Learning to fly easier than learning the ‘ukelele’

The Adelaide Mail reported on 4 January 1930 that ukelele playing is more complicated than flying an aircraft. Flying Officer J. A. Mollison said so.

So, from the article we might apply the following as much to learning the ukulele as the flying officer did to learning to fly:

  1. It provides a means of entertaining one’s friends (just like learning to fly)
  2. It provides an opportunity to wear something out of the ordinary (ditto)
  3. It requires some level of physical fitness
  4. Those learning to play ukelele can be divided into 3 classes:
    1. the intelligent, requiring  5 to 7 hours of dual instruction
    2. the average, requiring 7 to 10 hours dual instruction
    3. the stupid (could they say that back in 1930?), requiring 10 hours to infinity of dual instruction
  5. It is not expensive to buy or maintain a light ukulele (about the same as purchasing and running a good car.)
  6. One gets to move around swiftly (neighbours and family will see to that)
  7. The first lesson (which takes place on the ground) includes an explanation of the controls,  and some risk of being heartbroken at not being able to get the ukelele to do what is required of it.
  8. You will soon find that you are making definite progress
  9. After what seems an interminably long period of time, you will have sufficient skill to play solo. 
  10. There is a social side too — ukelele clubs are invariably a hotbed of scandal (really, folks, here I’m only replacing the words ‘aircraft’ and ‘aerodrome’ with ‘ukelele’ and ‘ukelele club’).
  11. But, when all is said and done, ukelele playing is now disappointingly safe — but there is no need to let everyone know this.  Any ukelele player worth their salt will still tell hair-raising stories of how the bridge fell off during a tricky manoeuver.
  12. Finally, to play ukelele is the long sought-after panacea — and appeals equally to the ‘neurotic spinster’ (I’m quoting here) or the bored father of a large family (can such a creature exist?).

So there you are. Learning to play ukelele is similar to, but a bit more tricky than, learning to fly. It has similar advantages and challenges. I don’t believe a word of it.

Published in: on October 8, 2011 at 6:28 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

George Formby in the news

In 1939, it was reported, George Formby deliberately threw his ukulele into the sea. The Sunday Times of Perth (9 April) reveals the George had collapsed during a performance at the Palace Theatre, and his Doctor told him that he had to stop playing the uke, not sing even for a child’s birthday party, and cut down his smoking to 6 cigarettes a day. Complete rest is what was needed or he’d lose his voice. So he hopped a boat to the West Indies, and, with a quick “Sorry old pal, but t’s got to be done”, threw the uke over the side.

On a happier note, in December 1947, — obviously after a good rest — the Agrus of Melbourne reports that George received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Tivoli as few other performers ever had. “Sing us another one” was the constant call from the stamping and whistling crowd.  He also led the crowd in some community singing in a way few other performers would attempt. The show was entitled, “It turned out nice again”.

Published in: on May 8, 2011 at 5:45 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Ukelele Unwitting Aid to Crime

The New Zealand Evening Post of 18 May 1921 report on a romantic outing the went badly wrong for Melbourne Jeweller, D. Morrison.

He said he had been ‘the victim of a cunningly devised plot in which a young woman had acted as a decoy.’ The woman came into his shop some nights ago, bought a pair of earrings and told the interested jeweller that she just loved motoring. Morrison said that he had a car, and the lady let him know, coyly, that she was not unwilling to take an evening drive with him.

Morrison met the lady and they motored to Hampton Beach, where they sat for an hour near the water’s edge. The lady had said she was found of music, and Morrison had brought his ukelele. As they sat romantically on the beach, he played to her.

The jeweller thinks that the lady encouraged him to play so that they could be located. Morrison was suddenly attacked by two men, who had followed in a car and crept up behind him. He was hit on the head and he pretended insensibility. He was trussed up, and the men went through his pockets. The lady stood calmly by. Presently they found his keys.

One of the men and the woman drove off, leaving the other man to guard Morrison. The two returned about two hours later and picked up the third, leaving Morrison on the beach. Morrison managed to free himself and alerted the police. He and the law went immediately to his shop where they found the glass door broken in, but the steel inner door dented but in tact.  I suspect that this was the end of this jeweller’s willingness to believe the overly eager friendliness of young women.

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Just what is needed — a Flapjack with Ukelele

Ever wondered what a flapjack is? The Advertiser of Adelaide gave us the run-down when it reviewed “Stella Dallas” on Thursday, 30 September 1926 — a silent film about modern girls and boys.

Flappers, the female of the species, and flapjacks, the male counterpart, have their innings galore in “Stella Dallas”. Boyish bobs, shingle cuts, fanfare trims, in fact, all manner of modish, up-to-date hair cuts are in evidence with the girls. Balloon trousers, flannels, blue serge coats, ukeleles, and canoe paddles are the fashion hints followed by the boys.

It seems that it was all hair for the girls and fashion accessories for the boys (who might, or might not, have had hair).

Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 6:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

What’s the country coming to?

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)

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 5:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , , , ,

The Ukulele Code

The Palm Beach Post became zealous for ukulele safety on 29 November 1934, after it heard about regulations to protect people working in the ukulele manufacturing trade. It felt the code was deficient, and suggested the following additional provisions:

1. No ukulele may be played between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am, nor between the hours of 6 am and 6 pm.

2. No crooning shall be allowed as accompaniment to ukulele playing.

3. The sound-producing parts of the ukulele, ie., the strings, shall not be constructed of gut, wire, thread, string, rope or any other article which might possibly produce sound.

4. The hazards of the ukulele industry shall be defined as the dangers which arise from bodily injury to the ukulele player, and therefore it shall be unlawful for persons between the ages of two years and one hundred and fifty years to play ukulele.

5. Tariff on the importation of ukuleles from foreign countries or United States possessions, including Hawaii, shall be one thousand dollars per instrument. The tax on domestic manufacture shall be one thousand dollars per instrument.

At least they recognised that the uke is a musical instrument…

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 6:09 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Another ukulele in divorce court

It is not always true that a family that plays together stays together. The Lundington Sunday Morning News of 2 June 1931 reported that Mr. and Mrs.Fahy parted ways after a game of Bridge. They were partnering one another, and Mrs. Fahy, in a moment of enthusiasm, over-bid her husband (and I suppose they lost the hand). Mr. Fahy was so mad that he hit his wife. He also deducted their losses of the evening from the house-keeping money. Judge Theodore J. Richter gave Mrs. Fahy a divorce, some money and promises, as well as the family ukulele.

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Arthur Benjamin played ukelele

The Mercury newspaper, Hobart, Tasmania reported on the 15th of March, 1929 (the Ides of March — beware already) that composer, pianist, conductor and teacher, Arthur Benjamin played ukelele and liked it.

At last we have discovered a man who is a musician, and who is not ashamed to play the much maligned ukelele. This outstanding figure in musical circles is Arthur Benjamin, pianist and composer, and the winner of the Carnegie prize in London for a composition for a string quartet. He was encored six times when he played with Sir Henry Wood’s orchestra. That should show anybody that he is a musician. When interviewed today, he admitted without a blush that he liked the ukelele, and played it into the bargain. No doubt such a confession brings joy to the hearts of those who have no aspirations but jazz, and who are heartily sick of having it dinned into them that jazz has no element of music at all.

I hope that Arthur knew that you can play any music on a uke, even something that’s not jazz.

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,