Saturday, 29 September 2012

Coming up - The Dallas D that just seemed to have my name on it....

I can report that I am now the proud owner of a Dallas D banjo-uke. Now you may be thinking that I am getting a bad dose of UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome), bit no, I protest and deny it absolutely!

However, the tale must be told. This banjolele sort of had my name on it, from Day One - which was quite some months ago. I can't wait to tell you about it - but it will have to wait a day or two, as other musical activities (concert tonight) and a house and garden craving attention just have to come first....

Watch this space....

Monday, 24 September 2012

Update - the Tenor Banjo....

Three weeks ago I suddenly and without warning came across and bought a used tenor banjo - as I reported here. After a few trials and tribulations with strings, bridge, resonator... as of today it is now fully functional and I can even pick out a tune! I've put Irish Tenor strings on it, tuned GDAE like a violin and mandolin, and plan to learn a jig or reel or two.

Barney McKenna is the godfather of Irish Tenor Banjo playing - just thought I'd mention it...

I've even found a site that does free tabs - things are looking up!

No, I'm not abandoning the uke... but when that tenor banjo appeared at an affordable price - like the price of a pair of shoes... how could I possibly not snap it up?

Just reporting.....

I do love the sound of a banjo.....

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Worried Man Blues - chords

On 5th May I posted Ken Middleton's video of his great version of Worried Man blues, played clawhammer style - it's an old roots music favourite, and an easy one to practise playing by ear - just three chords with a C7 as a passing chord to pass from C to F - (using C7 to move from C to F is very common, and just one of the things in music that I've learned from playing ukulele) .

It (C) takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
(C7) It (F) takes a worried man to sing a worried (C)song,
It (C) takes a worried man to sing a worried song,
I'm worried (G) now but I won't be worried (C) long.

For full lyrics, (Woody Guthrie) visit here

You could use Am on "song" in the third line - I think it sounds OK - but it isn't part of a true blues progression. Anyone please correct me if I'm wrong!

Just a note on the use of G - there are so many songs where the main chords are C, F and G7 - but this is C, F and G.... the G7 chord just sounds wrong here. Try both and you'll see. If you can't hear the difference, don't worry. As you play more and your musical ear gets more discriminatory, you will eventually hear the difference.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Caroline Robson performs Leaning on a Lamppost - and talks about stage fright

I didn't see Caroline's first performance at the September meeting of the George Formby Society; I was tucked up in my own little pit at home, feeling sorry for myself. She had an attack of stage fright. You'd hardly know; she dealt with it so well... but for the benefit of anyone who loves to share their music but suffers form this, she talks about it.....

"The weekend of September 15th and 16th saw me attend my third consecutive George Formby Society Convention at Blackpool. I've been a member of he GFS for less than a year but made a lifetimes worth of friends. One of those is Lesley Fowkes, the author of your regular Life's a Ukafrolic blog posts. We met in June and became firm friends straight away. The uke connection does that. Anyway, this weekend we had planned at the very last minute to perform a song together on stage but due in part to Lesley being ill and her having touch of stage fright we put it off until next time. Lesley had arrived too late to see my debacle of a performance on Saturday afternoon otherwise she would've run a mile when I suggested a duet! Stage fright appears to be one of my areas of expertise. I could teach her a thing or two!

I first performed at the GFS in June on the Sunday night when there are fewer people about and its a lot more relaxed. First time ever behind a microphone and my throat closed up, voice went, my legs shook but I just about pulled it off. However, I struggle to watch the YouTube video of it. The singing is so strained.

I couldn't understand it. I am normally so calm. Even when the world is falling around my ears I stay cool. Well, I look like I'm cool even if inside I'm terrified. Remember that bit for later.

So despite the terrifying experience I vowed to try again in September.

I learned two Formby songs. Correction. I thought I'd learned them. I got up on stage on Saturday afternoon in front of a packed room (400+ people) and proceeded to forget all the chords to Leaning on a Lampost and then play a completely different solo to that played by the backing band. As if this wasn't bad enough, I then had to carry on and do a second song when all I wanted to do was run away. The only bit of the second one I remember is singing the same line twice!

It was horrible. I was so disappointed. I felt like you used to feel after an exam that you knew you'd done really badly in. I'd put in so much work then on the day I messed it up.

I know it happens to the best of them. I'm not alone.
Now there is always something to be learned from any performance, no matter how bad it is.

Here are my pearls of wisdom learned from painful experience.

Before you get up on stage...

1 Learn the song. Then learn it some more. Learn it so you can sing it the all way through while you are concentrating on something else. Same goes for the chords.

2 Try to stay calm - my best performance followed me chattering away maniacally to a friend just before going on stage. I was still nervous but not terrified. It's a fine line.

No matter what happens when you get up on stage you must do two things.

1 Keep going. Never stop.

2 Keep smiling. I have discovered that the audience will warm to a winning smile. If you look nervous the audience will get nervous too. When the legs turn to jelly force a smile or crack a joke. Most audiences want you to do well. None more so than the GFS audience.


1 Accept compliments graciously (I'm not good at this) and seek honest feedback from those with more experience whose opinion you respect.

2 Learn and move on. Don't beat yourself up.

During the weekend, a couple of people told me I have very good stage presence. This performing lark is all new to me and I didn't know what it was so I looked it up. I think it basically means when you get on stage the audience like you, warm to you and forgive you for your human mistakes.

So I'll be working on the words, the chords and the stage presence!
Finally, remember that you never get better by not doing something. After my terrible experience on Saturday I got back up on Sunday night and did just fine. A few mistakes but that winning smile got me off the hook.....I think!

Til next time....Caroline"

Thanks to Caroline and also to Peter Pollard for sharing the video!

Post Script...2015
Caroline is now Caroline Stewart, and is now Chairman of the George Formby Society! Those GFS folks know a good thing when they see it!

Friday, 21 September 2012

The September GFS Meeting - well, we got there in the end...

The George Formby Society (GFS) weekend in Blackpool ... we did make it - eventually.

On Friday night the revenge of something or someone had me out of bed for most of the night, holed up in the smallest room in the house, doubled up, puking.... that's all the detail you need folks, it was not nice. But on Saturday when we should have been enjoying the music and the incomparable atmosphere in the Imperial Hotel, I was sleeping, exhausted - the whole day.
And to add insult to injury, the wasted hotel booking for that night was, of course, forfeit.

But Sunday morning I felt better, and fit for the journey up the motorway to Blackpool, "The Last Resort".

Caroline had been there all along, of course. My uke/banjo-uke kindred spirit, we met at the June meeting... last Friday we had suddenly planned by email, to go for a duet in one of the free-and-easy concerts... Lili Marlene. In harmony. But firing on only two cylinders, as it were, I'd got decidedly cold feet. And Caroline had had a nasty attack of stage fright on the Saturday. So we both decided to attend the mic class on Sunday afternoon for the "Up-and-comers" - very useful experience for anyone who has never sung into a mic before. Well, I sang Lili Marlene, doing strums on my little Slingerland... I got through it, just. Then we tried a verse together, in harmony - totally unrehearsed. Not too bad. A small and gentle audience in a small, cosy room - but an audience, nonetheless.

What is it that happens between brain and fingers when you're nervous? They say goodbye to each other, that's what. It has always been one of my weak points, in music - any sort of performance - nerves. And why is it that it just doesn't seem to affect the youngsters?

Take Eric, for example. A young lad of seven, with a beautiful head of long wavy hair that any pre-Raphaelite beauty would have been proud of, a cherubic face and a banjolele almost bigger than himself. He sat down at the mic with his uke and played and sang "What a Wonderful World", faultlessly, fearlessly... and there are lots of quick chord changes in that - and at the end we even had the gravelly Satchmo "Oh yeah...." and a mischievous grin - we'll be hearing more of Eric, I have no doubt.....he was a Star.

But the reason they have no fear at the mic is because they haven't learned fear in this context. They know they can do the performance, and they know it will be rapturously received... a confidence that you just lose as you get older. They are not thinking "What if they all think "who does she think she is..." Which is precisely what I think, and why I begin to turn to jelly from my finger-ends.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Til There Was You, with ukulelemike, Mike Lynch

I find myself very pressed for time at the moment, with so much I want to tell and post to the blog and no time to do it - but as this is one of my all-time favourite songs, it was a must to share, without delay.

Please enjoy, Til There Was You.... by Meredith Wilson.

Posted for educational purposes, all rights reserved.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Ukulele Quote of the Day....

"The ukulele is a portal that only very happy people pass through."

I don't know who said it first... someone said is second at the Nappa Valley Wine Country Ukulele Festival...

And yeah, I'll go with that. After all, it's impossible to play the ukulele and be a miserable git at the same time.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Matthew J Richards - Banjo Ukulele Comparison NO 2

Tomorrow we'll be headed up to Blackpool once more for the September Convention of the George Formby Society... and we'll be listening once again to all those great old vintage banjo-ukes, that just have a great sound all their own.

It's really interesting to hear them compared side by side, and that is what Matthew has done here. These are at the top end of the quality/desirability stakes.

Fancy a Ludwig? So do I.... in your dreams!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

And Under The Blasted Oak - here's Johnny Foodstamp, with George Formby Nashville-style!

I just love his style - and that Gibson... and it's such a shame that this weekend Johnny will be in Nashville and John Bianchi, (another big George Formby and banjolele man) will be in Manhattan... not at the next meeting of the George Formby Society in Blackpool, this Saturday... oh, how they would love them both up there.....

For my part, I have just learnt "When I'm Cleaning Windows" - God, who'd have thought it....but not the solo - of course. Far too hard for the likes of me.

But I can do the split-stroke and the triple now. And tuned up to D, with GFS nylon strings on, my little Slingerland is sounding quite nice...

Oh Yes.

Must go and titivate my genuine 40's hat....

"Out of Nowhere", here's John Bianchi...

All John Bianchi's videos are good, but every now and then he does one that just blows me away... and this is such. John plays so well, but he also has a great voice, and a voice that's so well suited to these old songs... this one, girls, will just make you melt! Having had to gather myself up from a small melted heap on the floor, I can guarantee it!

Here he is, straight from a street in Manhattan! He writes...

Here's a version of "Out of Nowhere" played in my Saturn this morning on 11th street and University Place in Manhattan - an alternate side of the street parking day. Written in 1931 by Johnny Green (music) and Edward Heyman (lyrics), it became Bing Crosby's #1 selling hit for many years. OK, I'm trying not to sound like Bing here, but his ghost keeps creeping into my vocal, hopefully not in a bad way.

Played on a 1960s Martin Style 0 standard uke, I'm reminded that the chords in this song were borrowed/stolen by Alexander Courage for the theme song of a certain 1960's classic sci-fi series. See if, upon listening, you can possibly guess which one... ;)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Basic clawhammer ukulele secrets - Tim Keough

After watching yesterday's video post of Tim playing "Ain't No Grave" clawhammer uke, if you're anything like me, you'll be wanting to know just how that playing style is achieved... well, it just so happens that Tim has made an excellent tuition video on beginning clawhammer, and here it is.

Tim (ukuleletim) has a great website, "ukulelesecrets"

He writes -

"The idea is to learn how to play well in a short period of time. Like a badass.

I share secrets that make you sound good.

You still have to practice… but it will take years off your learning curve."

That sounds good to me!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ain't No Grave, gospel clawhammer ukulele - Tim Keough

If this isn't real badass ukulele clawhammer, well I don't know what is....please enjoy the playing of ukuleletim, Tim Keough

More on Tim Keough and on clawhammer uke later... I promise!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The trouble with me is, I'm such a butterfly....

LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) often says it, and I know to my chagrin that he's nailed it.
For example - yesterday I changed the strings on my lovely new (new to me) solid wood Kiwaya soprano ukulele. Then I spent an hour with a file full of tabs (music) from Wilfried Welti... thanks to Barry Maz of Got a Ukulele blog, where I pounced on them the other day without hesitation. (If you're a player, you must check them out, they're really good.)


Pay no attention whatsoever to the fact that a couple of weeks ago I set myself particular targets on the uke.... and these tabs have nothing to do with them...


All the while, waiting for new banjo strings to drop through the letterbox, as I can't do anything with my new (new to me) tenor banjo til it has new strings on.

Well, the banjo strings have just arrived, and that is the next must-do task.


Pardon me, did you just mention ironing, or the weeds in the garden?....

Also -


I have had my eye on the Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup tin for a week or two - I used the last of it on my porridge this morning, and whipped the clean tin away to a hiding place in case I want it for the NEXT BIG PROJECT - I want to build a one string diddley bow before Christmas.

A diddley-what! I hear you exclaim....

Well, if you can't wait until I tell you, look here....

Isn't that just amazing?


Diddley bows are traditionally home-made... I'm determined to make one, even though my technical projects are often less than successful.

But, that Tate & Lyle tin just might come in handy...

Meanwhile, I really must take myself in hand... my new mantra, as of yesterday, is - housework and essentials all morning, my ukulele and banjolele in the afternoons....oh, and the banjo...


seems reasonable enough to me...


Red Admiral Butterfly in our garden, photo courtesy of LSH with his super-duper camera

Monday, 3 September 2012

What am I going to do with a tenor banjo? I could always string it like a uke - like Valery Sauvage!

The Entertainer by Scott Joplin - on tenor banjo.

The very talented ukulele and banjolele player Valery Sauvage, known as "ukeval", from France has replaced the metal strings on this vintage tenor banjo with nylon; extra-long Aquila new nylgut strings - and strung and tuned it like a baritone ukulele! So there's a third way of stringing a tenor banjo! It sounds pretty good, too - and definitely something I'll experiment with.

It was Valery's videos that first acquainted me with the music and playing of Roy Smeck. More about "Wizard of the Strings" Roy Smeck another time - but check out ukeval's channel for more great music... he's a fine musician!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

It's Caroline - Leaning on a Lamppost!

I asked my banjolele friend Caroline Robson, whom I met at the last GFS convention, to let me study her version of Leaning on a Lamppost - she's so much better than me, I can't keep up with this... she tells me that the solo doesn't have all the right chords in it, but I think this is pretty darned impressive - and fast! Don't you? I think it'll be a very long time before you see my version! But I'm working on this.....and that Gibson UB2 is lovely.......

Thanks for letting me post this, Caroline! I know it will be enjoyed!