BY JIM D’VILLE

High above the Verde Valley in the Black Hills of Yavapai County sits the picturesque little mountain hamlet of Jerome, Arizona. This formerly bustling copper mining town almost withered away and died during the great depression. As copper prices plummeted, so did the population, which fell from over 5,000 residents in 1930 to just 250 in 1960. To save the town from extinction, local leaders turned to tourism. It worked. The population has increased to nearly 500, and the city is alive with restaurants, art galleries, coffee houses, historic landmarks, and the Jerome Ukulele Orchestra.

The JUO was created by local musician and music shop owner Tommy Anderson, aka Tommy Rocks, in January of 2015. Tommy’s original song, It’s Party Time, is the Jerome Ukulele Orchestra’s theme song, as well as the theme song for The Village Ukulele People in Sedona and the Sun City Ukulele Group. So, where did this upbeat and infectious party song come into being? In a Phoenix traffic jam. Tommy recounts the story. “I used to teach Honors English in Phoenix. I was driving to work one morning in a traffic jam. I had been playing ukulele for about a week and had it with me. I was steering with my knees and doing the brakes and gas with my feet while I was playing my uke, I played a C chord followed by a D7, then I thought the next chord must be a G7. It only made sense that the following chord would be F. It took me a few minutes to figure out the Fm chord. The last progression came through very organically—A7-D7-G7. I grabbed a pen and paper, and while driving, wrote the lyrics. When I got to school, one of my favorite students was waiting for me. She asked, ‘How’s it going, Mr. Anderson?’ and I said, ‘Pretty good, I just wrote a song on the way to work.’ When my recent EVOLVE CD came out (Party Time is the opening track), I gave her the first copy.”


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The JUO has performed in clubs, parades, festivals, and been featured in newspapers, Ukulele magazine, and television shows. In December 2015, they were asked to audition for America’s Got Talent. Of course, It’s Party Time was on the audition tape. Each year the JUO plays twice a year at the Woofstock fundraisers for the Jerome Humane Society. They also perform a twice each year fundraiser for the Jerome Fire Department and perform each fall for the Friends of the Verde River at the Verde River Day Festival. They also help out by playing for local libraries and at the Jerome town picnic.

If you want to join the nearly mile-high ukulele party, The Jerome Ukulele Orchestra meets the first and third Thursdays at The Bordello Restaurant in Jerome, Arizona. So what’s the best thing to come out of Tommy Rocks’ organizing of the JUO? “We started as strangers and have become the best of friends. I’m very proud of my little group.”

It’s Party Time © Tommy “Rocks” Anderson
From the CD EVOLVE (2012) and Tommy Rocks! (The Ukulele) (2019)

Chords:


C
See how thems cats a-playing
D7
Dig that crazy jive
G7
They got all the girls a-dancing
C
It’s party time tonight!

C
See how the moon’s a shining
D7
In the dark blue sky
G7
Sunrise won’t be here for hours
C
It’s party time tonight!

F
The moon shines bright and
Fm
The mood is right and
C
It’s you and (A7) me and
D7
Our parents are fast (G7) asleep so

C
Let’s dance real close baby
D7
And hold me tight
G7
Whisper in my ear, baby
C
It’s party time tonight

(Vamp over 2 verses) :

F
The moon shines bright and
Fm
The mood is right and
C
It’s you and (A7) me and
D7
Our parents are fast (G7) asleep so …

C
Let’s dance real close baby
D7
And hold me tight
G7
Whisper in my ear, baby
C
It’s party time tonight !