Monday, April 30, 2007
Big Island luthier Chuck Moore dropped us a note to let us know he now has a site up. I'm not personally familiar with his instruments, but I'm jealous of anyone who owns one. They look fabulous.
And I'm jealous of Chuck, too. I mean, wouldn't you want to live in a stunning, energy self-sufficient treehouse nestled in a mango tree, hang out in a pareau and build ukes? I think I owe Chuck a personal visit. Call it a Uko-Tourism trip. Link
Sunday, April 29, 2007
The Uke World welcomes all comers, and Ukulele Ray provides a solid anchor for the ridiculous end of the spectrum. And the thing about Ray is, he's the real deal. A charming nutcase who knows himself to be one, and gladly shares his self-awareness with anyone who'll listen.
Ray is also the Mad Genius behind the LunchBox-a-Lele, and the subject of this complimentary profile in today's SF Chronicle:
Wherever there is a lunch box, Ray sees "playable art," whether it's Bugs Bunny, SpongeBob SquarePants or Betty Boop, or for the more macho ukulele players, a Harley-Davidson, Fender or Michael Jordan model. And if someone still has that classic Snoopy pail or Partridge Family lunch box from grade school, he or she can send it to Ray and have a custom ukulele made. The instruments range in price from $100 for a small soprano uke to about $300 for a double-necked soprano and baritone ukulele.
Okay, so here's the thing. A lot of cultural bullies out there still see ukulele players as playground wimps whose lunches are begging to be stolen. And if you carry your lunch in a uke that cost you a couple hundred bucks, aren't you asking for twice the pain? I'm just saying...
Still hungry for one? Elderly's the exclusive purveyor. Don't miss the amplified, limited-edition Fender 60th Anniversary model, complete with thermos amp!
Shocked. I'm shocked. That photo of Oprah that Craig sent me? Altered? And could it have been a shameless attempt to promote the upcoming Ukapalooza at the Hotel Vernon in Whuss-Stah, Mass next weekend?
Once Craig returns from his Sam-Adams-induced stupor at the NY UkeFest (going on right now, Gothamites!), he's got some 'splainin' to do. Link
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
So while Craig would have you believe that you have to hop a freight and steal into Gotham for the NYC Uke Fest, in fact you can simply drive to the humble burg of Hayward, California on Sunday for the 14th Annual Ukulele Festival of Northern California. See you there!
Thursday, April 26, 2007
In case you’ve missed the whirl of ukulele activity on the East Coast, here’s a place to spend the weekend in ukulele nirvana:
NY Uke Fest 2007, Thursday thru Sunday
April 26 thru April 29, 2007
An extended weekend of nonstop Ukulele Fun!
Concerts, Vendors, Workshops, Jams
40,000 Square Feet, Two Concert Stages
FREE UKULELE DOOR PRIZES AT EVERY CONCERT!!
ALL UNDER ONE ROOFTheater for the New City is located at
155 First Avenue (and East 10th Street) in Manhattan.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I will be cruising out of Ukuleletown this Friday in my light blue convertible (in a dark blue mood), heading for Gotham...where this year's edition of the NY Uke Fest will be held all weekend, from Thursday to Sunday night.
Why am I going there? To meet other like-minded ukulele players? To peruse the vast array of new and used ukuleles? To charm and wow the ukulele world with my playing?
NO, I'm going because a certain beverage is being supplied free all weekend...
Remember, strum responsibly.
(we all have out price.)
Sunday, April 22, 2007
One of the stalwarts of the San Francisco ukulele scene is Tippy Canoe. She recently had Berekley Luthier Peter Hurney of Pohaku Ukuleles make her a lovey new concert. Cedar Soundboard, Curly Maple Body (dyed red), Maple neck with Fishman Matrix Active Pickup Installed.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Ramping up in preparation for next Sunday's NoCal Uke Festival, Herb Ohta, Jr. will be presenting workshops and private lessons at Mike DaSilva's in Berkeley, CA on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 24th and 25th. Details at Mike's site. Link
Thursday, April 19, 2007
This just in from Alex at KWMR in California,
90.5 fm presents…
KWMR Block Party
Saturday, April 21st
KWMR Studios, Mesa Road and Highway One
Point Reyes Station, West Marin County, California
a tribute to that diminutive hollow-body, the ukulele...
3:30-The Shut-Ins w/ Michael Roper
4pm-Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen
4:30-Rick Quisol, the Dime Store Dandy
(not bad for the Left Coast!)
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
King David announced the upcoming Ukulele Mania show, part of Le Printemps de Bourges festival in France. The big event is this Saturday, April 21, 2007.
On the line-up are everyone from the Ukulele Club of Paris to Ukulele Goddess Mareva Galanter.
Link in Googletranslated English (which speaks of the "one evening the cream of melted of ukulélé, all confused kinds.")
I'm a tuba player in addition to being a uke nut, so I have a soft spot in my heart for Ron Saul. He not only makes sweet ukuleles, he's invented what amounts to a musical whoopie cushion. Check out this article from the SLO Tribune. And don't miss the audio slide show, which covers Ron and his creations, from the sublime to the ridiculous (in that order). Link
Mark your calendars now for Bill Tapia's 100th Birthday Celebration, this November, 2007. (Tappy's birthday is actually January 1st, but who'd argue with this?).
Paniolo Productions is producing Bill Tapia's 100th Birthday Celebration on the(Thanks, Alyssa!)
Mainland this year, so mark your calendars now because this is one show not to
Visit Paniolo Productions for the most current updates and
sign-up on our email list to be among the first to be invited!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Bill Tapia's 100th Birthday Mainland Celebration & Show
Warner Grand Theatre
478 West 6th Street
San Pedro, California
For more information go to:
or call (323)547-3482
Also visit: Tappy's Site!
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Ukulele Clubs…they’re springing up like mushrooms in a dark wet basement. The latest entry is The Taunton Ukulele Strummers Club led by Nipper and Moogly Moo (of Painted Ukuleles). They have a great new website (I approve of the blood red backgrounds) you should visit in your digital travels. Looks like a fun gathering. Too bad it's all the way across the big puddle.
Here’s Nipper playing a lovely custom Kepasa Hollywood Ukulele made for him by Kevin Crossett of Vermont.
I don’t think it will ever stop raining in Ukuleletown. The top on the Wheelermobile covertible was firmly attached to the windshield as he pulled up Monday with beer and ukuleles.
While he had a couple of upscale ukuleles (a DaSilva and a Longworth), the others that he brought were all inexpensive entry-level sopranos, that, oddly enough, played very well. They stayed in tune and had a pleasing tone. The Martin SO, for it’s poor rep, was still the best sounding, but I would have to say that the Brueko, for the money, was easily the best deal.
Get one for your best girl or your buddy who keeps borrowing your 5K.
Left top right:
1) Applause (Ovation Want-a-bee) Korea -
2) Da Silva (Sunken Redwood) California -
3) Johnson (Uke 150) China
4) Longworth ("Robert" - Concert - Spruce/Koa/Sunburst) Bell Buckle, TN -
5) Brueko - Germany -
6) C.F. Martin - South of the border, down Mexico Way. (Pay back for loosing Mexican American War?????)
Monday, April 16, 2007
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Prof. Michael Simmons, editor of the Fretboard Journal and Dean of the Ukulelia Lutherie Dept. sagely asked, "Why aren't these players on Ukulelia?"
Excellent question, and one that we are happy to rectify. Meet Marry and Thea Verhey, superstars of the Dutch Gospel Music world. So well known in the '60s (or at least their hair styles were) that they could evidently be represented on album covers sans facial features. With sound clip goodness. Link
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Sometimes I venture out of Ukuleletown into strange lands…
On a recent trip to Florida I visited the mysterious Nina Coquina and her amazing collection of idiosyncratic and lush sounding ukuleles. Over a couple of “Dark and Stormys” we played through a staggering group of great sounding ukes…
Front row L to R: ca. 1937 Style 4 Kamaka Pineapple (my favorite of the “bunch”, a definitely useful sound and a fabulous neck); late '40s Kamaka Style 4 Soprano (I’ve never seen this body shape on a Kamaka); Kelii Mahogany Supersoprano (holy cow, not to be beat for the money, go buy one of these right now!), Second row: 2000 Larrivee 10K Soprano; KoAloha Pineapple Sunday (superconcert)(a great sounding ukulele in a really comfortable size); Talsma custom soprano "Carmen Miranda"(a marvelous pickup in this one to amplify a fantastic tone); Glyph Curly Mango Concert (luscious sound, luscious wood); 1920s Supertone.
Back Row: Regal LeDomino(Do I REALLY have to comment on one of these?); Black Bear "Fall Uke" Soprano
Robert Wheeler, conscious and toting ukuleles, showed up at my palatial ukulelestate on the first Monday of April. Oh, yeah, with beer, Stella Artois of annoying commercial fame but still not a bad tasting beer.
After some strumming, yakking, singing and drinking we decided to do what we usually do and have lunch at a favorite haunt of ours in Ukuleletown know as “The Paddock” restaurant. It’s named “The Paddock” because of the “Horse and Rider” theme prevalant everywhere you look.
But disaster: the Paddock just instituted a policy of being closed for lunch on Monday and Tuesday afternoons! Undaunted, the intrepid duo repaired to a nearby Thai restaurant. Not only was the food excellent, but they served that beer made famous by the Pogues; Singha Beer.
Ukes, left to right - Spanish, ('20's/30's)made in Valencia (this was the charmer of the bunch and the one with, oddly enough, the most useful musical sound to my ears) , Ernest Cigar Box (great sound, but missing the whiskey and cigars), Neiman Marcus Irish Whiskey Liqueur Dessert Cookies Tin Ukulele with redwood top, made my Greg Clarke. Model Maker, New York Historical Museum, Albany NY, (bizarre and wonderful, but, again, where are the cookies?). New Martin SO - Mexico, (okay, I admit it, it sounded really good) Oscar Schmidt, New Jersey, spruce top, Martin Back Packer - Mexico
Picture of member of 49th Infantry Division, Camp Roberts California.(You figure this one out)
click for a bigger pic.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Sometimes you wake up in a strange place, a strange town…it’s not Ukuleletown…yet it is, somehow. Sometimes it’s you’re not you when you wake up.
Sound like a Kafka novel?
Well, it ain’t; it’s just the latest edition of Ukulele Noir in at the Bowery Poetry Club from 9 to 1030 in Gotham on Sunday April 8th. So if you’re out and about in New York, come down and check out Melvern Taylor (doing a rare solo set), Al Duvall and Mistress of Ceremonies, Bliss Blood, with her new band “Smash and Grab”.
That’s right, puppies, Bliss is this edition’s MC. So show up and howl.
The Gotham Noir.
Friday, April 06, 2007
If you really want the facts about ukuleles…history, models, players, builders, etc…for my money there is only one accurate source: Nalu Music by the amazing John King. He does the research, he has the patents…cripes, go to his site and look around. No rumors, guessing, hearsay or whatever…just da facts, ma’am.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Sunday, April 01, 2007
The entire ukulele community is abuzz with the news that Emmy Award winning TV host Oprah Winfrey has announced the launch of Oprah's Uke Club. According to the Oprah Alert announcement (registration required) made today, Oprah was inspired by the recent appearance of actor and uker William H. Macy on her show (see our previous story here).
Evidently, Macy was teaching Oprah a few basic chords on his Flea Ukulele after the show and happened to mention that TV pioneer Arthur Godfrey played, and how his 15 minute on-air uke lessons resulted in the ukulele's skyrocketing popularity in the 1950s (what is affectionately known as the "second wave" of the ukulele). Oprah was intrigued, and immediately got the staff at Harpo Productions to work on a concept.
Oprah's Uke Club will premiere in the fall, giving Winfrey's massive marketing machine time to ramp up for the big launch (she'll be giving away ukuleles to her studio audiences for the entire first week--book your tickets now!). Patterned after the phenomenally successful Oprah's Book Club, the Uke Club will feature Winfrey and guest performers (Macy will be back first, natch) performing duets, and Oprah will teach basic chords and strumming. It's currently only slated to be be a once-a-week feature, but if it proves popular, who knows!
Macy himself connected Oprah with ukemeister Jim Beloff, who suggested a collaboration with his brother-in-law's Magic Fluke Company, maker of the Flea and Fluke Ukuleles. If you're lucky enough to own a "Poi-ple Fluke," our guess is that you're now in possession of a genuine collector's item, as it will now be retired and soon re-released with a custom faceplate as the Oprah Fluke (shown above). Beloff will also be supporting the show with a co-branded songbook, Jumpin' Jim's Jammin' With Oprah, featuring songs from the Broadway musical adaptation of The Color Purple, which Winfrey also helped produce.
I'm sure it's too much to ask, but it would be cool if Wesley Willis's paean to Oprah was one of the tunes!
This might very well prove to be the catalyst the brings about the true resurgence of what has been, at least twice in the last 100 years, America's favorite instrument. More information at the Harpo Productions site. And here.