‘Aunque Ames’ (or, at least, my attempt) on ukulele

A Spanish folk song that deserves better than this…

Published in: on September 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A ukulele at the north pole 1926 — and a minor mystery

I read on page 57 of Jim Beloff’s excellent book, The Ukulele: a visual history, about Richard Konter and his smuggling of a ukulele onto Commander Byrd’s expedition to the north pole in 1926. Konter, adventurer and ukulele enthusiast, wanted to introduce the ukulele to the Eskimos — noble fellow. We’re told that the uke was a koa Martin, and the very uke is now (complete with 1926 trekkers’ signatures) in the Martin Museum. I had no reason to doubt this, until I read the following report from The Music Trade Review of 10 July 1926 (reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International):

An Exploring Uke

An Epiphone ukulele made the trip with Lieut-Commander Byrd to the North Pole, according to Epi Stathopoulo, head of the House of Stathopoulo, Inc, manufacturer of Epiphone Banjos, Long Island City, N. Y.   A dinner was tendered by the Greenwich village Historical Society last week to Dick Konter, the well-known ukulele teacher and song arranger, who reported to Mr. Stathopoulo how well his miniature Epiphone ukulele stood the trip.

Was it not a Martin that Konter took to the NP? Is an Epiphone in the Martin Museum? Was Epi Stathopoulo trying to steal Martin’s thunder? (Surely not!) Of course, as an enthusiast, Konter might have taken more than one ukulele with him (afterall, he was hoping to meet Eskimos and share the joys of ukulele with them). So it remains a Mystery…

[UPDATE: the MTR of 3 July 1926 tells how the story of Konter and his ukulele at the north pole was picked up by several newspapers, including the New York Times (30 June 1926, page 30). Neither this report in the MTR, nor the extract from the NYT it provides, gives any indication of the brand of uke that was taken over the pole on 9 May 1926. The MTR was naturally more concerned with the boost the publicity gave to sales of Konter’s ukulele instruction book.]

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 6:25 pm  Comments (2)  
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Ukulele Jokes from the 1920s

Here are some jokes from the 1920s involving the ukulele. The first is about a ‘flapper’, which was a term used to describe a young woman of a certain disposition. The photo below might prepare you for what is to follow.



A flapper walked into a music store and asked to see some ukuleles. The clerk [sales representative] showed her a  few and she couldn’t decide between a Martin and a Gibson. She seemed to favour the Gibson a trifle, the clerk thought, so thinking to help her he said: ‘Better take the Gibson, Miss, You can’t go wrong with a Gibson ukulele.’ Quick as a flash, the young lady replied: ‘Gimme the Martin, then.’

Then there was the story of Mr Mortimer K. Plushbottom, the inventor of the ukulele sound hole. His idea was to sell these sound holes to music shops to give away to potential customers. Once a person has a ukulele sound hole, they’ll want a ukulele, or so Plushbottom believed.

Anyway, Plushbottom resolved in 1928 to run for President of the USA, on the strength of his services to ukulele players of America (remember the sound holes). He thought 50 000 000 ukulele players can’t be wrong.

Of his promised reforms, the following item stood out:

The first plank in my platform will favour the immediate execution of all saxophone players and a constitutional amendment making ukulele playing compulsory.

I wonder what became of Mortimer and his ideas…

Quotations adapted from From “Tom Foolery” in the Music Trade Review 86, 10 (1928), p. 22, reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International.

UPDATE (30 Jan 2010) from the New Zealand Truth: the people’s paper (3 January 1925):

The ukulele is running a neck-and-neck race with the saxophone. Unless the saxophone fais through lung troubles, the “Critic” backs it to kill all opposition — and supporters.

Sounds really nasty…

Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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