Performers playing a washboard, a ukulele and a couple of guitars joined to create toe-tapping music as the jaunty strains of "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?" wafted along Bedford Street on a sunny midweek afternoon.
"It's just a fun song to play," said Liam Nilsen, the ukulele player. Staked out on the sidewalk in front of All Things Floral, he and the rest of the quartet entertained passersby in hopes that they would drop a coin or two or more into an open guitar case.
It's called busking. To the uninitiated, the term means playing for money in public. Kirk Douglass explained the word as he and friends Cameron Lovejoy, Nilsen, and Nilsen's brother Ingmar took a break.
"I think it's an Old English term," Douglass said. "It used to describe magic shows."
According to buskerworld.com, the word busking was introduced into the English language in the 1860s. It was linked to the strolling performances of minstrels and troubadours. Used today, the term refers to street performers who entertain in an area frequented by pedestrians. Buskers hope their audiences will give tips in appreciation of the performance.
Liam Nilsen said that being able to play piano helped him learn ukulele. Lovejoy has played drums for seven years, his sole preparation for playing the washboard.
The Nilsen brothers live in Stamford. Lovejoy is from South Carolina, and Douglass hails from North Carolina. The four just ran into each other and leisurely got together to play and enjoy the day, they said.
"It's a lot of fun," Douglass said. "It's nice to do this every once in a while."
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