Fairs & Festivals

Mummers play good time music from the past at the Manatee County Fair

PALMETTO -- It was music from a quieter, less crowded, more measured time.

Tunes such as "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover" from 1927, "You've Got the Cutest Little Baby Face" from 1926, and "Smile Darn Ya Smile" from 1931.

Happy love songs, really, played by Bradenton's Suncoast Mummers String Band, now in its 40th year, during its performance Wednesday at the Manatee County Fair.

But the Mummers repertoire held more than love songs from a time of flappers and the Charleston. There was also "Mame" from Broadway, "Red Roses for a Blue Lady," polkas

and, as a finale, a patriotic salute to veterans and the United States.

"We can mix it up, anything from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s," said director Marge Schweizer. "We are all retired. Our youngest is 57 or 58. Our oldest is 90."

Carolyn Wilson, the most senior member, was one of four musicians in the front row playing the accordion. To their left was a glockenspiel player, and to their right were three violinists. Behind them were saxophone players, guitarists and at least one banjo player.

"It's just fun to play music and be with these nice people," Wilson said before the concert. "It keeps me busy. I am thankful for the outlet."

Dan Christow, 75, of Bradenton was seated next to Wilson in the accordion section.

"She is a beautiful player. We miss her husband who passed away. He played the tuba," Christow said.

Tom Lautenschlager brought one of his 200 banjos, and stood for a solo during "Bye Bye Blues" from 1930.

"Playing music with others is more fun than playing alone," said Lautenschlager, 72.

A spectator walked up to Lautenschlager before the show, and asked how much he wanted for his golden banjo.

"It's not for sale, but my widow will be selling it for about $10,000," he kidded.

While the Mummers are devoted to music from the first half of the 20th century, they support musicians of the future through their college scholarship program.

Just before the end of the show, Mummers collected donations and sold their CD for five bucks a pop.

There won't be any more Mummer shows at this year's fair, but they have a gig set for 7-9 p.m. Feb. 27 at Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Proceeds go to the college scholarship fund.

Only one thing seemed different this year: the weather.

"No wind, no rain, this is great," Marge Schweizer said. "We're gonna start with a medley of old-time songs. If you know them, sing along. We're going to have a good time."

James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.