Billy Barnes, Ukulele Ace

I came across the ‘memoirs’ of an Irish-Australian entertainer named Billy Barnes. They were printed in short bites in the Mirror newspaper of Perth, Western Australian during 1953.

Billy was a guitarist and ukulele player who played on many stages across Australia in the 1930s and 40s. He had a 10 minute radio spot on 6PR (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:35pm), and, unsurprisingly, he taught people to play ukulele.

He got his nick-name while appearing at the Theatre Royal in Sydney. A cast member fell sick and Billy was asked to fill in — he did so by playing a solo on the ukulele. As the ukulele was commonly used simply to accompany singing, people were amazed to see that it was an effective melody instrument. Several papers covered the story of the melodious ukulele player, and one reporter dubbed Billy ‘The Ukulele Ace’.

I haven’t been able to find a recording of Billy in action. If you find something, please let me know.


Published in: on February 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm  Comments (3)  
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