Toy bunny sings a local rendition

By Diana Carney Newton

   A musical Easter bunny is not the typical item Ernie Garner would seek out at Sam's Club in Gurnee, but Garner had a personal reason for being interested in this holiday toy. Garner created the peppy rendition of Peter Cottontail that plays inside the bunny. And it all started as a lark.

   A month before Easter in 1997, a bored Garner decided to post his own happy rendition of Peter Cottontail on the Internet because so many people were looking for it. He bought the sheet music, played it on his keyboard and then sent a recording of it, called a MIDI file, into cyberspace with Happy Easter wishes. Two years later, he received an email from a Hong Kong businessman who wanted to use Garner's song in a musical bunny. Garner made as much on the song as he would have for performing at a wedding.

   Garner, of Lake Villa, said he was flabbergasted when Wei Ming (David) Chung, a manufacturer of electronic sound boxes for toys, contacted him about setting a price for his Internet song.

   "It was completely out of left field," Garner said. "He said he liked the happy sound of it."

   Garner received another email from Chung this year that the toy using his music was available at Sam's Club. The "Tell A Story Bunny" moves and has cheeks that light up as it tells an Easter story with Garner's music in the background.

   "I can't tell you how cool this is, knowing that my little MIDI file (the musical computer file he posted on the Internet) is being heard by kids across America," Garner said. "No, I didn't get rich, but I made it for fun and it actually became something. I guess that's the thing about the Internet. There are millions of people out there and you never can tell what will happen."

   Garner's work has combined his interest in computers and music. He operated a small recording studio in his home before becoming a one-man band six years ago. He also has worked as an electronics engineer, specializing in hardware and software design of embedded microcomputers -- computers buried in everyday products like ovens. Now, Garner uses a laptop computer to enhance his keyboard performance. He can find musical arrangements on the Internet and play them through his keyboard, with his own embellishments or changes. He also sings.

   "I'm a lounge lizard," he said and laughed. "I'm your Holiday Inn musician. I play a variety. My poster says, 'Everything from Irving Berlin to Smashmouth.' "

   For performance information, call Garner at (847) 223-0189, email him at , or check out his Web site at .  Ernie calls himself a "lounge lizard" and frequently books gigs playing keyboard at clubs.



The picture featured with the article

Ernie and Mr. Chung meet at O'Hare