Meet the two young ukulele players bringing Scouse sing-a-longs to Liverpool shoppers
3 years ago
Two young ukulele playing lads from north Liverpool are bringing some old-fashioned Scouse sing-a-longs to the city centre.
Michael McTigue and Callum Slater, known as The Strummer Boys, have become a regular attraction busking on Church Street since they set up their band almost two years ago.
Now they’re back after a Covid break and getting crowds of shoppers singing and dancing again.
“It’s just so nice to see people walking along and they walk in time to the music – they all start dancing to Penny Arcade and singing with the boys,” says Callum’s proud mum Lesley.
“Their songs are traditional proper sing-a-along songs, George Formby and Lonnie Donegan stuff, all the old Liverpool pub songs, so people always stop and join in and the boys love that because it really encourages them.”
“Michael’s been playing since he was about 9 or 10, he started out in the Liverpool Youth Orchestra and then him and his grandad left and went to the North West Charity Singers,” explains Lesley.
“Callum started after school club at Rice Lane Primary and he came home and said he wanted to learn the ukulele. He just loved it and took to it, and as time went on he said he didn’t want to stop playing”.
As Callum, who goes to Maghull High, became more experienced they both went on to play banjo ukuleles which are the size of a uke but with the body of a banjo. College student Michael also plays the guitar and the two practiced regularly until they built up a repertoire of classics.
Lesley admits she was nervous when they took on their first busking gig, but she needn’t have been because the response has been nothing but positive.
“I never left their side,” she says, “me, my mum and dad and Michael’s parents go to support them whenever they’re busking – I never thought I’d end up clapping on my own in the middle of Church Street!
“But the reaction has always been so good. Everybody who passes has respected them, there hasn’t been anyone who hasn’t been nice. They get homeless people walking past singing, and last Saturday there was a policeman and policewoman going past and even they started having a little jig and put their thumbs up to Callum and Michael.”
Lesley says the lads playing and personalities complement each other – and, despite having to take a pause in live performances when lockdown came in, they’ve attracted a fan base by sharing videos on Facebook and YouTube.
“When Michael first started he used to shy away from the mic, he’d play his ukulele but he wouldn’t sing. Then all of a sudden the confidence came and now I can see the same pattern with Callum. He tends not to do as much singing as Michael, he is quite quiet, but he will just get up and do it because his confidence is coming on.
“When they finish their busking gigs they’re bouncing, the two of them are on a high, it takes them a while to come back down again.”
The Strummer Boys can usually be found on Church Street.
“It is first come, first served so you’ve got to get there early – last time they were outside Primark which is the main one, but they’ve been further up towards Central station which is busy as well.
“They don’t really mind which spec they get because they just enjoy it so much and the reaction from everyone is really uplifting for us to see.
“It just brings a bit of normality and makes people realise not everything’s bad even though we’ve had such a difficult year.
“You hear of so many young lads on scrambler bikes, and always getting into trouble, it’s just lovely to see them enjoying themselves and making everybody else happy.”