Evening News (Sydney, 10 March 1930) reports as follows:
“Like the man who disliked Scotland because there were too many Scotsmen, Cliff Edwards (“Ukulele Ike”) doesn’t like Honolulu, home of the uke. He went there recently and came back disgusted. “Everyone’s stealing my stuff now”, he wailed. “Even Honolulu is swarming with people playing ukulele and singing. Rank plagiarism I call it.”
Below is a photograph of more people plagiarizing Mr. Edwards at the beach near Newcastle, NSW, Australia 26 October, 1931.
Just happened upon this while looking for something else.
I’ve just finished reading Ian Whitcomb’s Ukulele Heroes: the golden age (Hal Leonard, 2012), and it is a very good read.
Beautifully produced, with a great many fine photographs, it retells the stories of many ukulele greats. Apart from the usual suspects (Queen Lili’uokalani, Cliff Edwards, Wendell Hall, Johnny Marvin, May Singhi Breen, Formby, Godfrey and Smeck), Whitcomb has also includes Frank Crumit, Tessie O’Shea and Billy Scott. I might say that the usual suspects do not always receive the usual treatment in this book. The good is given its due place, but where honesty is required (as it is), the bad and ugly appear too.
Ian seems to have his favourites. Tiny Tim and George Formby receive a good deal of space compared to Roy Smeck, for instance. This might be because the former two have left more material to work with, or it might be that Ian was a ‘competitor’ of Tiny Tim (in a nice way) and a fan of Formby.
Ian himself (justifiably) makes several personal appearances in his book, which has its autobiographical side. The story of Ian’s commitment to the ukulele as an instrument for a professional entertainer during the dry years (late 60s to the early 90s) is told with heroic humility.
There is one omission which I feel might be corrected in a 2nd edition, and that is of the work of Alan Randall. Randall was a multi-instrumentalist who fell into George Formby imitation in a fit of absent-mindedness. His ukulele playing was top class (in the Formby tradition), and the popularity of his Formby act overshadowed his other virtuoso musical abilities. He authored a biography of Formby, recorded many of his songs, and published a comprehensive Formby song book and a ukulele instruction book.
Ukulele Heroes is well worth reading for the enjoyment of Ian’s prose, and worth keeping for its wealth of information and ukulele appreciation.
This Mexican-built concert Martin is a very nice uke. Although I’ve been told the look of the top and back wood can vary considerably between individual ukes, I think mine has a very fine appearance. The uke’s top wood might not be as thin as the original Martin concert ukes, but this one has good volume and tone. The intonation (in tune-ness) is excellent, although I might not have checked the tuning before I made the video in this post. I thought the ends of the frets were a little sharp-to-the-touch as they came from the factory, so I’ve rounded them with a fret file. The position markers are small and elegant. The Worth strings that I’ve just put on seem to be ideal for the uke. I have tried Worth Clear, Martin, and Nylgut strings, but these Worth brown (medium) seem to give the best balance of tone, volume and feel.
I added the pick-up post purchase.
I had a week’s holiday, and used some of it to make this ukulele. This time I used a wood branding/burning tool to create fret-position markers.
The black-box uke…
The following report appeared in the Winona Republican-Herald, May 18, 1939:
A music store owner told this story… A small boy walked into his shop and said, ‘I want to buy a flea string for my ukulele.’ When the proprietor suggested he meant a “D” string, the boy replied: ‘No, I don’t. When my teacher tunes my ukulele, he sings ‘My-dog-has-fleas’ and it’s the flea string that is broken.’
And so it was.
This is my home make ukulele with very thin top wood (1.3mm thickness on average). It is also very loud if strummed vigorously. At the moment I’m playing safe and not tuning it above F Bb D G.