War and the Ukulele

A friend of mine in Brisbane pointed me to an ANZAC Square memorial of the South-west Pacific Campaigne, 1942-1945. 

woundedanzac_plaque

Apart from its historic significance, it also has something for the ukulele players of the world, as can be seen from the photograph below.

ANZAC Uke

I tried unsuccessfully to find a reference to a soldier in the field with a ukulele, but I did find a picture of Driver D. Dixon entertaining the staff of 112 (Brisbane) Military Hospital with his ukulele before Christmas dinner, 1944.085384

Used with permission of Australian War Memorial
http://cas.awm.gov.au/photograph/085384

An internet search on ‘ukulele’ and ‘kokoda trail’ only led me to ads by tour guides who take people along that famous trail today. The guides apparently refresh weary holiday trekkers at the end of the day by strumming ukuleles.

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 5:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Bob Dyer and the Ukulele

I’ve learned recently that Bob Dyer, an American-born entertainer who made it big in Australia, once worked the  Tivoli circut in Sydney as a hillbilly ukulele player in the late 1930s  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Dyer).

bobdyer_mod1

The lyrics to one of the songs he sang — The Death of Willie — may be viewed here (http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=33707&messages=7), together with the comment that Bob was (at the time) perhaps the third best ukulele player around.

Bob later hosted a television game show called BP Pick-a-box which ran for years (1957-1971).

Picture from Tivoli (Lothian, 2003), page 154, used with the kind permission of Frank van Straten.

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Popular Mechanics and the Ukulele

I was browsing through google books and came across this article: ‘A Homemade Hawaiian Ukulele‘ in Popular Mechanics June, 1917 (pages 946-947). 

S.H. Samuels gives instructions on making a cigar-box ukulele.  If you’re handy, it might be worth a look.

In 1917, Samuels could say, “This neat ukulele was made at a cost of 30 cents, by careful selection of materials from the shop scrap stock.”

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Girls with Ukuleles — 1926

Came across this happy snap at www.shorpy.com, and then found it on the Library of Congress site.

Happy Girls with Ukuleles

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.16039
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

UPDATE (more information from Shorpy site): ‘July 9, 1926. Washington, D.C. “Girls in bathing suits with ukuleles.” Identified in the caption of another photo as Elaine Griggs, Virginia Hunter, Mary Kaminsky, Dorothy Kelly and Hazel Brown.’

Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm  Comments (1)  
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Victory to the Ukulele

The following extract comes from a book by the Rev. Henry T. Cheever, Life in the Sandwich Islands, 1851 (p.107).

We arrived at half-past twelve the first night at a village where we thought to have stayed until day; but the kamaainas, inhabitants, were all away, and so we had to lay down as we were, supperless, (our man with food having fallen behind,) upon the round-stone floor of the meeting-house. Hard as it was, it would have been a grateful resting-place, but for the warfare of merciless fleas, ukulele, who, when they found what we were, and what a royal supper they might make on the blood of two haoles, set to so fiercely, that, after many vain struggles, we were forced to enter a nolo contendere, and leave the honours of the field to our insatiate foes.

We decamped about three, and rode on to Nuu, in Kaupo, where they hospitably entertained and lomilomied us, and I drowned several flying detachments of the ukulele tribe, by a bath in the sea.

This is the earliest European reference to the ukulele that I have found.

Published in: on September 20, 2009 at 12:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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my ukulele book — one-off printing on request

The first edition of my ukulele book is sold out, but, while I’m thinking about reprinting or otherwise, I’d be happy to make one off copies (printed and stapled, but no cover) for $12 (AUD) plus postage and handling for anyone who is interested.

The book aims to help ukulele strummers play the tune as they strum. You can learn a little about it in the video below:

Information on how to buy it can also be found on the ‘how-to-buy-my-book’ page.

I donate to youngcare half the net purchase price of any book sold.

Youngcare_LOGO

If you don’t want to buy my book (that’s ok), please consider donating to youngcare yourself.

Published in: on September 19, 2009 at 10:09 pm  Comments (7)  
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