Nephews spread joy through music

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BROTHERS – Tim and Byron Joseph, who make up two-thirds of the popular singing group The Nephews, really can’t remember a time when music wasn’t part of their lives.

The cousins ​​grew up next to each other as part of a large, music-oriented family. Some of their earliest memories are of going to church on Sundays with the family at the Brethren Church in Onekama where music played a big part in their services.

It helped instill in both of them a lifelong love and appreciation of music. Singing was a creative outlet that brought great joy to each of them.


Tim and Byron Joseph couldn’t help but smile a little as they recalled The Nephews’ first performance when they played together 62 years ago for Junior Clio Club at Onekama. Many songs later, they still entertain the audience with their sweet harmony. They are probably the oldest musical group in Manistee County.

“We were 10…when we first played together,” Tim Joseph said. “One of the ladies told me not too long ago that our voices were so high we sounded like Mickey Mouse. I remember we sang a song and ran away.

Besides the family’s interest in music, Tim Joseph said getting his first instrument helped him develop his enthusiasm for music.

“I don’t remember exactly when we got into music because it started for me when I bought my cousin a ukulele for 35 cents,” he said. “Later, when Byron and I kept doing it, we finally got guitars.”

Byron Joseph said that as a child he spent a lot of time at Tim’s house and that helped draw them both into world music and wanting to perform.

“My mom worked so I spent a lot of time with them and we just grew up together,” Byron Joseph said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever thought about not doing things together.”

Since they were cousins ​​and a close-knit family, the name The Nephews naturally followed the name of the band with the older parents when they started performing more in public.

Tim Joseph believes that being around family members who had a strong appreciation for music also helped spark his personal interest in it.

“In our family there was a tradition of knowing a lot of songs and poems and such, so we had that background,” he said. “Folk music was interesting to us because it spoke to all aspects of the human condition and told stories.”

Byron Joseph agreed that being drawn to music was the same for him.

“I had a natural affinity for music because our families are both musical and my mother sang and played the piano,” he said. “My sister played the piano and my father had a wonderful bass voice. We went to Brethren church and they loved to sing so I grew up with music all around me.

They said this kind of stuff drew them to music and their desire to play it for others.

“That’s where we got into besides listening to songs on old records and things like that,” Tim Joseph said.

The band plays a wide variety of music that appeals to all kinds of people, including folk songs, old time country, rock and roll, jazz, and country blues.

“It’s a bit of everything, but it’s mostly folk music,” said Tim Joseph.

Several years ago, The Nephews became a trio, adding bassist and vocalist Marlene Wood. Tim Joseph plays guitar and five-string banjo, while Byron Joseph plays guitar and harmonica.

“Marlene was interested in playing with us, but for the past few years because of COVID we’ve stayed home and haven’t played much,” said Tim Joseph. “I have a lot of grandchildren and I still make a lot of music with them.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are not performing as well as they used to. The two said they love standing in front of a crowd and playing their music.

“I love sharing the stories in songs and people appreciate that,” Tim Joseph said. “That’s especially true for rural-type audiences who enjoy the kind of music we make, because it’s not very loud. When you’re playing, if there’s even one person in the audience who’s smiling and enjoying, that’s all it takes.

Byron Joseph agreed that the feedback they receive from the public is always nice.

“There’s the aspect of gratification when you do something for someone and they appreciate it enough to applaud you or walk out the next time you play,” he said. “That’s a big part of that and another thing is being able to play music in front of people. I can play for myself in the basement, but that’s a whole other thing in front of a crowd. call my favorite drug and just something we have to do.

They both enjoy the one-on-one connection with an audience that is there to listen to their music. The style of music they perform appeals to a specific audience that appreciates music with a message or story.

“It’s not funny at all when you’re playing somewhere and no one is listening to you because you’re just background music,” said Byron Joseph. “It’s true that connecting one-on-one is a lot more fun.”

Between Byron and Tim Joseph, they have a repertoire of hundreds of songs they’ve performed over the years.

“These are songs we’ve learned over the years and it’s pretty unique,” said Tim Joseph. “Sometimes we pull something out of the hat that we haven’t played in 20 or more years, and Marlene is a real cast who plays the game no matter what we play. This bag of songs is really precious to me because most of them were learned when I was younger.

He said a lot of these songs have special meanings and messages, which isn’t for everyone, but something they love to do.

Like most musical groups, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited their performance opportunities for the past two years, but they hope that will change in the coming year.

“It would be nice to be back on stage because last year we were only in the Arcadia Daze Parade and we performed for Brethren Days, as we have done every year for a long time,” Byron said. Joseph.

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