Thursday, May 18, 2023

Aloha, Pineapple Princess

We have learned of the passing of Pamela Schulting, one-half (with Beth Allen) of the early Third-Wave ukulele duo, Pineapple Princess.

Pineapple Princess was featured in the 2003 documentary "Rock That Uke" by our friend Bill Robertson.

"Pineapple Princess is a San Francisco-based electric punk uke duo who play raucously scatalogical anthems to booze and sex.  The duo is comprised of Beth Allen, a former bassist for the punk band The Loudmouths, and Pamela Schulting, a school teacher and highly accomplished hula dancer with the Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu dance troupe."

 If you haven't seen Rock That Uke, do yourself a favor and check it out. Especially if you weren't around before the 'uke went mainstream, and only true kooks (guilty) were strumming...

The film's YouTube site is here. Buy the DVD here.

Earlier Ukulelia post here: Link

At Auction: Aaron Keim Kingdom Era 'Ukulele

Master luthier Aaron Keim has been devoting his energies to learning early building techniques. He recently traveled to Hawai'i to study period instruments and research materials with the goal of building instruments true to the earliest designs. He's built two to date, and the second is currently on eBay at auction. He'll use the proceeds to fund a future research trip back to Hawai'i and will share a portion of the proceeds with the non-profit Saving Hawaii's Forests (link may not work: their site seems to be down).

Sez Aaron:
"This is the second instrument I’ve made as part of my Kingdom Era Ukulele project, where I have been researching the original instruments made in Hawaii in the 1890’s. I used the same hand tools, techniques and most of the same materials as the instruments I examined in the Bishop Museum and in Shawn’s collection from  The body, neck and fretboard are made from Koa from our friend’s sawmill on Oahu.  I made the rope binding from Maple, Cherry, Walnut and Mahogany.  It is soprano scale, with a flat fretboard and white side dots. In order to be more comfortable for modern players, I’ve used geared Peghed tuners, fluorocarbon strings and small fret wire. The ukulele is finished with shellac and wax. It comes with a handmade case made in the old style from Mahogany scraps with rope binding and Kapa style cloth."
Bidding ends Wednesday, May 24th, 2023. Just in time for my birthday (hint, hint).

Link to eBay Auction

Saturday, April 01, 2023

World's Best Arrangement of Wagon Wheel (The World's Best Ukulele Song of All Time)

Unless you just picked up the ukulele for the first time this morning, you know that the very best song you can play is Wagon Wheel, co-written by Bob Dylan (perhaps most remembered for Wiggle Wiggle) and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.

With its awesome and completely original chord progression, Wagon Wheel is sadly rarely played today, which is really sad, because it it indisputably The World's Best Ukulele Song of All Time. 

Here is a link to the Very Best Recording Ever. And, finally, for your enjoyment today, the World's Best Arrangement of The World's Best Ukulele Song of All Time.


Photo credit: Countryside Antiques and Primitives

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Cuttle Up a Little Closer

Check out this cephalopod chordophone! Link

Cary Kelly over at Mya-Moe Ukuleles recently completed this custom Sycamore Tenor Cutaway (Cuttle-away?) featuring a sweet squid graphic etched onto the soundboard via pyrography. The pyrograph here was done by Dumitru “Dino” Muradian, who was profiled in the Fall, 2020 issue of Ukulele Magazine.

Cary says he's now built three ukes with pyrography on the soundboard. Victoria Vox owns one, which she uses for both recording and performances. He notes that he hasn't noticed any adverse affect on tone: "I’ve heard some argue that it opens up the soundboard, much like torrefied soundboards, but I’m not fully convinced of that."

By the way, I was so captivated by this design that it took me a couple of weeks to realize that it's a left-hand set-up.

I wonder if there's ever been a Kala-Mari uke...

Thursday, March 09, 2023

The Secret of the Ukulele Finally Revealed!

I'm proud as punch to share that the good folks at Ukulele Magazine interviewed me for their Spring 2023 issue.

It's a great honor to recognized for having edited this little blog for over 20 (!) years and to have been able to chronicle, in particular, the early years of this Third Wave of ukulele popularity.

If you've come here via the profile in Ukulele Magazine: welcome! (And if you're not yet a subscriber, it's a terrific publication. I look forward to it arriving in my mailbox four times a year. You really should subscribe. It's about the cost of two sets of strings...)

A big thank you to Blair Jackson at Ukulele Magazine for the opportunity. Also to Craig Robertson, who was a treasured co-editor for a few years. And finally, to Mark Frauenfelder, who created Ukulelia (Your Passport to Four Stringed Paradise!) as an offshoot of Boing Boing back in the late 90s before generously handing me the keys in the early 00s.

I guess now I have to be a bit more diligent about turning up more remarkable stuff to share. It's a real challenge to find hidden treasures today. Stay tuned!

Here's the issue. Spoiler: I'm on the back page.

And as for that clickbait headline: it's a little inside joke for my friends who constantly remind me how bad I am at self-promotion...

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Ready When You Are!

My friend and fellow JHUI alum Bryan LaPlante reminded me today of this 1975  documentary from the National Film Board of Canada, featuring Godfather of the Canadian 'Ukulele Movement, J. Chalmers Doane and 1,000 Halifax school children playing Mac Davis's I Believe in Music. Bonus: "rather critical lack of bathroom facilities." Stream "Ready When You Are" at this link.

And there's more: Melanie Doane's tribute to Mac Davis, featuring the kids from the 1970s and her students from the Doane Uschool. Link

Of course, while you're at it, you really should watch Melanie's Ukulele U on the CBC.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Ukulele Heroes: Deborah Guarnieri

Central New York instructor and innovator Deborah Guarnieri has developed adaptive technologies to allow people with upper limb disabilities to play the ukulele.


"With the use of accoutrements like hub straps, waist straps, finger splints and other accessories, the Ukulele Support System has given people of all ages around the world the ability to play the ukulele. And all the parts she uses to modify the ukuleles are readily available to anyone, Guarneiri added.

Her Ukulele Support System is now under the umbrella of the Ukulele Kids Club of America and Guarneiri has created her own local CLUES Ukulele Club that meets at the Canastota and Oneida public libraries that help in her mission. CLUES is an acronym for Canastota Library Ukulele Extraordinary Strummers."

Here is Deb being interviewed on WSYR's Bridge Street, demonstrating several of her inventions. For more background and videos, here's an interview on WXXI from 2019. Follow the work that Deb, local club members, and other heroes around the world do to make the ukulele accessible on the Ukulele Support System for upper limb disabilities Facebook Page.

Saturday, January 07, 2023

The Okee Dokee Brothers are Truly Okee Dokee

Today a student asked to work on a song I wasn't familiar with. The song is "If You Want a Song," by the Okee Dokee Brothers. Now, I'd heard of this duo before and liked their music a lot, but I'd forgotten about them. 

The aforementioned (and Grammy-winning) "brothers" are Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, and are based in Minnesota. Together, they write and perform American-roots style, kid-and-parent friendly songs.

What makes them Okee Dokee in my book is that they not only feature the occasional uke in their songs (or sing about them–see below), but that they offer free download files of their lyrics and chords.

Check out the video of the song my student requested and watch for a cameo by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer!

And for your winter strumming pleasure, here is the very charming "Ukulele in a Snowstorm."

Visit the Okee Dokee Brothers Website

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Support Ukraine Relief and Get a Chance to Win This 3-D Printed Uke

Rigk Sauer makes the terrific and iconic Uke Solid. Now he's designed the Ukralele: a 3-D printed sopranino that he's raffling off to support relief efforts in Ukraine.

Sez Rigk:
You could win this 3D printed electric ukulele (sopranino) by donating to the victims of the Ukraine War. For every 10 € you send to paypal until the end of October 2022, you will receive a ticket for the drawing. All proceeds from this action will be donated to the "Emergency Aid Ukraine" organization "Aktion Deutschland Hilft". Best of luck!

Here's a link to the donation/entry page. There are links for production videos that are pretty cool!  Link

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Lil' Rev Needs Our Help

Our dear friend, the wonderful Marc Revenson, aka Lil' Rev, needs our help. He's scheduled for some dire oral surgery and his insurance will cover only a portion of the total. Marc is a longstanding evangelist for the ukulele and roots music. You may even have a book or two of his in your library or some of his CDs.

Please join me in contributing to the GoFundMe account that ukulele superheroes Marcy Marxer, Cathy Fink, and Ben Hassenger have set up. 

Complete details on the GoFundMe page. Here's the link.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Uke Heads, Unite!


See that? That's my Uke Head. 

I'm proud and honored to be a volunteer mentor for the James Hill Ukulele Initiative (JHUI). James is about to launch a new project called Uke Heads, and he gave us a sneak peek over the last few weeks. 

Uke Heads is an innovative project–the first of its kind so far as I know–where an artist (James) is recording an album with the active participation of a community of player/contributors. There have been a lot of crowd-based recordings during the pandemic, but this project is different in that participating as a Uke Head is essentially part of crowd-funding the album and supporting the artist. And participating comes with a number of benefits like online workshops with James, exclusive merch, and the opportunity to record on future singles.

There are 1879 unique Uke Head avatars which are themselves NFTs. (Welcome to blockchain, ukers!) Ukulele geeks will immediately grok why there are 1879. (Which, by the way, is a swell line of clothing you can check out here.

Learn more about the Uke Heads project at the official site, here.

James also discusses the project on his Uketropolis Podcast in this episode.

And here are link to three Q&A sessions James had live on YouTube.

Finally, while becoming a Uke Head isn't free ($189.70 – notice the theme?), James has made 100 available free to deserving players. Info here.

So, which Uke Head are you?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

"When St Paddy's Falls on Purim"

"You Purim for me, and I'll Purim for you..."

This ditty is by Brigid Kaelin and Gregory Maupin. Here's a little background on the song. Link

But sure and there's more! Brigid has posted the sheet music for free! (That makes here Saint Brigid in my book). Link to Music.

Happy Both Days to everyone who celebrates. And a big Tip O' the Hamantash to my good friend Adam Hanin for pointing us to this pot of gold.


Tuesday, February 01, 2022

W. E. B. Du Bois, Ukulele Patron

In honor of Black History Month, here is a 1921 letter we recently discovered from Yolande Du Bois to her father, American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and author W. E. B. Du Bois, thanking him for sending her money to buy a ukulele. 
“Thanks ever so much for the money for the Ukelele (sic). I went straight down-town the next Saturday and bought it. It is a ‘banjo Ukelele,’ and it’s very pretty. It is made of light-colored maple highly polished and trimmed in black. I can play two pieces on it.”

She goes on on to tell her father that she made the dean’s list at Fisk. 

Yolande Du Bois was involved in the Harlem Renaissance, and later had a career as an educator in Baltimore. 

And to her father Dr. Du Bois' many accolades, we humbly add "ukulele patron."

Du Bois, Yolande. Letter from Yolande Du Bois to W. E. B. Du Bois, March 16, 1921. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries. 

All rights for this document are held by the David Graham Du Bois Trust.
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