Pineapple Scruffs, Playing on the Edge for a Political Cause
Ukulele band Pineapple Scruffs use their music to support political causes they believe in. They’ll play this Saturday at the March for Our Lives in St. Petersburg.
PINELLAS COUNTY – Just like celebrities, corporations and small businesses, professional musicians must carefully consider how involved they want to be in political and social issues.
The prospect of not being able to book gigs or sell recordings because of a stand on a controversial issue can lead musicians who rely on the little money they generate playing music to remain silent.
For the Pineapple Scruffs, a Tampa Bay-based six-piece ukulele band, the opposite is true: Political activism is not something to be avoided, but something they feel compelled to do.
“You have to be kind of courageous. If you’re a professional musician, you have to be willing to sacrifice some of your bread and butter venues to stick your neck out politically,” said Peter Grace, the musical director and spokesman for the group. “We don’t play for a living. So that’s why we can venture into the political arena. I, myself, do play professionally to support my social security checks, but if I lose gigs because of it, so be it.”
Grace, who is originally from Massachusetts, is a lifelong-activist who got his start in the 1970s as a college student advocating for nuclear disarmament. The soon-to-be 67-year-old has also been involved in environmental issues and worked locally on the 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama campaigns.
His band, the Pineapple Scruffs, whose musical repertoire includes a blend of Americana, pop, classic rock and folk music, were originally formed in June 2016 by members of the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society (TBUS), as the TBUS Band, to represent the organization. But they recently decided to operate independently because TBUS’s registration as a 501c3 limits its involvement in politics.
Now independent musicians, Grace and his bandmates recently formed a coalition called Musicians United for Social Change. The primary purpose of the coalition is to sponsor fundraisers and perform for causes aligned with issues that are important to them. The formation of MUSC is a work in progress and to start, the coalition plans on remaining small with only a dedicated core group numbering around 12 with support from potential affiliate members to play at and support their fundraising gigs.
“We are looking for people who aren’t worried about being ostracized from their venues for being a politically-oriented commodity. We hope to help candidates in the next eight months or so whose platforms we’re aligned with, particularly people that will further the cause for an assault weapon ban,” said Grace.
MUSC and the Pineapple Scruffs recently completed their first fundraiser in which they performed at the One Sushi Bar And Grill in Dunedin last Sunday. The group raised and donated $450 to help pay expenses for students at Strawberry Crest High School in Dover to participate in the March for Our Lives event Saturday (March 24) in Washington, D.C.
The group’s involvement in gun control reform advocacy and March For Our Lives, a nationwide, student-inspired and -created event, will continue at Poynter Park in St. Petersburg on Saturday (March 24) where they will perform. Group members will participate in the march before taking the stage to close out the event.
“The members of the Pineapple Scruffs are all pretty much on the same page about what we’re concerned about, especially with gun violence,” Grace said. “You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about Parkland. You’re either going to be motivated by it or you’re going to sit back and say, ‘Well what can I do?’ We decided to be motivated by it.”
Motivated to action and coinciding with the group’s formation of MUSC, Grace got in contact with Madison Vogel, CEO of We the Students which is organizing Saturday’s march and offered to play. Vogel announced the Pineapple Scrubs participation in the event at a press conference on Monday (March 19) in Clearwater.
“I’m very inspired by them. We all are,” Grace said. “The whole group is inspired by these kids. And basically they are probably our last hope to get something done. These kids took it upon themselves to step up to the plate and I am just totally impressed and totally inspired.”
Grace hopes that March For Our Lives is not the end of American youth pushing for gun control reform, but a catalyst for a sustained campaign that will eventually lead to a reformation of gun laws.
“One of the things I’m concerned about and I think a lot of us are is that they keep the pressure up until November,” Grace said. “One of the mechanisms of the NRA and other political entities that try and squash things is that they hope that things will just die down and then they don’t have to worry about it. I think with these kids that’s not going to happen. If we can get behind them as adults, we can keep this thing right up until November and then we can make some headway in changing the complexion of the House of Representatives and the Senate and then maybe we can finally get some realistic gun laws.”
You can catch the Pineapple Scruffs at Poynter Park this Saturday in St. Petersburg and also on the first Wednesday of every month where they host an open-mic night at the Ohana Cafe in Dunedin.
For information about the Pineapple Scruffs, go to facebook.com.
Photo shows Pineapple Scruffs, clockwise from top left, Mike Stehl, Dr. Ron (spiritual advisor), Peter Grace, Connie Manson, Emile Stehl, and Donna Watkins. Photo courtesy of the Pineapple Scruffs.
Pineapple Scruffs | March for Lives | Gun Violence | Political Protest | Politics | Tampabay News
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