Meet the Elderberrees

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ELDERBERREES: Top, Donna Joerg and Coco Blood, entertain at the Matata Hotel. Photo Paula Massey D4890-05

YOU may have seen and heard the United States singing duo Elderberrees busking at markets over the last few months – Donna Joerg on guitar, harmonica and vocals and Coco Blood on washboard, drums and rattle.

Their easy-listening folk tunes have earned them quite a following already and they’re loving their time in the Eastern Bay.

The Elderberrees play originals and what Donna describes as “cover keepers” – the songs she tries to keep alive from her own mentors like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.

“But right now; the originals, I can’t hold them back. They’re coming like fire,” she says.

Donna has been a musician for 40 years, playing music and writing songs, and says she is just getting around to doing it all the time now.

“I like busking; it’s a nice way to reach people – heart to heart – and markets are our favourite place to play because they celebrate people growing their own food and they seem to catch on easily to the music and the worlds of the songs.

Donna is originally from Kentucky and Coco from New Hampshire but most recently they’ve been living in Vermont. Donna says they’re in New Zealand catching up with family, seeing grandchildren and experiencing the Eastern Bay hospitality, which they’ve greatly enjoyed.

Since arriving in December, they’ve played at the Ohope Craft Market, the Whakatane Berry Festival, the Matata Hotel, outside The Drift coffee container and, last weekend, at the Papamoa markets.

The reception they’ve received everywhere has been warm and welcoming and Donna is quick to thank the people of Matata and Whakatane in particular for their open hearts.

Rod’s washboard gig

When Rod “Fingers” Smith saw The Elderberrees playing at the Ohope Craft Market – and noticed their washboard – as a fellow washboard player he had to stop for a chat.

Fast forward a week and he found himself playing washboard alongside the women at their Matata Hotel gig.

Rod lives in Auckland now but hails from the Eastern Bay and returns regularly.

He was a member of the Embassy Dance Band in the 1960s, alongside the likes of the Brabant brothers, Lenny Broadmore and Johnny Arbuckle.

They used to play gigs all over the Eastern Bay, including the Ohope Beach dances.
Back in those days there was a dance every weekend and they played a circuit.

“At the beach dances in Ohope they wouldn’t let you in if you had shoes on,” he remembers. “And the women would spend a week making a frock to wear.”

Rod played drums but eventually opted for a more portable instrument.

“I decided that carting my drum kit was not viable so I decided to play the washboard as rhythm backing.”

Googling washboards, he learned that the Stradivarius of washboards was the Zinc King Lingerie washboard and what a surprise he got when he came across one for 25 cents at a garage sale in the United States.


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