Former judge makes ukulele CD in support of library

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2004

HOMER - Little did Pat Boone, an actor and singer who made female hearts flutter in the 1950s, know that his smooth singing style and artful strumming of a baritone ukulele would one day inspire a fund-raising effort for Homer's new public library.

But it has, said singer-songwriter Jim Hornaday, who was a state judge here from 1976-1990.

"When I was in high school, Pat Boone put out a movie, 'Bernadine,' and he played a baritone ukulele and he got all the girls," Hornaday recalled.

Did Hornaday enjoy the same results? "Sometimes it worked. Sometimes, it didn't," he said.

Now, Hornaday is using his talent in support of Homer's library project, through the sale of "Gentle Memories," a compact disc that spotlights Hornaday singing and playing on 16 original tunes, and sells for $10.

Having the CD available at fund-raising events has caught the public's attention, and its popularity has resulted in additional printings.

Far from the technology of a recording studio, Hornaday opted for the clarity of sound offered by his bathroom.

"I didn't have any upfront money, and I needed a place with good acoustics. And, the bathroom was good and actually had a chair in it," he said.

His cost-conscious approach also affected selection of his recording equipment.

"I went down to Ulmers and bought one of their boom boxes that you could play, as well as record. I think it cost $40," he said. "I fiddled around with it, but I'm not very mechanical. In fact, I'm totally nonmechanical."

After figuring out the system of buttons and switches, he tried recording one song, worried about how he "was going to sound because when you think of ukulele, you think of something dorky."

The result got a passing grade, "so, I just kept going," he said.

Sixteen songs later, Hornaday has a homegrown, or "Homer-grown," hit.

The lyrics for several songs are Hornaday's tribute to individuals important in his life. And the connection to Boone is evident in "Yesteryear," which Hornaday dedicates to his memories of the 1950s.

The best-known song on the CD is "Kachemak Bay," or, as Hornaday calls it, "Come Back Home to Kachemak Bay," which has sheet music.

"I wanted to start and end with Kachemak Bay," he said of the order in which the songs were recorded. "It's really a marvelous body of water. A unique part of our Alaska."

Hornaday's interest in the bay takes over where Boone's influence leaves off.

"My little house looks over the bay," he said. "I sit in my recliner chair and the songs just sort of come to me."

Many copies of "Gentle Memories" have become gifts to Hornaday's family members and acquaintances. He also said he's sold enough to give several hundred dollars to the library.

"He has been a terrific library supporter, as have so many people in this community," said Helen Hill, library director. "It's been really wonderful to have him onboard."

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