Kingfield's Driftwood Char Bar—normally known for grown-up acts like blues legend Willie Murphy—is going to host an unusual musical guest on Saturday: children's musician Buddy Goodfellow.
For 25 years, local musician Rob Tussell played in rock-and-roll bands all over the Twin Cities. As a budding young musician, Tussell had created a pen name of sorts to use when in his musical life, "Rob Stealcheat."
"It caught on real quick," Tussell told Patch in a recent interview. "A buddy of mine saw me downtown, but I didn't see him, so he started to holler my stage name. Suddenly he realized he was yelling 'Rob! Steal! Cheat!'"
When Tussell's mother found out about his nom de guitar, she was less enthusiastic than his friends were.
"She said to me, 'Oh, son. Why would you want to call yourself something that will make people not like you?'" Tussell said. Her suggestion: "Buddy Goodfellow"
For the next quarter-century, Tussell carried his mother's turn of phrase with him, letting it rattle around in his head. About a year ago, as he was casting about for another project to embark upon, Tussell was seized by the idea of playing child-focused music using that name. Several months of experimenting and brainstorming later, "Buddy Goodfellow's Musical Carpet Ride" was born.
"It's been very freeing to write songs under this persona," Tussell told Patch. "I'm writing songs that Rob Stealcheat couldn't—songs from the perspective of six-, seven-, and eight-year olds."
His new music forms a kind of song cycle, Tussell said, following a group of children who, frustrated with a world where everything is too big for them, set off on an adventure.
Tussell put the songs together into an interactive concert that he's experimented with at birthday parties and at Bancroft Elementary, where he volunteers. Tussell brings miniature drum sets and small guitars or ukeleles for the toddlers to play on.
"The kids just go crazy for it, chomping at the bit to play the drums and what have you," he said.
Even if they're just aimlessly strumming, the kids still wind up sounding quite musical right out of the gate as they follow Tussell's lead.
"I'm discovering that kids seem to have it in them—some more than others—but even the least musical is still musical and rhythmical," he said. "It's amazing how well it works."
Paired with a short film illustrating the journey, Tussell plans to release the songs on a DVD ( a short trailer is posted on YouTube) at an all-ages show at the Driftwood on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Saturday show will not be as interactive as his other appearances, but Tussell told Patch that Buddy Goodfellow will probably show up with several shakers for anyone who wants to join in.