Creepy “Ukulele Lady” under the Rain Tree — Wasted

J. Edward Brown wrote a story for the Australian Women’s Weekly, which appeared in the issue of 23 July 1969. It was called “Ukulele Lady”, and Richard A. Whiting’s great old standard of 1925 was to terrify Glenda, the wife of the new Resident Commissioner of a South Sea Island.

A former Resident Commissioner had been murdered in his bedroom by a native with a bush knife. The murderer was later found under a Rain Tree calmly playing “Ukulele Lady”, on a ukulele. And even now, many years later, it is said that ghostly strumming of that tune can be heard on nights when the moon was full.

Glenda, upon hearing the story, dutifully and singularly, heard the sound of the ukulele and “Ukulele Lady” every full moon. She never dared lift the large bedroom rug that was said to cover the blood stains. Contemplating these things drove her to drink. (WC Fields said that a woman drove him to drink, and he never had the courtesy to thank her — but that’s another story).

Anyway, with such a promising start, the story fizzles through a few bouts of imagined ukulele playing and tiptoeing over a shaggy rug until she decided to peak under the rug, saw nothing, then started happily whistling … you guessed it, “Ukulele Lady” — no one else was murdered, no apparitions, no gurgled screams, just her laughing at herself at the end of a very dull and unfunny story.  

Ripped off.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ukelele Unwitting Aid to Crime

The New Zealand Evening Post of 18 May 1921 report on a romantic outing the went badly wrong for Melbourne Jeweller, D. Morrison.

He said he had been ‘the victim of a cunningly devised plot in which a young woman had acted as a decoy.’ The woman came into his shop some nights ago, bought a pair of earrings and told the interested jeweller that she just loved motoring. Morrison said that he had a car, and the lady let him know, coyly, that she was not unwilling to take an evening drive with him.

Morrison met the lady and they motored to Hampton Beach, where they sat for an hour near the water’s edge. The lady had said she was found of music, and Morrison had brought his ukelele. As they sat romantically on the beach, he played to her.

The jeweller thinks that the lady encouraged him to play so that they could be located. Morrison was suddenly attacked by two men, who had followed in a car and crept up behind him. He was hit on the head and he pretended insensibility. He was trussed up, and the men went through his pockets. The lady stood calmly by. Presently they found his keys.

One of the men and the woman drove off, leaving the other man to guard Morrison. The two returned about two hours later and picked up the third, leaving Morrison on the beach. Morrison managed to free himself and alerted the police. He and the law went immediately to his shop where they found the glass door broken in, but the steel inner door dented but in tact.  I suspect that this was the end of this jeweller’s willingness to believe the overly eager friendliness of young women.

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Smithy with Uke (Sir Charles Kingsford Smith)

In an earlier post, I noted a newspaper report about Smithy (famous Australian Aviator) buying a ukulele in Hawaii to keep his co-pilot awake.

Tim Kalina has now very kindly shared a photo of Smithy holding the ukulele while sitting on the front cockpit of the “Lady Southern Cross”, a Lockheed Altair. The photograph was taken at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, in 1934.  His copilot, Gordon ‘Bill’ Taylor (later Sir Patrick Gordon Taylor), said in his book Pacific Flight that Smithy played well.

Tim’s has a large collection of photographs related to Kingsford Smith which may be viewed here:

CKS and uke

Photograph courtesy of the T. Kalina Collection (many thanks to Tim).

Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Military Advice from 1917– send in the ukuleles!

Goodwin’s Weekly, sometime in 1917 (I think), printed the following advice…

Americans might mobilize a corps of ukulele players to terrify any possible enemy.

This advice seems to have been taken seriously … on a small scale … because on Thursday, 22 May, 1919, the Washington Times reported that Battery B of the 110th Artillery included in its ranks Corporal Taylor, the ukulele sharp. See if you can find him below.

Where's Taylor and his uke?

 Battery B was regards as the most efficient of the 3 from Washington. During the 11 months they were in France, not one of them was court marshalled. 




Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What did Tacoma girls want? The YWCA survey of 1916

The Tacoma Times 11 October 1916 printed some results from the YMCA survey. Of the 135 replies, the following was revealed.

What did they like best for amusement?

90 :- Swimming                                          39:- hiking
73 :- Dancing                                              35:- Tennis
56 :- Boating                                                27:- Bowling
49 :- Horse riding                                      25:- Parties
47 :- movies                                                19:- Folk dancing
41 :- picnics                                                 14:- Games 

It seems that ‘best’ must be read with a little latitude, as there are 455 ‘best’ liked activities from 135 girls.

What else do we learn?

THIRTY-TWO of them play UKULELE! (while only seven play mandolin and six guitar).

Some 38 girls wanted to learn cooking, 35 crochet, and 23 wanted Bible classes. Some 38 wanted dramatic classes, 38 Red Cross first-aid classes, 30 political talks, but only 16 wanted to know how to invest money.

Most of the girls (71) worked in sales, 24 worked in manufacture, and the remaining 40 were made up of stenographers, book-keepers, nurses, housemaids, dressmakers, school-teachers and the sort.

Most of the girls (100) lived  at home, others lived away from home, or didn’t want to say. Only 35 were attending night school.

But remember, 32 of them played ukulele.

BTW: Where is Tacoma?


Published in: on February 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm  Comments (4)  
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L. M. Glackens and the ukulele in New York, 1916

In 1916, the New York Tribune featured illustrations by L. M. Glaskens about the ukulele. He seems to have taken a less than flattering view of the noble little instrument, but perhaps captures (in a back-handed way) its popularity at the time.

The Ukulele by Louis M. Glackens

Louis M. Glackens (1866–1933) was an American illustrator, animator and cartoonist, was the brother of painter and illustrator William Glackens.

According to Wikipedia (from whence I pinched this info), Louis M. Glackens was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1890s he began to work for Puck, a magazine known for its political and social satire, where his humorous depictions of different ethnic groups reflected the melting pot of New York City at that time. When Puck was sold in 1914, he began to work for Barré Studio and Bray Productions pioneering some early animation films.

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm  Comments (9)  
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Just what is needed — a Flapjack with Ukelele

Ever wondered what a flapjack is? The Advertiser of Adelaide gave us the run-down when it reviewed “Stella Dallas” on Thursday, 30 September 1926 — a silent film about modern girls and boys.

Flappers, the female of the species, and flapjacks, the male counterpart, have their innings galore in “Stella Dallas”. Boyish bobs, shingle cuts, fanfare trims, in fact, all manner of modish, up-to-date hair cuts are in evidence with the girls. Balloon trousers, flannels, blue serge coats, ukeleles, and canoe paddles are the fashion hints followed by the boys.

It seems that it was all hair for the girls and fashion accessories for the boys (who might, or might not, have had hair).

Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Poetic uker from New Zealand in 1919.

The following found its way into the New Zealand Evening Post on 28 October 1919:

I first heard the ukulele (ukelle); played by a little Mormon maid away in Star Valley among the Rooky Mountains; she strummed an accompaniment to the “Missouri Waltz;” it was soul-haunting and magical—Coleridge would have forgotten his “damsel with a dulcimer.”

 All through America I found the little instrument, singing with a sweet melancholy of far-off Honolulu, with its rustling palms and surf-beaches, and low-voiced hula-hula girls, swaying in their strips of straw under the Pacific moon.

I brought one home with me (a uke, not a “straw-stripper”), and the Customs man loftily declined to claim a duty, refusing to recognise it as a musical instrument; the village said I had brought home “a little fiddle that you played with your finger.

In England the instrument is practically unknown except on the stage, and yet in its simplest form I know of no other learnt so easily that can provide so much pleasure.

 You need not have a good voice; you can talk your songs and make them beautiful:  and if you have no South Sea melodies you will find the plaintive strains of Scotland are every bit as suitable.

In the drawing room you will hold people spellbound, and when choruses are hummed on quiet summer evenings you will be ever in demand.  Jazz music is barbaric—the compelling primeval—the wailing Hawaiian music, drawn from guitar and banjo ukuleles, is barbaric, too, but more compelling because it is the primeval with the soul beginning to steal in.

When the jazz music begins you laugh and tap the ground with your foot, or maybe rap the table with your knife handle; but- soon you will be shutting your eyes and holding your breath and swaying ever so slightly as the ukes wail out and draw your heart with sweet pain.

Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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