The flapper and the dangerous ukelele fad

The New York Tribune gives warning and some advice, 20 August 1922. “This flapper habit of strumming the ukelele is in danger of growing.”

Some Antidotes for ukeleles

by Fairfax Downey

The ukelele has become the favorite musical weapon of the flapper. She has found that it is very becoming and portable. Her playing of it stamps her as so much more melodious than the girls who can put in a new phonograph needle, however dexterously. The flapper, with the ukelele has precipitated a new age of troubadours, such as Provence never saw, fortunately for the acoustics of that land. The troubadouress clutches the instrument with one hand and makes aimless yet graceful passes at its strings with the other. Some noise results, happily not much because of the foresight of the inventor of the ukelele — foresight which was not shared by the inventor of the saxophone; maladictions on him!

Flapper with ukelele

The sad part of the matter is the necessity the player seems to be under of singing as she strums. When the troubadouress has an accomplice, one or other almost inevitably will chant a flat alto. Needless to say the performance is under the personal auspices of the Goddess of Discord. Almost the only way to check the troubadouress is to play at the same game, which should cause her to stop as she will not then be “different”. Thus, for the public good, citizens might be persuaded to walk to work playfully beating bass drums attached to their persons. While trombones and bass horns might not be feasible in the subway rushes, there is always the piccolo. But there would be the same old annoyance one has with one’s newspaper. Someone would always be looking over your shoulder and reading your music.

Ukelele to Flapper

I saw this, and just couldn’t help it. BTW, my ukulele/ukelele book will reduce the need, if not the urge, to sing.

Published in: on February 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I love reading your blog – it’s just great fun to see how popular the ukulele was. Your perspective is wonderful. I thought the picture you found of the flapper went well with our video of Five Foot Two:

    All the best,

    • Hi Kyle,
      Nice video — great tune (will have to find chords for the verse). BTW it’s the NY tribune (not Times)_

  2. Tribune – yes I see that now. I get a bit confused when I have about five tabs open and jumping from editing, copying photos, and getting content right. Good thing I’m not a journalist. Lol

  3. […] The story to go along with last week’s flapper drawing. Along with the evolution of a ukulele. […]

  4. In the African-American movie The Green Pastures, a teenaged “chippy” playing the blues on a ukulele (on Sunday!) represented sinfulness. I always wanted to learn the tune she was playing.

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