Thursday, March 12, 2009

People Who Uke

Just for fun: some folks you know posing with ukuleles:

The Beatles: Well, 3 of 4 anyway. The Beatles were big fans of British music hall star George Formby, who played a banjo uke & sang some rather racy songs during his career that began in the 1920s & ended with his death in 1961. George Harrison in particular liked the ukulele & was quite accomplished as a uker. In fact there’s a blog devoted to recording the entire Beatles’ song catalog on uke.

Bette Midler:
Bette photographed recently with a very “blinged” Fluke brand ukulele. The Divine Miss M does play the uke in her stage act.

Bing Cro
sby: Bing posed in publicity shots with a uke—& he played one in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Other classic film stars who uked include Irene Dunne, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy & Ginger Rogers.

Doris Day
(with David Niven): On the set of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies; looks like Niven is giving Doris tips on how to play a chord.

ddie Vedder: Yes, the Pearl Jam guitarist does uke, tho we can’t endorse his stage show in which he smashed one.

Elvis Presley: This is a publicity shot for Blue Hawaii. The 50s were a pretty big time for ukes, too; & having film stars pose with ukes to publicize movies set in Hawaii goes way back.

The Lide
ll Sisters: Yes, that Lidell—Alice of Alice in Wonderland. Since this pic was taken by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) before the “invention” of the instrument known as the ukulele, the instrument the Liddell sisters are playing is the Portugese “machete.” However, the machete is a close ancestor of the uke. That’s Alice to the left, with her sister Ina in the middle & Edith to the right.

Ball: Don’t know much background on this, but the uke sure looks natural in Lucy’s hands.

Marilyn Mo
nroe: See the video clip from Some Like it Hot below for more on Marilyn & the ukulele.

Mahal: Don’t know any background on this one, but it sure is fun to see the great bluesman with a uke.

rren Buffett: Yes, in between counting $ & making pronouncements on the economy, billionaire Buffett really does play the uke. At least he wouldn’t have any problem buying as many as he wants.

Deschanel: Last, but not least, the talented actress & singer who is really into the uke & plays one in her chanteuse incarnation. Here Ms Deschanel is playing a banjo uke.

& let’s not forget Ms Monroe “Running Wild”:

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  1. That was one very impressive collection. Congratulations - a lot of work there, I'm sure. Very entertaining.

  2. Thanks Dave: I've collected photos like this over time-- the hardest thing was getting the pix & the text to line up in a reasonable fashion.

    Glad you enjoyed this.

  3. Now this was a fun post! We had a ukulele growing up. I could play one song on it well; The Blue Tail Fly.

  4. Thanks Willow! Blue Tail Fly would be fun on the uke.

  5. George Formby! Now that takes me right back. My dad would laugh himself silly over "When I'm Cleanin' Windows". Anytime it was played on the radio, we all stopped to have a listen and a giggle. Eventually he bought a couple of records.
    I myself am the proud owner of a George Formby album found at a thrift store, in mint condition (though I currently have no turntable on which to play it)!
    Zooey Deschanel surprises me, but it looks good on her.

    Did Bing ever play the uke in other films? For some reason it's ringing a bell.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


  6. I agree with David - that is a lot of work gathering and posting photos. that was very interesting. I can see this post getting googled and oogled quite a bit as the days rock on. Good job!

  7. Have you heard of the Red Dirt Rangers? They use the Uke quite a bit. They're an Oklahoma band. I think you'd really like them.

  8. Kat: George Formby is an absolute stitch; I need to do a feature on him some day. Actually Zooey Deschanel is an accomplished uke player; if I may be so bold, I will say it looks good in her hands, but probably other musical instruments would, too. Don't know about Bing-- maybe some of the real film buffs who stop by here would know: Any thoughts, Ginger, Jacqueline, Kate or Raquelle?

    Jen: Thanks a lot! I haven't heard of the Red Dirt Rangers before but will look into them-- like the band name & uke connection.

  9. Geez, but Some Like It Hot is a hilarious movie!

    We just saw Zooey Deschanell in Weeds. Very funny.

    For some astonishing uke playing, dig up Roy Smeck Plays Hawaiian Guitar, Banjo, Ukulele, and Guitar.

  10. K:

    You are absolutely 110% right about Roy Smeck in general & that album in particular (tho my favorite moments on the album are his "Tiger Rag" on the tenor banjo & his "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" on lap steel). I'd encourage anyone who has any interest in old popular music to watch Smeck on YouTube here. I also did a feature on Smeck way bak last August when this blog was just starting; you could read that here

  11. I got turned onto Roy during a trip to Hawaii. It took me a while to track down the CD -- I finally found it at Austin's Waterloo Records, the best CD store anywhere. In terms of skill and approach, Roy reminds me of John McLaughlin. I know the two are literally worlds apart, but to my ears they nonetheless play with the same kind of genius.

    Time to shuffle off to your August blog post!

  12. An odd comparison, but I can see it-- they both have very individual styles-- no one plays quite like either one. They both have an unerring feel for what a guitar (& in Smeck's case a banjo or uke) can do in terms of melody. & both can play at incredible speeds & still sound completely musical.

  13. That's it -- they share a combination of speed and musicality. I've never warmed up to the speed metal guitarists like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani because I've never discerned any commitment to musicality underlying the virtuosity. They never got the apprenticeship with Miles that McLaughlin had!

    The Smeck videos are amazing. They'll be showing up on Citizen K.'s Friday's Choice.

  14. Just playing fast is a kind of "oh wow" thing, but unless there's a musical purpose to it, it never gets past that.

  15. FANTASTIC post! Wow.

    All those ukes are a force for good in the world. Thanks for putting together this tremendous compendium of uke love. Very cool!!

  16. Hey Reya-- thanks! Ukes=force for good-- I agree.

  17. Wonderful. This makes me very nostalgic. But where's my favourite uke player, Arthur Godfrey? Do you remember "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad"?

  18. Hi Sandra: Thanks-- I left Godfrey & Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards)& other people who are really associated with the uke out-- I wanted to show the "uke" in unexpected places. Actually Zooey Deschanel is fairly well known as a player in the uke community, but I think she's best known as an actress to the general public. I do expect I'll do a write up on Arthur Godfrey especially since he was so crucial to the development of the baritone uke, an instrument I like a lot.

  19. Thanks, John. I didn't mean to be critical - it's just that I met Arthur Godfrey when I was a little girl, and it's a very happy memory. I look forward to your Godfrey write-up.

  20. Hi Sandra:

    Not to worry-- I didn't take it that way. It's cool that you met Arthur Godfrey. The piano band I was in used to do "Seems Like Old Times" a lot; I played bass in that band & always enjoyed playing around on that number.

  21. love,love, love the collection of photos and blurbs!

    what an array of famous ukers! but what, no pic of tiny tim??

    there is something about the ukulele that makes one smile!

    word verification: mantallu

    somehow wv seems fitting.....

  22. just realized you have a vid, unfortunately where I currently am I can't get vids on my friends' computer....I just realized the vid could be tt....or is it YOU!

  23. Hi Kimy: So very glad you enjoyed this-- the post does seem to have been quite a hit. As was the case with Arthur Godfrey, I didn't include Tiny Tim because I wanted this to be people who are well-known but not known for playing the uke. The video is Marilyn Monroe from "Some Like it Hot." At various points, I'll do profiles on some of the famous ukers. & this post was so popular, maybe I'll do a part two of this with folks like Cliff Edwards, Tiny Tim et al.

    Thanks again.


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