Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ukulele Lighter

Perfect for checking out the flame in your koa wood, kicking off Burning Uke, playing some Doors, or calling for an encore at a Jake Shimabukuro concert. It's refillable. And it's patented! Link

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Up. With Ukes?

How Bowers was watching some previews of Pixar's next feature, "Up," and spotted a ukulele on the mantlepiece in the home of the lead character, Carl Fredricksen. How graciously grabbed a screen shot for us.

Sez How: "No way to know yet if he plays on-screen, but it's interesting to see the instrument show up. I know that Pixar's Ricky Nierva is a big fan of the uke -- I wonder if that's the connection."

It's an unusual shape, but I seem to recall seeing it before. Anyone?

(Thanks, How!)

"Ukulele T-Rex" T-Shirt

Reece Ward was inspired by Julia Nunes to design this kewl T-shirt. Link

Since Maggie Dooley Learned the Hooley Hooley

How many times has ukulele been rhymed with shillelah? At least once, by Bert Kalmar and Edgar Leslie. Listen here. Link

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kokua Hawaii Foundation Auction

Jack Johnson's Kokua Hawaii Foundation is having a charity auction in lieu of a festival this year:
"What do Willie Nelson's sneakers, Jack's Johnson's guitar and tickets to a Eddie Vedder concert all have in common?*

They are just three of over twenty one-of-a-kind items available exclusively at the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation Benefit Auction this month. Bid on numerous collectible items and concert opportunities from past Kokua Festival artists, as well as fun eco-themed experiences and gift certificate packages from friends of the Kokua Hawai'i Foundation.

The first annual Kokua Hawai'i Foundation Benefit Auction begins on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22nd and bidding continues thru May 1st. All proceeds support Kokua Hawai'i Foundation programs….so don't be shy and have fun bidding on your favorite items!"
Up for sale are a Maccaferri Islander uke autographed by John Cruz and a Ko'olau uke signed by Jack Johnson.


*To which we'd reply, they're all items from famous ukulele players, or their dads.

Tappy Knows

If your great-uncle happened to jam with Bill Tapia in the '60s, Tappy hasn't forgotten. Link

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Derick Sebastian and Bill Tapia at DaSilva's

Derick Sebastian will conduct a workshop and perform at Mike DaSilva's on Saturday, April 25. Then, if you haven't OD'd on ukulele madness at the Hayward festival, Bill Tapia will be in concert in the shop on Monday night! Details here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

George Harrison Gets His Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Music courtesy Greg Hawkes.

NoCal Uke Fest Next Weekend!

Don't forget that next Sunday, April 26 is the Northern California Ukulele Festival in Hayward.

Sad to say, I have to miss it this year. I'll be touring colleges in SoCal with my oldest daughter instead. I'll particularly miss hanging out at the Uke Fest and jamming with Dodge's Sundodgers who usually hold court in the, er, courtyard. To make up for it, I'll be sure to subject her to plenty of ukulele music during our drive. Especially the Sundodgers's new CD, Under the Sun. (Which, if you haven't ordered your copy already, you really must!).

Behold, the Banjo-Orchestra!

Ukulelia Professor of Advanced Plectrum Studies, Robert Armstrong, remarked that the Banjochestrion contraption in our earlier post reminded him of the Banjorchestra, a mechanized beast that combined the wizardry of the player piano with the subtle charms of the banjo. Re-christened the Banjo-Orchestra, these behemoths are still being made today by the D.C. Ramey Piano Company.

Perfect for any dorm room or church nursery.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Skeletons from The Closet

Why is Ukulelia the World's Greatest Weblog? This kinda stuff.

In poking around this morning I found a few interesting items in Google Book Search. First, meet Morris Rothman of Bayonne, NJ, who patented this neato combination walking cane and ukulele. Anyone ever played one?

Next up, sneak a peek at Miss Una Fleming of Los Angeles, CA and her 5-foot ukelele (sic). Also on this and adjacent pages, check out the "Singing Cocoanuts," "Banjochestrion" (a combo banjo, piano, guitar, harp, and mandolin), and "Luminaphone" (an instrument that produces music by beams of light, invented by Harry Grindell Matthews, inventor of the Death Ray!). Scroll up a page and "Look Out, Boys, for the Electric Spanker!

Also, wanna make a nifty cigar box uke? Have at it! (h/t to King David Ukulele Station)

On the serious side, here's an article from the December, 1919 issue of The Wood-Worker spotlighting the ukulele factory of Frank Bremmerman of Indianapolis, IN. 120 ukuleles a day! (Here's a video of latter day Hoosier Geoff Davis playing one of Mr. Bremmerman's ukes.)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zimnicki Ukuleles

Finally, a uke luthier with a name that sounds like one of my childhood chums back in Michigan. Behold Zimnicki ukuleles! Gary Zimnicki has been making guitars (and such) for over 25 years. Elderly currently has two of his ukes, a lucious 5K-style Deluxe Koa Soprano and bit less fancy, but pretty, 2K-style Koa Soprano.

Brian Hefferan (who gets to try all the ukes out at Elderly, damn him) sez "both ukes have a big, powerfull-but-still-pretty tone.

Tiny Tim's Teeth Sold Online

If you're not a Tiny Tim fan, and had hoped that his memory would never come back to bite you, start fretting. Link

Monday, April 13, 2009

Under the Sun: Dodge's Sundodgers

Fred Dortort was kind enough to send us a copy of Dodge's Sundodgers new CD, Under the Sun. My iPod is always packed with oodles of Cheap Suit music: R. Crumb's Cheap Suit Serenaders, natch, but also every scrap of Janet Klein I own since her Parlor Boys from time to time include moonlighting Suits Bob Armstrong and Tom Marion.

Of course, the Dodge in the driver's seat of The Sundodgers is Suit Al Dodge (and you really have to click here). So Here Comes the Sun (not the Geo. Harrison Sun), is a most welcome addition. The CD features a nice Suits' Medley, and lots more in a similar vein. The Sundodgers' Darling, Kathy Sparling, (sorry, had to) is a featured vocalist on several tracks, also singing duets with Zac Salem. Glen Jordan keeps the pulse steady with a big ol' acoustic bass guitar (actually new, since Glen built it).

I've fallen in love with a couple of tracks. To facilitate your infatuation as well, here are some related links. First, the sheet music for After You've Gone. And a 1919 Edison Cylinder recording of same, featuring Gladys Rice and Billy Murray. And here are some tabs (link to pdf): one and two. It's completely stuck in my head.

And last but not least, the sheet music with uke arrangement for Here Comes the Sun (featured by Ozzie Nelson!). Be forewarned, it's addicting! You can order the CD here. Buy a copy, it's great!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Watch The KoAloha Ukulele Story Streaming Live

Today, April 11, 2009, at 3:00 PM HST (6:00 PST).
"Hawaiian Moon and Ukulele Underground are proud to present the Internet Premiere of The KoAloha Ukulele Story, the animated documentary detailing the creation of the KoAloha Ukulele Company. Directed by Gary San Angel and animated by Rocky Kev, this film was the winner of the Golden Kahuna Award at the 2009 Honolulu International Film Festival."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Maccaferri Guitars at the National Music Museum

Here's some interesting info from the National Music Museum at The University of South Dakota* about Mario Maccaferri's instruments. I knew about the plastic violin, but didn't realize that he tried to parlay the success of the Islander into archtop guitars. Link

*Not to be confused with The University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

The Johnny Starlings

I've been thinking the Great Depression a lot these days. Which made me think of my cousin, Allen Peare. While most of my family grew up in Ohio, Allen's dad lit out for California, and Allen grew up in the Central Valley and, later, San Francisco. During the Great Depression, Allen joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was stationed in Morro Bay, where the CCC built a State Park.

So here my mind is wandering around Morro Bay when an email from Jody Mulgrew floats in. Jody is the leader of a local Morro Bay group called The Johnny Starlings. Their music has echos of that earlier Depression era, much of it featuring Jody on uke. Lovely stuff, and, perhaps, just the music that this Depression is searching for.

The Johnny Starlings mostly play close to home, but they do tour a bit and have at least two CDs out (Be My Baby Bright, Aiming Too High), so put them on your radar screen.

Of note, they'll be doing a special show at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande on Friday, June 12, and at the San Francisco Free Folk Fest on June 13.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

James Hill on John King

And how envisioning breasts helped him stay in the zone. Seriously. Link

John King Obituary

A very touching obit for our dear maestro.
"There are hundreds of classical guitarists, but the number of people who can really play fine classical music at the level John could is only one — and that was John," said Jim Beloff, 53, owner of Flea Market Music, an online ukulele store. "I believe he was the finest in the world, and the finest we will ever see in a long time."

(Thanks, Jim Tranquada)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Maybe this guy could play a duet with the Compass Rose Basher. Eew. Just, eew. Link

Monday, April 06, 2009

In Happier Compass Rose News

I ran into Barry Pearlman from Rick Turner Guitars at Bob Brozman's workshop yesterday. He tipped us off that Mott's Apple Juice has picked up Compass Rose player Ingrid Michaelson's song BE OK for it's current TV commercial. That'll put a few well-deserved bills in her uke-case.

But the big news is that Rick is working with Ingrid to design a signature Ingrid Michaelson Compass Rose tenor. It'll be called "The Ingrid," natch, and will feature a heart motif in the headstock. You want to be the all-time hero mom or dad next Xmas? Ping Rick and see if you can get on the waiting list. Link

Oh, and signing Ingrid in the first place? Barry's idea. (Nice work, Mr. Pearlman.)

(Photo courtesy OpenEye)

The Great Compass Rose Heist

Meet Ricky Leonard Stegall. According to the St. Augustine Record, Ricky is wanted in connection with the recent burglary at Grampa's Music during which a number of valuable and vintage instruments were stolen. Including, as it turns out, a Compass Rose tenor. Here's the initial story.

On Saturday, the Record reported that eight of the ten stolen instruments had been recovered, found in the back of a white van (also stolen) driven by lil' Ricky here. Now presumed innocent until proven guilty and all that, but consider, dear reader, that this may be the face--not only of a ukulele thief, but far worse--of a ukulele wrecker.

It seems that the burglar had just thrown all the instruments into the van on top of one another. All the recovered instruments were damaged, including a nice hole punched into the side of the Compass Rose.

Well, here's hoping that Mr. Stegall, if convicted, will have plenty of time to learn the uke while in the slammer.

And who knows what he can trade those chocolate bars for...

The Hawaii--Washington, D.C. connection

Okay, all you slackers in the nation's capital, here's your chance:

"The Hawaii State Society of Washington DC presents a Slack Key and Ukulele Music Weekend Workshop featuring Grammy artists Keoki Kahumoku (slack key), Herb Ohta, Jr. (ukulele), Grammy nominee Keale (music and culture), and Hawaiian language, voice, and hula artist Darci Baker (Hawaiian mele and voice). Here are some details.

Workshop classes include Basic and Intermediate instructions in Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and/or Ukulele, private one-on-one or one-on-small group sessions, and Hawaiian jam (kanikapila) sessions with the artists. Singing and understanding Hawaiian music is important, so there will also be workshops in voice and the culture behind some of the music where you will gain a deeper appreciation of Hawaiian culture through its music and stories. Open to teens and adults.

Date: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 9-11

Place: Northern Virginia Community College, Ernst Cultural Community Center

Details on registration

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In memory of John King

My friend Jim Bradbury and I drove down to Ben Lomond today for Bob Brozman's workshop. All the way down from San Francisco and through the majestic Redwoods, we listened to John's beautiful music.

Here's a tribute by Tony Coleman. Link

(Thanks, Jim Tranquada)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hana Hou, John

A fitting tribute to John King, here he plays Ka Ipo Lei Manu, a poignant love song written by Julia Kapi'olani for her dying husband David Kalakaua, the last king of Hawaii.

Ha'ina ka puana
No kalani heleloa

Tell the refrain
My chief is gone forever

Aloha for John

Here are some more links that we post in honor of John King's life and legacy.

Here is a current discussion on the Flea Market Music Bulletin Board.

This is John's site, Nalu Music, with more information about his recordings and scholarship.

Here is John's YouTube channel.

John will be remembered for many, many contributions to the ukulele music and scholarship. A tangible example is his recreation of the earliest ukulele compositions and techniques. In this video, John plays Ernest Ka'ai's Maile Waltz from 1906. This technique is probably as close to what the Hawaiians saw and heard from the sailors from the Ravenscrag as you're going to get. And John is playing it on an historically accurate instrument: it's a reproduction ofn an 1890 Jose do Espirito Santo ukulele built by Mike DaSilva.

The passing of a true King

Sad news today in the St. Petersburg Times:

"KING, John 55, died April 3, 2009. A well-known teacher, musician & long-time resident of St. Petersburg, he is survived by his wife Debi, daughters Amy, Katie & Emma, mother Dolores, and brother Paul. John was attracted to classical guitar, was taught by Pepe Romero, and became an accomplished performer. He taught guitar at Eckerd College, was a published composer, & Assoc. Editor of Soundboard. John's early years in Hawaii initiated a lifelong love of the ukulele, to which he applied his knowlege of classical guitar technique, becoming one of the world's foremost virtuosos, featured on NPR. John was an authority on early makers of the ukulele, which led him to study the machete, its' ancestor. He performed music from rare manuscripts from San Francisco to Lisbon. A Funeral mass will be at St. Paul's Catholic Church 1800 12 St N., Monday, April 6 at 10 am."

send your condolences by signing the guest book.

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Humble Ukulele

Out at the edge of the world, Cape Cod, Tim Sweeney has been steadfastly gigging with his trusty tenor ukulele, exposing the joys of said instrument to the locals.

Check out the article and buy his CD...

Tim Sweeney

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New Live Jake Shimabukuro CD

In case you missed it in our April Fool's story yesterday, Jake's new live CD has gone on sale. Available via his web site for those in the know. Link

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bill Tapia in Bay Area this Weekend

Catch Uncle Bill at Freight & Salvage on Saturday! Link

Gerald Ross: Shameless Self-Promoter

Who else but Gerald Ross could get President Obama to stump for his new CD?
"I just released my new Uke/Hawaiian Steel CD -- Ukulele Hit Parade. The disk contains instrumental arrangements of songs that were top hits in the 20th Century. Some obscure one's I'm sure, but they all were hits (to someone at least).

I'm also offering a two for one CD deal for a limited time. Buy my new disk get any other disk from my catalog for free. Free shipping too. Oh and I almost forgot... you also get a free UkeTone Records bumper sticker and logo stickers too!"
Ordering info at Gerald's website. And oh, the humanity, there's a video, too.

You might also want to check out the comments for more from Gerald.

Ukulele Char

Jake's replacement on the Japanese ukulele scene? Link

Another Dance on Your Grave

Here's a bit of news that ought to appeal to lovers of both the "Zombie" and "Ukulele" memes over on Boing Boing. It's Another Dance on Your Grave, a banjo uke plus players who have passed on performance piece. (Notice how the alliteration echoes the plangency of the banjolele...)
"The Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs, both led by artistic director Lea Anderson, are performing Dancing On Your Grave, which proved a big success at 2008's Edinburgh Fringe and a host of pop festivals.

The companies are known for their pioneering work in non- theatrical spaces and venues.

Three dancers (one Featherstonehaugh and two Cholmondeleys) join musicians and composers Steve Blake and Nigel Burch onstage as a five-piece music hall troupe - The Corpse de Ballet. (ouch!, -ed.)

They are desperately downtrodden and travelling on a seemingly never-ending purgatorial tour. This all-singing all-dancing music hall experience features music written and performed onstage by composer Blake and ukulele bashing minstrel Burch of the Flea Pit Orchestra, in a style described as 'Tim Burton meets George Formby'." (nice!)
"Toe tapping epitaphs, spectral harmonies, and bone rattling banjoleles." Here's a free taste entitled Holiday from Death.


Amanda Palmer Returns To High School

Something tells me that not every parent is gonna be thrilled with Amanda Palmer's version of High School Musical. Actually it's a play about the Holocaust and was adapted by the students, with musical accompaniment by Frau Palmer. But it's bound to be different than Fordson High School's 1977 production of Bye Bye Birdie. That's fer darn sure.

(...and I killed as Harry McAfee...)


Jake Bids Farewell to the Uke

The Jimi Hendrix of the Ukulele is hanging up his custom Kamaka tenor. Having wound up his latest--and apparently farewell--tour, ukulele wiz kid Jake Shimabukuro is taking a play from Joaquin Phoenix's book and is walking away from music at the top of his game.

Jake has announced plans to pursue a recently-discovered passion: running marathons. From the announcement article from KHNL:
"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.

Jake's been training for his first marathon for 4 months. "I'm a little nervous. It came around fast. I think I'm ready. If you're not ready in the last week, you're as ready as you're going to be."

He hated running when he started, and could barely do one mile. He loves it now! "You get into this meditative state and it becomes therapeutic."
Jake's decision was apparently motivated by a recent nightmare experience during a recent concert in Alaska. While signing off with his signature arrangement of Crazy G,
"...the crowd kept taunting him to play faster and faster until his hands became invisible and he was in danger of spontaneous combustion. The intensity brought him a well-deserved standing ovation."
But at what cost?

For the big official announcement scheduled for today on Jake's site, click here.

Full story here: Link
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