, “You can quote him.”
Playing at the Snook Inn all year, during season he said he tries to keep it at five shifts with everything going on, such as baseball and football practice with his children who are now ages 11, 13 and 15. He’s off on Mondays and Wednesdays. Although he does do parties, he said he won’t trade a night from the Snook Inn to play a party somewhere else. “I love my job,” he said.
Wheeler plays from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday in season. All year including season, he also plays from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Saturday nights. He entertains at Bayside in the Village on Venetian Bay in Naples Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. For booking information, call 775-5186 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Snook Inn is located at 1215 Bald Eagle Drive. Phone: 394-3313.
Phyllis Bator has been involved in music all her life. She plays piano, won organ contests, and has been writing for over 10 years having been published many times. Any new entertainment you are aware of, contact her at email@example.com.