Oliver Brown is a singer-songwriter ukulele player described by the Good Times as Santa Cruz's small-time answer to Jonathan Richman. Performing since 1985, Oliver is best known for his range of lyrical content, his engaging performances, and his work in the local Santa Cruz music scene. He was the coordinator for the Big Bang Music Festivals and is the founder of WikiSCUM. He has released three 7" records and two CDs. In 1990, he was commissioned by the Children's Television Network to write a song for Sesame Street. He has opened for The Violent Femmes, Todd Rundgren and Will Oldham.
He originally attended Sarah Lawerence College, where he was a member of The Skinny Nervous Guys, The Tongues, and Tiny Navy. While living in New York, he played regularly at the Landmark Pub in Brooklyn (1989 to 1990). (see review below)
He lived in Santa Cruz from 1993 to 2006, where he completed his BA at UCSC in Political Science. During this time, he not only built a strong following as a solo musician, he also participated in two bands: No Kill I: The Next Generation and The Glenwoods.
He lived in Ithaca, New York with his wife for one year where he taught history at the local high school. They have since moved to Rochester.
Play a Ukulele, Go to Jail
On May 25, 1999, Oliver's ukulele show at So Say We was canceled by the police department. Not only did So Say We not have the correct permit, but Lt. Patricia Sapone said it was "also a public safety issue." In protest, Oliver moved his show that night to the steps of City Hall, where the weekly city council meeting was taking place. Fans who showed up at So Say We were given a souvenir program that explained the circumstances and provided a map to City Hall. The show received the attention of city council and the media, pushing the issue into the public eye. Oliver's efforts combined with efforts from other local musicians and business owners led to a change in the entertainment ordinances.
Rock That Uke
In 2001, a documentary called Rock That Uke was made concerning rock and roll ukulele performers across the United States and their "counter cultural, post-punk ethos." The crew came to Santa Cruz to interview Oliver only days after he'd gotten out of the hospital for kidney stones and blood poisoning. He was on major pain killers during the interviews. In reviewing the documentary, the Portland Mercury said Oliver's "open-mouthed geek songs are hilarious and dead earnest."
Santa Cruz Metro Awards
- 1999 - Bronze - Best Local CD - Oliver Eats Five Hot Dogs
- 2000 - Silver - Best local band/musician-folk
- 2001 - Silver - Best local Musician
- Vaya Con Queso 7" EP 1994 on King Turtle Productions
- Twist the Temptation - cassette tape released November 17, 1995
- Games Up The Street 7" EP 1995 on King Turtle Productions
- Kiss Someone 7" EP 1996 on A Bit Backwards records
- Oliver Eats Five Hot Dogs - CD released on King Turtle Productions, February 11, 1997
- The Great Egg Toss - CD released December 6, 1998