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 fleamarketmusic.com) 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.

PS:

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.



PPS

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

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