Poetic uker from New Zealand in 1919.

The following found its way into the New Zealand Evening Post on 28 October 1919:

I first heard the ukulele (ukelle); played by a little Mormon maid away in Star Valley among the Rooky Mountains; she strummed an accompaniment to the “Missouri Waltz;” it was soul-haunting and magical—Coleridge would have forgotten his “damsel with a dulcimer.”

 All through America I found the little instrument, singing with a sweet melancholy of far-off Honolulu, with its rustling palms and surf-beaches, and low-voiced hula-hula girls, swaying in their strips of straw under the Pacific moon.

I brought one home with me (a uke, not a “straw-stripper”), and the Customs man loftily declined to claim a duty, refusing to recognise it as a musical instrument; the village said I had brought home “a little fiddle that you played with your finger.

In England the instrument is practically unknown except on the stage, and yet in its simplest form I know of no other learnt so easily that can provide so much pleasure.

 You need not have a good voice; you can talk your songs and make them beautiful:  and if you have no South Sea melodies you will find the plaintive strains of Scotland are every bit as suitable.

In the drawing room you will hold people spellbound, and when choruses are hummed on quiet summer evenings you will be ever in demand.  Jazz music is barbaric—the compelling primeval—the wailing Hawaiian music, drawn from guitar and banjo ukuleles, is barbaric, too, but more compelling because it is the primeval with the soul beginning to steal in.

When the jazz music begins you laugh and tap the ground with your foot, or maybe rap the table with your knife handle; but- soon you will be shutting your eyes and holding your breath and swaying ever so slightly as the ukes wail out and draw your heart with sweet pain.

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Published in: on February 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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He trifled with her affections to get the ukulele

The New Zealand Evening Post of 8 and 10 October 1934 told the sorry tale of a young con-artist who did Ms Rola McDonald wrong.

Rola met a seemingly personable young man and ‘kept company’ with him for a week or so, and she grew to trust him. So much so that she lent him her ukulele (which was worth every cent of the one pound seven shillings and six pence she paid for it).

Too late she learned the truth. Her new friend, James Valentine (alias James O’Sullivan, alias William Hector McKinnon, alias William Hector Forbes, a seaman aged 18) immediately exchanged the ukulele for 5 shillings at the local second-hand shop, intending to keep the money for himself.

Happily he was apprehended, charged, convicted and sentences to two years at the Borstal Institute. Hopefully he learned there how to determine the true value of a ukulele.

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ukulele Lady caught out of tune (or out of the box)

Seemed to have been a number of racehorses named after the Ukulele in the 1920s, some for good — some for not so good — reasons.

The New Zealand Truth reported in April 1929 that some funny business had been going on at the local trotting meet (that’s a horserace where the jockey sits in a little cart which the horse pulls along).

Apparently a new comer, Ukulele Lady, did very well at its first race in NZ — surprisingly well, in fact, until it was discovered that ‘Ukulele Lady’ used to be called ‘Pandora’ in Victoria, Australia, where it had quite a good reputation (3.34 over 1.5 miles and 4.45 for 2 miles). Somebody just forgot to mention these facts of history and nomenclature to the handicapper. Things do slip one’s mind from time to time.

This is neither Ukulele Lady nor Ukelele Lady (Wikipedia)

Another trotter, Ukelele Lady (we assume it was a different horse), in November 1929, was also doing very well, running the first mile in 2.2o, but was finally beaten by the proverbial nose.

Published in: on May 15, 2010 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sixteen Beautiful Girls — and each one actually playing the ukelele

The Truth newspaper, New Zealand, carried a bit of propaganda on 7 January 1922 from Harry B. Burcher, producer of shows:

 If there is anyone on this side of the world who knows all that’s worth knowing about modern musical comedies, revues, etc., it’s surly Mr. Harry Burcher. Trained up at the Lyric in London and with experience under Geo. Grossmith and further as a producer of the above mentioned “stuff” in America, he was brought to Australia by Hugh J. Ward in 1914. This side of the world he has had the producing of of score of works of the aforesaid class. This introduction is mainly to impress “Truth’s” readers with the fact that this gentleman has had a wide experience and knows his business, and that his opinion of the stage girl of the Southern Hemisphere is worth quoting. He stated recently: “In ‘Oh, Lady, Lady,” I had sixteen girls on the stage, all beautiful, all beautifully dressed, all perfect in their teamwork, and each one actually playing the ukelele, not merely strumming under the corner of an orchestra clash. I maintain that in any other country that number would have made a sensation. Americans have said to me if that could be done at the Ziegfeld Follies, it would be the sensation of New York. I only know that I could never have got the London girl at the Gaiety or Adelpi to do anything approaching it.”

Whatever would Flo have said about that — all he had were Cliff Edwards and Ruth Etting!

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Nurse and ukulele: grounds for divorce… (NZ, 1930)

The New Zealand Truth reported 18 September 1930 (page 8) that a woman wanted to divorce her husband for his alleged misbehaviour with a nurse who had been brought in for a week to help him recover from pneumonia. He says he never did, she says she always suspected him.

Here’s a snippet from the court proceedings:

Mr Shorland: You’ll admit to a trivial flirtation with Nurse Gibbard?

— No. I’ll not admit that.

Did you ever kiss her? — No.

You just had musical evenings with her? — That’s all.

Did you have many of these evenings? — My wife invited her twice. I should say that she was there two or three times. She came one afternoon just when I was getting about. She came at my wife’s suggestion and brought her ukulele and music with her at her request.

You play some instrument? — I play the piano.

Your wife does not play or sing, so why should she have invited the Nurse Gibbard to the house? — She likes music.

His wife said that the nurse “seemed to be a bright, lively sort of girl … She had no friends, and my husband suggested that we invite her around to our house.” It was when the wife followed husband and nurse to the park that the trouble started, apparently.

Published in: on January 31, 2010 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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The finest ukulele player in the world (1911)

From the New Zealand Truth, 27 May 1911, page 6:

Mr Earnest Kaai

 Director of the Royal Hawaiian Concert and Musical Organization
and the finest Mandolin and ukulele player in the world.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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