A potted history of the Big Muffin Serious Empire
 
The band formed in 1983 out of the first ever Hamilton City Council operated performing arts scheme. This PEP scheme involved providing free entertainment around Hamilton public spaces and schools. It was a poorly conceived and funded scheme, as evidenced by our original rehearsal space- the pig-penning area in the HCC owned A&P Showgrounds, and the pigs had only temporarily vacated the premises. 
The scheme was also poorly run; however, it was a great opportunity to meet other like-minded folk (such as flamboyant morning TV personality, Steven Gray). It was in one of the many dull moments where nothing was happening that original members Jim, Graeme and Ian Coldham-Fussell (Cutty) accidentally came up with the ukulele band idea. Its instant success was the result of some unique chemistry: Jim, a failed guitar hero who had self-ejected from a short stint in pub bands because he hated the music and pubs; Cutty, a superb keyboard player and genuine eccentric who had returned dejected and burnt out after an attempt to make it big in the Australian rock scene, and; Graeme, street performer and soon-to-be leader of the McGillicuddy Serious Party, who happened to own a ukulele and the Mel Bay book of ukulele chords. 
There were reasons for the band, other than convenience or boredom. Jim’s motive was musical revenge and exorcism; Cutty’s was the eternal quest for fame and fortune that had and would always elude him, and Graeme’s was to create public spectacle and finally get some use out of the ukulele lessons his parents had inflicted on him at school. The ukulele was the ideal instrument of choice because at that time it was so profoundly unpopular and almost universally despised after decades of languishing in kids’ toy boxes. The actual music in the repertoire had to conform to one of two criteria: either be ironically and humorously unsuited to the ukulele, or be obscurely interesting and at risk of fading forever into musical oblivion. Probably the only performance requirements were to be funny, interesting to watch, and uncool and unpredictable.

May 1983, first show at the Claudelands Showgrounds
The band performed their first gig at the Waikato Winter Show, May 1983, as Captain Cutty’s Two and a Half Horse Power No Ukes Electric Finger Symposium and Big Muffin Band. Predictably the name quickly got shortened, to Big Muffin Band (after a Frank Zappa tune) with the ‘Serious’ inserted to distinguish us from other ukulele groups of the time. This of course was a wee joke as there were no other ukulele groups around, and at that time we could see no reason why there ever would be another one. Little did we know.

Minutes later, same show
Band line-up has changed over the intervening years, but always revolving around Jim and Graeme (after the untimely death of Cutty). Almost immediately we added a tea-chest bass to the musical complement, and in 1986 we splashed out and added a 4th non-musical member of the band. This person was the ‘bottler’ and tasked with taking the hat around when we busked.  Naughty See Monkey was our first bottler. He could neither sing nor play an instrument, but in the quiet moments when we weren’t watching he would try doing both. He was a constant source of amusement and ultimately a most valuable band member. As the nature of our gigs moved away from busking Naughty slowly did less and less bottling and more and more daft stuff, especially his own style of ‘go-go’ dancing.
A pivotal moment was a chance visit to Whare Flats Folk Festival in 1986. We entered this festival in Dunedin as punters during a holiday jaunt with 10 others in an old Bedford van, but left with a firm foot in the folk music world (but still in our Bedford van), after an impromptu performance outside the food queue and then a spot on the main stage. From this followed several years of very successfully touring NZ folk clubs, universities and busking main streets with an increasingly tight and punchy busking outfit. 
A brief musical interlude: From the dark depths of the Internet
some footage of some much younger Muffins as a three piece at Whare Flats Folk Festival, 1985. All thanks to video skills of Chris Priestly. The song is Five Foot 2, featuring some nice if somewhat chaotic solos, especially Keith MacMillan on teachest bass.












Through having meticulously retained our musical and popular obscurity over the intervening years it has given us the freedom to try all sorts of interesting side projects. In the late ‘80s a couple of one-off shadow puppet performances led to an interesting year touring a similar show in schools; we started a ukulele orchestra in 1998, The Serious Ukulele Ensemble, which has gone on to record three albums and is still happily providing musical relief for the couple of dozen participants; and from a chance visit to the tiny European state of Ukestan in 2009, we have explored the rich history of Eastern ukulele music through the group Goulash Archipelago. Furthermore, we continue to create and perform various irreverent one-off shows (eg The Complete History of Music, The Ukulele Alternative Top 40 , The Hamilton International Ukulele Experiment (with Azo Bell and Uni and Her Ukulele), The HamilTRON Bluegrass Experiment (with The Trons and Hamilton County Bluegrass Band). Other random stuff includes performing entire shows on stilts, submitting cover songs for compilation CD’s Nature’s Worst Vol 2 and Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People, regularly participating in Hamilton’s Circle Jerk, and conducting ukulele and other nonsensical workshops. Today, we are still actively involved in shows, workshops and festivals throughout New Zealand. 
Some moments:
•	Winning the Battle of the Buskers at the Gluepot Tavern in 1985
•	Whare Flats Folk Festival, 1986-87
•	A guest appearance on Spot-On kids’ show in 1987
•	Recording of vinyl album Jabberwocky Goes To town, 1987
•	Student Arts Council tours of NZ, ‘86 & ‘87
•	Busking in London and Bath in the UK, 1989 (It is amazing how hard it is to travel on the underground with a tea-chest bass.)
•	Meeting some youthful members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain in London, 1989, both groups realising they were no longer alone in the ukulele wilderness.
•	Part of the McGillicuddy Travelling Road Show, 1990
•	Touring schools with multi-media shadow puppet play ‘The Eggplant that ate Otago’, 1994
•	Recording of CD Heavens to Murgatroyd, 2000
•	Visit to Ukestan as guests of Mikhail Ukuleles, 2009
•	Small chaotic set at the Paris Ukulele Hui, 2010
 Appeared on television documentary Bill Sevesi’s Dream, 2011
 Played at Melbourne Ukulele Festival, 2013
Festivals:
Whare Flats Folk Festivals
Marlborough Wine and Food Festivals
Nelson and Blenheim Arts Festival 
White Cliffs Festivals
Wellington Fringe Art Festival
National Folk Festivals
Flock House Music Festival
The Dunedin Fringe Art Festival
The Hamilton Fringe Festivals
Auckland Ukulele Festival
Titirangi Music Festival
Katikati Ukulele Festival
Hamilton Acoustic Music Festivals
Hamilton Gardens Summer Festivals
Coromandel Ukulele Festival
Littleweed Festival
Oparau Music Festival
Te Pahu Rock Festival
Jig on Sunday Festivals
The Wellington Folk Festival
The Auckland Folk Festival
Melbourne Ukulele Festival
Geraldine ukulele Festival (2014 & 2016)

Some past and present band members or people who have played with us are:
Musicians:
Jim Fulton (present member)
Graeme Cairns (present member)
Ian Coldham-Fussell
Mark Walls
Chris Allen
Keith MacMillan
Peter Caldwell
Paul Van Wering
Steve Matich
Jeff Howell
Mathew Shirley
Bevan Galbraith (present member)
Tony Wyeth 
Paul Tregilgas 
James Sutherland (present member) 
Nick Clothier
Adam Fulton

Dancers, visual enhancers, specialist musos etc
The Naughty See Monkey
Alec Forbes
Bryce Galloway
Trudy Kendall
Droid (Adrian Holyroyd)
Adrienne Carthew
Craigie Beere
Donald Nicholls