Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Chase and Jake Shimabukuro Play Anthems

If this doesn't give you chicken skin, you are not human. Here is Chase Shimabukuro, the 11-year old son of Jake Shimabukuro, playing The Star Spangled Banner, followed by his dad performing Hawai'i Pono'ī. Link

Friday, February 16, 2024

Smeck Harmony Bag Find

Friend o' the Blog Rachel Manke recently scored a sweet, nearly mint condition Smeck Harmony uke. But the most remarkable part of her find was this printed paper back that uke originally came in.

In my quarter-century of sleuthing out arcane ukulele artifacts, I've never seen one of these until today. I've found one other one, but Rachel's seems to be in much better condition.

Have you? If so, drop us a note in the comments!

Friday, February 09, 2024

Will Rogers Ukulele Quote: A Surprising Find

Over the years I've seen several versions of a quote attributed to Will Rogers to the effect that no one could tell if you were playing the ukulele or just monkeying around with with it. Lil Rev has a version of the quote in his Ukulele Method Book 1 (my go-to intro book for adult learners).

I always wondered why old Will had it in for our favorite instrument (even though it's been the butt of jokes almost since it hit American shores...)

Curiosity got the better of me the other day and so I did some searching to see if I could find the original quote. 

Turns out it's from a Chicago Examiner newspaper article, ca. March 3, 1918.

What's even more interesting is the context in which the quote is found, particularly in light of the current war between Ukraine and Russia.

The article begins,

"Now they've asked me to write about Russia. 

"That's fine! There's some sense to that. I can write about Russia for I know that my readers don't know any more about Russia than I do..."

"There is always this to look forward to with Russia. Pick up the morning paper and look for Russian news and have a fear of reading the worst; you won't be disappointed."

Rogers is writing about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which would have been in the news. The treaty gave independence to Ukraine. Rogers continues,

"You see, Germany was willing to treat for peace as long as Russia did all the treating.

"Now they have given German freedom to some province called Ukrainia (sic); sounds like ukulele, and I doubt it it will flourish even as long as that short-lived instrument."

(Ukulele – Ukraine...it's word-play! And note that Rogers seemed to have considered the ukulele passé by 1918!) 

"The ukulele had this advantage: Not even a trained musician could tell if you were playing on it or just monkeying with it, but the Ukrainian liberty can't fool anybody; those poor independents have "Made in Germany" stamped all over it."

(Emphasis mine) 

The rest of the article is primarily about Russia being taken for fools by Germany. Perhaps a reader/historian more conversant with the treaty and the geopolitics of the time can chime in in the comments. I'll leave it there.

You'll find Rogers' full article in The Papers of Will Rogers: From the Broadway stage to the national stage, September 1915-July 1928, University of Oklahoma Press, 2005, p 121- 122.


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