Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Robert, Plant.

The Founder playing a lovely Style 2 Gibson Soprano.

(sorry, Robert, I had to do it...)

Big ukes? No problem.

At a recent luncheon at the Noir Manor (more details in another post), Greg Hawkes and Tim Mann both tried out two superlative baritone ukuleles. The Vega Arthur Godfrey, belonging to Robert Wheeler, and the Martin Baritone, belonging to Greg. Both from approximately the same era, but both with much different tonal landscapes. Baritones are generally much quieter than sopranos, having more of a “guitar like” tone. However, the Godfrey was strung reentrant and the Martin with a low D. Both were tuned D G B E.
And, just to be confusing, Greg is pictured playing Robert's Vega Arthur Godfrey, and Tim is pictured playing Greg's Martin.

Greg, Robert, Arthur, Tim, Martin...a full house.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Flea Market Instructor Links

The good folks at have set up a new listing page for uke instructors. If you teach, sign up! If you're learning, click on over. Link

Ian After He Got Cool

Note how the presence of Ukie gives Ian powers over mortal teens! See them worship him! They are not worthy! Link

Ian on Shindig!

Ignore all the screaming girls and go-go dancers. This is Ian Whitcomb before he got cool. Link

I Wonder Who Got the Girl?

I hope it was Parvis. Bleat looks like a future wife-beater. Link

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lil' Rev In Berkeley Tonight

If you're out and about in the East Bay tonight, Lil' Rev will be at Mike DaSilva's, 8pm!! Link

Friday, February 23, 2007

Windy City Ukuleles

Another cold damn blustery day in Ukuleletown. Robert pulled up to the ice buried curb of the stately Noir mansion and set case after case of ukuleles on the curb!

He wanted to show me the ukuleles he was going to exhibit at the Ukulele Noir show at the Revolving Museum in Lowell on March 24th. He had quite a few.

AND he brought along positive 11x14 protographic prints that he would be exhibiting along with them.

As always, click and weep.
Heads, left to right.
1)Early Harmony Wooden pegs.
2) Regal Red Head, celeb uke, Wendal Hall (Ain't Goin' Rain No More)
3) Harmony Johnny Marvin, Lindburg bridge.
4) Regal "By the Sea, by the Sea,
5) Lyon & Healy Camp Uke,
6) Lyon and Healy uke with gold decal ... wonderful.
7) Regal Clown and Monkey uke .... you have to love it,
8) 50's Silvertone (Harmony) Mahogany with thigh flesh and Dodge Dart peg buttons.
9) LoPrinzi Mahogany bought at Uke fest.
10) Supertone (Harmony) with canoe
11) Supertone Stradavarius - 17 frets, nothing but cool.
12) World famouse Vita Harmony Uke , Roy Smeck celeberaty, fancy wood and seal holes.

As I was Saying, left overs, left to right.
1)Continental uke .... weird decal????
2)Harmony Smeck "Concert" - Not really
3) Lyon and Healy patented tear drop.
4)Sam's Uke ..... Sammo - Samuel P or X Osborn .........matches the taro patch, take my word.

You ARE going to be at the show, right????

The New York Ukulele Ensemble

New Yorkers grab your coat and get your hat. Tomorrow night, Saturday, February 24th, the New York Ukulele Ensemble will be in concert at the Theater for the New City.

Under the direction (?) of the one and only Uke Jackson. Link

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An Inscrutable Ukulele Adventure with Ernie

That wacky ukulele playing, cartoon slinging Ernie Gilbert sends me this: “I'll be singing and playing (ukulele), as part of L.A. Chinatown's Chinese Lunar Festival, this Saturday, February 24th. The festival starts at 10:00am, the Golden dragon Parade begins at 2:00pm, and I, along with several other musicians and performers, will hit the mainstage at 5:00 pm. I'll be performing about five songs, and it should be a lot of fun, especially if I don't embarrass myself.

We all know what an important historical role the ukulele has played in Chinese culture...”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tin Pan Heritage

Ruby, of Ruby and the Hummingbirds, a group from Newport, Pennsylvania, has a great ukulele lineage and some great tunes….
(I love this story)
“Ruby and Ross were birds of a feather. They met in New York City in 1925. Both were working in a speakeasy know as After Awhile, just off Broadway. After closing time, Ruby would get up on the small stage with her dad’s ukulele, and sing her original songs to an empty room. Ross would join in, singing harmony and sometimes adding a few more verses of cutting lyrics…”
read the whole story

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Way-back machine from a parallel universe

I don't know a lot about this man, he was supposedly born in 1905 from an American dad and a Romania mother. It seems he found a kind of time machine which allows him to record songs with a tape recorder, before the technology was invented! Using this, he can also steal songs from famous composers, before they wrote them!
The sound archive of this strange man called Joseph K had been discovered and his work is published here.

Mary Kaye 1923-2007

From the Star Bulletin this morning:
"Mary Kaye, a Hawaiian guitarist and singer who headed the Mary Kaye Trio and kicked off Las Vegas' 24-hour lounge scene, died yesterday of respiratory and heart failure, her nephew told the Associated Press. She was 83."
Mary Kaye was the daughter of Johnny "Ukulele" Ka'aihue, and sister of Norman Kaye, Poet Laureate Emeritus of Nevada. She is also well-known within the guitar community for having the legendary Fender Mary Kaye Strat named for her.


Emily Russell

The maxim "ukuleleness is close to godliness" is excellently illustrated by Emily Russell, who performs for seniors as part of Americana Music Academy's outreach program. Americana is in Lawrence, KS, but Emily grew up in Hawaii. (Where she wen' grad? Kauai High School, class of ’49!)


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Burn Awareness

The Uke may be hot, but it's safe for children. Not so for water, which at normal household temperatures could maim a child for life.

This is off-topic, but as a proud Shriner (the fez really embarrasses my teenagers, heh, heh) I'd like to step out a moment and point you to some important information from Shriners Hospital's Burn Awareness Week. Following are links to handy pdfs with information about preventing scalding in the home.

Info Sheet (pdf)
Poster (pdf)

And in case you aren't aware, kids up to 18 with burn injuries, orthopaedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible can receive medical care at no charge through Shriners Hospitals for Children. (That's worth putting up with a fez-wearing dad for!)

As a bonus, and to bring this post back on-topic, here's a link to a tune published by the Aloha Shrine back in the day. Link

Ladies and Gentlement, a New Analogy

Finally, we can move beyond the Jake Shimabukuro is the Jimi Hendrix of the Ukulele. He is now the Bill Cosby of the ukulele. Link

Friday, February 16, 2007

Truly excellent moon

Steve Paul's Puppet Music Hall features the work of a diverse assortment of singer-songwriters and visual artists, including pre-existing animated shorts and music videos which contribute to the flavor and character of Puppet Music Hall.
Meryl Streep and Adam Guettel give a haunting rendition of 'Excellent Moon', written by Laurie Simmons and Michael Rohatyn, from Laurie Simmons' beautiful art film 'The Music of Regret', which debuted recently at the Museum of Modern Art.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Yeah, well, Malcolm's message...

From 'the collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry'

"Terror will pay your way through strange bazaars
Through strange bazaars, terror will pay your way
Through strange bazaars it will pay your way today
But to-morrow you must be sober and count the hours.
[possibilities listed:] Him Gwine Wax
Gastown Gruesomes
In a Mist
Plenty off Center
Wild Bleeding Heart
Huge 5c Scribbler
Aged in Wood."

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentine's Day

This is an oldie but goodie that Mark found and posted to the blog several years ago: a wonderful George Price cartoon. Link

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mark O's Santo

Lucky Duck Mark Occhionero got Mike DaSilva to make him a reproduction of an 1890s Santo ukulele. There's a video of the uke being finished in Mike's shop, along with hi-res photos on Mark's site. You want to see just how diminutive this baby is? Just look at the pix and see how big the C string looks in comparison to the body. Link

Uke Player Wins Barrymore Prize

Portland, OR uker Jacob Borshard recently won Drew Barrymore's Music and Lyrics songwriting contest for his song and video Grass Stains. The studio flew him down to Hollywood for the red carpet premiere of Drew's new flick, and Jacob got Drew to carve her name into the top of his vintage Martin. (So much classier than handprints in cement, don't you think?). Link

"Uke" Can Be My Valentine

Also on eBay, an old chestnut. Link

Heart-Felt Picks

Literally. Link

Vintage Uke Valentine

An eBay find. Ask me to be yours, ukulele style! Link

Lady, Be Good!

I'm a big fan of jazz guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli, and so had to follow a seemingly random thread several months ago when a Bananaslug search turned up a link indicating that Pizzarelli had played uke on a recording George and Ira Gershwin's Little Jazz Bird. It turned out to be a sweet find.

Pizzarelli's performance appears on a restored studio recording of the Gershwin musical, Lady, Be Good! The original 1924 production starred Fred and Adele Astaire, and featured none other than our old pal, Cliff Edwards.

This was the show that introduced the legendary Gershwin tunes Oh, Lady Be Good and Fascinatin' Rhythm, the latter of which was performed in the show by Cliff, who also sang Little Jazz Bird (along with Insufficient Sweetie, It's All the Same to Me, and one of my personal favorites, Who Takes Care of the Caretaker's Daughter.)

On the studio recording, Pizzarelli backs himself on baritone ukulele while he croons, and it's a terrific recording. I highly recommend the CD: if you love Gershwin, you'll love this production. In addition to JP, it features Lara Teeter, Ann Morrison, Michael Maguire, and (yes) Jason Alexander. Plus one of my favorites from previous PHC days, Ivy Austin.

I've poked around and have been unsuccessful in finding a recording of Cliffie singing Little Jazz Bird. If you know of one, please drop me a line.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Tappy The Ladies' Man

Bill Tapia has the hottest red uke I have ever seen. 99 and still smokin'! Link

What was he thinkin’?

The Ukulele Club of Paris is having a big bash on April 21...and to promote it on their website they have a lovely press photo of Cliff Edwards and Bessie Love from 1929s Hollywood Revue.

So, he's playin' a G7 chord and thinkin'...what?

Probably, “if you get any makeup on my Style 3, I'll scream!"


Deschanel Girls Support Cause, Bring Uke

Here are some great shots of Ukulele Sweetheart Zooey Deschanel and her most worthy sister Emily out in support of "Victims & Avengers," a photography exhibit of Chris Anthony's work, now at the Corey Helford Gallery in Culver City. A portion of the proceeds from the show goes to the Jenesse Center, a domestic violence intervention program for women and children.

Zooey and Emily appear in Chris's macabre, but beautifully haunting work. Zooey brought along her uke to keep the scene from becoming too morose.

Sadly, Ms D does not supply a soundtrack for the exhibit, but you might consider downloading the Gothic Archies to your iPod to enjoy while perusing the exhibit.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Someone Hearts Les

When I'm 80, I'd be delighted for you to send me this cake. Heck, I'm not proud. Send one for my 48th. Link

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Serial Music


My MP3-player-disguised-as-an-antique-radio surges to life and fills my room with the sound of ukuleles.

Over the dark and stormy skies of Ukuleletown another episode of the uke-centric show ”The UkeCast”
rides in on the airwaves. Hosted by Chris Miller and Nipper.

This week’s thrilling installment features music by a slew of ukulele players. The Good Sports, Jason Arimoto, Vedette, The Doifter, King Louie Uke, Phredd and Alli Bee.

Now, where did I set my drink…?

Set 'em Up, Al

It’s an overcast afternoon in Ukuleletown. Yeah, I know I said it was always night in Ukuleletown…except when it’s overcast. And today it’s overcast.
I stop at Lenny’s Downtown Bar and Grill for some lunch and a gimlet. The guy behind the bar takes my order, mixes my drink, pulls out a ukulele and sings me this song: Day Bartender

He says his name is Al Duvall. You haven’t heard of him??? Shame on you.

his website

Monday, February 05, 2007

Nine-Year-Old Formby Fan

Francesca Davies is a nine-year-old brit with impeccable taste:
"I'm the only one at school who likes George but I don't care. I think he's great and I love playing the uke."

Francesca's mum Jackie Davies, 42, said: "George Formby has taken over our house."

And if she's mastered the Split Stroke, we officially hate her. Link

We Shall Be Released

The New York Ukulele Ensemble , nine ukuleles and a bass, will be celebrating the release of their new CD “Ukulele Street” with a concert on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 8 pm. The 10 tunes on the collection include originals, a couple Tin Pan Alley covers, as well as trad jazz and a bonus track of three Irish jigs. The concert will be held at Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (corner East 10th Street) in Manhattan.

Toon Tune

Ernie Gilbert works as the art director for the cartoon show “the Fairly Oddparents” (one of my daughter’s favorites) and also plays, you guessed it, kids; ukulele. Ernie says of one episode: "One of the most exciting things for me, was getting to provide the singing voice (and play ukulele) for this character- Chippington Skylark III".

a direct link to the episode

In the entry comments, Ernie posted a reponse, almost as an aside: "I won the Animation Industry's "Annie" Award, for character design last year, for this episode ."

Check out the rest of his blog, it’s full of juicy tidbits!

and here's the song! "Icky Vicky"

(thanks to Nina Coquina for bringing this to my attention)

Sunday, February 04, 2007


That's Australian for Uke, mate.

Check out the general store, which purveys some swell ukulele x-ray T-shirts and GCEA country stickers. Link

Ukulele Memories

"Teach a boy to play the uke, and he'll have songs to sing for the rest of his life." Amen. Link

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Groundhog Day!

All together now...Link

More mermaids…

An enduring subject, it seems, for ukulele players. From England, Alli Bee has recorded and sung a wonderfully atmospheric song called ”Lorelei”

And, although she doesn’t play ukulele (yet), we shouldn’t forget this Tori Amos lyric from “Silent All These Years”

“But what if I'm a mermaid
In these jeans of his
With her name still on it”

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Oh Donna

I ain’t gonna keep tellin’ you how cold it gets in Ukuleletown this time of year. But if it’s too cold for Robert to put the top down on his convertible, then it’s cold. Today, when he arrived for lunch, the top was up.

He brought beer from Vietnam (actually, the beer was from Joe’s, it was just imported from Vietnam) and only four ukuleles. But they were all humdingers. (no, that is not a new SUV from Japan)

top horizontal: circa 1924 C.F. Martin Employee's (Charlie Schafer) Maple back and sides -mystery top. (opinions vary on the top woods…from very good spruce to holly. It has almos no grain and is a custardy color) Everything a great soprano should be and have, plus it felt great.

Left vertical: Augustino LoPrinzi - koa - ebony back wedge – 2006
Loud and warm. Soundwise and playing wise the standout of the four. I was very impressed by the spot on intonation. (Donna LoPrinzi, Augustino’s daughter, makes the ukuleles now; while Augustino oversees and concentrates more on the guitars)

Middle vertical: circa 1950 - Kamaka - koa - white label - (and for the blind) pineapple shaped
That lovely small pineapple shape and flat neck profile, plus that funky twenties sound.

Right vertical : 20th Century C.F. Martin Employee's (Lester Davidson/Mike Longworth) Style 2 1/2 (I say "20th Century" because Lester started sometime before 1976 and Mike finished after 1990)
Buttery smooth sound and playability.
LoPrinzi Website

More synergy, pink this time…

More proof that ukulele players are infiltrating the world of pop music: Kristen Shirts performs with singer/songerwriter Jonathan Coulton.

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