Ukulele Death Squad perform 'The Squad Father' at 2020 Adelaide Fringe.
The goodfellas of Ukulele Death Squad pay homage to their very own Don Corleone in their new show, 'The Squad Father', at Adelaide Fringe.
Band leader Ben Roberts says that without the late Bruce Riley, he never would have picked up a ukulele, let alone started a band that's been dubbed 'the world's most dangerous ukulele group'. “Bruce was the man that was the genesis, the main reason why this band got together,” Ben explains.
“Where I teach guitar, he enquired about getting ukulele lessons and I was very sceptical of the ukulele until I picked one up.
“I thought it was a very interesting instrument and started applying it to songs I'd already learnt, the fingerpicking patterns from banjo, guitar and mandolin.
“It encompasses everything I know from the other instruments I play into one, neat little package, and it goes in as carry-on luggage wherever we go so it makes touring a hundred times easier. Learning with Bruce, he was the only reason why I picked up the ukulele.”
With their uproarious take on playing the ukulele, which includes covering classics like 'Misirlou' as well as performing original material, Ukulele Death Squad have become audience favourites at Fringe seasons the world over, and Ben says Bruce was with them every step of the way.
“He's been at nearly all of our gigs, he's worked the door for us, he ran workshops for us and he's really helped us,” he says.
“He's a great supporter of mine and believed in everything that we did, and I think he'd be pretty proud of what we've achieved, as he passed away just last year.
“His family asked us to play a song at his funeral, he stars in one of our film clips and we've recorded the film clip of him playing solo; he wasn't just a great supporter but he was also a good friend.”
Certainly the Vito to Ukulele Death Squad's Michael, Bruce will be immortalised in 'The Squad Father' as the patriarch of this pseudo-criminal family, an offer that audiences won't be able to refuse.
Great men are not born, they grow great, and with Bruce's fatherly guidance Ukulele Death Squad have greatness within their grasp. For Ben, most of all 'The Squad Father' is his chance to farewell in raucous style the man who not only changed his life but also became his dear friend.
“In our last Fringe season, we did the encore songs with him, he got up and sang with us so we're going to do a few songs that we know that he liked and that pay tribute to his life,” Ben says.
“When he passed away I was lucky enough to get a few of his songbooks and things from his family, so we'll be picking out a few songs that we also learned in our lessons that we'll be playing through for the show as well. It's a good send-off, and the best way we know how is to do a concert in his honour.”
Ukulele Death Squad perform 'The Squad Father' as part of Adelaide Fringe at Regal Theatre 22 February and 14 March. Ben also performs his solo show 'Uke Springsteen' at Grace Emily Hotel 18, 25 February and 3, 10 March.