709 Washington Street, Durham, North Carolina 27701

The Nee Ningy Band

March 19, 2016  ·  4-6pm/NO Cover

If a band is defined more by its sound than by its songs, then the Nee Ningy Band was in a class by itself. Most old-time or blues bands, while unique in their own way, sound at least a little like every other old-time or blues band. While the musical influences on the Nee Ningy Band are easy to distinguish—blues, Cajun, Celtic, and so on—they just didn’t sound like anyone else. Not then, not since.

That “Nee Ningy sound” could be heard on college campuses, at street fairs, and at music festivals from New England to North Carolina between 1978 and 1981, though the band existed under other aliases and with variable personnel before, during, and after that time. For instance, on “Wild Hog in the Woods,” the last cut of the Field Recorders’ Collective disc of the Nee Ningy Band, three of the core members perform with an extended group and go by the name of the Smiling Dog Band. Since then, individual members have played in various groups with names like 100th Monkey, the Whompers, Big Blow and the Bushwackers, Twang, and others.

But back when they were still the Nee Ningy Band, they performed about a dozen times in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. They played venues like the famed Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill (when it was still in the back alley) and the Apple Chill street festival; at Brother Yusef’s cool and jazzy Salaam Center in Durham and at St. Joseph’s Performance Center, also in Durham. It was a time when the local acoustic scene was dominated by such acts as the Red Clay Ram­blers and Mike Cross.

How did the band acquire its mysterious name? It seems they were per­forming some Irish and Appalachian tunes somewhere when an older gentleman approached them. He said something to this effect: “All that fiddle music sounds the same­ to me,” and holding his arms up as if to play air-fiddle, he continued, “—it all sounds like ‘nee-ningy nee-ningy nee-ningy nee-ningy.’”

The name stuck.

Or as the band itself might say: Neeee NINGEEEEE!!