Thursday, 22 March 2012

My third ukulele hero - Johnny - Johnny Foodstamp

"Get that wound string off there right now, Missy!"

It all started when I discovered that the lovely set of Aquila new nylgut strings that I'd put on my "new" vintage - no - antique - 1920's Slingerland banjolele were looking sick. Or at least, the wound C string was - and because of "issues" with the little baby that I was still trying to fix, I'd actually hardly played it. Notches all the way up it, tiny bits of wire sticking out and almost broken through in one place. Not for the first time, shock horror! I don't really know why, but the strings that Aquila supply especially for the banjo-uke have a wound third string - nylgut, with fine wire wound around it. But there was something definitely amiss, apparently with the frets. Slipping friction tuner - I'd fixed that. Action much too high at the nut - well, I was working on it. All with advice and instruction from heroes and friends on the wonderful Ukulele Underground Forum. But now the frets.

Well, they looked fine to me - but perhaps they were a little bit rough - and a bit tarnished. "Help! What to do?" goes out the plaintive call to the UU forum once again. And once again, I'm furnished with all the information I need. Well, I'm all geared up with wire wool, Brasso, masking tape for the fingerboard.... when the advice comes over, "Get that wound string off there right now, missy! Go with some fluorocarbon strings....they sound great on a banjo-uke!" Now this advice comes from one of my ukulele heroes, Johnny Foodstamp, who hails from Nashville, Tennessee, and plays a real badass banjo-ukulele Formby-style with added attitude, for audiences all over the state, and beyond. And he has one like mine... an antique Slingerland.

Next, he sends the advice "It sounds like they need more then a cleaning. My frets are sort of sharp on my old Slingy too. Any luthier should be able to fix that and usually uke repair is pretty cheap because they are so small."

So - I have managed to find a luthier in my area, a lovely man who has taken her in and agreed to do the necessary. By the end of next week, I should have her back, spruced up and ready for some serious strumming, tripling and split-stroking... well, some serious practice, anyway.

And as for the recommended fluorocarbon strings, they are on order and I'm going to try them out.

I wonder whether I'll ever be able to play like this - click here for Johnny Foodstamp playing some real mean banjo-ukulele on a Slingerland like mine.

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