No matter what the weather, there are always blue skies at Island Senior Resources in Bayview each Friday, when Whidbey’s Fun Band re-creates music of the big band and post-war eras.
Barbara Carr leads the group of 18, including vocalists. Originally formed about four decades ago as a “hobo band” of professionals and amateurs, the Fun Band has been entertaining at Bayview for the past 30 years.
And while it may not be the music embraced by younger generations, the songs have been adopted by more contemporary artists such as Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart.
Barbara and husband, Pat, both singers and accomplished ballroom dancers, moved to Freeland in 1990. She was a vocalist with the Rainbow Singers, which became part of the Fun Band.
Barbara recalled that the director at the time insisted that singers know all the songs from memory.
The Fun Band members form an eclectic group.
Patricia Hill moved to Whidbey after retiring as a landscape architect in Seattle. She plays bongo drums and who had experience with a small dance band in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Alice and King Rockhill are retired members of the clergy, who recently moved to Whidbey from North Idaho. Alice plays ukulele, flute and piano. King started playing piano in first grade, and now plays most of the brass instruments in the Fun Band. Both lament the loss of performing arts and band programs in public schools.
Accordionist Randy Bradley suffered a stroke about 10 years ago and, remarkably, relearned all of the music in his recovery. As a small child in Montana, he learned accordion from his uncles. Randy and his wife, Myrna, have lived in the Clinton area since the 1960s. Randy has also played fiddle and banjo. His company, Bradley Heavy Construction, built most of Langley’s Community Park.
Jane Theriault plays kazoo, and tambourine, and sings. Accomplished in several styles of dancing, she broke her foot about 20 years ago but was having so much fun dancing, she never got corrective surgery.
“Fun Band plays music right out of World War II,” says pianist Marilyn Hodson. “We children grew up with the joy of music and the joy relieved the burden of the war times. Our music has the value of celebration, of winning and recognizing other peoples’ achievements.” Marilyn learned the mathematical foundations of music when she was 6 years old and hasn’t stopped.
New Yorker Nancy Barr is the newest member. She and her husband moved to Freeland about three years ago. Nancy says she learned most of the songs she sings in the Fun Band from singing to her mother when Nancy was in high school. Her mother was recovering in an open hospital ward and other patients would often request songs, mostly big band favorites. Nancy went on to get a degree in music therapy.
Terry Ion of Greenbank plays bass guitar. He retired young from Boeing, moved to Whidbey in 2015, and joined the Fun Band a little later. Although he says he has a varied taste in music, he’s quite familiar with most of the big band songs.
Russ Link has played percussion in various groups for 50 years. “We are there to play music and have fun doing it. It’s a highlight for me on Friday mornings to see smiles on band members faces and the faces of folks on the dance floor, and eating the $5 lunch.”
Other musicians acknowledge that Fred Lamson is “such a talented trumpet player that he keeps the whole band together.” Self taught by ear, Fred was inspired by the late Legh Burns of the Saratoga Orchestra. Lamson played for many years in the Whidbey Community Orchestra.
A 32-year resident of South Whidbey, Joan Langstaff recently joined the Fun Band and says she had no idea how much she would enjoy it. Joan, a graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle, plays kazoo, sings and enjoys ballroom dancing.
Janice and Yoshi Kato joined the Fun Band about two years ago. Yoshi plays baritone ukulele and lap steel guitar. Janice plays soprano ukulele. They lead two other Whidbey ukulele groups, Whidbey Ukulele Kanikapila (mainly Hawaiian music) and Sandy Hook Ukulele Ensemble. Yoshi, a native of Japan, doesn’t speak much English, but says the music bridges cultures and can be enjoyed by all. (A kanikapila is a traditional ukulele jam session.)
Bruce Wasell, a former Seattle civil engineer, and his wife moved to Freeland about 18 years ago. He has been with the Fun Band for most of that time. He plays saxophone and says, “The Fun Band is a really nice group of people.”
Taught by her father, Jo Ann Zurfhuch plays harmonica. She is a former nurse who moved to Freeland from Oregon.
Rosemarie Hines has been a solo singer and kazoo player in the Fun Band for about 10 years. “On of my favorite songs is ‘What a Wonderful World,’ and I love it when Fred (Lamson) leads us into ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ at the end of the program,” she says. “A lot of people come in the morning to hear the music and dance, then stay for lunch.”
“With music, people live longer, certainly happier. We’re having a great time and we want to make people happy with our music,” say members of the Fun Band, almost in unison. “Ballroom dancing is also great exercise. We welcome newcomers, longtime friends and neighbors to join us for a sense of community.”
The band plays every Friday at Island Senior Resources, 14594 Highway 525. For more information, call 360-321-1600.
The community has lost several members of the Fun Band recently. Deceased alumni include Patricia Beuchner, Charlie Stromberg, Evelyn Brumbeck, Sandy Knight, Cecil Monson and Bill Lasby.