LA CROSSE, Wis. - Step into Leithold music in downtown La Crosse and you'll likely find guitar players and piano players and maybe several kinds of horn players. But if you happen to mosey on up to the second floor on a Tuesday night you'll find Joe Sexton and the sweet sounds of his Ukulele. "I'd been a guitar player most of my life and I just got tired of the same old songs over and over. I went to Hawaii, and fell in love with the ukulele. By day 3, I was shopping for a Ukulele. By day 4 my wife was a Ukulele widow. I'm at the hotel working our chords and on you tube."
He wanted to join a local ukulele club but just one problem - there wasn't one. I mean let's be honest who starts a ukulele club?! "I ended up starting a group to be in a group So I made a poster and put some up around town and some of the people behind me responded to the poster and we began to play 2-3 times a week."
What began as 4 people jammin' in Joe's house grew bigger and bigger and bigger. Until eventually... "Leithold's was kind enough to give us the recital hall and now we've spilled out into the foyer of the recital hall."
And today you have The Cheez Land Uke Band - 60 plus musicians and going strong! "Our youngest member is Connor, he's 5 years old. He plays his grandfathers Ukulele. Our oldest member is 85."
"It's a social thing. It's a mixed crowd. You've got young, you've got older. People from different backgrounds. It's just fun."
Joe says anyone - ANYONE can learn to play the Ukulele. "So the first evening we meet someone, we go through the 60 minutes and 7 chords that will change your life. In 60 minutes we can teach people 5 or 6 songs and 7 chords and they will leave Ukulele players."
"It's just really laid back. People don't really care if you're good or not. It's not like a competition. Anybody can come and play."
"If you got 35 guitar players together in one room, the first order of business is to figure out who the best guitar player is. You can't get anything else done until we figure that out. Ukulele players don't care! It's about singing and having fun."
So if this group is striking a chord with you, make your way to Leithold's and give the Ukulele a try. "I would do this every night of the week if I could."
If you are interested in learning more about the Cheez Land Uke Band, you can call Joe Sexton at 738 2800. You can also just stop by one of their practices. They meet Tuesday nights at 6:30 at Leithold Music in La Crosse.