Too Many Ukes

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.

Newcastle ukulele beach 1931

Published in: on April 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Further News of Ukulele Ike

Every now and then, Cliff Edwards (a.k.a. Ukulele Ike) found himself noticed in the news. Sometimes happily, other times less so. A few examples follow:

Ukulele Ike was in “Gone with the Wind” contrary to earlier reports in the Milwaukee Sentinel (April 3 1940), the famed ukulele player did appear in the classic film — he played the wounded soldier in the Atlanta hospital, talking to Melanie about his life before the war.

Ike does Disneyland — the St Petersburg Times told readers on 11 July 1946 about Cliff Edwards’ 5 year contract with the film company, and on September 1956 it reminded people that, thirty years ago, Cliff  had been as big as Elvis (Presley). In 1956 he was on the comeback trial with the release by Disney of an LP of Ukulele Ike standards.  Cliff had dealings with Disney in the past, when he took the roles of ‘conscience’ as Jimmy Cricket and chief Crow in Dumbo.

A bit too much like Dumbo in the Champagne scene, Cliff was caught under the influence in Burbank, Feb 12 1957, as the Miami News reports. Police found him in charge of a motor vehicle ‘dodging imaginary objects’. He was released on $250 bail.

Published in: on November 20, 2010 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ukulele the real deal at last

The San Jose News, in June 1941, tells how Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards) will have to join the Musicians’ Union to play in his next film “Flight Patrol”, as the ukulele had finally been accepted as a “regular orchestral instrument”. Rah, Rah.

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 7:36 am  Comments (2)  
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Whom to believe? A ukulele controversy?

The Pittsburgh Press in 1927 happily published contradictory views on the ukulele.

1 May — Ukulele Ike (jazzy uke player) said…

“It is a purely modern instrument that appeals to the person who enjoys music, and desires to play some instrument, but who does not care to spend many hours in study.”

5 June — Nawahi (the champion uke player of the world) said (and I paraphrase) …

The ukulele is really a Hawaiian instrument that was never meant for the jazz tunes that you hear played on it in this country.

Nawahi played classical tunes and previously had won a Chicago Championship.

It seems there was a little ukulele tribalism going on (and the uke can suit any tribe).

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm  Comments (8)  
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Ukulele Ike helps save Buster Keaton from bust up

The Pittsburgh Press of 5 Feb 1931 recounts a sad tale of Ms Kathleen Keys and Buster Keaton.

Ms Keys, a silent movie actor on hard times now the talkies had arrived, told Mr Keaton that she was short on cash. Buster said that, if she lost some weight, she’d do well in the movies again.  She bet Buster $500 that she could take off 20 pounds (that’s about 9 kilograms) in 10 days — [don’t try this at home].

Well, Ms Keys came back in 10 days 6 pounds (2.7 kg) lighter, and Buster says he gave her the money anyway. Ms Keys made a photostat copy of the cheque, it seems, to blackmail Mr Keaton for more money — $4000 more — as it probably would not look good if it were known that the married Keaton was giving money to a woman not his wife (according to Wikipedia, Ms Keys and Mr Keaton had been friendlier than they ought to have been, anyway). Buster said that he’d give her $5000 if she’d just go away (“to China or some place”). When she arrived for the money, instead of $5000, she wanted $20000 — boats to China must have been expensive. Mr Keaton there upon ripped up the $5000 cheque, and Ms Keys ripped up Buster and his MGM dressing room.

Cliff Edwards, friend to Buster Keaton and fellow ukulele player, was the one who called the studio police, and Buster was saved from a worse bust-up. We only have the story from the scratched and bruised Mr Keaton, as Ms Keys laughed the story off, and Mr Keaton refused to press charges.

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 6:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ukuleles that I’ve never seen…

The Music Trade Review of 3 October 1925 ran an advertisement for three new ukuleles from the Progressive Musical Instrument Corp. — they were … (and I’m only reporting what they said in 1925) … “the Al Jolson ‘Big Black Boy’ ukulele, the Eddie Cantor ‘Golden Tone’ ukulele, and the ‘Ukulele Ike’ Cliff Edwards ‘Own’ ukulele.” 

The first of these instruments was the Edwards ukulele made in two models and dealers acclaimed it the greatest hit in ukulele history. Each bears Cliff’s autographed trade-mark. They achieved immediate popularity. Following these numbers with the other two models bearing the endorsement of two of the world’s greatest musical comedy stars, names known to all theatre goers and phonograph record buyers. Progressive dealers are now recognizing these instruments as a wonderful business-getting combination.

I’ve never heard anyone anywhere (except in the MTR) refer to these instruments. A quick google has revealed nothing … except this so far.

Reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm  Comments (5)  
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Missouri, the college, and the ukelele …

How things can change for the ukele …

“The Mikado” is Modernized
(The Daily Missourian, 29 May 1917)

“The Mikado,” the Gilbert and Sullivan opera given by the Christian College in the college auditorium last night, took on a modern turn when Benjamin Wood as Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner, in his song on who should be killed, enumerated the Kaiser, LaFollette, Bryan, the college serenaders, those who play ukelele and the dean of the college, and several others who might be done away with and not be missed.

Society Notes
(The Evening Missourian, 24 February 1919)

About 350 guests attended the informal open house which was given at the Elks club Saturday Night … During the early part of the evening a musical program was given, consisting of vocal and ukelele numbers. The ukele [sic] orchestra was composed of … Christian College girls.

Ukelele Club at Christian
(The Evening Missourian, 21 October 1919)

Christian College ukelele club was organized last night with thirty-five members. Miss Pauline Dopheide has been chosen director. Miss Dopheide says the most popular music among the girls who play ukelele is “Take Me to the Land of Jazz”.

Flappers in the making?

Might this be 'the' Pauline Dopheide (ca. 1924), accompanist to Hazel Dopheide?

BTW: Ukelele Ike (Cliff Edwards), ‘spent his early years’ in Hannibal, Missouri — see MISSOURI: A GUIDE TO THE “SHOW ME” STATE, pages 217-218.

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Some of the woes of Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike)

The Milwaukee Sentinel of 24 August 1930 reported that…

Cliff Edwards Not in Society
Bars Alimony

Los Angeles, Cal Aug 23 — (I.N.S.)– Social position, as far as Cliff Edwards, song writer and actor, is concerned, is non-existent.

“I have no social position,” he told the court. “I am just Ukulele Ike.” This assertion was forthcoming from Edwards after his estranged wife told the court she needed $250 a week “to keep up appearances befitting the social standing of Mr. Edwards.” She sought this amount as alimony pending trial of a divorce suit and a legal battle over $150,000 worth of property.

The Lewiston Daily Sun (23 April 1931) tells us that Clifton A. Edwards “Ukelele Ike” was trying to overturn a previous agreement that gave his wife, Mrs Irene L. Edwards, $100 000 in property and a third of his income. He accused her of “misconduct” with musician Austin J. Young.

A picture in the Library of Congress might show the couple on a happier day: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2006013637/

The New York Times reported on 20 August 1931 that Cliff Edwards’ son, George Edwards lost both legs due to being run over by a train — never heard this before, and don’t know how things worked out for the boy.

Further, mid August 1932, Mr. Edwards was persued by Mrs. Irene L. Edwards for $17399 worth of missed alimony payments.  Seemingly undeterred, Cliff announced his engagement to Miss Nancy Dover on 30 August 1932.

Again, Ukulele Ike was in court over his hair. The Ottawa Citizen (4 July 1939) tells us that Ms Georgia George, beautian, claimed that she caused “beautiful” and “healthy” hair to grow on Cliff Edwards bald head; once “as barren of hair” he said, “as a ukelele.” Mr Edwards admitted that hair grew, but it was not nice. He thought $324 was too much to pay for it.

Published in: on February 1, 2010 at 9:18 pm  Comments (3)  
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