Way back in October, I got this message from Jeremy Zmuda on Sprockster: “We are organizing a fundraiser for our nonprofit, Kids Need A Melody, that provides free music classes, instruments, and books to young children living in the shelter system. We are targeting late January/early February, and want to have a family event with children’s music performances.”
Never one to pass up a worthy family event with fellow Kindie rockers, I wrote back and offered my help (and, of course, the music of The Fuzzy Lemons). As the autumn wore on, the event took shape rapidly: A huge, multi-band performance, with face-painting, raffles and prizes, the works. Some of my fellow Sprockster-ians joined in as well, including Suzi Shelton and Joanie Leeds, whom I’d met briefly at KindieFest, and Rebecca Frezza, a former Music Together teacher who is making the big time.
And, at some point, Bob McGrath of “Sesame Street” fame came on board as M.C.! Are you kidding me? Bob from “Sesame Street!” This was the guy who taught all of us to sing, sing a song, when we were knee-high. I could tell it was shaping up into a serious shindig.
Unfortunately, the Lemons weren’t available! No one was free that day except me. Undaunted, I contacted Suzi via Sprockster. We’d just donated a song to her for her daughter’s school (music budgets are being slashed everywhere!) so she remembered me, and was open to the idea of doing something together. She wrote “How bout you pick one of your tunes so that we can promote your CD’s and I will just learn it and sing backup or harmonies? (maybe think of a simple song, as I am a simple girl…).”
To be honest, it never occurred to me to just do a solo tune; if I’m gonna play Kindie Rock I gotta play it with a Kindie Rock Band, whether it’s mine or someone else’s! Anyway, I sent her “Please Don’t Cry” because it’s easy, three chords, cool harmonies.
There was the usual back-and-forth leading up to the event, correcting misspellings in the P.R. material, making sure everyone had the chords to the song, etc. All handled via e-mail. When I walked into Crash Mansion down on NYC’s storied Bowery, I still had hardly met anyone involved face-to-face. But I made may way to the little “green room” backstage and suddenly it was like I was part of the family. Suzi was there with her daughter, Jon Samson was there, Joanie and her boyfriend/drummer were there, Bob was there, the various drummers and bassists were there, and we all were just chattering like kids. (Sadly, Rebecca Frezza had been forced to pull out; it would have been fun to jam with her and her band.)
Bob McGrath is the sweetest cat you could ever meet (and his wife Ann is even sweeter). He was totally into what we were doing, and took the time to talk to each of us backstage. He wanted to know our names, what we played, the works. I slipped him two Lemons CDs for his grandkids, of course. Joanie told us later that, upon arrival backstage, Bob had very casually dropped trou and changed into his “Bob” clothes (khakis and a sweater) right in front of her. What a showbiz pro. (She’s still getting over that image. We had a laugh, wondering how many times he’d mooned Big Bird over the years.)
The whole afternoon was a hoot. Hanging out at a bar with other talented musicians, singing goofy songs to kids, swapping stories with Bob from “Sesame Street.” Joanie and Suzi both joined me for backups on “Please Don’t Cry,” then I borrowed Suzi’s acoustic for a solo “Skunks in my Shoes” that went over pretty well, I reckon. Ann told me afterwards that she could hear everything I sang very clearly, whereas some of the others didn’t enunciate very well. I took that as a HUGE compliment; what’s the point of doing this if no one can hear what you’re singing? (In retrospect, it may have just been that the sound guy had finally found the right balance, but that’s neither here nor there.)
All of the performers were great. Suzi Shelton is a wee little slip of a girl who packs a whole lot of soul and energy into her set. Joanie Leeds, by comparison, is a total over-the-top rockstar (in fact her album “I’m a Rock Star” was a candidate for a Grammy nomination!). Jon Samson did a quieter set, just him and his ukelele weaving magical tunes, accompanied by a bassist and drummer. Then Baze and His Silly Friends led a dance train around the entire bar!
Jeremy Zmuda, the organizer of the entire event, performs as “Jeremy Plays Guitar” and boy does he ever! Everyone captured the crowd in their own way (even though Jeremy had the home-field advantage since he’d sold most of the tickets to his own classes). And in between sets, Bob song some of the classics we all grew up with, and showed us all how it’s done.
All in all, it was a great afternoon. I spread the Fuzzy Lemons name and sold a few CDs to help raise some dough for a worthy cause. But the personal highlight came at the end of the day. For the big finale, the ensemble all joined Bob on stage for “Sing a Song.” Wow. Maybe it’s not on your bucket list but I sure enjoyed every second of it!
I’m not the only one who had a great time. I sent out a note praising everyone for the efforts and skills and the replies were pretty funny.
Suzi wrote “On behalf of Steve, Emma and myself – we thought Kids Rock TOTALLY ROCKED! It was so much fun, and hope to do it again someday with you all. You are amazing musicians and adding Bob to the mix was brilliant. I must admit, I have a little crush on the man… Have a great week guys, and wonderful job!”
Jon Samson: “I agree with Dave on all counts! But was I the only one who drank heavily after the show:)?” [This is even funnier if you know Jon, he was totally kidding.]
Baze: “I agree with Jon, who agrees with Dave! Great event and it was blast meeting and hanging out with everybody. Oh yeah, I did hit the Capri Sun’s pretty hard when I got home.”
Joanie Leeds: “Me too! Agree agree agree and like on Facebook! Thanks so much for an awesome event.”
A day or so later, Jeremy wrote “WOW!! I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time to be part of KIDS ROCK!! You all did such an amazing job performing! We’ve gotten such great feedback from the event. It was a success in every way!! Thanks so much, and hope to be able to share the stage again with you guys. Thanks again for being part of such an amazing show!”
Lizzie Bicknell, who is on the board with Jeremy at Kids Need a Melody, wrote:
Dear KIDS ROCK! celebs,
Thank you all so much for all of your investment into our first annual event! I really appreciate how hard everyone worked, the performances were inspired.
And it paid off in every way!! I am very happy to say that we raised enough money to begin working in a second shelter in two classrooms for families who are recovering from addiction. These kids REALLY need the developmental support and the joy of music! So thanks again for participating and giving to the cause. It will really make a difference.
I am looking forward to working with you again soon. You guys really are the best of the kindie-rock scene, it was so fun! Thanks again,
Look for Kids Rock to become an annual event, and look for me there every year!
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