Ukulele Ike in Australia, 1952

The Australian Women’s Weekly’s interview with Cliff Edwards was published on the 16th of January 1952. Mr Edwards confessed that his first uke was a mandolin stripped of four strings. He also let slip that he found performing hard on the nerves, but thought them necessary for show business success. And he has performed for important people in his day. Winston Churchill’s favourite tune by Cliff was “Singing in the Rain”, and ol’ FDR liked “Home on the Range”.

Ukulele Ike with his favourite hat (and uke)

Apparently, Ukulele Ike started his working life as a painter in a ship-yard, which he left for the more difficult work of vaudeville.

As for hobbies (why do they always ask?), the ukulele hotshot said he likes eating, sleeping, and reading Plato, Socrates and Pericles, and biographies — was he pulling her leg, or writing a song? But we’re told he spoke seriously. He’d lost interest in “murder and sex” novels and liked something solid instead.

He reckoned the old songs of the 20s and 30s were superior to the modern tunes, because the old ones had melody and they have legs — citing a few hit songs in 1952 that were written in 1917.

In 1952, Cliff was unmarried and “very, very, very happy”. He hoped to be in show business for many years yet.

For his Sydney trip, he performed at the Celebrity Club.

Published in: on November 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm  Comments (13)  
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A low-tech review of the Cole Clark Ukelady 3 Ukulele

Published in: on November 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm  Comments (6)  
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Police Raid Ukulele Marathon

The Milwaukee Sentinel of 5 July 1923 tells of a gang of harden ukulele players being apprehended by police in the dead of night.

It seems that the top floor of an apartment building in the Central Park district of New York had become the epicentre of a disturbing noise. Many residents complained, but the police were not willing to tackle the gang (the cops might have been on the take) until the intrepid Inspector Dominick Henry — himself the occupant of the second floor of said apartment building — called headquarters himself and demanded action.

What the police found were seven young men and 3 young women (artists’ models, dancers and students — you know the types), armed to the teeth with ukuleles and at least one banjo. The said that they were endeavouring to break a record for continuous ukulele playing. One of the gentlemen identified himself as Lamberto Obregon, who claimed to be the 20-year-old nephew of the President of Mexico — the president denied it. The ten were dismissed without charge due to lack of evidence against them. Evidence of what? It seems that they had been playing ukuleles loudly after dark, but apparently that had not yet become an indictable offence.

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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Further News of Ukulele Ike

Every now and then, Cliff Edwards (a.k.a. Ukulele Ike) found himself noticed in the news. Sometimes happily, other times less so. A few examples follow:

Ukulele Ike was in “Gone with the Wind” contrary to earlier reports in the Milwaukee Sentinel (April 3 1940), the famed ukulele player did appear in the classic film — he played the wounded soldier in the Atlanta hospital, talking to Melanie about his life before the war.

Ike does Disneyland — the St Petersburg Times told readers on 11 July 1946 about Cliff Edwards’ 5 year contract with the film company, and on September 1956 it reminded people that, thirty years ago, Cliff  had been as big as Elvis (Presley). In 1956 he was on the comeback trial with the release by Disney of an LP of Ukulele Ike standards.  Cliff had dealings with Disney in the past, when he took the roles of ‘conscience’ as Jimmy Cricket and chief Crow in Dumbo.

A bit too much like Dumbo in the Champagne scene, Cliff was caught under the influence in Burbank, Feb 12 1957, as the Miami News reports. Police found him in charge of a motor vehicle ‘dodging imaginary objects’. He was released on $250 bail.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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May Singhi Breen trades uke for bombs

No, she wasn’t planning a different type of approach to the AFM to get the ukulele recognised as a musical instrument; she was doing her bit to prepare US industry against potential fire hazards. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published (4 May 1943) a picture of the Ukulele Lady without ukulele but holding a magnesium bomb — it was a dud. She was telling people at the AWVS Motor Corps how to prevent fire during an air raid. By 1943, some 66,000 women had been trained to deal with fires. Of course, people who play ukulele know an awful lot about fire bombs.

May Singhi Breen with bomb
Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 7:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Atomic Bomb Causes Ukulele Revival

The Herald Journal of 4 February 1950 theorised about the return of the ukulele and come up with an interesting thought — the H-bomb did it. A reporter put it this way:

Arthur Godfrey has re-popularised the ukulele in the land, and I even got a squint of Cliff Edwards working for his living with the same instrument the other night. Sophie Tucker is going great in the provinces, the Coonskin coat is back, and prohibition jokes are funny again. Even the hip flask is staging a revival.

I can stand another siege of the flapper, I suppose, and might even find some grisly humor in a reinstatement of prohibition, if I am the kind of chap who gets giggles from being shot at in his home by booze agents earning their pay. But I don’t understand what is causing all this backwash to the gay days, unless that anything is preferable to that nice big custard pie Mr Truman just set out to cool. Maybe the imminence of the H-Bomb has druv us all back to the comfortable silliness of the jazz age.

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 6:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Death of Queen Liliuokalani

Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii died November 11, 1917 — and she was quite a woman — a monarch and a composer on the ukulele (and other lesser instruments).

The event was marked on 13 November 1917 by the Evening Ledger in a most flippant way — with a poem.

For Liliuokalani

Queen Lil is dead.
Dead in Hawaii!
Low lies her head,
There in Hawaii.
Sorrowful cries
Doubtless arise
There where she lies
Dead in Hawaii.

Let tears be shed
Here in this country;
She’s just as dead
Here in this country.
Why should we not
Mourn her a lot?
Great chance we’re got
Here in this country!

Let us impound
Each ukulele!
Rob of its sound
Each ukulele.
Make the strings bust;
Rip ’em and thrust
Mute in the dust
Each ukulele!

Farewell to thee.

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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How many Americans played ukulele?

The Gettysburg Times of 4 September 1956  reports that 1 600 000 inhabitants of the USA still played ukulele — that is 1 599 999 and Arthur Godfrey. Aren’t statistics wonderful.

Published in: on November 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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