Five Firsts: Peggy Lecuyer of the Nellies

Peggy Lecuyer
Peggy Lecuyer

NAME: Peggy Lecuyer
BAND AFFILIATION: The Nellies is my beloved band.
INSTRUMENT: Mandolin & Voice

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … The first album I ever bought was Marshall Tucker’s Carolina Dreams. I played it over and over again and went out and bought the song book so I could learn “Heard It in a Love Song,” which was by far my favorite song on the album. Hmmm … I think I need to add that to our set list!

2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … On an annual basis, my mom and my grandmother took me to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra at SPAC. However, the first rock concert that I saw was Journey. It was 1978, also at SPAC. I was a senior in high school. I have to admit that I don’t remember much about the concert besides the fact that they played for free. I do remember that I was on a blind date with someone that my mother would never want me to be with, and I was very distracted. Something must have clicked though, because I did go out and buy Journey’s Infinity. Oh my goodness, now I have “…when the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the baaa-aay” in my head!

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … My first instrument was the guitar. When I was in second grade I had the most wonderful teacher; Miss Dunham. She was young, she had long, long brown hair and she would bring her guitar into class and sing us songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” I went home and begged my mother to get me a guitar. She bought me one using Green Stamps (remember those?). It was a wide-necked, cheapo nylon sting guitar.

She also bought me a vinyl record on how to play guitar. I remember placing the needle on the section where they would play the notes of each string a few times, and I would use that to tune the guitar. Oh – and a book with chord charts and simple songs like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” which I vividly recall singing over and over again, pausing as I manipulated my little fingers for each chord change. I am eternally grateful to my mother for that guitar, book and record!

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … I sang and played guitar in a folk group for many years during my teens, and the first song I performed solo was at age 15 during a performance of “Godspell.” It was the song “Bless the Lord.” What a great song! And believe it or not, I sang it from the inside of a large garbage can. As the piano intro played, I was literally in a garbage can (painted with bright flowers) with the lid shut. Just as the vocals started, they took off the lid and handed me the mic. I did jump out at one point and then ended the song back in the can with the lid shut on the last note. That was a great experience.

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … Oh boy. How do I make this a short answer? I was turned onto the mandolin around 1993 and was still just jamming acoustically and unplugged with friends playing Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and classic rock songs. This was fabulous and fun, but now, I really wanted to play bluegrass and get more “rootsy.” Meanwhile, my regular jammers were getting more bluesy and jazzy. Around 2000, I went cold turkey and stopped playing with my regular buddies and started my “quest for the next.” I jammed for a while with a bunch of fiddle players who turned me onto old-timey and traditional Irish tunes, which was a seriously gratifying rhythmic experience, but I needed to sing. Finally, one day in 2002, I got a phone call from someone telling me about an open bluegrass jam at the Ale House in Troy.

I stepped into my future and started playing plugged in with some terrifically talented pickers, songwriters and singers. There were a few band iterations thrown together for weddings or little festivals, and I did sit in with a couple bands who would add some of my songs to their set list, but I can’t say that I was “in” those bands. I will add that I am grateful to those who asked me to sing and play with them and those who coached me and showed me “the way” to playing live gigs. My first band was called the Twisted String Band. It was short lived, but it was a great band, and it paved the way for the band that I wanted and what I have today. We were roosty-bluegrassy-jammy-Americana! It was a large band to begin with that featured Mike McMann on electric guitar and vocals, Peter Bearup on acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals, GaryBob on banjo and vocals, Pete Vumbaco on drums, Gene Lemme on bass, Luke McNamee on saxophone and yours truly on mandolin and vocals. We scaled it back to Mike, GaryBob, Gene and I before I moved onto my next band, but we had some great gigs and some big fun. And the beat goes on…

Peggy Lecuyer straps on her mandolin for a pair of free shows with the Nellies this weekend. At 7pm on Friday (October 26), they’ll land at Druthers in Saratoga Springs. Then at 8pm on Saturday (October 27), the Nellies celebrate the first anniversary of their self-titled debut CD with a Halloween party and a blast of their “Americana-bluegrass with a rootsy, happy twist” music at Jose Malone’s in Troy.

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