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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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Don’t have a recording, but Billy also taught music and taught Doug Brewer (De Kroo), one of the De Kroo Brothers who had hit records in the early 60’s. Doug now teaches music at Caringbah NSW and has a band Kentucky Moon. Billy also taught music to Tim Winton, who is now one of Australia’s best known authors.

    • Hi Robin,

      thanks for the information! (do you know if tim plays ukulele?)

  2. I just found this post by googling my great grand fathers name, Billy Barnes. We actually have a CD of Billy playing Uke. My nan has it. I’d be happy to get a copy made and sent to you. I heard stories of him being quite a legend. We also have 2 of his Ukes. One is a beautiful old Martin.


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