‘Large Furry Man with a Wee Cap' entertains students, arts fans

January 21, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

Big Gerry is an unlikely celebrity.

Dressed in blue denim overalls and a red plaid hat with white pompon, the self-described "kind of big" speaks in a gentle voice and bows to his audience.

Big Gerry, or Gerry Feher as he's also known, plays one mean hammered dulcimer, and the kids at McCabe School just south of El Centro couldn't get enough.

Before and after his performance there last Thursday, students lined up for Big Gerry's autograph.

"This is my favorite school. Man, I love this school; the kids are so great," Big Gerry said in such a genuine way you can't help but believe him.


Big Gerry stopped at McCabe during a weekend of events in the Imperial Valley. You may have seen his booth at the Fine Arts and Crafts Festival in Brawley, or performing his traditional Celtic and old-time American tunes at the Old Post Office Pavilion in El Centro Saturday night.

The hammered dulcimer, sort of a cross between a guitar and xylophone, has been Feher's ticket to limited but personally fulfilling musical success.

Before becoming a traveling musician on the arts and crafts festival circuit, Big Gerry held a variety of jobs from driving buses to cleaning windows and carpets.

"My first love has always been music," Big Gerry said after his McCabe performance.

"My friends in Mammoth laughed when I told them I was quitting my job to be a street musician," Big Gerry said of his 1995 career move.

That first summer, playing in Virginia City, Nevada, Big Gerry said he raked in $10,000 in just 10 weeks from tips and cassette sales.

Though unlike anything most people have heard, his first tape, entitled "Short for His Weight," sold well enough to persuade Big Gerry to continue with his dream.

Today Big Gerry has recorded several albums, now available on compact disc, with titles like "Large Furry Man with a Wee Cap," and "Mellow Big Fellow."

Despite Big Gerry's easy rapport with kids and their adoration of him, his music isn't geared specifically toward children or any other age group.

"It (Big Gerry's music) just feels wonderful to listen to," said Madeline Contreras, a substitute teacher at McCabe the day of Feher's visit.

Contreras bought two of Big Gerry's CD's. She said she planned to give one to a Celtic music loving friend and keep the other for herself.

Though his music is far from the mainstream pop tunes many kids listen to, Big Gerry's music and personality appeal to young listeners.

Kaylen Moreno, 7, calls herself a fan.

The McCabe second-grader liked Big Gerry's visit "cuz the music was very nice and interesting."

According to his Web site,, Big Gerry is "dedicated to passing on the history and performance of traditional American and Celtic music."

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3442.

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