Creepy “Ukulele Lady” under the Rain Tree — Wasted

J. Edward Brown wrote a story for the Australian Women’s Weekly, which appeared in the issue of 23 July 1969. It was called “Ukulele Lady”, and Richard A. Whiting’s great old standard of 1925 was to terrify Glenda, the wife of the new Resident Commissioner of a South Sea Island.

A former Resident Commissioner had been murdered in his bedroom by a native with a bush knife. The murderer was later found under a Rain Tree calmly playing “Ukulele Lady”, on a ukulele. And even now, many years later, it is said that ghostly strumming of that tune can be heard on nights when the moon was full.

Glenda, upon hearing the story, dutifully and singularly, heard the sound of the ukulele and “Ukulele Lady” every full moon. She never dared lift the large bedroom rug that was said to cover the blood stains. Contemplating these things drove her to drink. (WC Fields said that a woman drove him to drink, and he never had the courtesy to thank her — but that’s another story).

Anyway, with such a promising start, the story fizzles through a few bouts of imagined ukulele playing and tiptoeing over a shaggy rug until she decided to peak under the rug, saw nothing, then started happily whistling … you guessed it, “Ukulele Lady” — no one else was murdered, no apparitions, no gurgled screams, just her laughing at herself at the end of a very dull and unfunny story.  

Ripped off.

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Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ukulele, Baseball and Murder

The Gettysburg Times (5 August 1929) reported the fatal shooting of a ukulele player by former major league baseball player, Samuel (Red) Crane.  Crane shot John D. Oren at Bria’s Hotel and Crane’s ex-girlfriend, Ms Della Lyter,  as the two sat at a table in the Hotel.

Oren was playing the ukulele at the time of the attack, and he tried to use the ukulele as a weapon of defence. He managed to hit Crane a couple of times before falling with two gunshot wounds in his abdomen.

Crane then fled the scene, but three hours later he surrendered to police. He was bleeding from a head wound that the ukulele had left, so, after his arrest he was sent to hospital for treatment. Oren died hours after the shooting, and Ms Lyter died a few days later.

Crane was found guilty of the second degree murder of both his victims. He served at least 15 years in prison.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm  Comments (5)  
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Woman’s life saved by ukulele

The Hawaiian Gazette ran the following report on 21 March 1911 (not for the faint hearted):

Drink and jealousy were responsible for a bloody affair last night at Waihee, near Kalia, on the windward side of the Island, when Sam Pookalani attempted to murder his mistress, eighteen-year old Hilda Sheldon. After breaking the blade of a foot-long (30cm) knife on the woman’s forearm bone, slitting that arm and her other hand with another knife, and more or less seriously wounding a Chinaman, who came to the girl’s assistance, he was overpowered and disarmed.

He is now under arrest in the Kaneohe jail, while the wounded woman and her year-old baby will be brought to town this morning and place in the Queen’s Hospital.

She owes her life to the fact that she held a ukulele at the time her lover rushed at her with his knife, warding off the first vicious thrusts with the instrument.

One more benefit of ukulele playing (but in such situations, a bass instrument might offer more protection — a saxophone, perhaps)

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 8:43 am  Comments (2)  
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Ukulele Murder

You might recall that I posted the following headline a post or two ago: Suspect Held to Answer in Ukulele Death. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1926. Well, here’s some detail gleaned from the San Jose News, 12 February 1929:

Fredrick Galloway confessed to killing Andrew Pashuta in San Jose on the night of 22 May 1926. Galloway, a deserter from the army, had met Pashuta through their interest in playing the banjo ukulele. Apparently they had an argument, and Pashuta threatened to reveal Galloway’s whereabouts to the army. Galloway used the crank of Pashuta’s car to kill him, and then dumped the body in some trees, returned to Pashuta’s house, stole his victim’s ukulele, drove south, dumped the car and sold the ukulele. Galloway, in fact, had left a trail anyone could follow, and he was soon arrested. He confessed to the murder.

At his first trial, Galloway was condemned to death, but he won a retrial and his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Galloway decided not to contest that decision, fearing that he might be given the death penalty again — public opinion was hot at the time, as there had been a number of murders just then in the area.

All I can say is that we can be thankful for starter-motors in cars (cranks were used to kick-start old cars), because we can’t be sure that arguments won’t break out even between ukulele players.

Published in: on February 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ukuleles in the headlines… and mostly in court

Looking for old ukulele stuff can lead to interesting discoveries. A few examples follow:

UKULELE PLAYER GETS SUSPENDED SENTENCE; Neighbor Tells Court She Called Police at 2 A.M., but the Noise Increase When They Came. The New York Times, 25 October 1927. (Was he hanged?)

Jazz Tunes on Ukulele Lure Canadian Deer to Parked Car. The New York Times, 25 June 1928 (Then what?)

PRACTICE UKULELE IN JAIL, SAYS JUDGE. Hartford Courant, 9 October 1925 (Oh dear, was it that bad?)

Suspect Held to Answer in Ukulele Death. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1926 (not of the ukulele — case of murder)

JAIL UKULELE THIEF? COURT PREFERS NOT. Los Angeles Times. 13 May 1923 (It’s ok to steal ukuleles!)

WRATH SHOWN BY UKULELE IKE. Los Angeles Times. 2 May 1931 (Divorce court)

MAN BEATEN UP WITH UKULELE. Los Angeles Times, 29 April 1930
Someone was beaten into unconsciousness with a ukulele following an argument with three strangers in a Los Angeles. (Now, that’s some ukulele — made in USSR?)

Ukulele Ike Is Bankrupt. New York Times, 18 March 1933 (Remember that divorce?)

May Breen Sues to Make Union Recognize Uke. Chicago Tribune. 8 November 1931 (Serves them right)

So be careful you ukers, or we’ll see you in court.