Thursday, January 28, 2010


Stefana Fratila has a wonderful take on being a singer/songwriter:"...if one day I get paid for being me, I'll buy myself a harpsichord! retire to the hills! read kipling & eat my grandpa's fallen plums all afternoon!"

Stefana Fratila- Vista Voyager from small fists! on Vimeo.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

trois voix et trois tempéraments

The nice thing, of course, about this "ukulele renaissance" is that the ukulele is finding its way into good musical groups as just another instrument with its own unique sound to add to the sonic mix.

A perfect example of this is the French trio "Les Poupees Gonflees". Valerie Charlot handles the ukulele in the group, but you can also hear them with guitars, accordion, concertina and, natch, three lovely vocals.

Valerie, Bebop and Titi.

The songs are bouncy, melodic and...uh...why don't you just listen for yourself:


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sell $2 in Magazine Subscriptions, Get a Banjo-Uke

Back in 1926, you could get this banjo-uke for selling only $2 worth of subscriptions to Everyday Life magazine. Was it a come on? Let's check.

Are all these claims true?
Is the Banjo-Uke an open invitation to join every social circle?
Is it a boon companion wherever it goes?
Is it the most popular musical instrument there is?
Wherever people get together for a good time, is there always a place for you and your uke?
Will you have more fun with it than anything you've ever owned?
Will you become the jazz king of your town?
Will you be able to play for dances and make money?
Are boys and young men doing it everywhere?

And then, about all those subscriptions you have to sell. How much is that in 2010 dollars?

Well the good new is that all the claims are absolutely true, as we all know. And $2 is only about $24 in today's dollars. Could you sell $24 worth of stuff today to get a banjo-uke and become the Jazz King of your town? Yes, you could!


Monday, January 25, 2010


Another grey, rainy day in Ukuleletown. It's late in the evening and I'm restless so I decide to head over to Lenny's Bar and Grill for a Rye and Ginger and some cheap talk.

It's kinda quite when I stroll in, not many patrons for a Friday night. I grab a seat at the bar and Lenny pours my libation. I look over my shoulder at the empty stage in the corner and raise one eyebrow in question to Lenny.

"Ach.." he says, polishing a shot glass, "I hired someone to come in and play some ukulele and sing but I had ta chase 'em out when they started..."

Again with the questioning look on my part. "Well," Lenny continued, "I wanted a Musician and I got a 'performer'". He said "performer" like he was spitting it out.

"What's the diff?" I asked, trying to decide if there were too many ice cubes in my drink.

"The diff is..." he explained, "that dis gal was more innerested in dressing to the nines, dishin' some funny lines an' playin' goofy, slightly sexy songs."

Again with the questioning eyebrow on my part.

"...but she couldn't sing or play." Lenny explained. "I ain't got nothin' against a good performance, but it has to be built on solid musicianship, right?"

I shrug and say, "but now you ain't got nobody to play to this massive crowd..."

Now it's Lenny's turn to give ME the eyebrow. "This ain't no off-Broadway theater. I don't hire Actors...I hire musicians."

"Yeah," I say, "You gotta point, an' it's your place." Lenny grins and I add, "So...'nother drink, an' not so much ice this time..."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Hergonomic" Ukulele by Dave Talsma

Kay Dake sent me this; "...most ukuleles rest further away from the chest wall, causing the wrist and arm to be cocked at a less comfortable angle. This seemed to challenge my smaller hands and shorter fingers when it came to 4-finger chords and barring. The distance from my body and the angle of the uke also forced me to further change the angle of the uke if I wanted to visualize the neck when playing. My "Hergo" has the slimmer side of the wedge on top, allowing it to snug up close, and the wider section of the wedge pitches the uke so that the fretboard is in sight at all times. The best way to describe the fit is that it's similar to pulling on your favorite jeans. It's incredibly light and the unusual shape of the body actually gives it a very clear bell-like quality. Surprisingly even the gentlemen, who have tried this on for size, find it very comfortable and noticed a difference in the angle of their wrist.
Dave made a styrofoam mockup and had me try it on for size before he built it..."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bay Area Uke Scene

Nice write up of the San Francisco Bay Area uke scene in the SF Bay Guardian today. Tippy, Uni, and all the cool kids. Link

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ukulelia Uke?

Ukulelia pal and editor of the Fretboard Journal, Michael Simmons, sent us this photo from NAMM. I hope that if they're using our name that at least they're decent plastic ukes. (Heh, imagine if they had named them Uke Hunt. They'd be indecent ukes. Jealous, Woodshed?) Click photo for larger view.

(Thanks, Michael!)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Danielle's Magic...

Like many listeners, I'm moved by dead-on, heartfelt vocals. Here's a brilliant example of what I'm sayin': Danielle Ate The Sandwich doing her version of "I Can't Make You Love Me"...


Cool Poster

UkeBox (from Holland) rocks. I love the word 'underpants'.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vaud Rats

The Sun Break calls K. Brian Neel's performance "The only tragicomic one-man ukulele operetta worth seeing."
"The show tells the story of Cecil B. DeUkulele, a washed-up vaudeville performer whose shtick is the uke. From the beginning of his career upstaging a comic actress through his rise to the top vaudeville circuit to his eventual fall via a love-affair with a accordion-playing midget in an abusive relationship with a Russian strongman, Vaud Rats is both a charmingly executed story and an homage to the tradition of vaudeville."
At Seattle's Balagan Theatre, through January 16. Link

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Ukulelear Blog

Check out Kyle Leonard's new-ish uke blog, Ukulelear.
(Glad he doesn't pronounce it Ukeular.)

Shimabukuro/MIGM Ukulele Specs

We just received information about the new Jake Simabukuro Music is Good Music Ukulele, which will be featured at this month's NAMM Show. Still no word on price. Click on the image for a full size view.

Tiki King in Fretboard Journal

His Fezztastic Majesty, Tiki King sez:
"Just wanted to drop a note to tell you that there is a piece about me and my Tiki Ukuleles in the new "winter" issue of The Fretboard Journal. The Fretboard Journal is a quarterly Magazine devoted to stringed instruments, builders and players, and fans. 128+ pages of stunning musical instrument photography and in-depth articles written for the serious player. Interviews with today's most acclaimed acoustic and electric players and instrument builders. Tales from the pioneers of the instrument world. Book and CD reviews, photo essays and more. Archival-quality paper, sewn binding and just a handful of ads. (It's basically a coffee table book that comes out four times a year!)"
Fretboard Journal is published by Jason Verlinde and edited by Michael Simmons, who previously put out the legendary Ukulele Occasional. Order an issue of Fretboard Journal here.


Only January 5th, and already I think I've found the most awesomemest ukulele photo of the 2010. Enjoy. Link

(Photo by Keith Galick)

Monday, January 04, 2010


The Alum-A-Uke sneers at your vintage Maccaferri, your Fluke, your Flea, your puny Ovation uke. Plastic? Hah! The Alum-A-Uke is engineered "to be the last uke you'll need." Handcrafted out of 6061 hardened aircraft-grade aluminum. It's the Terminator of ukuleles.

Perfect for this ditty. Link

Bay Area Ukulele Builders Exhibit at Oakland Airport

The Oakland Museum of California has installed an exhibit on local guitar and ukulele luthiers at Oakland International Airport. Uke makers Peter Hurney of Pohaku and Tony Graziano are featured. The installation is up through April 9, 2010.

If I had an excuse to fly, I could go see this! Link

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Pete Howlett Ukuleles

Pete Howlett
is the luthier behind Pete Howlett Ukuleles in Wales. He builds everything from acoustic ukuleles to solid bodies to kits. Plus he has a series of instructional videos on YouTube that are very generous.

From his website; “I build ukulele from the finest woods available. Acoustic or electric, the 450 I have built to date are played throughout the world by professionals, collectors and amateurs alike.

If you commission an instrument from me you will get a 'keeper' that you will be able to hand down to your posterity.”

I have a soprano ukulele that Pete made for me last year. It's mahogany and truly lovely to look at. It's called the "Le Noir".

But how does it play and sound? Glad you asked. Warm and lively at the same time. It sounds like a mahogany ukulele should sound. Just enough sustain to hold together complex chords and enough chop to hold a rhythm in place. It is, without a doubt, one of my "go to" ukuleles.
This ukulele also records well. It has a wonderful vintage vibe but is new and sturdy and I feel comfortable taking it on stage with me anywhere and not worrying about it.
This is what you want from a ukulele, right? From any musical instrument, right?
Here's his website. Talk to Pete.
This is a video of me playing it and covering a Dan Bern song:

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Fab One, Brook Adams

Eugene Uker Brook Adams will perform The Beatles' Abbey Road album at Bombs Away Cafe in Corvallis, OR, next Thursday, January 7, at 7:30pm.

(I presume he'll be playing something other than this Prelude uke pictured. I bought three of them for my kids about 10 years ago from Elderly. I think they were eleven bucks apiece. Pretty bullet proof, though.)

Check out Brooks' site, too. He always has great ukulele arrangements posted. Link

Manhasset’s Hal Marchant Celebrates 107th Birthday

Tappy, here is some inspiration for you. This chap just turned 107! He hasn't revealed his secret to a long life, but I'm sure playing the uke didn't hurt. Happy belated birthday, Hal. Link

Must Be a Typo

No ukulele player could be a seal hater, too, could he? Link

YouTube - Uncle Bill Tapia and Pre-War Ponies at the New York Ukulele Festival 2009

A very happy birthday to Uncle Bill Tapia, 102 today! Bill's recovering from a broken hip, so let's all send aloha his way. Here's Bill with the Pre-War Ponies from last June at the New York Ukulele Festival. Link

The Bobby McGees!

The Bobby McGees, The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees,The Bobby McGees!
Top 50 Ukulele Sites