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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Jack Diamond’s Sweetheart and ukuleles

A story from a New Zealand newspaper, The Otautau Standard, 1 September 1931 … but it’s about happenings in the USA.

Girl and a Gang Leader

Marion Roberts, the former show girl sweetheart of Jack Diamond, New York’s notorious gangster, has herself become the leader of a gang of gunmen who are operating throughout the New England States, according to police.

She has been identified as the leader of a gang which held up two assistants at a chemist’s shop at Middleton, Connecticut, recently, and escaped with all the money in the cash register as well as a banjo and a ukulele.

Marian Roberts, gangster and ukulele player

The former Ziegfeld Follies girl is known to have been very fond of the banjo and ukulele, which she played professionally. The two assistants state that a motor-car drove up to the shop and the girl and two companions got out and entered the shop. All three immediately produced revolvers and ordered the assistants to keep quiet. One of the robbers then forced the assistants into a back room while the girl and the other bandit looted the shop.

In 1931, the ukulele might have been of more value than the takings from the cash register… depression and all that, and … they sold ukuleles in chemist shops — for the medicinal benefits they provide.

PS. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 2 May, 1931 (page 2), reported that Marian might have been involved in the kidnapping and torture of two truckmen — a real sweetheart.

PPS. The New York Magazine of 14 November 1988 (pp. 47-48) tells of 4 attempts to kill Jack “Legs” Diamond’s made by his business rivals (only the last was successful — go figure). Apparently Marion’s nick name was “Kiki” — sweet.

PPPS. Just reading ‘Harpo Speaks’ and it seems that the first girl in a blonde wig that Harpo Marx ever chased across a stage was Jack Diamond’s girl friend — might have been Ms Roberts.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 7:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Ukulele and the Prince of Wales

Of the musical members of the British royal family, Edward — Prince of Wales from 23 June 1910 – 20 January 1936 — played the bagpipes, the banjo and the ukulele, but not all at once. On 9 march 1935, page 8, The Argus (*the* Australian source of historical information for most things ukulele) reported that the Prince of Wales had mastered the ukulele under the instruction of Kal Keech, “an acknowledged expert”.  The Argus also shared the rumour that this Prince of Wales (while an Oxford undergraduate) had once played “The Red Flag” on the banjo at meeting of young communists. Who knows how the history of world might have been changed if he’d played that tune on ukulele.

By the way, the Hobart Mercury (19 April 1920, page 5) gives an extended account of the Prince of Wales’ visit to Honolulu. At a special entertainment, he heard Ukalele, “the principal singing girl”, perform with “a voice of much sweetness and charm”.

Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 6:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Three-in-one Banjo, played like a ukulele

An advertisement appeared in Popular Mechanics of February 1928 (page 230) for an aluminium ‘thing’:

Features of a tenor banjo, a banjo mandolin and the ukulele banjo are combined in a recently introduced instrument which has a metal keyboard [fretboard?] to simplify playing, an aluminum bridge in place of the ordinary wooden one and several other distinctive details. It is strung like a ukulele and is constructed like a banjo. A metal resonator and an adjustable metal tone chamber and head tightener are special features. The calf-skin head is adjusted with a nut. The instrument is said to be very easy to play and produces a wide variety of pleasing tones.

Marginal notes in the magazine indicate that the ‘thing’ was called a Tivolette, and it was distributed by Bee-Jay Products Co at a price of $9.50.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 8:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Armed and dangerous…1933

Two young men escaped a police van as they were being transport to Pentridge Gaol, Melbourne. After a month, they were recaptured early Monday, 27 February 1933. In their possession were found a revolver, dynamite, gelignite caps and fuse, a banjo, and a ukulele. These were obviously desperate characters.

From The Argus 28 February, 1933, page 7.

Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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