This article was originally published Dec. 10, 2009.
As a traveling musician, Chicagoan Ted Wulfers has seen a lot of American cities. But only one has inspired him to write a song about it.
His new tune “San Luis Obispo” features a Jimmy Buffet vibe with lyrics that talk of partying on Higuera Street.
Wulfers isn’t the first to write a song about San Luis Obispo — Cal Poly grad Weird Al Yankovic paid tribute to SLO in his song “Take Me Down” — but he is the first to include a song about San Luis on a Christmas album.
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You can expect to hear Wulfers play “San Luis Obispo” and other tracks from “What Would Santa Do” at the Frog & Peach on Saturday.
Wulfers is a former philosophy major and high school baseball standout who received national media attention in 2008 after his gig at the Milwaukee Brewers’ park was canceled due to his previous performance of “Go Cubs Go.”
We spoke to him about the incident, the SLO song and the proper way to pronounce San Luis Obispo.
When you wrote the song, where were you?
I wrote the song, just kind of in my head, driving down to L.A. from a show (in San Luis Obispo).
So you were thinking about it so much on the drive ...
Yeah, I play in so many different towns — I’m just kind of always wandering. But I just wanted to document the good times of the town and to give a gift to all the good people there.
That could be a good promotional thing — just write a song about every city you play in.
I think Randy Newman beat me to that a little bit.
Has anybody corrected you on “San Louie Obispo” versus “San Luis Obispo”?
I got one e-mail about it. It’s funny — when I first wrote the song, I sent the song to a few friends of mine there, and they all loved it. I’ve heard around the country San Luis Obispo, I’ve heard San Lou-eece, and I’ve heard San Louie Obispo. I have to say the way I sing it is a little more harmonious. San Luis Obispo has a lot of S’s for radio.
I remember reading about the incident with the Cubs. You only did the chorus, right?
That was a trip. I sang the National Anthem up at Miller Park. Bob Uecker introduced me — it was great. There was such a reaction to my National Anthem, they said, “Why don’t we have your band play (at TGI Fridays, inside the park)? And we did, and we brought in the biggest crowd that we had had, and we sold thousands of dollars of beer for them, and everybody was having good times. So they booked us six or seven times a summer. And in July, we were playing the very last game of a Cubs-Brewers series. And the crowd was huge.
After the show, hundreds of people — and 99 percent of them were Cubs fans-- were shouting, “Play ‘Go Cubs Go!’ “ And for most of the set I was like, “We can’t do that — we’re in Miller Park. Relax — have a beer.” So finally the crowd got a little rowdy and was a little adamant about wanting to hear that song. So we did one chorus of it and were back to doing the original music.
And the Brewers came back and said, “What happened?” and I said I sang the chorus of “Go Cubs Go” to keep your beer-drinking crowd happy. So we go out West, play up and down California, including a Frog & Peach show that August. And we come back from the West Coast, and we’re about to play the last game of the year, which happens to be against the Cubs.
Well, they called me 60 hours before the show, saying, “We’re canceling you under fear and suspicion that you’re going to play ‘Go Cubs Go.’ And I said, “You can give me a contract, I will promise not to play the song. You can’t cancel a show of mine 60 hours before the last big weekend in September. We could have been playing in another state.”
The Chicago Tribune saw that we had canceled the show, and they were kind of suspicious, so they called me. Then the media blitz began.
I was reading that Chicago Tribune story, and I was totally in support of you. Then I read this quote from you: “I’ve been a Cubs fan and a Brewers fan all my life.” How is that possible?
My mom grew up in Milwaukee, and my grandfather was actually one of the team doctors for the (Milwaukee) Braves. And when we went to see the Cubs in spring training in Arizona, I actually batboyed for the Brewers a bunch during the Paul Molitor and Robin Yount years, so I got to know some of the Brewers players.