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Uke 'n' Roll

Andy Dudoit brings his brand of rock to Country Villa Plaza Nursing Center three days a week.

September 05, 2000|ALEX KATZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's 8:30 a.m. at the Country Villa Plaza Nursing Center, and the party is just getting warmed up.

About 30 convalescent seniors--all of them in wheelchairs--are crowded in a large, white-floored hall. Behind a portable keyboard and a microphone, red construction-paper letters spell out "Rock & Roll!"

For 3 1/2 years, Andy Dudoit has performed his brand of ukulele-driven rock music weekly for the residents of the Santa Ana nursing home.

Although his specialty is the ukulele, the Hawaiian-born Dudoit claims he knows thousands of songs and can play 50 instruments--everything from the cello to the kazoo.

Three mornings every week, Dudoit, who happens to be legally blind, donates his time to entertain the nursing home's white-haired residents with his master musicianship and extensive repertoire.

"I have a philosophy in life," he said. "The more you give, the more you receive."

Dudoit's performances are also part stand-up comedy and part therapy for the seniors, many of whom suffer from physical and mental ailments.

Residents bang on tambourines and shakers as Dudoit plays and sings in a deep voice, changing key and tempo as he switches from a Chubby Checker dance tune to a soulful ragtime number.

Residents and home attendants show their enthusiasm for songs by stepping up the banging and the shaking. Dudoit complements his singing by yelping, shouting, telling sometimes off-color one-liners and jumping out of his chair to dance joyfully to the prerecorded beat of the keyboard's drum machine.

"I'm just a big old ham for all these people, and that's about it," he said.

Dudoit's musical roots go back to Hawaii, where as a child, he traveled the islands performing with hula companies. He never went to music school. All of his music training was "backyard stuff" with other musicians in his family, he said.

Activities director Lawrence Ronquillo said Dudoit is a great help at the center, especially when he goes from room to room serenading and chatting with residents.

"He's got a really great rapport with the residents," Ronquillo said. "Their family members also thank him for being there."

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Alex Katz can be reached at (714) 966-5977.

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