If The Ultrasonic Duo was going to do a tribute show, it was only natural for them to salute Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers.
For one thing, The Ultrasonic Duo is a twosome that emphasizes vocal harmonies, just like the Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel. And Don D. Harvey and Greg Grokowsky already had a good share of songs in their Ultrasonic repertoire from the other two duos.
Then there is the connection between the Everly Brothers and Simon and Garfunkel. In 1957, the same year that Phil and Don Everly topped the charts with “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up, Little Susie,” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel made the charts at age 15 with “Hey Little Schoolgirl,” recording as Tom and Jerry. The Everly Brothers influence in Tom and Jerry’s one and only hit is inescapable, from the close harmonies to the herky-jerky guitar accents.
Grokowsky recalls going to a Simon and Garfunkel concert on their 2003 Old Friends Tour, and right in the middle of the show they bring out the Everly Brothers. “They brought them on as their idols,” Grokowsky said.
Harvey and Grokowsky might share the affinity for harmonies with the more famous duos, but they get along much better. “I think the common sensibility of being school teachers has something to do with it,” Harvey said. “You know how to be diplomatic and not fly off the handle.”
The two taught together for years at Holmen High School, first meeting when Grokowsky was a student and Harvey was a young teacher there. Harvey, who has retired from teaching, was moonlighting in bands back then, and Grokowsky used to go see him play. Grokowsky even tried to hire Harvey’s best known band, Tennessee, to play at his wedding, but the band broke up just before he was to get hitched.
When Grokowsky came back to Holmen High School to teach biology, their classrooms were across from each other, and they often talked music. They discovered a shared love of The Byrds, although they came at it from different angles, with Harvey favoring the band’s later country-rock phase and Grokowsky leaning toward the earlier folk rock.
Grokowsky was an accomplished guitar player (he especially likes surf rock), but had never played in a band before. He’d been watching Harvey perform solo over the years, thinking it looked like fun, and finally about six years ago they formed The Ultrasonic Duo.
Early in their partnership, after digging into The Byrds’ catalog, they started adding Simon and Garfunkel and Everly Brothers songs. “It was a good fit for us,” Grokowsky said. “
They have an incredibly varied song list up to about 300 these days — 500 if you count the other songs they know but haven’t done together yet — and since November when they decided to do the tribute show, they’ve added 13 or 14 new ones.
The tribute show will lean a little more heavily toward Simon and Garfunkel songs and tunes from Simon’s solo days. There will be plenty of Simon-penned hits, like “Mrs. Robinson,” “Homeward Bound,” “The Boxer,” “The 59th Street Bridge Song” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” which makes good use of Harvey’s world-class whistling skills.
But they also will dig deep into the catalogs to come up with songs that will surprise people. “My nature is to go for that song that people probably haven’t heard in a while,” Grokowsky said. “I was always impressed with the band that played the B side. That’s the reaction that I like.”