Sounds of music and laughter waft down Willamette Main Street every Wednesday afternoon when Mr. Hoo, the music man, leads a children’s sing-a-long from 3 – 4 pm at Bullseye Coffee.
Mr. Hoo is half of the duo “The Alphabeticians” who play upbeat songs for children – the sillier the better, just the way kids like them. To understand their music, the duo suggests imagining “They Might Be Giants” meeting “The Velvet Underground” meeting “Schoolhouse Rock.”
When not performing original tunes like the catchy “Hoo’s Afraid of the ABCs”, “Monkey on My Shirt,”, or “When I Throw Up”, Mr. Hoo is West Linn resident and dad Jeff Inlay. After he and his friend Mr. E (Eric Levine of finger-painting fame) became fathers, they determined to make better music than the entertainment available for their kids. Fan drawings posted on their colorful website are testament to their popularity. And for parents eager to chronicle tyke talents on a CD, Mr. Hoo has a portable recording studio he can bring to homes to record their children performing.
Mr. E has previously played in Portland 90’s sensation Hummingfish and the Southern California punk band the Mendicant Sauciers. While he says he’s quite sure he never played with Led Zeppelin, he and Mr. E have also been featured in The Fundada Five, Lump of Food and The _ Experience.
While familiar with the alphabet for most of his 47 years, Mr. Hoo only recently grew to love and perform it. Apparently it comes with the territory of being a dad. In fact, a popular song title is “Up with Daddy.” Mr. Hoo says the duo’s kids – known as the mini-alphabeticians – provide inspiration for their songs. “Other than being a dad, being a kid’s musician is the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “Watching kids rock out, dance, and sing along to my songs, and watching their parent’s reactions, is immensely satisfying, and a ton of fun.”
Bullseye Coffee House owner Linda Neace knew the group played clubs and cafes in Portland and decided it was time for West Linn to enjoy the quirky beats, hand bell ringing and guitar strumming. “The music is awesome,” she says. So far, families from Oregon City, Clackamas and Lake Oswego are listening to Mr. Hoo. “I want to build up his following here,” says Neace, adding that it’s also a terrific way to build up business in Willamette on Wednesdays.