The original line-up of The Kukes first played together in March 2018, at an early rehearsal of The Flying Ukulele Group ( The FUG), led by Dave in the Jubilee room at The Albatross Club, Bexhill on Sea. Most of The Kukes knew each other from playing at the Hastings Old Town Ukulele group and the Bexhill Ukulele Group, apart from Dave and Emma who met in a long demolished dingy club, called The Basement, in Brighton over 20 years ago, where the floors were sticky and the walls were sweaty.
It soon became clear that there was a sub group within The FUG who wanted to push the music a bit further than was practical within the larger, mixed ability group, and on September 1st 2018 eight intrepid ukulele players left the safety and the award winning real ale of The Albatross Club to go it alone as a closed group.
They wanted to play songs that the other ukulele groups wouldn't touch, they wanted to experiment with strumming patterns and picking, they wanted to sing off the beat, and sing harmonies, they wanted to arrange the songs with starts and endings, and rehearse them to the point that they no longer needed to look at their books. Finally they would be free to play outside on the windy south coast without the fear of music stands being blown away mid song.
They travelled the back streets of Bexhill, in and out of various side rooms of pubs, honing their songs, Dave chopped off the end of his thumb in a feeble attempt to get some time off work, but soon realised he could no longer play ukulele with over 20 stitches in his re-constructed thumb and bought himself a bass to pass the time whilst waiting for his thumb to heal. By December 2018 they were down to 6 members, but they had decided on a name for the group, "The Kukes" and Sue had taken up playing the more complex bass lines.
Up until this point Chris had been playing ukulele, when, one wet Thursday evening Chris revealed her dark secret... she could play many other instruments, including the melodeon she had brought along with her. Chris's ukulele was hastily taken away from her and placed in a secure secret location, where it remains to this day.
One more member fell by the wayside in March 2019 and the following month saw The Kukes performing at Beatles Day, White Rock Hastings. This gig was followed by a string of Sussex ukulele festivals and a couple of charity gigs throughout 2019.
Towards the end of July 2019 Dave remembered a post he'd seen earlier in the year about a ukulele contest, a hasty search through t'internet led him to the Ukulele Society of Great Britain's website, luckily there were still 3 days left to enter the contest. They needed a song that would fit the criteria and show off the strengths of the group and a video that would stand out from the crowd.
The Carolinian by Chatham County Line was chosen because, although a relatively unknown song, it is catchy and upbeat, tells a story, shows off some lovely harmony singing.
The location needed to involve trains and they needed to learn the song, so that they could perform without being hidden by music stands. Dave took his storyboard to the group, they smirked, undeterred Dave got his video camera and tripod out.
Four rehearsals later the video was taking shape, they'd moved out of the pub's back room to Crowhurst train station which was to be the location, due to it being such a quiet station and they could play without too many disturbances. Everybody had their positions which were determined much like a bluegrass band moves in and out from a single microphone, to balance the sound. Ten year old Queenie, who'd been bribed with a flask of hot chocolate was getting very steady the camera and was happily directing band members to get back in camera shot and 30 or so takes later they had a video that they were all happy with.
Winning the competition saw The Kukes finally become accepted by their ukulele peers, supporting the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at the fabulous De La Warr Pavilion and taken back in from the wilderness by the award winning Albatross Club, where once again they could meet every Thursday evening to rehearse in the Jubilee room.
2020 was going to be great for The Kukes, it started with their biggest ‘paid’ gig to date, then their world was rocked, like so many others…
Kim was asked to leave the group!…
Oh and there was a global lockdown, something to do with Bill Gates. During the ensuing months the only musical outlet for the individual Kukes was Ukulele Lockdown, a FB group started by fellow ukuleleist, Barry. Lockdown rules had been eased and by September 2020 The Kukes were keen to get back performing, they eased themselves back into it with an outdoor gig at the Albatross, singing was still banned indoors. September 2020 was also notable in that Brad decided to join The Kukes after the collapse of his previous band “Mojo Calling”. More lockdowns came and went, and it wasn’t until nearly a year later that Brad made his live debut with The Kukes at the Grand Re-opening of the newly refurbished Albatross Club in August 2021. There was only one more gig in 2021, at the Tenterden folk festival, but things didn’t really get back to normal until February 2022 when The Kukes ventured over to Hastings and performed to packed pubs for unplugged Fat Tuesday then Beatles Day. November 2022 saw The Kukes take on a monthly residency at The Dolphin Inn, Hastings.
2023 looks promising as you can see on our gigs page, come along to see us.