R Town
with Peter Blachley

Search form

KVMR Celebrates Live Fair Broadcast With Ukelele Spectacular

Once again, KVMR 89.5 FM moves its daytime programming out to the Nevada County Fair for eight hours or so a day of making community  radio in front of, yup, the community itself. 

Wednesday through Sunday (Aug. 13), there'll be a parade of community leaders, non-profit representatives, environmental and social activists, artist types, and plenty of ribbon winners, particularly 4-H Club members, being interviewed at the KVMR Broadcast Tent, located on Treat Street near the pony rides, a school bingo game and the bratwurst booth.

As usual, broadcast hours run from 10 a.m. daily to 6:30 (Wed-Fri), 6 p.m. Saturday and 5 Sunday. 

Only this year the Fair broadcast really gets kicked off with an ukelele spectacular. 


That little beloved Hawaiian instrument -- okay, it really was brought to the Islands from Portugal's Madiera Island -- will flare up at 4 p.m. Thursday, carried live for the first time on KVMR, from the Fair's Pine Tree Stage.

That's where 20, maybe 30, maybe even more members of Cool Hand Uke's Strum Bums Ukelele Extravaganza Rescue and Relief Band (a/k/a The Strum Bums) will be performing classic tunes as they have for years as part of the Fair. 

  Leave it -- better yet, credit it -- to longtime Nevada County rapscallion and musician Dan Scanlan, director and teacher of the uke band; he picked up the "Cool Hand Uke" moniker from a friend when they saw the film "Cool Hand Luke." 


And he picked up a uke not long after learning to play guitar some 50+ years ago after being impressed by the syncopated "glassandolations" perpetuated by banjo players at a local pizza joint. That word isn't defined online, but we'll wager you'll hear -- and see -- some Thursday at the Fair.

"The friendliness of the ukelele continues to give me the strength to express my political, social and justice concerns without alienating those who don't share my stunning insight," explained a dry-witted Scanlan to an interviewer earlier this year. 

"As a tool to access my heart, spleen and neurotransmitters, it has elevated my highs and softened the hard bumps in my life." 


According to Scanlan, "the ukulele is the cynosure of the most effective peace movement in the world today." 

Wow, this Uke guy knows some pretty big words:  a massive online search defines cynosure as something that's the center of attention. 

No wonder the Strum Bums began in 2000 as a weekly senior center class and nearly two decades later, they're alive and well, thanks to Scanlan's continuing dedication and love for the uke, passing that along over the years to more and more locals, some seniors, some not. 

Scanlan and the Strum Bums have played international ukelele festivals in New York City and Honolulu, among others; they've also been regulars at both the Nevada County Fair and Gold Country Fair in Auburn. 

Dan has toured himself, "giving workshop" both in person and online, and contributing to the legacy of the fabled instrument. 

"But the majority of our gigs are right here, maybe 60 or so a year -- assisted living, convalescent and retirement homes, schools, and various community fund-raisers," according to Scanlan. 

"And we have no rules but one: Come play when you can and feel like it."

They currently meet Thursday afternoons in Grass Valley; information available from Scanlan at 530/575-1453 or coolhanduke@icloud.com

Someone asked Scanlan for a comment about the uke, and, yup, direct from his coolhanduke.com website: 


The ukelele can be 
Cradled like a baby, 
Sing like a bird and 
Is small enough to 
Emanate large and 
Absorb and expand 
The subtle emotion 
The player Feels. 
It's here now 
And there then. 



A Fair, ahem, share of ribbon-winning farm animals, large and small, will also get to go on KVMR's microphones, particularly if they make a loud fuss.  Over the years, ducks, rabbits, pigs, goats and even cattle have been know to begin their radio careers on the Nevada City station's fair broadcast. 

Hap Hazard, host of the Friday Music Magazine (4 to 6 p.m.), admits livestock can present a problem to interview sometimes.  "That's why I stick mostly to Rolling Stones on my shows out there."

And there'll be a get-together of the Dreamwalk native show crew Thursdayat 10 a.m., in what host Jennifer Robin is calling a "Resilience Radio reunion" with her, her dad Michael Ben and even Skip Allen Smith if they can lure him away from the corn dog booth. 


It was just a year ago during the Nevada County Fair that KVMR volunteer broadcast producer  "Mystic Al" Camillo and his wife Debbie got the word -- their offer had been accepted on a house near Grass Valley. 

"Now it's not so bad going home after a show," noted Camillo after decades of living in Roseville. 

And they're both happy once again coordinating their third KVMR's live County Fair broadcast. 

"It's great to work with all the deejays...they love doin' it," Camillo said. "It's a treat for us to get out there and meet with folks and do something cool for the community." 

Camillo says "soft reggae Carribean sound" music artist Ross Rebel will play at 1 p.m. Thursday to help kick off live music at the booth itself. 

As far as the house, well, it's going great "but don't let anyone tell you driveways aren't expensive," he sighed.