Mark 'Spanky' Gutierrez's Blog

It's Me.. Honest Its Me!!

Archive for the category “4 Strings of Swing”

Christmas time is here!!

Time’s fun when you’re having flies! Wow, I am amazed at how quickly time seems to pass. Life has been great for me and my family. We have a beautiful little addition this year and it makes Christmas feel so special. I love the fall, Thanks Giving and Christmas it seems to bring out the best in everybody.

In celebration of Christmas and the Holiday season, I decided to put up two new Christmas Ukulele Transcriptions. White Christmas and Christmas Island, are two great songs for the season. White Christmas is such a classic Christmas song and Christmas Island is just perfect on the ukulele. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

White Christmas – White Christmas
Christmas Island – Christmas Island

Peace to all and to all a good night!
Mark “Spanky” Gutierrez


2013 Lone Star Ukulele Festival

Another great festival! Noel Tardy put on a great festival once again. It’s always so nice to re-connect with old friends and connect with new friends. So, many cool things happened this weekend! Meeting the Barn Kickers was definitely one of them. Steve and Amanda are wonderful musicians and they are wonderful people! My only regret is that we did not have more time to jam together! The other magical moment was a dinner after the performance on Saturday night. Mark and Kathy Lavine hosted a little gathering that ended up being a little jam and great after party!

I taught an advanced finger picking class, a class on dressing up your songs, and a masters class. The masters class was definitely was my favorite. JD and Heather assisted with the class. This class gives people a chance to perform a song and then be given constructive criticism. The festival did not have an open mic this year so this gave those that wanted to perform a stage.

It’s always amazing how much talent is in the ukulele community. We heard songs in Hebrew, originals and a cover from Hall and Oats! They all were amazing and everyone brought great ideas on how to improve each others performance. The ukulele community is awesome about sharing. They will do anything to help a fellow ukester out.

If you were there, thanks so much for coming! and if you were not, please consider attending a ukulele festival soon. It’s a great way to meet other uke players, it’s always good time and it provides great instruction that you may not be able to find anywhere else.

I hope to see you soon!!

Mark Spanky Gutierrez

A Year Went By?

Well how did a year go by with out a post? It’s crazy CRAY ZEE!!

We (the 4 Strings of Swing) are headed down to Dallas for yet another great festival. It’s always an interesting time trying to prepare for these kind of events. We have band rehearsals, creating the documentation for classes, then we have meetings to review our lesson plans, and then packing, clothes and gear. Double checking the gear and batteries, OMG don’t forget spare FRESH batteries!

But… all in all its way worth it. I love going to these events. The ukulele players are the best group of folks you could ask to hang out with. Ukers are so excited to learn something new or to share what they know. They are equally excited with the person playing Bach as they are with the person that just learned their first C chord. It’s a wonderful environment.

If you are not a uker… come join the ranks! and if you are a uker … head out to a festival or two this year. You will love it!!


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

2011 Ukulele Hoopla Review

The Ukulele Hoopla came and went like a crazy anxiety dream that had a story book ending. This was our real first go of it and I was so pleased with the results. I have so many people to thank.

We had participants from KC, Lincoln, Omaha, Missouri, and JAPAN. No, I am not kidding some folks came all the way from Japan to our Ukulele Hoopla in Omaha Ne. We had an ice breaker/jam the night before the hoopla. It was so nice to have the artists and some of the participants bust out the ukes and howl at the moon. I would have to say the folks from KC really went all out and made the night. It was a great way to start off the evening.

The day of the Hoopla got started pretty early for the staff and artists. We were all on site by 08:00 AM and as Pop’s said, thats no time for a musician to be up! The sign in table ran like clock work and we were pleasantly surprised by the attendance numbers.

The artists all gave classes during the day and from the feedback we got most of them were very well received. We also had one section of the day set aside for a question and answer session. I think that might have been my favorite. Great questions and very helpful answers. That was really a lot of fun.

The concert was awesome and way TOO long. After such an action packed day a 2.5 hour concert was way too much but to be honest I loved every minute of it. I had invited so many of my dear friends to come perform. It was like a dream come true to see everybody on stage, right here in my home town. Everybody sounded great, the top moments for me were:

Rebecca Lowry, busts out with a full band and melts a room full of hearts with those silly little love songs

Kimo Hussey, just lets that uke ring out arrangement after arrangement that all say “aloha my dear friends”

Pop’s pulls a ballad out that he wrote about the civil war. I nearly cried, great song writing and really great delivery

Brook Adams, has this crazy little shark song that just had me in stitches.

Then I finally got to take the stage, with my band mates Heather, JD and Mike. It seemed so strange to be on the UNO stage with my buds. I remember looking back over my shoulder at Mike our drummer, he had his jam face on and when our eyes locked for a just a second, he blew me a kiss. I damn near dropped my uke. I just had to laugh.

The night was over and we packed it all up in 30 minutes and it was over. Months of planning, months of talking about it and then it was just over. I had that feeling of shock for about a month after the event but now, when I think about it, I get that little grin and a  desire to do it all again.

Some special “mahalo” goes out to the Omaha Creative Institute. They were with me every step of the way. We did all of our planning and then they executed with amazing accuracy. Susan and Leigh from OCI are the best team I could have asked for. The artists that came out really did a fine job. Thanks so much to Kimo, Pops, Brook, Rebecca and my dear friends JD, Heather and Mike. If I ever get to share a stage again, I hope you are all on the same bill. What would it be without the participants? You all were great, thanks for showing up and making it just a wonderful time.

We will do it next year? Stay tuned… and keep a little time on your September 2012 calendar free!



Uke Hoopla … HERE WE COME!!

There is so much going on… My head is in a spin. There’s plane tickets to bring folks in, hotel reservations, registrations, workshop notes, vendor tables, lunches for everybody, venue, venue insurance, social media, old fashion media, but you know what?? ITS ALL COMING TOGETHER, JUST LOVELY!!

Ya, the Uke Hoopla is right around the corner 9/24/2011 please click here for more information.

I am so excited for the Uke Hoopla, we are just headed down the right road to have a wonderful time with some of the best folks that the Ukulele world has to offer. Kimo, Pops, Brook, Rebecca, JD and Heather are all wonderful teachers and performers. I am so pleased to have them on board this year. We are bound to have a great time. 

I hope if your reading this you will find your way to Omaha on 9/24/2011. If your a uke player, your going to love the workshops during the day. If your a music lover, the show will nock your socks off. Rebecca’s heart felt songs, Pops wit, Kimo’s smooth playing, Brooks arrangements, and the Jazz from the 4 strings of swing will not disappoint.

Somebody asked me the other day why I would put on such an event. My answer: The following people put me on a path Byron Yasui, Benny Chong, Brian Tolentino, Asa Young, Mike DaSilva, James Hill, John King, Pops Bayless, Kimo Hussey, Brook Adams, Lil Rev, and so many more and that path has given me great joy. Kimo’s motto is “the music is meant to be shared”, I just want to live up to and share the kindness and great instruction that has been given to me. 

Life is meant to be lived. Lead with your heart my friends. The ukulele is a humble instrument but within a very short time you will find that it will liberate the music in your soul. Don’t believe me.. come give it a try at the Ukulele Hoopla.


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez



















New Uke Projects!!

Wow, what a weekend! Well it seems the old saying “when it rains it pours” is spot on. The next couple of months have the 4 Strings of Swing cooking!!

This last weekend the band and Red Orchid Productions helped put together another instructional ukulele video. This one is all based on chord theory and where to put all them fancy chords on your ukulele!! We had a ball shooting the video, Erma and Studig kept us all in stitches for the weekend. There were several times that we cracked the camera man up and had to re-shoot the scene. It was a wonderful laugh, and it just couldn’t have been any better. Tory and Annie Hooton of Red Orchid Productions did a wonderful job planning and it certainly paid off! WELL DONE BRAVO!!

Next weekend 8/19 and 8/20 we are paying for our favorite little restaurant Espana, in Benson. Then on Sunday we are off to play for Jack Clark the plains ukulele builder!! It’s going to be another full weekend!!

September has a few gigs lined up too, a music festival in Iowa, Wedding in Omaha and……

Of course we are still pouring hours of work into shaping the Uke Hoopla. The date for the uke festival here in Omaha Nebraska is set for 9/24/2011. Mark your calendars and check it out at

If your looking for good video check out Red Orchid Productions at

And for great photo work check out Hooton Images at

Special thanks to Tory, Annie, Heather and JD, you all are the best!! In the words of my immortal grandmother “thanks be to God!”


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

4 Strings of Swing – Play for a Wedding

4 Strings of Swing got to play for a wedding last weekend. We played for the mass and the cocktail hour. The music for the mass included Canon in D, Ave Maria, formal Catholic mass parts, and Jazz standards for prelude and postlude music.

The bride requested Molokai Morning for her entrance. I was so honored, that she would choose a song that I had composed. I think I spoke about this in an earlier post but just to recap that song was a working morning meditation at the Hui Ho’olana on Molokai last winter. It came to me as the sun peaked up over the East side of the Island.


Hui Ho'olana

I reflected on the brides request it hit me that the meditation was a song poem. One that was made to reflect the sunrise. The event that gives me hope for a new beginning. That’s what triggered this thought that maybe just maybe the true meaning of this song was so appropriate for a wedding, a new beginning a giant act of faith in what is to come. I was very very honored.

We also played for the cocktail hour and the brides mother had requested some Hapa Haole music. Now, coming from Omaha Nebraska…that’s not an everyday request! So we worked up a handful of the most popular tunes and inserted them into our set of Jazz and Latin standards along with a few Beatles and Bob Marley tunes (for good measure of course). It turns out that the brides mom was raised on Maui and she danced the hula to two tunes for us! She was wonderful and it really made the event special. There were quite a few folks from Maui there too and we could see their ears perk up as we got into the Hawaiian tunes.

All and all it was a great experience. And a very special wish to Stacey and Chad, may the morning sun always great you with kindness.

Peace and Love

Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

Oh, if your interested in buying the CD with Molokai Morning on it it can be found here:

4 Strings of Swing Store

Molokai Sky

Great Sky at Molokai









Ukulele Slogan Contest… Win a Cigar Box Ukulele!!

NEW CONTEST!! We’re designing 4SOS t-shirts and stickers for our new online store and we want your help! Come up with a snappy ukulele slogan (i.e. “life’s better w/ 4 Strings”, “live ukulele”, etc.) by July 25 and post it to our wall. The slogan can have 4



Strings of Swing in it or not. We would also love to see slogans that represent the Ukulele Life Style.

1st place will receive a cigar box ukulele and the first printed t-shirt!

2nd – 5th places will receive their saying on a sticker and the first sticker hot off the press!

Come participate at…


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

Spanky’s Ukulele DVD

The production company put together a behind the scenes view of my Ukulele Finger Picking DVD …

Spanky DVD

Hey... talk louder Spanky!

Check it out:

If you are interested in buying it… click on the following link and go to the  “store”.


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

Dallas, new CD, new DVD… 2011

Well 2011 has been a wild ride so far! The 4 strings of swing have produced a new CD and helped me to produce my first Ukulele Instructional DVD. We made our way out to Mike DaSilva’s for a great “Day in the Shop” and we wandered ourselves down south to the Dallas Ukulele Festival “Back to Bach”.

It has always been my belief that anything is possible. This little mantra of mine seems to have worked its way into my music as well. When Noel called us and said we want you to do some classical music, Heather’s first response was lets do some Opera! and the rest is history. We performed a piece called “O Mio Babbino Caro” from the opera Gianni Schicchi 1918. It was the highlight of the weekend for me. It was the accumulation of a life time of study and incomprehensible coordination between 3 people. Heather did the initial review of the score and gave JD and I a frame work to play in. After a few rehearsals we started discussing the intended harmonies and altered them a bit. Normally for a piece like this we would follow the conductor but sans conductor we follow Heather. She set the pace and the tone for the piece. It took JD and I some time to learn to follow instead of lead. Once we got the hang of it. The song took flight. It turned out to be a great work and the audience truly got to experience the depth of Heathers voice, a new facet for the ukulele, and the fullness that the upright bass brings. It was great to be a part of it.

The festival was a real success. There is still quite a bit of buzz on facebook. As a performer and teacher, I would have to say that it was an incredible weekend. Mike Lynch made a statement that rings so very true “the uke players here are surprisingly advanced” and it was very true. The students in texas were amazing they all seemed to be able to keep up with me and second guess the application of the lesson. It was wonderful to work with such enthusiastic folks.

The CD turned out great. I am very grateful to have gone to Hawaii this year. It inspired the title and a track on our new CD Molokai Morning. JD and Heather really spiced the tune up with their parts. JD even added a chord to the chorus and it made a huge improvement. The song was inspired by the rising sun over the island of Molokai. My bed faced the West and if I was not in time to see the sunrise, I could view it from my bunk. The whole experience was wonderful. The rest of the CD has tunes that are our favorites. We have been so lucky to have a regular gig at España (a little tapas bar in Omaha). Carlos the owner hires us once a month to play. This is where we get to hone our chops and learn to listen to each other. This might be one of our greatest strengths in my humble opinion. When you listen to your band mates and pick up on subtle changes in what they are doing … you get the chance to really collaborate. Any time we do this the tune always turns out bigger and better.

If you are interested in CD or DVD please check out


Mark ‘Spanky’ Gutierrez

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