The ukuleleists pose with Paws of the PawSox (before he emigrated).
Next time you’re waiting in line at your favorite food truck, local ukulele band The Unlikely Strummers might serenade you with a tune all about your order. Unlikely Strummers’ director Cindy Miller put together an ensemble of roughly 30 musicians after a ukulele class grew into a band. The group is coming up on their six-year anniversary and can be heard performing renditions of a range of popular songs from Smokey Robinson to Chumbawamba. Still, the group dedicates some of their artistry to bringing attention to local businesses (specifically food trucks) after COVID’s massive impact on them.
When asked about the personalities in the group, Miller had this to say, “Oh, heck – we’re all characters, right?! We spend so much time together that everybody feels like family. Everybody brings something important and unique to the group, both musically and socially. Some of us have been musicians for most of our lives, and for others this is a pretty recent skill. Across the board, though, I’m continually impressed by (and so grateful for) everyone’s dedication. There isn’t a single member who doesn’t work hard and give a ton of their time and energy to make this magic happen!”
Miller uses her familial ensemble to remind the public of the value of these food trucks. “We all love food trucks and wanted to do something to support them as awesome local small businesses. Each one has such personality, and the stories of how people came to start them are unique and heartwarming. These are folks following their passion…. The pandemic hit them pretty hard, and we wanted to use our music to draw attention to them and show them how much they’re appreciated. We gave each one an ‘Our Favorite Food Trucks’ certificate to hang in the truck, too.”
The Unlikely Strummers have played for many food trucks, so when asked about her favorite Miller said, “Oooh … that’s a little like asking a parent which child is their favorite! We really love all the trucks we sing about. I tried all their food beforehand and it was so much fun to surprise the owners with some recognition. A few of the trucks aren’t around anymore – Bonetown BBQ, The Fork and Bibb, and a couple of others, which makes us all really sad, but others are still going strong – Incred-a-bowl, Portside Fish, Larry Joe’s, Cousin’s Maine Lobster, Lulu’s Little Pancakes … We had great experiences serenading some of them because the venues where we did it were so welcoming.”
The group’s community building efforts don’t end there. The Strummers have expanded their performances, dedicating a whole Facebook page worth of food truck songs to fundraising for children. When asked how they want to be known Miller said, “Wow … You know, we work hard at our musicianship. We’re adding more challenging music all the time – more instrumentals, vocal harmonies, songs you don’t usually hear on the ukulele (we play Santana, American Authors, Uncle Kracker, and we’re working on The Who, Tina Turner, and Rusted Root), along with lots of other musical goodies. But the big thing is being able to use our music to give back to the community and support folks like our area food trucks. We fundraise for the Ukulele Kids Club, a 501c3 that provides uke-based music therapy to kids in children’s hospitals. We spent a year doing a “Libraries Rock!” tour where we did free concerts and donated lending ukes to about a dozen public libraries, and we’ve also done a fundraising concert series for area animal rescues like PARL, Nature’s Nurse Wildlife Rehab, a horse rescue, and several animal shelters, too. The bottom line for us is that we love to brighten people’s days!”
For anyone hoping to see the Unlikely Strummers perform live, you can expect to see them monthly at Roger Williams Park Zoo, Boston Harborfest, and several farmers markets and community events. And if you’re looking to serenade someone, they also do private events.
Check them out at: unlikelystrummers.weebly.com.