Thursday, May 03, 2007

(eyes) in the back of your head(stock)

Sunny days are rare in Ukuleletown; but it’s Spring, so motes of pollen filter down through the beams of afternoon sunlight as Robert Wheeler pulls up to my house in his black insect convertible. The top is down, the air is…somehow still not sweet. But that’s another story…
Besides the ubiquitious and always appreciated beer, Robert has brought two marvelous examples of pre-war ukulele making. Although they both were born on the mainland in the Martin factory, they are made with that most tropical of woods: Koa.
How do they sound? Well…to my ear, koa always takes a long time to open up, come alive…and these two have both definitely come alive. The sound is warm and slightly mid-rangey, without that annoying koa honk that new instruments so often have. One of them was made by Martin for the Wurlitzer Company, but with no compromise is quality. Both great sounding instruments from a era when ukulele ruled the populist musical universe.
both 1K Martin's about 1922-3. One on the right made for Wurlitzer.

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