Friday, July 31, 2015

Lil Rev's Wife Carol: Please Kokua

Dear Readers,

The wife of our good friend Marc Revenson, aka Lil Rev, is battling cancer. We understand that Rev has had to cancel his tour and workshops to attend to her.

A GoFundMe account has been established to help the family defray their expenses while Carol is receiving treatment.

We've contributed, as a small way of expressing gratitude for all the Rev has done for the ukulele community. Every week his books help my students discover the sweet mysteries of the uke. We hope you'll consider chipping in.

Carol's Cancer Recovery Fund by Marc Revenson - GoFundMe

Monday, July 13, 2015

Farewell, Founder

This, courtesy of Bill Robertson:
"For those who knew him, the great Robert Wheeler passed away this morning.
"Anyone who was part of what in the 90's and early 2000's was a pretty intimate ukulele scene on the mainland knows of Robert Wheeler. In the pre-YouTube era, when there was only one festival around (the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum's Uke Expo), only one website forum (Jim Beloff's and only a few luthiers, Robert Wheeler loomed large. People knew him as a profane, funny, irascibly eccentric ointment fly, ukulele collector, and instrument historian. He owned some 300-plus ukuleles, each one of which had a story behind it that was either academically historic or personal. And he was the "founder" of a "religion" called Ukulele Consciousness.
"Robert's contribution to my documentary Rock That Uke (2003) made it the successful study in ukulele eccentricity it is, and his comments consistently got the biggest laugh in every screening I witnessed, a fact that gave him no amount of pleasure. We remained good friends through the years, visiting each other from time to time wherever we were living in the country, and his friendship is something I treasure deeply. I will miss him more than I can say.
"If you want to read some of Robert's musings on life, sex and all things ukulele, he wrote a column called "Ukulele Consciousness" on the old Rock That Uke website, which I haven't updated in many years. But the direct link to his column's archive is here."
Here's a nice tribute, courtesy of Mark Occhionero:

Yes, boys and girls, back in the wild a wooly days, back when there were only about three uke books in print and your trusty editor was souring the corners of the World Wide Web looking for anything about the ukulele (the same search results kept coming back for the same 6 ukulele websites back then, and I developed a novel search hack that uncovered all kinds of treasures: it's now a real live search engine, Bananaslug), back when we used to have to hard code our posts on Blogger, back before Jake released his first solo CD and I used to catch him at his regular gig at Chai's Island Bistro in Honolulu, back, as Bill Robertson said, before there was YouTube, there was the Founder. One of about 142 other crazed enthusiasts scattered around the country, in whose company I found myself. Only bumped into him once, at the West Coast Uke Fest (and if you were there, you know that was decades ago, Internet Time).

It was kinda fun back then, knowing pretty much everyone on The Scene. And the new people we "discovered" became friends. Now, hardly anyone with a uke needs discovering. But back then, there was a known universe. And at the center of that universe there was a consciousness. Ukulele Consciousness. And it's high priest was the Founder.

Enjoy the ride, Robert. Say hi to Herbert Khaury for me.


If you want to know just how much cred the Founder had, this is from 1987. That's back when Danielle Ate the Sandwich was Danielle Drank the Bottle.


If you want to know how un-mainstream the uke was until just a few years ago, buy Rock That Uke. (Thanks, Bill!)

Kahulanui (The Big Dance) at Freight & Salvage

Just got a note that this Hawaiian swing band will be playing at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley this Friday night. Sounds fun!
"Kahulanui (The Big Dance) is an inspiration passed down three generations from Grandfather Robert Kahulanui Naipo, to Dad Rodgers L.L. Naipo Sr., to Grandson and Kahulanui band leader, Lolena Naipo, Jr. Lolena remembers stories of his Grandfather who was a member of the Royal Hawaiian Band during an era when horns and drums were a part of Hawaiian music. 
"Throughout Hawai‘i in the 1920s and 1930s, one could find orchestras playing Hawaiian Swing and the house would be jumping. Kahulanui borrowed from these influences and performs classic Hawaiian songs in a syncopated style making Hawaiian Swing vibrant and alive in Hawai‘i today." 
Ukulele player, Duke Tatom, reminds me of Troy Fernandez and his playing really swings. Link

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rachel Manke on Prairie Home Companion

Let's see if we can get more ukulele players on Prairie Home Companion by making a ukulele tune the #1 video from from this week's show. Check out Rachel Manke and Garrison on "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie", then please share with all your uke pals. Does PHC need to do an all-ukulele show? Indeed it does.

Oh, and while you're at it, check out Rachel's Kickstarter campaign for her first CD. T'aint no sin, to pitch right in! Link

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Jim Tranquada Interview: Why You Should Take the Ukulele Seriously | Learn To Uke

In case you missed Jim Tranquada's lecture at the LA Public Library, here's a Q&A, courtesy of the folks at Learn to Uke. Link

Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival

Ukester Brown sez you can also catch Rachel Manke at this year's Silver Creek International Ukulele Carnival, August 21-23 in Two Harbors, MN. Bring your uke, music, and hot dish to share.

Prince Paul

I had the distinct honor of working on the Ringling show with this gentleman, Prince Paul Alpert. I'm guessing that this is from a spec production, some Roaring 20s theme. I'll update if I learn more.

If you like the photo, it's up for sale on Etsy.

(Thanks, and happy birthday, Michael Simmons!)

Big News from Lake Wobegon

Big news coming from Malden, MA: Rachel Manke, splendiferous strummer in the Smeckian and sundry styles, will be making her national radio debut on Prairie Home Companion. Mark your calendars and set your dials for Saturday, June 27th, when the show will be broadcast from Tanglewood. We expect Garrison to aim a little sacerdotal sarcasm at her, but the word is still out as to whether Guy Noir will help a lady uker in need.

Here's Rachel's site.
And her YouTube Channel.

And in case you've ever wondered what the lead-in music for PHC is ("Oh, hear that old piano, from down the avenooo..."), it's Tishomingo Blues. Here's a link to a .pdf of the chords, courtesy of Ukester Brown. Or, if you prefer, the original Spencer Williams sheet music (1917).

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Jim Tranquada at the LA Public Library this Saturday

Attention LA ukulele enthusiasts. Ukulele historian Jim Tranquada will be at the LA Public Library this Saturday, May 9 at 2pm:
"Author Jim Tranquada (The Ukulele: a History) discusses the fascinating musical and social history of the “tiny four-stringed thingamajig” and argues for a rehabilitation of the instrument’s image."
In the Mark Taper Forum, Central Library. If you go, say hi to Jim and tell him Ukulelia sent you. Link

Friday, May 01, 2015

Warren Buffett's Second-Favorite Uke

Legendary beverage maker Coca-Cola and legendary ad agency Wieden+Kennedy recently had a custom ukulele built for legendary uker Warren Buffett.

Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the iconic Coke bottle, the tenor ukulele was built by Portland luthier Mark Roberts and features a sound hole cut in the silhouette of the bottle. More info on the Coke site.

You can't really see the uke too well in the above video of Mr. Buffett playing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing." Here's a slightly better photo of Mark Roberts and his work.

We haven't located any more images, but will reach out to Mark and see if he has any he can post. We're not familiar with his work, but a few clicks around his site reveal him to be an innovative and impressive builder (check out his Wise-N-Uke, a baritone version of a Weissenborn hollowneck steel guitar).

Now where in the world do you suppose W+K got this grand idea? Considering that they turned me down for a job years ago, it's nice to know that they liked at least one of my ideas.

Link to article on Adweek.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Telstar on Ukulele & Stylophone

How did we miss this one? The Tornados Telstar performed on ukulele and stylophone. Richard G's got the tab, too, here.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

James Thurber on The Ukulele

The Sun-Dial has been published on the campus of Ohio State since 1911. Around 1916 a young fellow joined the publication, eventually becoming editor-in-chief. His name was James Thurber.

Of the ukulele, Thurber once wrote:
“Let me be the first to admit that the naked truth about me is to the naked truth about Salvador Dali as an old ukulele in the attic is to a piano in a tree, and I mean a piano with breasts..." 
And, while we cannot be certain whether Thurber penned the lead editorial for the December, 1916 edition of The Sun-Dial (which was billed as the Hawaiian Number), it certainly reads like Thurber (read the entire editorial at the link).
"Some time ago somebody read “Madame Butterfly” and wondered why he couldn’t transplant her. So the nearest place to land from the land of Nippon was the isle called Honolulu. So then we had “The Bird of Paradise.” They brought those wierd (sic) little musical cigar boxes called ukuleles with them and the great American public found out that they are easy to play or display. 
"We haven’t a thing in the world against the ukulele, in fact, we like them. But we do hope and pray that the Hawaiian craze will not extend much further than “Yaka Hula” and “Oh How She Could,” etc. As long as they don’t import the cute little sausages which the brown dreamers of the Pacific wear or are imputed to wear, we won’t kick."
We guess those "cute little sausages" might be leis. Odd.

Note the references to Bird of Paradise, the theatrical production that helped ignite Hawaiian Fever across the continent, as well as Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula and Oh, How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo.

There are more ukulele "ditties" and cartoons in the magazine.

West Coast Premiere: Jim Beloff's Ukulele Concerto

Jim Beloff & Santa Monica High Orchestra - YouTube:

Backed by the Santa Monica High Orchestra, Jim Beloff performed the west coast premiere of his ukulele concerto Uke Can't be Serious yesterday. Nice, Jim!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Ultra Wide Neck Ukulele Kickstarter -- Deadline Today

Aldrine and our good friends over at Ukulele Underground have designed this innovative solution for players suffering from Large Finger Syndrome, or LFS.

Watch their Kickstarter video today. Starts and ends today, so don't miss it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Uke-A-Thon! - Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Please join me and a whole bunch of ukulele fanatics at the Uke-a-Thon! celebrating the centennial of the Pan-Pacific Exposition, the event that set the mainland afire with Ukulele Fever.

Saturday, February 21, 2015
Palace of Fine Arts Rotunda
3:00 to 4:30pm
Free (register here)

Details at the link. Hope to bump into you there! And don't forget your uke!


Sunday, February 08, 2015

Top 50 Ukulele Sites