Mr. December is a Folk-Stomp band from Sonoma County, CA, with Jimmy
Horn on ukelele & banjo, Andy Tester on upright bass, Jesse Shantor
on saxophone and Scott Knippelmeier on trombone. Blending sounds of
old-time, rag, bluegrass, swing, country and folk, colored with a punk
rock edge, Mr. December brings a unique flavor to the Sonoma County
Jimmy and Andy met in 1996 in Sonoma County and started playing the type
of crappy music that young men sometimes find themselves playing (Chai
Pai, Piper Down, The Bionic Band, LeeMaj7). After lugging around heavy
amps and making people deaf at 11 on a Tuesday night, they found
themselves drawn towards the types of instruments they could bring out
into the fields of the farms they lived on. Jimmy had been messing
around with a banjo for a bit during the final days of The Bionic Band;
the beginnings of Mr. December can be heard at the end of The Bionic
Band’s album “No Means Friends” with a bluegrass version of “Little
In 2003, Andy found himself an upright bass and started sitting in with
local songwriters such as David Luning, Alison Harris and Daryl Scariot.
On one of his annual surf trips to Mexico, Jimmy was given a ukelele by
Shawn Magee of The Barbery Ghosts. Upon Jimmy’s return, they started
writing goofy songs and reconfiguring some of their punk songs to
bluegrass. Mr. December was born.
Originally a duo, Mr. December started gigging heavily throughout the
Bay Area, playing at the Handcar Regattas, Rivertown Revivals,
Oysterpaloozas, Maker Faires and just about every bar and barn that
offered them a gig. In this early era, they won the 1st Bohemian North
Bay Music Award for Best Acoustic Act.
In 2008, Mr. December released their first album, Pants. Recorded and
mixed in SF at Andy’s studio in the Tenderloin, Pants included drums by
Peter Stalsky and guest appearances by Dominic Padua on trumpet, Emery
Barter on guitar and Kelly Cowan on vocals. Pants had an eclectic mix of
styles; traditional bluegrass songs like Ashes and Fishin’ blended with
jazz (Dom Chi), blues (Clams), rag (Hittin’ the Hay) and even punk
(Third Time Lucky). Distance went from a groovy upright line into a hip
hop section, complete with beats and epic rhymes from Jimmy, while
Shapetown featured beatbox.
Mr. December set up residencies at such local restaurants as Café St.
Rose and Rocker Oysterfellers. It wasn’t uncommon to invite other local
musicians such as JD Limelight or Kelly Cowan to sit in during these
sessions. Around that time, Jimmy was playing drums for marching
band/activists The Hubbub Club, where he met Jesse Shantor (Church, Free
Peoples, Baso Negro, every other band in Sonoma County apparently).
Jesse was invited sit in at a show at The Phoenix Theater where Mr.
December was opening for The Brothers Comatose, and he impressed Jimmy
& Andy so much that he started gigging regularly with them.
In 2010, Mr. December started working on their 2nd album, Arms &
Legs. Recorded at Prairie Sun Records and engineered by Matt Wright,
Arms & Legs was more ambitious than previous efforts, with Jimmy
& Andy adding guitar, banjo and percussion over their normal
uke/bass compositions. Pete Stalsky returned to play drums, with guest
appearances by Dina Maccabee on violin and Luca Rondanini on electric
and slide guitars. Arms & Legs was a more coherent album, with the
band sounding more like a string band on tracks like Paper Airplanes,
Pants, Tall & Lean and Pepper Tree.
By 2011, Jesse Shantor was a permanent member of the band. In 2012, Mr.
December invited Scott Knippelmeier (The Gomorrans) to sit in with them
during a gig at The Russian River Brewing Co. Not only was his playing
solid, his bolo tie and denim style fit right in with the Mr. December
sauce, and he joined soon after.
In 2014, Mr. December released Dust. Recorded at a century-old
schoolhouse frequented by Poor Man’s Whisky in Two Rock Valley. Matt
Wright was brought back to engineer, and guests included Pete Stalsky on
drums, Yvette Holzwarth on violin and Sean Tergis on Cajon.
2015 marked a high point in activity for the band as they promoted Dust
throughout Northern CA. They added local legend Mike Carrol on drums and
Ashley Holmberg on violin. Highlights of the year included gigs at the
Mystic in Petaluma opening for Poor Man’s Whisky and several sets at
Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol.
By 2018, multi-instrumentalist and producer Marco D’Ambrosio was added
to the band, lending his trumpet, keyboard and melodica skills. They
recorded and released their fourth album (and Matt Wright’s final
engineering turn) Molehair. Phil Brezina from Brothers Comatose
contributed violin throughout the album.
Mr. December continues to play throughout the greater Bay Area, and has
shared bills with such artists as Brothers Comatose, David Luning,
Bootleg Honeys, Frankie Boots, The Sam Chase, and The Easy Leaves.