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Have ukulele, will play the Beatles

Patrick Beach

Ukulele changed Roger Greenawalt's life. And it might change yours Wednesday and Thursday when he and a passel of friends perform the entire Beatles catalog on uke during the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Seriously. Like everyone else in the country, the Brooklyn music producer was in a grim mood following 9/11. Weeks after the attacks he went to visit a cousin in San Francisco, a musician who had ukuleles lying around the house.

Greenawalt bought one, took it to Golden Gate Park and turned into the Pied Piper.

"There's something deeply unthreatening about a human being with a ukulele," Greenawalt said. "It's about the size of a cat, or a baby. I become a friend to all with a ukulele in my hand."

The notion of performing every Beatles song came when he was loading the canonical albums into his iTunes.

He noticed it was clocking in at 9.6 hours.

"I thought, oh, my God, that's so doable in a day."

Then there's the strong ukulele connection to the Beatles, including George Harrison playing it as he was dying.

So they did it once, and again, and now they're bringing the show here. They're playing from noon to 6 p.m. both days on the patio at Jaime's Spanish Village, 802 Red River St. Guests over the two-day event might include Ben Kweller, B.P. Phallon, Nigel Harrison and Clem Burke (Blondie), that Creed Bratton guy from "The Office" and quite possibly some super-secret guest stars. Also on hand: the Eggmen, Austin's own Beatles tribute band.

Greenawalt says picking up the uke has changed the way he produces records, making a sound that's less cluttered and bottom-heavy. "It only has four strings," he said. "It really improves your discipline. It's like writing a tweet or haiku. There's no B.S."

Also no B.S.: After he's done with the Beatles, he wants to do Led Zeppelin.

Again, seriously. He'll play you a little of "The Crunge" on ukulele over the phone. You don't even have to ask.

pbeach@statesman.com

Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival

When: noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday

Where: Patio at Jaime's, 802 Red River St.