Monday, April 25, 2005

Motor City Columnist Bitten by the Flea

Nice piece by Detroit Free Press columnist Ellen Creager, who was fell prey to the siren song of the ukulele during her recent trip to Hawaii. (Note to Detroit Ukulelia readers: send Ellen an email and invite her to join in the fun. I expect to see a full contingent of you guys playing at the first Lions game!) Link

NoCal Uke Fest Review

I spent a wonderful, cool (literally) day hanging out with fellow strummers yesterday at the annual Ukulele Festival in Hayward. Lots to report, but I'm short on time, so here's a link to a nice review from the local Hayward paper. Stay tuned. Link

Friday, April 22, 2005

Robert Newman

According to this article British commedian Robert Newman's current show, "Apocalypso Now" features our favorite instrument.
"The blurb for Apocalypso Now says: "Warning: This Show Contains Ukulele?" Is this true?

Oh, yes. I've been doing ukulele songs on stage for a couple of years now.

The ukulele came into my life only a few years ago, but it has been one of those late-flowering love affairs which take you by surprise."

Strictly speaking it's a banjolele, but the same instrument is what George Formby called a ukulele... and that's good enough for me.

The marriage between me and the ukulele was blessed by good luck. Last year at a flea market at Lauderdale House, I found sheaves of ukulele sheet music from the 1920s with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations on the front, and the fellah was selling them for 35p each!

Since then, however, I have been Asbo-ed, for once too often playing You, Just You (by Larry Yoell, Herb Scharlin and Al Jacobs, Keithe Prowse & Co Music, 6d net). This is thought to be the only foxtrot-related Asbo."


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Parrothead Jake

Review of Tuesday night's Jimmy Buffett concert in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin today. Buffett dueted with Jake Shimabukuro.
"The first of two encores included the fan interactive "Fins," then "Scarlet Begonias," giving Shimabukuro a shining moment when he let the uke virtuoso play more of the song than the two had planned. When Shimabukuro finished, Buffett whispered, 'Passing the torch, Jake.'"

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shimmy Like the Ditty Bops

Yowzah! Lot's of people out there are curious about the song "I Wish That I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate" and the version of it that was featured on a recent episode of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." With the kind assistance of the folks over at the Fleamarket Music Bulletin Board, we learned that the red hot version you're probably looking for was done by the enigmatically peppy Ditty Bops (who just happen to be pals of my dear friend and fellow Ringling Bros. alum, Tuba, who is responsible for me playing the uke in the first place...whew!). A full clip of "Sister Kate" is on the duo's site here. There's also a quicktime movie of them performing it here. Link

And, by the way, we also learned something of the seamy history behind "Sister Kate" courtesy of Uncle Rufus. Here are links to info on the OHEK site.

Finally, here's a link to a page where you can download a .doc file with chords. (Thanks to all at the FMBB!).

Tiny Instrument Supports Tiny Lives

Tyneside (UK) commedian and ukester Gavin Webster is staging a charity performance on May 1, 2005 to support Tiny Lives, the neo-natal care unit that cared for his daughter, Devon. Link

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shimabukuro Signs with Strings Maker

What might be the next endorsement for Jake? I'm thinkin' maybe Timex...
"Hawai'i's Jake Shimabukuro has become the first 'ukulele stylist to sign with J. D'Addario & Co. Inc., a maker of musical strings. He joins a short list [looks like they have over 50 -- ed.] of D'Addario stylists that includes Beck, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, John Mayer and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco"

Ukulele Ceilidh

Now here's a cross-cultural rhyme that I'll wager has not heretofore been constructed. (Say "oo-koo-lay-lee-kay-lee"!)

Here is a site promoting the First International Ukulele Ceilidh in Nova Scotia coming up in October, 2005:

"Ukulele idols, gurus, virtuosi etc. who have accepted our invitation include:  our own J. Chalmers Doane, James Hill, Manitoba Hal who is offering a ukulele blues workshop, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain who are longing to try the lobster,  also invited are Risa of Germany, Dave Means of Glyph Custom 'Ukuleles and we will add to the list as they rsvp (come on Joe Brown, let us have your answer soon!)

"The weekend will include workshops, good food, fine company, jamming sessions,  a wonderful combined concert on the Saturday night, a ukulele making demonstration and clinic, a Sunday morning ukulele hymn sing or Formby moviethon (depending on one's religion!) and of course what you all are really asking for - plenty of opportunities to play together.  Add to that the inauguration of the Ukulele Hall of Fame in Nova Scotia and this will be a FIRST you will want to be part of."

Why Nova Scotia, you ask? "Nova Scotia is the cradle of the Ukulele in Canada, thanks to J Chalmers Doane," sez James Hill. Link

Oh, and while we're talking GCEA, eh, let's point out that Manitoba Hal is once again presenting the Great Canadian Ukulele Expo on May 7, 2005 in Winnipeg.


Speaking of San Antonio (see below), local band, Buttercup, got rave reviews at the recent SXSW festival with their uke-infused music:
"Buttercup is a tight pop outfit from San Antonio, Texas that evokes the satire of Village Green-era Kinks while pouring out the exuberance of early Talking Heads and the soulfulness of Neil Young. This stuff is sophisticated and accessible, the distillation of years of having the right influences and the patience to present the synthesis originally and with heart. All the members sing and all play a variety of musical instruments."
Check out their song "Johnny Appleseed" for a buttery taste. Link

2005 San Antonio Uke Fest On Now

Yee Haw, Y'all: The 4th Annual Ukulele Festival will be held at Lion's Field in San Antonio today through Sunday. Link

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Florida Students "Rock Out" in Uke Ensemble

Kids at Bethune Academy in Polk, Florida are catching the bug as part of their "Uke Troop."
'They like to jam,' a teacher says.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ukulele Class A Special Time For Students

Nice story on Seattle teacher (and SUPA member) Cosette Harms and her ukulele class for 2nd and 3rd graders. Be sure to click on "Hear Audio Report" to listen to the story in its entirety. Link

Jerry Byrd, RIP

We mourn the passing of Jerry Byrd, steel guitar pioneer--even if he did once threaten to shoot Santa Claus for giving him a banjo 'ukulele for Christmas.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Jack Benny and His Treholipee

Here's a swell photo of Jack Benny and Frank Remley (the guitar player in Phil Harris's band) goofing off with their Kooky Ukes! Link

George Formby Tribute Artist Alan Randall Dies

AKA the guy playing the uke in the closing scene of Beatles "Free as a Bird" music video. Sad. Link

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ukulele Design and Construction

From Trafford Publishing (incidentally, an "on-demand" publishing company), Ukulele Design and Construction: A comprehenisve guide to construct a Hawaiian Ukulele For Any Woodworker by D. Henry Wickham:
"This 145-page book is a condensation of 35 years of woodworking experience and a substantial knowledge of guitar and ukulele construction. It has been written with the first time builder in mind, but it includes some more advanced topics and procedures. Basic concepts are the core of this book and in great detail. Little is published on the subject of ukulele construction and this book will be a welcomed addition."

Enter the Uke

In the Mercury News today, a Jake Shimabukuro talks about how Bruce Lee provided a source of inspriation for his unique style:
"He started out very traditional and structured, but later on when he branched out and started his own school of martial arts, his whole philosophy was basically to have no form,'' says Shimabukuro, who makes his Bay Area debut as a headliner at two Stanford University performances Saturday, sharing the bill with noted slack key guitarist Steve Sano. ``Lee said you should be like water, because water can take the form of any container. It's soft, but it can be very powerful. As artists, we should always be like water. We should always be able to change and adapt to whatever's happening at an instant.''

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Music for Early 20th Century Geeks

Here's a specialty library of sheet music that electrified the wireless station down in the hearts of folks in the early 1900s.
"The Inventions of Note Sheet Music Collection was established in 1997 by the Lewis Music Library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This sheet music collection consists of popular songs and piano compositions that portray technologies (old and new alike) as revealed through song texts and/or cover art."

UCB Libraries Digital Sheet Music Collection

Speaking of online digital sheet music libraries, here's one I recently stumbled across hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The collection includes a lot of ragtime titles, as well as a veritable Mother Lode of music about Colorado and the Golden West (lots of music from and about the 1915 Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco). Link

The Jazz Ukulele

Be the next Lyle Ritz! Lean to play Jazz Ukulele via this informative site by Gabriel Wurzer. Link

Library of Player Piano Music Rolls

Not sure how an old tune goes? Or are you a mediocre sight reader like me? Then you'll find this collection of midi files, scanned directly from player piano rolls to be the Rosetta Stone of tunedom. Couple this with the growing number of online libraries of scanned sheet music (like the Levy Collection) and you'll never lack for old songs to rediscover.

You'll need to poke around amongst some 16 lists of available titles, but with over 2,500 tunes available, who could complain? Terry Smythe of Winnipeg deserves sainthood for performing this labor of love. Link

Sunday, April 03, 2005

2005 NoCal Uke Festival

It's April, and time again for the annual Northern California Ukulele Festival in Hayward.

This year, it's Sunday, April 24 from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. I'll see you there! Link

Diane Rubio

Meet Diane Rubio (seen at left with Lyle Ritz).

Diane, we bow before thee:

"Diane Rubio is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist with a degree in Music from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has studied cello with Joan Jeanrenaud of the Kronos Quartet; I-Bei Lin of Trio Xia; and Gregory Dubay, principal cellist of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. She has recently ventured into non-Classical genres, performing with the likes of Makana, Hawaii's premiere Ki Ho'alu (slack-key) guitarist; Bill “the Duke of Uke” Tapia, 96-year-old jazz musician and ‘Ukulele Hall of Fame inductee; Lori Ohtani’s (of Iona) BUTOH dance troupe; and the retro-Hawaii band, The Essential Resophonics (under the Mountain Apple label). She has opened on cello for the Russian cellist and former model, Nina Kotova, and has played ‘ukulele alongside the Brazillian guitarists Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Carlos Bendfeldt. She is an honorary member of the ‘Ukulele Guild of Hawaii, and is a repeat guest artist for the annual ‘Ukulele Guild of Hawaii Festivals. Diane’s latest project is a performance at Hawaii Theatre co-headlined by Makana and Jason Mraz."

"Diane and John [Cannizzaro] are currently performing American standards with a Hawaiian influence (jazz ‘ukulele) in the styles of Frank Sinatra, Etta James, Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, and Harry Connick Jr. They also have several Hawaiian pieces in their repertoire."


Joe Brown Video Clip

In researching the story on Sam Brown (below), we ran across a wonderful--if all-too-brief--video clip of Joe Brown playing "I'll See You in My Dreams." The link to the clip is on this page. An audio clip will be found on this page.

Another Uke-Playing Daughter of a Famous Guy

Now here's the real deal: Sam Brown, daughter of noted skiffle-era guitarist (and ukeist), Joe Brown, is our latest find. A singer and composer of note in England, she appears on the "Concert for George" tribute singing "Horse to the Water" with Jools Holland. Her fansite is worth perusing. Be sure to listen to the demo of "I'll Be Here" (links to mp3). Link to a recent article in The Scotsman.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The First (Uke-Playing) Daughter!

Unbelievable! According to this story, "first daughter" Barbara Bush (seen at left with twin sister, Jenna) has been seen playing the uke while stumping for her dad's Social Security overhaul program. Barbara has drawn standing ovations for her rendition of "This Plan is Your Plan," to the tune of "This Land is Your Land":
The ukulele Barbara Bush plays is a family heirloom, given to George W. Bush by his grandfather, Prescott Bush, when the future President was a cheerleader at Phillips Academy (Andover). "Great-Grandfather Bush loved to sing and was in the Glee Club at Yale," said Ms Bush. "He and Dad used to sing Whiffenpoof songs together." George W. Bush later reportedly carried the uke with him on his flying missions over Alabama during his stint with the National Guard, and the back of the instrument is autographed by his entire squadron.

Ms Bush stumbled across the uke at Camp David after the November election and was astonished when the President tuned it up and proceeded to serenade Karl Rove with “You’re the Cream in My Coffee.”

"Dad showed me a few chords, and I was hooked."

Barbara's currently hot on Tin Pan Alley standards. "The songs from the Great Depression sound really great on the uke, she said recently, launching into a plunky rendition of “Let’s Have Another Cup O' Coffee.”

Bitten by "the jumping flea" (the English translation of the original Hawaiian), Ms Bush admits that the ukulele has brought out the romantic in her. "There's this guy, James Hill, who is this incredible ukulele player. I have kind of a crush on him, but it turns out he's Canadian. I mean, Grandma Bar would pop!"

Twin sister Jenna Bush has yet to follow her older twin's lead on the diminutive guitar. "I don't really like the stuff that Barbara plays," she noted, "I'm more like into, like, The Ukes of Hazzard (a contemporary ukulele duo with a satirical bent)."

Read the full story here. (Thanks, Otto!)

Top 50 Ukulele Sites