WINTHROP — Ralph Tufo admits his golf game leaves a lot to be desired, but any way you slice it he’s a true pro when it comes to music and writing.
The 1967 Lynn English High graduate and retired teacher at North Shore Community College is best known as a founding member of two of the Bay State’s all-time great party bands, the zydeco-flavored Boogaloo Swamis and current faves Squeezebox Stompers.
His latest work is “I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good,” an original musical comedy about golf, luck and friendship. It opens at the Winthrop School of Performing Arts Oct. 12.
Tufo, the producer and playwright, said the play features Meticulous Max and Lucky Lou, two golfers of different temperaments who embark on an unorthodox high-stakes round at Hacker’s Haven. Max is deliberate and lines everything up just so. Lou shows up a minute before tee time and lets it rip. They drive each other crazy but are best buds.
“The golf crowd will get a kick out of it. They will recognize the behaviors, because many of their playing partners probably exhibit one or more of these behaviors,” Tufo said, then smiled.
“The loser of the match must engage in a life-changing action chosen by the winner. They encounter Golf Gods, a kind of Greek chorus, irate golfers, a sexy cart-girl and a disgruntled course superintendent,” he said. “They also banter about getting old, friendship, and how golf is a metaphor for life: It’s a journey where you run into hazards, overcome obstacles … You try hard, but at the end of the day you come off as being just average.”
The play contains 10 original songs, penned by Tufo, with accompanying choreography. The Squeezebox Stompers Trio (Larry Plitt, Geoff Wadsworth and Tufo) provide the musical accompaniment. Arthur Williams and Ken Brassard play Max and Lou, respectively, and the Golf Gods and other roles are played by Sonya Joyner, Alicia Zipp, Larry Segal, Adjovi Koene and Zac Scott. Leadership roles are handled by Haris Lefteri (director), Jaime Bingham (choreographer), George Rainville (stage manager) and Erinn Brown (vocal coach).
Tufo took up golf in his early 50s. “I’d do everything you’re not supposed to do, walking through a player’s putting line, talking when players were teeing off. I enjoy the game, but I’m not very good.” He plays in a league at Middleton Golf Course and tees it up at many public North Shore layouts.
Though Tufo came to golf late, music has been a part of his life since age 5. At that, he’s succeeded magnificently. “I took lessons at Gaviani Accordion School in Lynn. It was on the site of the current Market Street mall. My grandfather, my brother and cousin all played accordion. I would watch ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ with my parents and mimic the accordion player.”
In his early 20s, he picked the instrument up again, performing with the Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society, which specialized in Irish jigs and reels. Watching zydeco legend Clifton Chenier at a Rhode Island music festival set him on the rollicking New Orleans Cajun path and led to his founding Boogaloo Swamis with friends. That band won four Boston Music Awards. Squeezebox Stompers have been together for 15 years and have a rigorous New England touring schedule; they played the Lynn World Music Festival last weekend.
Tufo has released some 11 CDs, written more than 50 songs, several short plays and a musical (“The Katrina Roadhouse”) about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“Many faculty and students from North Shore Community College went down (to New Orleans) to help with rebuilding efforts,” he said. His Katrina musical raised funds for those efforts, selling out two performances at the Winthrop venue.
“That was a serious subject,” said Tufo. “This new musical is a lot of fun. It’s gonna be a fun night out for people, with a lot of laughter and, I hope, good music. People will come out of the theater feeling good.”
“I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good,” at the Winthrop School of Performing Arts,” 45 Pauline St. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 12, 13, 19 and 20, with a 5 p.m. performance on Oct. 21. Tickets: $20 at the door or $15 plus handling fees in advance at www.eventbrite.com (type “I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good” in the search box).