Lead Belly Sings for Children on Throwback Thursday

In the fourth, and last, installment for our Black History Month Throwback Thursday series; we dive into the fascinating, tragic and triumphant life of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter. Leadbelly_with_Accordeon     Huddie Ledbetter was born sometime between 1885 and 1889 near Mooringsport, in northern Louisiana, but he lived and attended school until he was about 13, in Texas, in Bowie County.  He spent his youth wandering and learning in the Deep South as a field hand, blues musician. A multi-instrumentalist,  his first instrument was the accordion. In 1917, he began working with  Blind Lemon Jefferson as his “Lead Boy”, guiding him, learning from him and helping him around the streets of Dallas, Texas. Their work together didn’t last long though, because Huddie was charged and convicted of murder in 1918. It is this stint in prison that is said to have given him his nickname. In 1925 he wrote a song to Governor Pat Morris Neff seeking his freedom. The story goes that Governor Neff was so affected by his song that he was pardoned, despite the fact that Neff had run for governor on a pledge not to issue pardons. He spent the next few years performing around the south, and concentrating on the 12-string guitar, which was to become his signature instrument. In 1930 he was once again convicted and jailed, this time for attempted murder, in Louisiana. It was at the Angola State Prison that he met John and Alan Lomax, who had come to Louisiana to record folk music for the Library of Congress. The Lomaxes were struck by Lead Belly’s powerful tenor, intense performance style, virtuosic guitar playing and obvious talent. They worked with Lead Belly to acquire him an early release, which was granted in 1934. After his release, he went on to work with the Lomax family in a variety of roles, and continued recording for the Smithsonian Folkways. He also began recording commercial music, playing on television and performing all over the country. He met, worked with and influenced other folk giants like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. In fact, The Weavers version of his song, Goodnight Irene was a smash hit just a year after he died of ALS. He left behind a vast legacy of music, and an influence that is felt in American Music to this day. More current artists who have covered him include Nirvana and LP. In 1999, Smithsonian Folkways released an album of his songs for children. Below are two songs from that collection.    

Pre-Crowd Funding Campaign for New Children’s Book!

Pre-Crowd Funding Launch Campaign for
The ABC’s of Percussion Children’s Book” with Music CD
by Uncle Devin

Click on image to play video!

Hey Everyone!

I just want to let you know that The Uncle Devin Show® is in its Pre-Crowd Funding Stage for our new children’s book entitled, “The ABC’s of Percussion” with Music CD.

This book is an educational and fun way for children to learn about the world of percussion instruments by identifying one percussion instrument per letter of the alphabet through beautiful illustrations – that’s 26 different percussion instruments.

The accompanying music CD brings the book to life through world beats and rhythms, as it recites the book aloud and plays each instrument.

Click on image to play video!

We have created our own theme song and music video for our book.The official launch date of our Crowd Funding campaign will be March 1, 2015.  Please spread the word!

Click Here to Follow Our Project!

Uncle Devin’s Drum Beat Newsletter
February 2015 Edition

Inside this issue:

*   Upcoming Public Shows in February

*  Update on New Children’s Line Dance Music Video!

*  Uncle Devin Performed Multiple School Assemblies in January

*  Our New Children’s Book Update!

*  Join Our Mailing List and Get Free Download of “Africa”


Upcoming Public Shows in February

After performing all private shows in January 2015, we are happy to announce our first public shows for 2015 that you don’t want to miss:

DC Family Fiesta at El Tamarindo Restaurant
1785 Florida Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20009
Saturday, February 7, 2015
10:30 AM

We’re back at our favorite Mexican and Salvadoran restaurant, El Tamarindo in Adams Morgan – DC. Join us as we kick off the DC Family Fiesta for the second year in row. Pass the word and we hope to see you there.  Enjoy some great music – then support El Tamarindo by enjoying some their fantastic and delicious food.

The DC Family Fiesta was started in 2014 by our good friend and fellow family musician ¡Uno, Dos, Tres con Andrés! Make sure to check him out at http://www.123andres.com/

Saturday, February 20, 2015
10:15 AM and 11:30 AM 
(Two Shows)
Tickets are limited and going fast!

Individual Tickets:
Child: $6
Child under 2: $3
Adult: $8
Smithsonian Associate Members: $5

Group Tickets:
$6/person for Seasons of Light
(free adult for every 20 students)

For more information, go to http://discoverytheater.org/shows/2015/feb/the-uncle-devin-show.shtm.

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Update on New Children’s Line Dance Music Video!

We are getting closer to the world release of our new line dance song for children called, “The Church Ushers’ Dance!”   We want to thank everyone who took time out of their busy schedules to be a part of our video production.  We had a lot of fun working with you.

We especially would like to thank John Wesley AME Zion Church, Rev. Dr. Vernon Shannon, Pastor, and Contee AME Zion Church, Rev. Dr. Myrtle Bowen, Pastor, for allowing us to use your churches for the video shooting.

The Church Usher’s Dance is a song that centers on an 8-year old named Tré, who is a son of a Preacher. He becomes famous worldwide by unintentionally starting a new dance craze simply by being himself. Additionally, the song honors the work of church ushers everywhere, who help keep order during services each week.

We are currently working on the editing of the video and hope to have it available later this month.  To receive updates on this and other Uncle Devin events, join our mailing list and receive an instant download of an Uncle Devin original song.

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Uncle Devin Performed Multiple School

Assemblies in January

We had the pleasure of performing five private school assemblies in January 2015 of our, “Uncle Devin’s World of Percussion” program.  The assemblies were at the Rockville Childrens Manor Montessori School in Maryland (two shows); F. B. Morris Elementary School in Baltimore, MD (two shows); and The Mount Washington School in Baltimore, MD (1 Show).   The shows in Baltimore were as a result of us being a roster artist with Young Audiences/Arts for Learning – MD. http://www.yamd.org/artist/uncle-devin/

“Uncle Devin’s World of Percussion” takes students on a magical journey through the Land of Percussion that allows them to hear, see, and play different percussion instruments while gaining an understanding of the history of percussion and why it is the easiest, oldest, and most diverse form of musical creativity. Uncle Devin and his flute-playing sidekick Mr. Grasshopper introduces students to different genres of music while showing them how percussion is the heartbeat of them all.

If you would like to book us at your school, please contact us at info@theuncledevinshow.com.

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Uncle Devin’s New Children’s Book Update

Within the next few weeks, The Uncle Devin Show will be launching our first Crowd Funding campaign to help raise funds for our new children’s book entitled,  “The ABC’s of Percussion” with audio CD!

This book is an educational and fun way for children to learn about some of the oldest musical instruments in the world – Percussion instruments.  This picture book identifies and discusses one percussion instrument per letter of the alphabet – that’s 26 different percussion instruments from around the world.  The accompanying audio CD brings the book to life through world beats and rhythms, highlighting each instrument.  It’s like getting two books in one.

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Join Our Mailing List and Get an instant download of
Uncle Devin’s song, “Africa!”  Click Here!

If you are already on the Mailing List, click here to download the song!

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Africa’s Contribution to Christmas!

Christmas is one of the most universally recognized holidays in the world, celebrated by billions of people of different faiths and cultures.  For many, it is a time to decorate houses and trees with lights, buy gifts for family and friends, and sing holiday carols.  For many others, it is recognized as the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the foundation of the Christian faith.

But did you know that ancient Africans were the first in the world to recognize and celebrate Christmas and did so thousands of years before the birth of Jesus?  You may wonder, “How could that be?”

Sun It all starts with the physical sun.  On the 25th of December, the Sun is known to be symbolically born given that sunlight increases approximately one minute on this day.  In fact, every year between August 18 and December 21, we lose approximately one minute of sun light per day. December 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, known as the Winter Solstice.  Ancient Africans saw this as darkness winning over the powers of Light.

On December 25, daylight begins to increase by one minute each day, which was recognized by ancient Africans as the beginning of day light over darkness, symbolically known as the “birth” of the sun.  This became an annual celebration given the importance of the sun in growing crops for food and energy.  It wasn’t until over 300 years after the death of Jesus that Roman Emperor Constantine officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25th.  But, the Africans had already been celebrating this day for thousands of years before Constantine’s edict!

Therefore, the world owes a great deal of thanks to the ancient Africans who were the first to celebrate this important day in world history.

*  “An Appeal To the African Church In America: Beware of False Profit$” by Devin L. Walker (2002)
*  “From the Browder Files,” Anthony Browder (1989)

Simply Understanding Melodic Music Enriching Relate-ability.

Summer is here!  Kids are out of school and excited about activities and spending time with their friends.   For the socially enhanced child who blossomed into a social butterfly the thought of long summer days brings excitement and great anticipation. However, for the socially awkward or overtly shy child who is more comfortable in a cocoon the angst of summer brings anxiety and may even highlight the void of  their inability to relate to their peers. Relate-ability amongst peer groups is critical.  A sense of acceptance is also vital to children. Since summer is celebrated as a time of and breaking from the day to day grind..music is a great tool for finding a child’s inner passion and building confidence.

Many parents believe that thrusting their child into yet another group situation is the best method. There are countless stories of parents who sign their child up for camp only to receive letters and phone calls from a child who is just not having the time of their life because they are not making friends.    How about attempting to build your child’s confidence and relate-ability through music.  Introducing them to a solitary activity first may be a great idea. It occupies their time, they are encouraged and renewed through self exploration and challenged by reaching new melodic highs.  A new rhythmic beat may help your child shake their shyness. Of course they may not become Duke Ellington or Mozart by the end of summer, but they will have learned a great lesson of orchestrating their creativity, develop confidence and how to maneuver different chords  which is symbolic of life’s challenges.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take every high and low note thrown our way and turn it into symphony? Exposure to music is melodic therapy to the soul and teaches a child to be in tune with their own uniqueness and prepares them to walk in harmony with others on their life’s journey.    This new found confidence prepares a child to build new talents and desire to share them with others, increasing their social engagement.

They become the center stage to a welcoming audience of peers.  Uncle Devin uses this platform of building confidence and seeking self awareness by making an introduction to percussion instruments and beats. This approach engages and enhances a child’s music experience. Whether it is a music and arts camp or simply getting your child involved with a new musical instrument, help your child Simply  Understand Melodic Music to Enrich their Relate-ability this summer.

“Uncle Devin Drum Tales” CD Wins A 2013 Parents’ Choice Recommended Award!

Great News!

“Uncle Devin’s Drum Tales” CD has won a prestigious Parents’ Choice Recommended Award, placing it among the very best audio CD that entertain and teach with flair, stimulate imagination and inspire creativity. Parents’ Choice Foundation has been reviewing and recommending quality children’s media for more than 33 years.

According to the Parents’ Choice Foundation, “Uncle Devin’s Drum Tales takes an innovative and progressive approach to music, self-awareness, confidence and fun, and is a wonderful album that children, parents and educators will all find beneficial.”  To read the review in its entirety, please go to http://www.parents-choice.org/product.cfm?product_id=31357&StepNum=1&award=aw.

We are honored to receive this award and would like to thank the Parents’ Choice Foundation for this recognition.


“Uncle” Devin Walker

Tonya, The Tambourine!

Tambourine 1

Hey Young World! I am Tonya the Tambourine. I am a notable member of the percussion family and you can hear me in many genres of music.

Within the African-American church, I am probably more recognized than the stellar names of Aundrae Crouch, Rev. Dr. James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, or Shirley Caesar.  All of these renowned singers have used me in their music on their way to stardom. I am as valuable to the African-American music ministry as the pulpit is to the ministerial staff.  On a given Sunday, you can find me being shaken, rattled and rolled by a musically inclined, on-time choir member. But my roots go much deeper than the church.

I was also a vital part of the Motown sound out of Detroit, MI, that mixed soul music with pop, which was responsible for such greats as The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and Diana Ross.  There was a group of musicians called, The Funk Brothers, who were session musicians that played the background music for most of the Motown artists.  The tambourine played a prominent role in their music and gave it a unique sound that has not since been duplicated.Tambourine 2

You can also trace me, Tonya the Tambourine, back to Mesopotamia, the Middle East, India, and the Greco-Roman empires. More often times than not, you’ll find me heavily involved in religious rites, ceremonies, and rituals. The proof of my high existence can be found drawn or etched into ancient works of art. Sometimes musicians play me with their hands, hips, arms and thighs.

My frame is circular and is made from wood or plastic with pairs of small metal jingles, referred to as “Zils,” to complete my construction.  I am strong, too!  Although the tambourine is one of the lightest percussion instruments, I am sturdy, hard to break and can withstand some of the most aggressive players out there.

The Tambourine is a sure fit in Greek, Persian and Italian music.  You’ve also heard me in many different genres, including Folk, Pop, Rock and Classical.  No matter the musical form, I brighten the mood and get your heart pumping; for it is difficult to sit calmly and still, when Tonya the Tambourine is on the bill!!!

Want to hear what I sound like?  Click Here!