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September 10, 1992 - Image 46

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-09-10

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Page 6-The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition-City - Thursday, September 10, 1992
Jake shakes up the streets with zany style
Ann Arbor's living legend strums his guitarto the delight of geneations of students

by Lauren Dormer
Daily Staff Reporter
If Diag discourses on morality
are too deep for your between-class
entertainment, make sure to check
out Shakey Jake Woods - Ann
Arbor's most well-known guitarist.
For as long as anyone can re-
member, Jake has been shaking up
the city on the corner of State and E.
William Streets with his wild outfits
and his zany music.
"This is my life," Jake said. "I've
been playing in Ann Arbor for 33
years."
Although many passers-by would
agree that it goes without saying,
Jake proudly boasts that he has never
taken a guitar lesson in his life.
"'_taught myself to play guitar
when I was one, and now I'm 99. I
can't read or write. I don't read mu-
sic. I play by ear," Jake said, while
strumming a melody and smoking a
Marlboro Red.
But music is not his only amusing
attribute. Students strolling down

State Street are-sure to get a good
laugh from Jake's crazy, mismatched
outfits.
"I get my clothing tailor-made,"
Jake said, spinning around to model
his brown tweed blazer, purple
flowered vest, mint-green rayon
shirt, yellow plaid bow tie, and pink
polyester pants. An imitation mink
stole (with teeth and glass bead eyes)
and a 3-foot-tall straw hat comple-
ment his standard attire.
Jake says these get-ups are fit for
all seasons because his corner is
well-equipped with two shade trees.
"It's not hot at all under them. They
keep me chilly in summer. In the
winter, they keep me warm," he
said.
And that is not the only benefit
Jake sees to "his" corner. The loca-
tion represents a milestone in his un-
usual career.
"One day, I decided that I wanted
a house. So I played my guitar right
here on this corner for 18 hours a
day every day for two weeks. I made

$38,000, and I went and bought a
house."
"This corner is my favorite be.
cause once I made $14 million here
in one day. I also have ten million
fans who come by and visit me each
hour," he added.
While this story may not be ex-
actly how things transpired, it is true
that Jake's energy-filled sets are his
only source of income. And the
home he owns was purchased with
money that he earned while playing
the guitar or selling postcards.
Jake said he does not have any
desire to marry because he is already
in love with the students at the
University.nHowever, he said he
wouldn't mind a change of pace
such as a chance to move indoors to
Hill Auditorium.
"If they asked me to play in Hill
Auditorium, I would go over there in
a minute. I would just stand up on
the stage and do my thing. I love do-
ing my thing for the students here.

It's my life," he said.
It seems that the streets of Ann
Arbor are as far as Jake will go in
his musical career, in light of the
mild case of schizophrenia doctors
claim he suffers.
But Jake's outrageous stories and
out-of-the-ordinary outfits do not
make him a dangerous character. He
said the city police have no problems
with him and generally leave him
alone.
"The police don't bother me.
They can't really. I have a peddler's
license to sell my postcards and an
entertainer's license to play my mu-
sic. They come from Washington
D.C. I'm also a member of the enter-
tainer's union," he said, pulling a
pile of papers out of his pocket.
And until Shakey Jake is re-
cruited to go on tour, he will remain
well-dressed on his corner, looking
for a handful of spare change, and
just "doing his thing."

*I

0

THE LIITD MER ORO N AT WAKR MO HR OODM TR IY NOT ENRFEC IN RSDETT XD -

The Bongo Man, Nahru Lampkin, plays and sings on the corner of North University
and State.
Bongo Man entertains
with rhymes, drums

EX P

'

4Y

by Victoria Kuohung
Here's a lady in blue and
yellow,
And she looks so very mellow.
She might make me a happy
fellow
By throwing something in the
kettle.
He's the Songman of Santa
Monica Pier, and he also plays in
Denver, Boston, Toronto, Los
Angeles, and Key West. But here
he's known as the Bongo Man.
Since he brought his congos and
rhymes to Ann Arbor, Nahru
Lampkin has become a fixture on
the campus street scene. From May
through February, you can catch
him rapping on the corner of North
University and State Street.
His black, green, red, and yel-
low striped yarn beret, colorful
pants, and humorous chants are
familiar to anyone who has passed
his corner of the Diag.
Lampkin has been involved with
music almost his entire life. He
started playing drums in the high
school marching band in Bellevue,
Mich., and began taking congo seri-
ously 10 years ago.
Since then, Lampkin has per-
formed in several different venues.
From 1981 to 1982 he sang in non-
commissioned officers' clubs while
stationed in Korea as a soldier.
After his discharge in 1982, he

studied drama and sang in a
Filipino Top 40 band in San
Francisco.
He has considered going into
fields other than music.
"At one point I wanted to be a
computer engineer," he said.
But for eight years, he has per-
formed as a street musician in cities
all across the country.
His local fame includes appear-
ances on cable TV and interviews
with journalism students.
"Someone wrote a paper on why
people should tip the Bongo Man,"
Lampkin said.
Because he is a recovering drug
addict, Lampkin doesn't play at
events like the Hash Bash, a pro-le-
galization rally.
He said, "I have to stay away
from places where people are abus-
ing drugs."
He was convicted of cocaine de-
livery, spent one year in prison, and
underwent 18 months of treatment
at Clearhouse drug rehabilitation
center.
He has been clean for three
years now, but "(is) still paying
(his) 'debt to society.' Businesses
don't want to hire you if you've got
a record."
So to help make ends meet for
his two daughters, "I play about
three to five hours a day."
See DRUMMER, Page 11

9

/
/

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>

fIrt

ass

AUTUMN IN ANN ARBOR MEANS
concerts andifims in the evening,
long talks in espresso bars,
browsing and meeting friends

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