Chuck and Mud...and friends
March 17, 2009
Renowned duo celebrates 30 music-filled years
BY Jeremy Shulkin WORCESTER MAGAZINE
A glance at the Hanover Theatre’s upcoming schedule features shows that seem made for a glitzy setting with a 2,300-seat capacity — the Swan Lake ballet, American Idols In Concert, the Capitol Steps — but one show stands out as being charmingly out of place. “We’re not the size of an act that would be asked to play there,” says Marie Ann Rocheleau-Demers, otherwise known as Mud of the husband-and-wife duo Chuck and Mud. “Even though through the years we’ve all had great opportunities to play festivals and some big gigs, nothing is really like this and it is right here at home.”
But the Chuck and Mud 30th Musical Anniversary on March 21 will draw a crowd, because, after over 30 years of playing folk music together Chuck and Mud have gathered a large following, and Mud is quick to point out that while this may be big, it’s not unfamiliar. “We put on a similar concert at Mechanics Hall for our 25th Anniversary, so it shouldn’t be too shocking to us — we had just about sold out Mechanics Hall at over 950 tickets.” Aside from attracting an audience, Chuck and Mud, and their the Hole in the Dam Band of Sten Gustavson on keyboard, Walter Crockett on guitar, Mark Manuel on bass, and Joe Zupan on percussion, have collaborated with a sizeable number of other regional musicians to make the show even larger. Joining Chuck and Mud on stage at various points of the night will be Riverbend, the Blackstone Valley Bluegrass band and the Duke Levine Band, along with numerous special guests.
“We want to play on the most beautiful stage in New England and have our friends do the same,” says Chuck Demers. “We also want to share this nice venue with all the folk who like to hear us and the other bands play.”
If there’s any kind of philosophy to Chuck and Mud’s music, it’s the idea that it’s inclusive. It should be shared with friends. The two list band members past, present, and once-in-a-while, like party guests who have left only to get more ice, or to find more friends to bring over. Before the evening portion of their event, Chuck and Mud and the Hole in the Dam Band will play a children’s show at 4 p.m. It’s only natural, since Chuck is the director and Mud is the Pre-K lead teacher of the Chestnut Nursery School in Worcester, and all proceeds from the revue will go toward the school.
“We do children’s shows pretty often,” Chuck and Mud wrote via e-mail. “But the music part of it was always very compatible — you know, kids like all kinds of music, so we just started playing songs we learned as kids for our classes. When families with young kids would come to our gigs, we’d usually throw in a few kids’ tunes for them. It seemed to fit our folk mode.”
They do point out that the kids’ show will be “totally different” from the “adult” show, but that’s because the evening performance won’t include puppets and magic tricks. But the fact that they believe they don’t have to change their sound for each specific audience reflects their belief that music can bring some seemingly different people (for example children and adults) together. “We play a lot of family events, which include both children and adult music in parks during the summer and at special events for organizations. We write adult songs and we know scores of tunes, familiar and obscure, that we can play in any setting,” they add.
And after more than 30 years playing together, Chuck and Mud should be considered experts on what makes a good performance. “What hasn’t changed over the years is what music is: It’s the universal language! People everywhere over the world get a wonderful feeling from listening to and playing music — and there’s something beyond that when the music is live.” And then as if to get the point across one more time, they add, “That’s the same for adults and children.”