January 25, 2021

Happy Socks give front porch concert on Fourth of July to lift spirits of neighbors and friends

FONTANELLE — Through the afternoon hours of July Fourth, musical sounds permeated through Mark and Paula Millikan’s neighborhood in Fontanelle, preceding the loud booms and flashes that followed that evening in many areas.

The Millikans make up the two-piece band called The Happy Socks. They decided to put on a concert from their front porch on the Fourth of July to make their friends and neighbors smile.

Mark explains that he kept the list of invitees to about 30 people. Some people gathered on the front lawn of the Millikan residence while others came out into their front yards to listen from lawn chairs. Dottie and Kit Groves, some neighbor kids, had a lemonade stand selling pink lemonade.

“We had done this before but hadn’t told anybody. Mostly, I wanted to try out some different equipment that I had that we use when we go out to play, and that was about six weeks ago,” Mark said. “I thought maybe the Fourth of July might be a good thing because they cancelled everything. We shouldn’t get in trouble if we do it from our yard.”

Musical roots

Mark grew up in a musical family and met Paula in a church band. He was the bass player and she was the guitarist, though they both play multiple instruments.

One day, Mark walked into the sanctuary of the church and saw Paula messing around on the piano. He picked up a guitar and began playing with her. The pastor walked out of his office, peeked in and told them they should play a special song in church sometime together.

About a year after they began playing with each other they were dating, and they later got married.

“We didn’t like each other at first. We were kind of complete opposites. I was a great big guy and she’s a little bitty gal,” Mark said.

“I thought he was a snob at first,” Paula said.

Going on tour

The Milikens began their band The Happy Socks as a husband/wife duo playing at churches and other smaller gatherings. After a period of time where they added other members to the group and toured around the country, The Happy Socks has remained a husband/wife duo for the last 20-plus years.

“Before I met her, I played semi-professionally as a lead guitar player and bass player in several bands. She played not only guitar and piano but saxophone, clarinet and sang in the choir,” Mark said. “We were compatible with music.

“We’ve perfected the sound and can cover about anything a four or five-piece band can do,” Mark said.

Front porch concert

At the July Fourth concert, the Happy Socks played a set from 2 to 5 p.m. ranging from big band era music like Patti Page and Bing Crosby, old country ranging like Hank Williams, old rock and roll, as well as a few gospel and patriotic songs. Sprinkled in, Mark played a few of his original songs.

“It just depends what venue we’re playing. We’ve performed hundreds and hundreds of songs over the years. We just try and play a variety,” Mark said.

“I was hoping this concert would give people some relief from a stay-at-home Fourth of July celebration and not get so bummed out because there are restrictions going on. When I planned this, still a lot of the restrictions weren’t as loosened up as they are now. I think a lot of people are still staying restrictive because it is a scary thing. I watch the COVID-19 case numbers everyday and they’re on the increase again. This was a safe venue where there isn’t a great big crowd rubbing shoulders with everybody.”