If you play the ukulele, you have a family in Kansas City. Whether you’ve been playing for 30 years or have picked it up since it has become hip, you’re a part of the Kansas City uke community.
According to Don Simon, organizer of Saturday’s third annual Uke Stomp, all you need to do is show up at Ollie’s Local — as a spectator, a beginner or an expert — and you’re in the club.
Simon, co-owner of Little Class Records and Middle Class Records, started Uke Stomp because he wanted a show that focused on one instrument. He says everyone does guitar jams.
“I didn’t really want to have one focused on banjos,” he adds with a laugh.
Barb Corley-Douglas, who lives in Mission, is the lead ukulele player for Good Time Charley and has participated in the Stomp each year. She has played ukulele for seven years and owns five of them: a soprano (that’s the regular one most people know), an electric, a tenor, a banjulele and a custom-made A.J. Gaither cigar box ukulele. She goes so far as to use a distortion pedal when she plays.
“It’s an addiction,” Corley-Douglas says. She tried to learn guitar but just couldn’t manage it. A friend suggested the ukulele and she took to it immediately.
“The thing with uke is that it seems to be a more accessible instrument for a lot of people,” Simon notes. Anybody can play it, which is part of the allure and what keeps people jamming.
Kansas City has at least two ukulele groups: the Ukesters and Ukulele Fight Club.
“There’s this huge crowd of ukulele players in town,” Corley-Douglas says. “And they take it very seriously.”
Simon explains that Uke Stomp is not as informal as an open mic event, but it’s pretty casual. Anyone who wants to play can have a chance.
This is the first year it’s being held at Ollie’s Local.
The only element of competition at the Stomp will be the Uke or Dare game.
Participants choose a phrase from a basket and must improvise a song, both lyrics and music, immediately. The prompt could be about rain — or dog food.
Some develop a full song between their seat and the stage. “A lot of these folks have been playing ukulele for so long that they can put three chords together and it sounds magical,” Corley-Douglas says, not counting herself among those experts.
The Stompers’ ages range from early 20s into their 70s. “Everybody knows everybody, but they’re also encouraging of people who haven’t been there before,” Simon says.
The event is scheduled to last two hours, but Simon reports that Ollie’s Local owner Eddie Crane won’t mind stretching the time a bit, as long as everybody’s still eating and drinking and enjoying themselves.
Typically the event draws about 40 participants, but they’re hoping for more this year. It’s an all-ages show, and there’s no cover.
Corley-Douglas wants anyone who might be shy to know that, “People would never be like, you suck. It’s a very cool group of people.” They’re like family.
Third annual Uke Stomp
5-7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, at Ollie’s Local, 3044 Gillham Road.