With a ukulele, a Hawaiian shirt and pants of many colors, Owensboro native Mick Jeffries transforms his Lexington living room into a virtual stage every Friday.
Jeffries has adopted the persona of Mr. Toastey for his weekly, unscripted, kids-themed Facebook Live show — “Mr. Toastey’s Lunchtime Ukulele Singalong” — that has aired for the past six weeks.
“It’s a Friday-thing to say, ‘We did it again once again everyone; we got through another week of this. Let’s everyone celebrate by having a little singalong and getting a little bit silly at lunchtime on Friday — let’s give all of ourselves a pat on the back for getting through one more week of these extremely unusual, peculiar, scary, stressful and unnerving times.’ I try to talk to the kids a little bit about it.”
His wife, Lucy Points, also joins in as Ms. Meow, wearing an oversized cat mask. And their 8-year-old daughter, Libby Lee Jeffries, who goes by Double L, rounds out the cast.
Jeffries said he started the show — a byproduct of the novel coronavirus outbreak — to provide a positive and fun outlet for his daughter’s second-grade classmates at Maxwell Spanish Immersion Elementary School.
“…I was missing kids; I was missing teaching (ukulele) and I was particularly missing the second-graders at Maxwell for whom I would, from time to time, come in and perform in the afternoons,” Jeffries said. “And there’s just no better feeling than performing for a group of second-graders who think that you hung the moon — even if all you’re doing is playing ukulele and singing ‘Hound dog’ by Elvis Presley.”
Like so many during this time, Jeffries, a Lexington radio personality at WRFL 88.1-FM, is working from home, allowing him the time to create the virtual children’s program.
And in the beginning, Jeffries’ show was only airing to a private Facebook group page. He has since made it public to reach more children.
During the lunchtime performance, Jeffries not only plays the ukulele but sings various songs with lyrics consisting of “fried ham, cheese and bologna,” while throwing in voices such as an English accent, a cowboy, John Wayne and Elvis Presley.
Jeffries’ Facebook program could be considered a throwback to TV children’s shows such as “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Captain Kangaroo” and “The Peggy Mitchell Show” — a comparison he embraces.
And although Jeffries’ says he suffers from stage fright, it’s entertaining children that allows him to overcome it.
“In some ways, performing for kids frees me of a certain amount of stage fright,” Jeffries said. “Because on a certain level, I know they’re going to be delighted with almost whatever I do as long as I’m silly and don’t try too hard.”
While Jeffries enjoys and looks forward to his Friday Facebook live children’s show, he’s uncertain if he will continue it when it’s no longer necessary to remain at home to avoid COVID-19.
“There’s a part of me that would want to say I would love nothing more than to stop doing this, because that would mean we all got to return to our normal lives,” Jeffries said. “On the other hand, I’m not sure if we’re ever going to see anything like that (normal) again — some are starting to use the term ‘the new normal.’ And if that’s the case, and doing a weekly kids ukulele concert remains a regular part of my life, I could think of thousands of worse things.”
Don Wilkins, email@example.com, 270-691-7299