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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May Singhi Breen trades uke for bombs

No, she wasn’t planning a different type of approach to the AFM to get the ukulele recognised as a musical instrument; she was doing her bit to prepare US industry against potential fire hazards. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published (4 May 1943) a picture of the Ukulele Lady without ukulele but holding a magnesium bomb — it was a dud. She was telling people at the AWVS Motor Corps how to prevent fire during an air raid. By 1943, some 66,000 women had been trained to deal with fires. Of course, people who play ukulele know an awful lot about fire bombs.

May Singhi Breen with bomb
Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 7:07 am  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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May Singhi Breen (the ukulele lady) socks it to ’em

Time records how, in December 1931, Ms Breen took on the American Federation of Musicians, an organisation that refused to recognise the ukulele as coming within the definition “musical instrument”.

We are told that Ms. Breen, a usually happy, laid back person, saw red at this rejection of her four-stringed pet, particularly as the AFM had already admitted the harmonica into the fold. She was determined that this mountain of prejudice would be moved, and that she would be the one to do it. Walter Damrosch, conductor, gave her his support, saying that the ukulele lady’s playing was like “raindrops in sunshine”. Another expert thought that the ukulele was at least as deserving as the triangle and snare drum — both recognised by the union.

[Update: It seems that Ms Breen was not successful at that time, as the ukulele was used as a substitute during a strike called by the AFM, 1942-1944, which called on musicians not to play their instruments during recording sessions. As the uke was not recognised as a musical instrument, the Four Vagabonds — for instance — could play that instead! But now Jake Shimabukuro has a page on the AFM site. Does anyone know when the AFM saw the light?]