The Marco Island Strummers love to play music, and they have a strong following who love to listen. Hundreds showed up at Mackle Park Sunday afternoon, bringing their own lawn chairs to hear the Strummers, at the inaugural event of Marco’s 2012 Winter Concert series.
The Strummers played old favorites for their old fans, and also hawked copies of their new CD, “Paradise Found,” which bandleader Wes English said “we’ve been working on since 2009.” As English promised at the show’s beginning, they offered up patriotic songs, polkas, blues, and a whole lot of Dixieland, giving various band members a chance to solo on their instruments, or take a turn singing lead vocals.
Much like the local ensemble known as the “Expandable Jazz Band,” the numbers of the Strummers vary from event to event, and especially from season to season. About 19 members took the stage Sunday, while the album cover photo shows 22 musicians.
English introduced a couple of new band members, clarinetist Bob McGinnis and trumpeter Mark Gerber, to the audience. It’s a boys’ band, with the exception of one female, Linda Hansen, playing a banjo.
Jim Hansen, who also plays with the Naples Dixieland Jazz Band, stepped out from behind the drum set to perform a solo on the washboard, on a medley of traditional Southern tunes including “Hey Engineer” and “Alabama Bound.” His washboard also included a cymbal, a whistle, and a small horn, all of which he played with gusto.
Banjo player Bob Kibbler took a turn on vocals for “Those Were the Days.” While the band is big on horns – bandleader English, a retired surgeon, doubles on slide trombone – they have multiple banjos, and used to have up to nine, said the band’s secretary/treasurer Lisa Hammond. And after all, the name is “Strummers,” and the banjo is even featured in the group’s logo.
In a highlight of the show, many of the band’s groupies, otherwise known as the players’ wives, joined in the Parasol Parade, taking up colorful mini-umbrellas and promenading around the band and the audience to a Dixieland melody. As English explained, this is an old New Orleans custom from funerals, where the band would play mournful numbers going to the graveyard, and more lively, spirited music on the return. Along with the tunes, English offered up a fair amount of musicology and history on the selections, although he stopped short of diagramming the circle of fifths (or fourths) while introducing “Has Anybody Seen My Gal.”
While the event, like all the concerts in the Mackle Park series, was free, the band wives did circulate with pails, accepting contributions from the audience.
“Not only did the city never recognize us as the town band, they never pay us anything. We do have expenses,” said English.
The Winter Concert Series will continue next Sunday afternoon, with the Music of Marco Big Band, and the Marco Island Strummers will take the Mackle Park stage again Feb. 12.