The Daily Times of 27 January 1930 asked this question because a man had been arrested for stealing a saxophone. Next thing you know it will be considered a misdemeanor to assault a ukelele player! (Ha Ha, says I)
The Schenectady Gazette of 1 December 1925 tells of the switch from ukuleles to saxophones, and of Mr Charles E King’s lament: Saxophones are making “the night hideous with their wails”.
Mr King said that the old Hawaiian songs had melody and were sung with stringed instruments, notably the ukulele, but with the rise in popularity of the saxophone, people who don’t know either music or their instruments are picking their own way through a tune — sometimes two or three together, resulting in all noise and no music.
Mr King believed that modern movies, dances and radio have killed the home-made quality music of Hawaii.
The New York Tribune gives warning and some advice, 20 August 1922. “This flapper habit of strumming the ukelele is in danger of growing.”
Some Antidotes for ukeleles
by Fairfax Downey
The ukelele has become the favorite musical weapon of the flapper. She has found that it is very becoming and portable. Her playing of it stamps her as so much more melodious than the girls who can put in a new phonograph needle, however dexterously. The flapper, with the ukelele has precipitated a new age of troubadours, such as Provence never saw, fortunately for the acoustics of that land. The troubadouress clutches the instrument with one hand and makes aimless yet graceful passes at its strings with the other. Some noise results, happily not much because of the foresight of the inventor of the ukelele — foresight which was not shared by the inventor of the saxophone; maladictions on him!
The sad part of the matter is the necessity the player seems to be under of singing as she strums. When the troubadouress has an accomplice, one or other almost inevitably will chant a flat alto. Needless to say the performance is under the personal auspices of the Goddess of Discord. Almost the only way to check the troubadouress is to play at the same game, which should cause her to stop as she will not then be “different”. Thus, for the public good, citizens might be persuaded to walk to work playfully beating bass drums attached to their persons. While trombones and bass horns might not be feasible in the subway rushes, there is always the piccolo. But there would be the same old annoyance one has with one’s newspaper. Someone would always be looking over your shoulder and reading your music.
I saw this, and just couldn’t help it. BTW, my ukulele/ukelele book will reduce the need, if not the urge, to sing.
THE UKULELE NOW GIVES WAY TO THE MOANING SAXOPHONE
New York Times, February 3, 1929, (Sunday Section: Arts & Leisure), Page 123. The ukulele has gone the way of all fads. One may look forward to a Summer minus the tinkling of “Aloha, O” throughout a ferry ride and a night’s attempt to slumber. The college boy no longer considers the ukulele an indispensable part of his equipment for higher learning. The high school girl has shelved her “uke” with her slave bracelet.
This perception of decline in the popularity of the ukulele might have inspired one plank of a presidential candidate, Mr. Plushbottom, in 1928. But there is evidence that some college boys saw the advantage of ukuleles in higher learning, at least at Duke University, in the year 1950.
Picture from Chanticleer, Duke University, 1950, p. 200 (search — www.archive.org). I suspect (but cannot be sure) that the ukist might be identified on p. 169 of the same publication.