Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pop’ulele Central » Craig Robertson interview

Since Craig is such a demure fellow, I know he won't blog this himself, so I will. The French uke blog Pop'ulele Central recently interviewed him. In Franglish. Link

Ukulele Treasure Hunt

Does anyone out there have the sheet music to Ukulele Lorelei, written by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, and Buddy DeSylva for the show Tell Me More?

Gershwin also wrote a more popular piece entitled simply Lorelei, but this is a different song. The only reference we've been able to locate is that Ukulele Lorelei is included in this recording of two Gershwin shows (scroll down to hear a clip).

Ok, Uke Sleuths, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Get to it! If you know anything more, post it to the Comments, below.

Auld Lang Syne, Brah

Today, we wish Aloha to the much-maligned Santa Ornament that has been gracing the top of Ukulelia for the past several weeks. He'll now slowly scroll down into the archives of 2006. And to give him a proper send-off, join Mark, Craig, and me in a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Take your pick from amongst the 25 different versions on Comfort Stand.

We recommend the uke-infused version by The Ronnie Wibbley Disco Machine:
"Recorded live at North London's majestic "Slappers" nightspot, this New Year treat features band members Hammer Malone, Pablo and Manolita, with introduction by DJ Nappyhead. Ronnie's plangent ukulele has never sounded as sweet and fitting as on this traditional Scottish ballad of lost love and regret."

About the image: The cover of an arrangement of Auld Lang Syne distributed by Bromo-Seltzer! The perfect hangover remedy for hangover-inducing holiday!
WHO COULD ENJOY The melodious warble of Patti, or the enchanting strains from one of Gottschalk's productions, while suffering from a "SPLITTING" NERVOUS HEADACHE? Then "will it not be sweet to remember" that the popular "Nerve Lullaby" BROMO-SELTZER cures all Headaches in Twenty Minutes?

No Morphine, No Chloral, No Antipyrin.

At the "Wee Hours of Morning" society people find relief for their Aching Heads and Shaking Nerves in a dose of BROMO-SELTZER.
Classic Copywriting, that.

Friday, December 29, 2006

What Are You Doing, New Year's Eve?

Hopefully, finding every excuse to play this tune. Arranged by Mark Occhionero. Link to pdf. Check out Mark's other arrangements, too.

shhhh...silent ukulele

I ventured out of Ukuleletown last night and took the boat to Provincetown, a way out on the tip of Ol’ Cape Cod

where a special movie and music event was taking place. Ukulele virtuoso Mary J. Martin was playing ukulele and piano accompaniment to a silent Harold Lloyd film "Safety Last" (1923) being show to benefit station WOMR.

Not only did Mary do a great job providing the music for the film, but it was all improvised on the spot.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bird of Paradise Images

We've received a number of compliments on our earlier post about the play, Bird of Paradise, and its role in popularizing Hawaiiana and the ukulele in the US. Thanks, everyone. I'll add more info as I have a moment.

I've located contact sheets of photos from the original Broadway production in the New York Public Library Digital Library Collection. Unfortunately, the images appear to be viewable only through an odd photo viewer applet, so I'm not sure if it's possible to view entire contact sheet files at full resolution. If some kind geek out there can figure out how to snag the images and post them to flickr, the uke world would be forever grateful! Link

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Play Like Arthur Godfrey!

Apparently, the gift for the ambiguously-gendered child in 1952! When I was a kid, the suggestion that I emulate Arthur Godfrey would have given me nightmares for weeks. He seemed like an overly-genial, oleaginous, adenoidal, alcoholic uncle who'd smell like damp wool, cigarettes, Four Roses, and Vicks.

Not a bad price for the uke, though: that'd be about $36.00 today ... Link

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The face in the window

Walking down Broadway in Ukuleletown last night after the rain. The streets were shiny and the occasional streetlamp was reflected in the myriad puddles. Just past Edwards Avenue, I spied someone sitting in the window of Joe’s Hotdog Heaven. He was wearing sunglasses. I thought I was the only one who wore sunglasses at night.
So I went it and said hi. Said his name was Steven P. Slivka and he hailed from the Windy City. Said he played ukulele. Natch…it was Ukuleletown. He whipped one out, and right there, for me and the ketchup bottles, he sang a couple tunes.
Check out Steven P. Slivka and his lonely imagination

Merry Christmas from Sonic Uke

Ted and Jason sent us a SonicGram. Say those merry pranksters:
Happy Christmas from Sonic Uke - we hope your stockings are full of
ukes !
Check out clips from this year's Christmas episode of Midnight Ukulele Disco.

For those of you in New York, kick off New Year's early at the end-of-year Ukulele Cabaret: featuring Kelli Rae Powell, Mike Bellusci, Rush Kress, Duncan Pflaster, Sweet Soubrette, Hot Time Harv, Chris Combs, Khabu, Katie Down, Lloyd United, Howie Leifer, Mary J Martin, David Harrison, Doug Skinner and more - hosted by Sonic Uke.

7pm 'till late
Stage No.43 at Jimmy's
43 E 7th Street
East Village, New York

And - on New Year's Eve - the third annual Uke Drop, at the residence formerly known as Spaceshoe - 130 W 10 Street, West Village, New York: sneak preview pre-show at 10pm, Uke Drop at 11:45pm

Uke On !

Ted and Jason

Grab yer ukes and head to Brooklyn...

Katie Down from the Ukuladies in Gotham has sent an invite to all youse ukulele fiends in the New York area. On Thursday, December 28th at 8:30 they host Uke Nights at the Bisquit on Park Slope, Brooklyn. This Thursday with The Ukuladies, Bliss Blood, Khabu and Yoon, Uncle Shoe, Alan Drogin, Rush Kress and other surprises! It’s every fourth Thursday (that reminds me: I have to move my car for the street cleaner)

Open Mic begins at 10:30. Don’t tell me you have anything else to do.

Uncle Jack and the Bird of Paradise

Could it be that "the worst song ever written" sparked America's first love affair with Hawaiian music?

Here is a little historical rambling that I've been meaning to post since September that was sparked by a chat over a latte with Peter Alau.

Peter had recently inherited an 'ukulele, a family heirloom with a mysterious past. The uke was found stashed away behind the fireplace at a recently-deceased relative's house in Hawaii. According to the Alau ohana lore, the family skeleton closet contains one uncle Jack Alau, who is remembered as a musician, composer, and heavy drinker. Uncle Jack was apparently a One-Hit-Wonder back in the day, but ended up a black sheep that no polite Alau talks story about.

Jack Alau is notoriously remembered for composing the music for what Rick Reublin at Parlor Songs called "one of the worst songs ever written," One-Two-Three-Four. Rather bizarrely, One-Two-Three-Four is about as un-Hawaiian a song as you can imagine.

Herewith, the lyrics, written by one S. Kalama:
Down by the stream where I first met Rebecca
Down by the stream where the sun loves to shine
Bright hued the garlands I wove for Rebecca
Bright were her eyes as they gazed into mine

One, two, three, four, some times I wish there were more
Ein, zwei, drei, vier, I love the one that's near
Yet, nee, sam, see, so says the heathen Chinee
Fair girls bereft, there will get left, one, two, and three
And it really gets no better from there. If your morbid curiosity gets the better of you, here's the tune. (Okay, that was a bit disingenuous on my part. If you want to hear it played a la mode, here's a period cylinder recording from 1917.)

Anyway, Peter wondered if the uke he inherited might have been the instrument used by Uncle Jack to compose
One-Two-Three-Four. So I decided to do some sleuthing.

I turned up nothing conclusive about the uke, nor any pertinent biographical info about Jack Alau. But my research did lead me to some rather unexpected insights about the original spread of the popularity of Hawaiiana--and Hawaiian music in particular--in the early 20th century.

First off, while
One-Two-Three-Four was originally penned in 1906, it didn't become a wildfire hit (and apparently it was!) until it was featured in a now all-but-forgotten stage play, entitled, The Bird of Paradise. Christopher B. Balme wrote an extensive piece about The Bird, which I highly recommend for anyone interested in the origins of Hawaiiana in popular culture. In "Selling the Bird: Richard Walton Tully’s The Bird of Paradise and the Dynamics of Theatrical Commodification," Blame notes that The Bird:
“had considerable impact on US culture in the first half of the twentieth century…

...The play is set in Hawaii in the early 1890s, the period in which the US annexed the islands and disempowered the native queen and indigenous Hawaiians. The story revolves around a doomed liaison between a young American and a Hawaiian girl. Tully was a collaborator of David Belasco, the author of Madame Butterfly (1900), the inspiration for Puccini’s opera, and the play itself was immediately recognized as a Polynesian variation of the Belasco/Puccini melodrama. The Bird of Paradise is explicitly exoticist, implicitly racist, and, perhaps most egregiously, it was a huge commercial success that was performed throughout North America for over a decade between 1912 and 1924 and was revived twice on the West End in London. (emphasis added) It made both its author and producer a fortune, which they lost and partially regained in the course of one of the most protracted and influential trials on plagiarism in US judicial history; and it played a pivotal role in the popularization of a particular brand of ethnic music and dance, which is known throughout the world and detested wherever lovers of so-called serious music gather…

“The Bird ran a modest but respectable 112 performances at Maxine Elliot’s before embarking on extended tours of North America and many productions at local stock theatres. Although its impact on Broadway was considerable, the play’s long-term effect was generated by the multitude of stock company productions that the original spawned. The play was seen throughout the US and Canada over a period of twelve years.”
While The Bird was a drama rather than a musical, per se,

"Included in the production was purportedly authentic Hawaiian popular and traditional music. “Authentic” meant that the musicians had been imported from Hawaii. Although Laurette Taylor and other New York actresses rendered the hula, real Hawaiians provided the music… As only Hawaiians could at this time play in the style, Tully imported a Hawaiian band known as the Hawaiian Quintette, which included the famous steel guitarist Walter Kolomoku. Their performance led them to become so successful in their own right that they recorded the play’s incidental music for the Victor phonograph company, a recording that sold well into the 1920s."

Here's a couple Victor recordings of the Hawaiian Quintette, courtesy of John King:
Kaua i ka huahuai (aka Hawaiian War Chant)
Tomi Tomi
(And a link to the explanatory page on John's site.)

Naturally (or should I say "unnaturally"?), one of the pieces of "Hawaiian" music featured in the production was Uncle Jack's ditty. Being written in English (and phonetic German and Chinese), it caught on like wildfire, and was included in just about every Ukulele method book until Jim Beloff rescued us all with the advent of the Jumpin' Jim anthologies. Irving Berlin, himself responsible for many early riffs off of themes popularized by The Bird, also included One-Two-Three-Four
in his 1917 show, Stop! Look! Listen!, which also included Henry Kailimai's On the Beach at Waikiki.

As for Uncle Jack Alau? Well, he's still a mystery. Although if Ailau is an alternate spelling of his name, he might have also composed Wailana Waltz, more popularly known as Drowsy Waters.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Ukulelia Virtual Holiday Songbook

This year we've tried something new. The following link will take you to a page with links to our favorite ukulele arrangements of Christmas, Hanukkah, and miscellaneous holiday songs.

Here you'll find lyrics, chords, and tabs (tablature) for just about anything you're looking for. If you know of any good sites we've missed, please drop Gary a line at the link above, and we'll add it to the bookmarks. Mele Kalikimaka! Link

Jake's New Years Resolution?

Does this mean that he'll be sitting more next year, or that he'll be moving up to tables?
"'I'm 30 years old. I can't be standing on chairs and jumping off chairs,' he said."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

You make me feel like...

Yah, just another fresh-faced kid with a ukulele. There's a million of 'em in Ukuleletown. This one is special. Her name is Kristen.

I even forgive her the Leo Sayer Ted Danson refs.


This just in: Back from the road…

I was sittin’ at the Bus Station in Ukuleletown this evening readin’ the track reports, when who should roll in off the Big Dog but Mr. Greg Hawkes, taking a break from touring with the New Cars. (there ain't no limos allowed in Ukuleletown)

He was carryin’ a ukulele case with that wonderful custom pineapple made by David Talsma. I found out over a couple of Dark and Stormys that Greg is planning to show up at Ukulele Noir Twenty One in Somerville, Ma on January 5th to perform with songwriter Tim Mann.

He said some other stuff too, but I scribbled it on the back of my cocktail napkin and it go wet and smeared, so…


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blue Christmas / Mele Kalikimaka

Here's Mark Occhionero with a swell holiday medley from Ukulele Noir 20...

'scuse me, but did you say "CUB" reporter....?

Tina Mosh Rules

Bubbling up from down under; Sidney, Australia to be exact, is an amazing video/ukulele/lady. Tina Mosh. Listen to her do “Dreamtime Shoes” with special headgear. Peruse her quirky videos. link

God Bless Tiny Tim, and The Fab Four

Here's a special Christmas treat for Ukulelia Cub Reporter Craig ("Bah Humbug") Robertson and all you Beatles Fans out there. It's the Fab Four's 1968 Fan Club Christmas recording, featuring guess-who singing Nowhere Man. (Sorry, Craig, I just couldn't resist. The Santa Ornament will be gone soon.) Link

Victoria Vox: Uking at the Wheel

We've warned you about this before! Here's the latest example of what not to do while driving, featuring Victoria Vox. Link

Friday, December 22, 2006

Stuff a Stocking, Help a Sick Child

Long-time Ukulelia readers will recall that a couple of years ago, we wrote about a terrific program that provided music therapy to sick kids in the hospital. Using extra proceeds from our Google ads and Amazon affiliate spiffs, along with the generous direct contributions of several readers and the largesse of the Magic Fluke Company, we sent a dozen Flea Ukuleles to the program. (Could there be a better instrument for a sick kid?!)

The program is called the Children's Music Fund. It was founded by Dr. Raffi Tachdjian, a third-year pediatric fellow in the division of allergy and immunology at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA and Ukulelia Surgeon General. Raffi has produced a couple of CDs, the proceeds of which benefit the Fund.

Raffi just dropped us a note with the latest news, and sez that any or all of the three CDs he's produced would make wonderful stocking stuffers. At $10 apiece (tax deductible, I might add...), what are you waiting for? Info on the Fund and the CDs will be found here.

Suddenly, It's Christmas

I've always wanted to learn this Louden Wainwright III song. Here it is, courtesy of PJ Otaku...Link

Like a German Ukulele Virgin

Yeah, yeah; I know it’s a cheap hook, but, hell, there’s this German country quintet called “Texas Lightning” that features Jane Comerford on vocals and ukulele.

…and they do this version of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” that has Miss Jane on vocals. I actually kinda like it, though the ukulele is buried in the mix. But that’s not the best part. Check out the video of it on their website.

The best part is the German cowboy musicians singing back up on the song. I would like to have been there for that rehearsal.


Nuns with Ukes

Originally uploaded by MissMalaprop.

Don't know why, or when. But judging from the trophy, they won.

Say "Happy Birthday" to Jumpin' Jim

I always forget to send birthday greetings to Jim Beloff in time. Not this year! Jim will celebrate another year on the planet on December 25th. So drop by the Fleamarket Music site and wish Jim "Many Happy Returns!"

Comments Enabled!

You wanted comments? You've got 'em!
...And I heard Craig exclaim,
Ere he strummed out of sight,
"Happy Christmas if that's your thing,
but I can't wait for that Santa ornament to disappear..."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Patently Uke, No. 3

Here's the patent for the Lyon & Healy Teardrop uke that Craig wrote about earlier. Link

Nobody But You

Here's Ukulele Ike from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 singing "Nobody But You." Note his signature reverse finger roll, which begins with the index finger rather than the pinkie, and how he uses his thumb to add in triplets. Sweet.

“Three more payments and you’re all mine…”

Inside of Lennys Bar and Grill it’s dark (it’s always dark) and it’s 1929. I look up from the paper I’m readin’ as a young man steps on stage with a, you guessed it, ukulele. He says his name is Jack Pepper. He does a great rendition of “Ain’t That Too Bad”. Smiles too much, but, hey…you know.
click to watch

a single teardrop

This week Robert Wheeler, founder of Ukulele Consciousness, brought some lovely ukuleles over to my place to peruse and discuss over beer and a meandering cat. There were some predictable gems and a lovely surprise from Lyon and Healy.

They were: A Martin Tenor Ukulele…sounded and played with great charm even though the headstock had been broken and repaired at some past date.
A Wendell Hall Concert with the weird sound hole and a spruce top. Highly figured wood on the fretboard and a thinner, period sound.
A custom build sunburst Ditson-style Concert made by Mike Longworth especially for Robert. Great detailing. Crisp sound and presentation.
The best sounding of the bunch was a Martin Concert. Hands down. Why are they so sought after: play one and find out.
And… personal choice for most amazing was the Lyon and Healy Teardrop Soprano. Robert actually showed me the 1928 Patent for it in John King’s great book. A very small instrument, it had a super sound that was just right for vocal accompaniment. Although I was initially put off by the non-traditional shape, it’s charm soon won me over.

Then we drank some more beer.


We recently stumbled across Musurgia, purveyors of Fine, Rare & Peculiar Musical Instruments. Peculiar, indeed. Here you'll find some real center-stage freakshow items, such as the inexplicably-forgotten Musical Pitchfork (which has mysteriously disappeared from the site, so I've captured it here for posterity--Michael Simmons sez that the Musical Pitchfork never caught on because it never had a credible celebrity endorsement, as the Musical Saw did).

Search on "ukulele" and you'll find some great information for uke historians and collectors. And don't miss Musurgia's sister site, RetroFret. On RetroFret, ukuleles will be found under "other," along with lutherial mongrels such as Octophones ("The owner of the Octophone has the [dubious, ed.] advantage of combining eight different instruments in one, namely Tenor Banjo, Tenor Guitar, Mandolin, Mandola, Mandocello, Ukulele, Tiple and Taropatch. These changes are brought about by variations in tuning"), Tambourzitas, and, if presumably, if they still had one, Musical Pitchforks.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Don't be afraid of the dog in the beginning of this video...

In case you haven’t spent enough time on YouTube:

Here’s Philippe, from France, singing “George Formby’s Baby” on a banjo ukulele.

I don’t play one but, what the hell, someone has to.

And Philippe does a really nice job of it.


Hot off the presses...

So I’m sittin’ in Lennys Uptown Bar & Grill havin’ a Gimlet. Spunky the SeaMonkey is propped up against the napkin tray and, even though the lights are dim and the music is loud, I’m readin’ the latest news from the Ukuleletown Times.
Seems like Bosco & Honey, a hot new duo from the exotic rainforest town of Kuranda in Australia will be added to the stellar Saturday night concert line up.
They do an internet show called "Bosco and Honey's Ukulele Love In" and here's a pic of them. Yeah, they're awfully damn happy, but, what the hell, someone has to be.

Christmas Greetings from the Master, 1953

Makin' Merry, 'Ukulele Style. A Co-Lumbia Wreck-Ord!

Inside #2

Monday, December 18, 2006

We're old enough to drink now

Ukulele Noir Twenty One with Craig Robertson, Mark Occhionero, Melvern Taylor and The Fabulous Meltones, Matt Samolis and Tim Mann. Jan 5th in Ukuleletown.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


At the request of Michael Simmons over at the Fretboard Journal, we've added permalinks to each Ukulelia post.

There's something wiggy happening with the "Comments" function, but I'll get that ironed out as soon as I can. Lots of folks have been clamoring for this functionality, too.


JB's Ukulele Hut

If your travels take you to Guam, stop by the Agana Shopping Center and check out Jeffrey Borja's new shop! Link

HUM Ukers

While we're talking Houston (see post below), nice to know that there's a thriving ukulele community there. Here's a link to the Houston Ukulele Meetup group's site. Link

Back to the Uke

Andrew Dansby of the Houston Chronicle has written a peach of a story about the current ukulele renaissance. He covers everyone from Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen to Bill Tapia. This is a must-read, even for the jaded amongst us, if only to remind oneself of why we love the uke so much.

Dansby has done his homework, and it shows. I hereby nominate him for the 2006 Ukelitzer Prize. Link

Friday, December 15, 2006

Patently Uke, No. 2

In which an intrepid inventor devises a stamped sheet metal fretboard. I wonder if anyone put this 1928 idea into production before Maccaferri figured out how to do it with plastic in 1950? Link

I don't think I saw you in the audience...

A dark nightclub in Ukuleletown on a Wednesday night, the crew from Ukulele Noir showed up and played. If you weren't able to be there, then turn down the lights, pour yourself a drink and watch some of the videos. Craig Robertson, Tom Harker, Mark Occhionero, Davis Sweet and Joel Eckhaus. Yowsa.


try to ignore the xmas decorations, we did.

By the chimney, with care

Looking for a great stocking stuffer for that ukuleliac in your life? Wanna save a hundred bucks? How about Early Bird Tix for the New York UkeFest? hmmm....?
get 'em!

sorry about the pic...I'm not very good at this xmas thing.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Evil Ukulele

How did I miss this guy? I adore the title song of this CD!


Google Patents

The Ukulelia Mothership, BoingBoing, reports today about the new Google Patent search, now in beta. Search on "ukulele" or "ukelele" and check out all the historical artifacts and flat out oddities that turn up. If we have the time, we'll post some of the more interesting patents. (Shown here is the voluptuous, Freddie Mercury "Flying Fat Bottomed" Uke.) Stay tuned. Link

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Victoria Jackson in the News

We love Victoria Jackson, the uke-slinging, hand-standing, SNL alumnus supermom. A while back my daughter Anna Livia sent her daughter an email, commiserating on the indignities of living with a ukulele-playing parent. Victoria wrote back to Livvy with a lovely note. Anyway, we're happy to see that Ms Jackson has a new film project underway. Here's a recent story from Chattanooga, where the film was shot. The official film site is here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mickey Rat Lunchbox-a-Lele?

"Beachless Bob" Armstrong, Cheap Suit Serenader and creator of Mickey Rat had this to say about the R. Crumb Devil Girl Lunchbox-a-Lele I blogged about earlier this week (see below):

"Thanks for sending me the link to this Devil Girl lunch box uke. These are cute and so appealing to a novelty loving guy such as myself. However I can't imagine them sounding like much. Perhaps I'm missing the point.

Now if someone were to approach me with the idea of doing a Mickey Rat lunch box I would insist that they include a few sound enhancing elements inside the lunch box such as a half rotten baloney sandwich, partially gnawed Twinkie and a thermos containing the cocktail of the day.

The player of the Mickey Rat lunch box ukulele would then be ready to serenade the others during their lunch hour until they would gladly give up their lunch money to terminate the concert.


------>BoB "

I'd pay cash money to see that!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Run, Jake, Run!

WAIKIKI (KHNL)- Tomorrow thousands of runners will hit the streets of Honolulu for the marathon, and among them will be Hawaii's hottest ukulele player, Jake Shimabukuro. He can easily entertain a crowd of thousands, but now he's about to do a performance of a different kind, as a runner! "I just turned 30 in November so I thought this would be a good way to put my 20's aside and run into my next decade," he explains.


"Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro, running his first marathon, finished with a respectable time of 5:24:27, rested for 20 minutes with fans, then went on stage to perform for marathon finishers."

I don't always understand what's being said, or sung; but, luckily, that doesn't really matter.

It's the new Ultraman ukulele. Limited edition.

By the way, I want one of these...I just can't figure out how much they cost...


Friday, December 08, 2006

Top 50 Ukulele Sites