There are many string instruments in the world. Although you can’t always find an acoustic guitar player and cellist performing side by side.
Duke Michaels and Peggy Baldwin found each other through their love for playing music. “It’s a really cool niche between us,” Baldwin says. “The last couple years (in Big Bear) is the most steady thing we have had going, performing together.”
Between the two performers is nearly 100 years of musical experience. The couple’s combined talents, flow and good vibes are contagious. Music played a major roles in both of their lives since childhood.
Baldwin learned to play her first and only instrument, the cello, at 7 years old. She learned to play alongside her mother, also a cellist. Baldwin’s mom took her to see Mstislav Rostropovich. “I was pretty young,” Baldwin says as she recalls her first cello recital. “We were sitting in the fourth row, and it was like being at a rock concert.”
Baldwin continued practicing and perfecting the cello. She graduated from Washington State University as a string major before transferring to University of Southern California.
Michaels began to play the guitar at age 7. Michaels studied classic rock albums, “Since I was a little kid,” Michaels says. “Especially the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson — those are my earliest guys (inspirations).”
After moving from one town to the next before graduating high school, Michaels graduated from college in Missouri as a chemical engineering major. “I never used it,” Michaels says about his degree. “I did it to make my parents happy and chased the rock and roll dream.”
So when did the two performers’ lives cross paths? Michaels wanted to hire a cellist to play at his CD release party in Santa Monica. Michaels’ friend referred Baldwin. By the end of that summer, Michaels invited Baldwin to play another gig. “That’s when sparks really went flying,” Baldwin says.
“We performed music separately and together, on and off. We were married three years after that.” In 2007 the couple decided to buy a house in Big Bear, and by 2012 they became full-time residents.
“She’s a perfectionist and I’m a free spirit,” Michael says. “Sometimes I start playing and she (Baldwin) just starts winging it.” The couple agreed that “25 or 6 to 4,” “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Life in the Fast Lane” are some of their favorite songs to perform for an audience.
“I think the best thing about performing together is to see how we can portray the song,” Baldwin says. “We sit at home and think ‘wow, people would really be shocked by this. And what we can do between just the two of us.’”
“Life in the Fast Lane” by The Eagles a variety of guitar solos, Michaels says. “We just have a cello and guitar. So we are really going to stream it down to get the nuts and bolts of the song,” he says.
The dynamic duo marries classic rock music with original singles written by Michaels. “We put a lot of thought into our set list,” Baldwin says. “We are always changing it up. There are certain songs we play every night, but there is always something new.”
Michaels wrote a song when he first moved to Big Bear, “Big Sky Town.”
“Big Bear residents call this song the Fawnskin song, because I mention the Moose Lodge,” Michaels says.
Their set list compiles more than 2,000 songs. “If I stop taking chances that means I’m getting old,” Michaels laughs.
This fall, Duke and Peggy are taking advantage of new opportunities. They are scheduled to perform a combination of local venues, private parties and weddings.
“I’ve done thousands of weddings in a classical setting,” Baldwin says. “But now we have done several
(weddings) together, since this
The couple has been traveling to perform more recently, Baldwin says. Chicago, Minnesota, Lake Arrowhead, Del Mar and Newport Beach are just a few of the off-mountain gigs.
“We do this to meet neat and diverse people that appreciate good music,” Michaels says.
Catch Duke and Peggy around Big Bear Lake. They perform Sunday afternoons at the Oakside Restaurant, 40701 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake. On Saturday evenings the duo is at The Barnstorm Restaurant,
501 W. Valley Blvd., Big Bear City.