Saturday, 7 December 2013

The N'Ukes at Halesowen- Lean on Me

Here, as promised, is a video of the N'Ukes with Barry Maz of Got a Ukulele blog, Corinne Finnan and the rest of the gang rocking it towards the end of their gig at Halesowen. What a superb show - and you can see for yourself how well it was received. If anyone is any doubt whether a bunch of ukuleles can rock it out as well as guitars,well.... think again!

And read more about them here!

Thoughts for the day - counting my blessings, and the gremlins in the fingers.....

The November miseries have left me as Christmas approaches and my mind turns to Christmas shopping and festivities. I do hate November - just one of those things - but now that the wind has left the trees outside our bedroom stripped of leaves, one of the joys of winter has returned - watching the birds from my bed as I snuggle down for an extra ten minutes under the duvet. This morning the sun has got his hat on, and sky makes a blue backdrop behind the branches of the horse chestnut in the front garden, and the huge ancient oak across the road. And as LSH read out snippets from the weekend newspaper, I watched a flock of redwings fluttering about, pale fronts and tomato-red side flashes lit up in the sunlight not four yards away from me, and in the oak across the way I could plainly see a great spotted woodpecker scurrying up the side of a large branch. It never fails to cheer. What a privilege. I think of the friends and relations who are battling with life-changing and life-threatening illness, and know that I am so lucky to be well, and able to do the things I do. And what a waste it is if I don't get on with it.

So I thought of today's list of activities and chores - among them, deciding whether or not to go for a performance of Mr Sandman at a mid-week Christmas "do" ... it's the version that I featured on here on 13th February by ukulelezaza, Remco Houtman-Janssen, and I started having a go at it in April. From the start, it's been the tricky, quick chord changes up the neck that have derailed me; first as I fiddled about to find the right frets, then to switch them round quickly enough, and last but not least, to play them cleanly. Not easy. Now, after months of practice, once I'm warmed-up and relaxed, I can do it. Just about. But in front of an audience, even a friendly, home-grown one? Nerves have always been my worst enemy when it comes to playing instruments. Gremlins get hold of my fingers, I swear they do.

But maybe, just maybe - this weekend sometime, I'll do a video of my effort with Mr Sandman, and post it for you on here, just to show you how I'm getting on. And I promise I'll tell you truthfully how many takes it took! Yeah - why not.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The N'Ukes rock up a storm in Halesowen! What a great band!

A Ukafrolic in Halesowen last night, just down the M5 motorway, not too far away from me... playing, Barry Maz of Got A Ukulele blog and his N'Ukes.

I decided to go. At the last minute, LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) decided to join me... I was confident the band would be okay, I was confident it would be an enjoyable night out... they weren't just okay - they were absolutely fantastic! What a rockin' band....

Where shall I start... the whole band was slick and tight, their presentation completely professional and the pace never slackened; every number was well-rehearsed, from the first with "Bad Moon Risin'" to the last with "Should I Stay or Should I Go". The overall sound was good on the ears and well-balanced - I honestly cannot find a single word of criticism!

The band comprises several ukes, with bass guitarist and drummer. And they were wonderful, the lot of 'em.

Most lead vocals are carried by Barry - most ably. Nice voice... but I have to say, the performance that really stood out was that of Corinne ("Blues Queen") Finnan, on lead uke and vocals. What a voice, great instrumental leads - she should be a star, she really should. For once, LSH and I were in complete agreement about that. Something that doesn't happen THAT often!

Read more about Corinne here. Interestingly, she tells how she and Barry Maz fell in love with the ukulele after the George Harrison Memorial Concert - just like me!

If you get the chance to see this band, don't miss it, you'll be in for a real treat!

Coming up - a Youytube video of the N'Ukes. Gotta choose my favourite one first! :D

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Wondering what happened to Caroline?

Caroline Robson's banjo-uke solo from "Leaning on a Lamppost" is always a popular post on here. If you are one who has enjoyed it, you may be wondering what Caroline has been up to lately. Well. For a start, she got married is now Caroline Stewart. And her singing and playing goes from strength to strength.

She still plays banjo-uke of course, and in September she was elected assistant treasurer for the George Formby Society... but back in July when the society had a one-day convention at the old Winter Gardens theatre on Morecambe, free to society members and the public alike, Caroline went on stage and did THIS.... What a fabulous performance.... I think it suits her and her voice particularly well, don't you? If you're wondering about the uke, it's my Kiwaya KTS-4 soprano. I think that came over rather nicely too!

Thanks for dropping in.... I'll be back soon with more news....

Friday, 22 November 2013

The electro-acoustic itch .... what happened?

Yes dear readers, on 4th August I told you all about my itch for an electro-acoustic uke, and what happened.... what happened was a surprise gift, a disappointment, followed by a delightful find and another disappointment - and no uke at the end of it. Since then, I found and ordered another electro-acoustic that caught my eye, another Clearwater, different, this one - but I failed to make friends with it and it had to go. I find I'm pretty picky, when it comes to ukuleles. But I sold it to someone who loved it at first sight and sound - wonderful. It's gone to a good home.... but the itch was still there....

So, the news is that I have today taken delivery of a new addition to the family; it ticks all the boxes at a very good price and hallelujah, I love it. Thank goodness for that! You want to know what it is, don't you? Well when I've a few minutes to take a photo or two, I'll show you.

I promise...

Very soon!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Catalina and Francesca Davies steal all the hearts .....

I love the George Formby Society conventions. There is an incredible warmth about them and the people who attend them. LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I have been to six now, over a year and a half; seven if you count the one-day one in Morecambe.... but it's always the same; warmth, smiles and friendliness at every turn. It's hardly surprising when you see that it really is like one enormous family.... performers and audience are of all ages, from 6 to 86!

Francesca Davies has great banjo-uke skills and has been a popular young performer at the GFS for a long time now. As well as being a huge Formby fan, she's a fan of the 1960's and has played with Ken Dodd, Ricky Tomlinson, the Houghton Weavers, Joe Brown, Gerry and the Pacemakers and many other Merseybeat Bands. Not bad for one so young!

So at the November convention at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, it was lovely to see her playing her wooden uke and singing a duet with her younger sister Catalina.

They were absolutely delightful, and they brought the house down. So much so, that they were brought back on later in the day to do it again for those who missed it the first time!

'Nuff said..... see for yourself!

(Video courtesy of Peter Pollard, who does a sterling job, catching all the highlights!)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Strum along with Ken Middleton in the Smoky Mountains!

I caught up with Ken Middleton again at the weekend, at the November convention of the George Formby Society in Blackpool. What a great weekend that was! (More about that very soon, I promise...) Once again Ken wowed the Sunday afternoon audience with his playing; first the Tennessee Waltz, then George Elmes joined him on stage to play the old bluegrass tune "Snowdrop". That's built around a repeated chord progression, so it's fun to join in for a strum.

Improvisation is what Ken is doing in this video, recorded during his recent travels to festivals in the USA. And it's something of a speciality of Ken's. I think it's time we heard Ken play in a festival in the UK.....

To improvise, (also called extemporisation), means "to play or sing (music) extemporaneously, especially by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies in accordance with a set progression of chords". The point is, it's "as you go along", with no previous planning. Clever stuff, eh? I've always been scared stiff of it..... deep water, as far as I'm concerned. But Ken is pretty good, don't you think?

The set progression of chords in this improvisation is G Dm F C. Playing this progression, I feel that it has a really haunting quality. That's strange, because it's in the key of C major, and major keys are bright keys, whereas minor keys have a sad or melancholy sense around them.... certainly the Dm chord adds that feeling in this progression. It's so effective here because of the beautiful autumnal Smoky mountain setting. Autumn seems to embody a sense of melancholy, with the retreating sun and the retreating green from the leaves, but the beauty is there in the reds and golds.... and the melancholy and the beauty are all here in this improvisation.

So if you've got your uke to hand (haven't you always?) strum along with it, it's fun! That's how I started my day today. I subscribe to Ken's youtube channel (good idea) so this lovely piece dropped into my email inbox this morning. And as Ken has kindly told us the chord progression he's using, I picked up my Tanglewood uke from its place right next to my computer and joined in along with Ken's friend Pete.


Good morning World.....

Oh - and actually, is this piece modal? Comments please!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Ken Middleton plays banjo uke in Tennessee, The Tennessee Waltz! Beautiful.......

Finding time to blog just seems to get harder and harder at the moment, it's not for want of trying - even finding time to play is hopeless just now - but I had to share this with you. My friend Ken Middleton (I know I can call him my friend!) is not known for his love of the banjolele, to say the very least, but he now has a lovely custom-made Beansprout banjo uke by Mya-Moe, and his rendition of The Tennesee Waltz, played here in Memphis with the insects singing a backing track behind him, is a winner. It has set my day up just fine, just fine.....

Thanks Ken!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Manitoba Hal Brolund in Alrewas, UK

"Manitoba Hal" Brolund had just done a weekend, top of the bill of all the artistes at the Great Northern Ukulele Festival in Pontefract, Yorkshire - and then, Lordy Lordy, he came down to Alrewas for our uke group Go Ukulele Crazy and gave us a workshop and the most fabulous concert of blues. It was magnificent. A grand Ukafrolic!

First the workshop - how to play 12 bar blues backing on ukulele, with a Robert Johnson turnaround.

Yummy pork rolls and cake, then the concert.

A whole concert, just Hal, with his dual-neck RadioSonic ukulele.

We were privileged to have Hal, one of Western Canada’s top acoustic blues players, sing and play his heart out for us that night... and believe me, Hal's singing is every bit as good as his playing - what a performer! First up was a real favourite, "Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me"... then a whole raft of songs from his various albums....

Among them We had .44, Atlanta Moan, Gopherville, High Fever Blues, All Around The World, I Hear Music, The Thrill is Gone, and we all joined in playing 12 bar blues with Sweet Home Chicago.

Accomplished player, lovely singer, great stage presence and rapport with the audience - Hal left Alrewas with lots of new fans that night - and lots of new fans of the blues, too...

Thanks to Joanna Stevenson of Go Ukulele Crazy (above with Hal) for organising! Fabulous!

And thanks for dropping in!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Time, time, time.... and coming up - Manitoba Hal!

I know. I've been neglecting you. It's lame, but - just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. It is my oft-repeated mantra that since I retired five years ago or thereabouts, I have never been bored, and that's true; I don't "do" bored; what with the things I want to do, the things I need to do and the things I ought to do, to say nothing of the things I'd love to do but have no hope of doing, I don't have time to be bored. I simply can't find time for all those things, not all of them. And I do count my blessings daily that I'm able-bodied and able-minded enough to actually do them. One of the things I love to do is to write my blog, sharing my ukulele journey and my ukulele likes with anyone who stumbles across it or even follows it on purpose! (Whoever you are, thank you!) But - the blog has suffered.

You see, I've been a busy bunny, visiting places, visiting people, strumming a bit of uke, the usual housework... and I just don't know where the time goes. I just know it goes. It flies away particularly rapidly during the summer months, and we have been out and about a lot this summer, including trips I've already told you about... there was Morecambe with the George Formby Society at the Morecambe Winter Gardens at the end of July, and before that a huge highlight was the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham in June.... something I planned to write far about than I did...

Well, the last week has see no less than two great Ukafrolics! I'll tell you about the second one first... it's all about Manitoba Hal Brolund.... and it's coming up next......

Thursday, 3 October 2013

As Autumn Leaves start to fall, Peter Moss catches the Girl from Ipanema! Medley

Peter Moss really is a great player. I told you back in May how he has returned to his first love, the wooden uke... and all about his lovely new Pete Howlett custom tenor. His new medley of great old songs, Autumn Leaves and Girl from Ipanema really does hit the spot.... it's all there..... and watch for the interesting chord progression to link the two songs!

I love the change of tempo in Autumn Leaves, and with those jazz chords and Latin rhythms it really lifts the mood. As a result of watching this, I've been playing Autumn Leaves all evening! Fantastic song - but I haven't been playing this version of course! A rather simpler one....

Written in 1947, music by Joseph Kosma, words by Jacques Prevert....

Thanks for dropping in, folks - I'll be back....

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

An easy introduction to jazz chords!

At last I am starting to get my head round jazz chords. If you haven't come across jazz chords yet, try this for starters!

Play the simple chord progression C, Am, Dm, G7 a few times. Now we'll change them to jazz chords..

C Am Dm G7 becomes CM7 (also notated CMaj7) Am7 Dm7 G7

C becaomes CM7. For CM7, simply move from the C chord down to the 2nd fret. That's CM7, or C Major 7.

Am becomes Am7. For Am7, simply play all open strings.

Dm becomes Dm7. For Dm7, finger Dm but add the C with the little finger (pinky) as if playing a C chord. That's Dm7.

Then play G7 as normal.

In their simplest form, jazz chords are major 7ths and minor 7ths. And as you've just discovered, a major 7th is not the same as the usual 7th chords that we learn as part of the basic chord library. Those are actually dominant 7ths!

There are lots more jazz chords... but this'll do for an introduction!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Chords up the neck - help at hand - from Aaron Keim!

It's so often said that one of the reasons the ukulele has become so popular in recent years is that it's so easy to learn to play. And that's true.... at least, it's easy to learn some basic chords and get strumming quickly. But if you want to play more challenging music that demands a little more skill, you need to establish just what those skills are and start getting them under your belt.

One of the skills necessary to start learning chord melodies, for example, is knowing alternative fingerings up the neck for those basic chords. I've been well aware of this fact for ages, but the truth is that when faced with pages of alternative fingerings for lots of chords, it's easy to lose your way among them, and end up learning nothing at all. BUT - I have discovered a great web page, while browsing the new(ish) website of one of the best American players around, Aaron Keim, "The Quiet American". I featured Aaron a couple of times in July of 2012 - you can find the posts if you look across to the blog archive on the right there......

You can browse Aaron Keim's website and watch his youtube videos at leisure, but what I want to share with you today is the fact that on his website, Aaron has a kindly put up a download page with links to tabs AND..... chords up the neck.

The difference between Aaron's page and others I've seen is that on his page, Aaron limits the chords up the neck to just a handful of the most basic ones, e.g. C, C7, F, F7, G and G7. Just enough to have them printed off in front of you and sit and learn them. Learning a load of alternative chord fingerings up the neck of the uke is rather like eating an elephant - but how to eat an elephant? Easy - on bite at a time! Which is exactly what Aaron Keim gives us here!

There's also a link to a page of "magic moveable shapes" - check it out! And you know, it's great to be given all this help and information completely free - but Aaron does invite us to drop him a donation if the free tabs and worksheets are useful. Fair do's, I reckon ... and actually, you'll find that you can buy Aaron's ukulele songbooks from his website, too.

Lovely stuff... thanks Aaron...

And thanks to you for dropping in!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Guaranteed to cheer a blue day, and raise a big smile! John Bianchi's a Bad, Bad Man....

You know, I feature John Bianchi a lot on my blog, simply because he is just an ace performer - and although I posted one of his videos only very recently, I make no apologies for posting this one today. I was having a very blue day the other day, and watched this - and was soon beaming from ear to ear. And I just had to watch it again, for another dose of the smile medicine! It's such a fun song....

John writes - "Here's a tune also commonly known as "I'm a Bad, Bad Man". Played by Cliff Edwards in the 1942 Tim Holt western "Bandit Ranger", the tune was written by cowboy guitarist Ray Whitely and Fred Rose. This was recorded this morning during alternate side of the street parking - where we were forced to move the car thanks to yet another movie shoot, this time for Law & Order SVU. If the Mayor's Office of Film and Television reads this: please make these and others shoot in another neighborhood for a change. Three film shoots in one week is TOO DAMN MANY!"

I think that's a vintage Martin soprano he's strumming so well there......

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Ever heard a Uke In Bloom? Listen to this by George Elmes

George Elmes is such a talented young man.... I've featured his videos on here before.... (see the label cloud at the bottom)..... and like Peter Moss, he's going to be a guest artist at the uke festival in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin in a couple of weeks.... it's the Ukulelehooley....

In this piece, George's aNueNue soprano uke does just seem to burst into a thousand blooms - what a great title for this lovely piece! He's done the tab for it, too......

Nice one, George! Really nice.....

Update - you can download the tab for "Uke in Bloom" from George's web page here.....

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Peter Moss ukulele solo - medley on Pete Howlett tenor

I've posted before about Peter Moss and his return to the wooden uke, and about the beautiful custom tenor uke that Pete Howlett built for him - well, here it is, played to perfection.... tuned to Bb.

Peter writes "I've had fun with this Pete Howlett Tenor Ukulele in the last 2 months or so. One night I dropped on "Feelings" and on consecutive nights, the other classic tunes fell into place. I hope who ever listens to this recognizes what a wonderful instrument this is and for me, an absolute joy to play. Thank you Mr H."

How can we not, Peter; how can we not - simply sublime.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

So - about that ukulele itch for an electro-acoustic.... what happened next?

Yes, I was telling the tale of my latest ukulele itch the other day. The post was 22nd July if you want to look it up.... but the itch was for an electro-acoustic... and as I was feeling really low one morning, (not about ukes....!) LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) had gone out early and bought me one as a surprise, to cheer me up. And it did. I burst into tears.

Later that day, when we'd arrived at our away-break in another town, I'd seen a very interesting little uke in a shop window.

So, to continue the tale.... it was evening, we'd been walking; the shop was closed, barred and dark, but I could see this pale little soprano uke hanging on the wall, tantalisingly close to the window - the only ukulele among racks and racks of vintage guitars. It looked like spruce, and I could see the hole for an electric lead.... "We'll pop in there in the morning, and you can have a look!" he murmured... we did.

I asked to see the uke.

Nice, I mean really nice-looking - spruce top, maple back and sides, gloss finish, binding, friction tuners - oh yes, I liked it... and it was electric. Passive pick-up... on the headstock, "Clearwater". Here they are on Amazon... purrty, ain't they!

Well - a used uke - at a fair price. Rather less money than LSH had paid for a brand new Lani electro-acoustic. I did like it, dear readers, I really did - especially when I plugged it in to an amp. And I liked the sound... but of course, I'd only been given a brand new electro-acoustic concert by my darling husband the day before. And you know, like most partners who don't play, he doesn't really "get it", the idea of owning more than one uke - and with the one he's just bought me, I'd got five wooden ukes. So I put it down and bought a little second-hand practice 5 watt amp, and a lead so that I could plug my own new uke in when I got home.

We left the shop with the amplifier and lead, and had a lovely day - went to the sea at Skegness, drove up the coast - sunny skies, pretty Lincolnshire scenery; lovely, lovely day. We even lay on the beach for a while... and the next afternoon we went home.

The day after that, I'm noodling around on my new uke for the first time... and noticed a fault on the top, near the edge... two shiny marks the size of a large coin on the matt spruce surface. The marks would not come off. Not impressed. Glue? Probably. But perhaps it would come off with a bit of appropriate attention, I thought. Next thing, checking the tuning carefully - usual drill; tune with the tuner, then check the G, C and E strings against the A by fretting at the second , ninth and fifth frets... uh-uh, something wrong - teh G string particularly was very sharp at the second fret. I checked the intonation, all up the neck, with the tuner, comparing the accuracy against my other ukes. It was unacceptably out. That's poor for a mid-range brand new uke. I knew I'd never be happy with it, never want to play it... and my heart sank. It was such a lovely, thoughtful gift from my husband, who just wanted to see me happy. I had to tell him that it would have to go back to the shop...

And back it went, full refund given. Back at home, Long-Suffering-Husband suggested that I give Old Hat Guitars a call, and buy the Clearwater. I got straight on to them... and waited for an hour, heart in mouth, for the chap to call me back, as he couldn't find it.... and guess what? You've got it - it had been sold the day before. Just my luck - I was gutted. Really gutted.

So there it rests, I now have an amp and a lead, but no electric uke! I had one as a gift from my husband, which turned out to be faulty, and another nice one has simply slipped through my fingers.

Perhaps I won't get one now. It's all gone a bit sour, and the itch has gone away.

If it doesn't come back, the amp will go.

And that red lead - I didn't know it was red until I opened the package. It was that sort of day.... red lead - yuk.

Shame. (Sigh)

Saturday, 3 August 2013

John Bianchi is Blue Turning Grey Over You.... on Ohana Vita-uke

Here's one of my very favourite uke songsters braving the sweltering temperatures of Manhattan to sing and play in his car and avoid getting a parking ticket - at least I think that's what it's all about! And this is how good an Ohana CKP-70 Vita-uke sounds when played by someone of John's calibre... the tune is an 1929 Fats Waller number, lyrics by Andy Razaf.

John Bianchi does these old 20's and 30's songs so well, so effortlessly - his sound is so right, I could listen to this stuff all day! If you like it too, why not subscribe to John's Youtube channel! Just watch the video on Youtube, sign in and click "subscribe"....

And look out at the end of this one for Peter Bogdanovich walking onto a location shoot for his movie, filming outside John's house!

Psst, by the way - playing like this is far from effortless of course - it takes time, commitment, and practice, practice, practice.... and there's no better way of enjoying yourself with all your clothes on. Apart from going to a good uke festival that is! So I'm off to practise my uke some more.... now where's that practice file gone..... :D

Friday, 2 August 2013

Looking for a uke-fest to go to? How about this one - Ukulele Hooley in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin....

The Emerald Isle is calling to me... Yes, if you can get to Dun Laoghaire, just a few miles south of Dublin, this uke festival, Ukulele Hooley looks like another corker, not to be missed... 24th and 25th August... except that I have to miss it! I wish I could go! I've just looked at the line-up of artists... Peter Moss and George Elmes I have featured on here before - just go to the tag cloud at the bottom. Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave are also fantastic - saw them in Cheltenham. Janet Klein and Ian Whitcomb (read about him and his book here) are familiar names to me, and I know that Ken Middleton will be there also with Ohana Ukuleles. Lots of other promising-looking acts too, (sigh....)

Ah me.

Can't go.


George Formby Society - a major Ukafrolic at Morecambe Winter Gardens! July 2013

"George Formby Society Convention

Saturday 27th July – all day event

Following the success of last year’s convention, Formby followers are back in full force for their latest fan convention at the Morecambe Winter Gardens! George Formby, one of Britain’s biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s, famously performed at the Winter Gardens theatre, switched on the Morecambe Illuminations in 1950 and even judged the Miss Great Britain beauty contest at the Morecambe Super Swimming Stadium!"

So reads the Events page on the Morecambe Winter Gardens website. Such a beautiful old theatre, closed to the public since 1977, hugely in need of restoration... it had been arranged that the society would hold a one-day convention there, free to all, just for the fun of using a lovely old theatre that George had played in, of standing on the same stage, on the spot that he had stood on... we, the Formby faithful are used to going to conventions in Blackpool up to four times a year, and we wondered how well this one-off jaunt rather further up the coast would be supported, but no worries, there was a good crowd, and quite a few folk came in off the street as well, to see what it was all about.

Morecambe was a thriving seaside resort in the mid-20th century. It had three piers, several large theatres, and was once very popular... but I remembered it from the 80's, when we vowed we'd never return - an English seaside town that the world seemed to have turned its back on, sad and shabby in the extreme... (the piers all went ages ago.) So we had no high hopes of Morecambe itself when we set off to fight our way up the M6 motorway, notoriously busy on Fridays.

But we needn't have worried, the place looks so different now! We found the promenade a pretty and fun place to be, with new gardens, an iconic statue of Morecambe's most famous son Eric Morecambe, of the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise, and at the end, the fabulous art deco Midland Hotel, restored to glory in recent years. And the weather, too, was glorious - the sea was in, and people were bathing and swimming in it! Glory be indeed...

The first thing we had done after checking in at our hotel on Friday was to find the Winter Gardens, just yards up the street on the promenade.

Some key GFS members were already there, checking the place out and preparing for Saturday.
MY brain reeled as I took in first impressions looking around this large, once beautiful old theatre. The walls are stripped back to bare brick, the floor is bare, there are free-standing chairs in the stalls, where once there would have been fixed plush seating - and not all of them had been put out yet. At the same time, the ornate plasterwork on the ceiling and all around the circle appears virtually intact though sorely in need of new paint, and the imagination leaps to how it must have been back in the day; sumptuous, a veritable wonder-palace of entertainment. You think, all at once, how sad, but how wonderful that major efforts are being made to gradually bring it back to its former glory.
To see it, Look here for a smashing little video showing the interior, and all about the restoration work. I fell in love with the place immediately. And stunning professional photos here - you just have to look!
The photo above, (thanks Peter Pollard) shows Alan Kershaw on stage while Alan Chenery looks to his sound system... the anticipation grows!
A gorgeous day ended with a gorgeous sunset to rival anything Key West has to evening drinking good beer with good Formby friends, and we were all set for Saturday's fun.

Getting ready for the first concert....

The banner's out ready - and folk are coming in...

The lads are in town! Always great to see these talented youngsters!

Peter Pollard and Andy Poppleton - a great partnership...

I'd had no intention of going on stage - but Peter Pollard was having none of it - "You must - they need people to get up there...." so Caroline and I decide to give 'em Lili Marlene again. Quick practice outside - shame we live a few hundred miles apart! What a lovely stage to perform on... Laurel and Hardy, George Formby, Vera Lynn, Sir Lawrence Olivier (in the the film The Entertainer) - the Rolling Stones! And me. What a privilege - what a nerve!

You know, I started this blog just over a year ago to share my ukulele journey, and I have had such fun, made such good friends. I still feel as if I have no business to be performing on stage, and a little more comfortable as part of a duo or group - but it was a blast. I hadn't sung this since the first time we did it, back in March in Blackpool, and we can only run it through a couple of times anyway... but I sang the first verse in German, and Caroline winged it with some harmony. I think we got away with it. And the thrash - you know, where everyone gets up to play together... that was just tremendous on that stage at the Winter Gardens...

This was the afternoon concert. In the evening would come the best, some up for the first time that day, like the wonderful Matthew Richards, some giving us a second helping - Alan Yates, Lewis Clifton, Peter Pollard, and many other super performers too numerous to mention - and Caroline Stewart (was Robson) playing my lovely Kiwaya KTS-4 wooden uke, with "I'll See You in My Dreams" - simply tremendous. I'm so jealous. Wish I had her lovely voice.... but before that, we all piled out, down the road for a photo with Eric - the great late lamented Eric Morecambe - who once famously said, as he did a sketch with Andre Previn - "I'm playing all the right notes - but not necessarily in the right order!"


Thanks again to Peter Pollard for three of these lovely pics, and to LSH, my darling Long-Suffering-Husband for the rest...

This has been a longer post than usual and it's time I went and did something else... thanks for dropping in to share my uke journey!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Formby-style ukers... one-day convention in Morecambe, 27th July - oops, that's tomorrow!

Yes dear readers, you may be aware that the George Formby Society holds a weekend convention in Blackpool four times a year, but tomorrow there will be a one-off one-day convention a little further up the north-west coast of England in Morecambe - at the beautiful old Winter Gardens... read all about it here...

I'll be going, with my lovely 1920's Gibson UB2! Will you? I won't be taking to the stage but I'll be joining in enthusiastically with the "thrash"... You don't need a banjo-uke though - just go! Free entry to this one! And discover what all the fuss is about....

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sarah Maisel - Dream a Little Dream of Me

Well, I've just posted how I didn't get to see Sarah Maisel at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain last month - she went down a storm - LSH said she was really good! A stern critic... but here she is at Cairns, Australia - that gal's getting around! Great rendition of a great song. I've just learned this... rather simpler arrangement than this though... must get up that neck...

Sarah Maisel - Dream a Little Dream of Me .....enjoy!

Cheltenham uke festival? I told you it was good!

Yes, I told you the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain was fantastic - and I still haven't finished giving you the details, have I...shame on me - but one of the great artists that I MISSED - because I was in one of James Hill's jazz workshops when she was on - was Sarah Maisel with her jazz set. Although I missed her, I did hear the rousing applause she got during and at the end of her set .... James actually had to pause his teaching until the applause died down! I remember it well... anyway, today I came across Sarah's own write-up about it all - from beginning to end. It's a great write-up, detailed and full of joy and enthusiasm - I tell you, the atmosphere throughout was tremendous.... you can read all about it on her blog, here, and do look at her photos, too - some great pics on there!

Sarah Maisel - Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ukulele itch? You just have to scratch it - .

A ukulele itch usually takes the form of an intense urge to explore some hitherto unexplored area of ukulele playing - a different size of instrument, a different wood, a new or highly acclaimed make or uke builder. When it comes to wooden ukes I have been very restrained - I haven't bought one for exactly a year. I've bought banjo-ukes, but that's another matter! No, the last wooden uke I bought was a soprano, and I went for a Kiwaya KTS-4. It's Japanese, beautifully made and I love it; a Martin style O copy, it stands well against similar instruments. It gets equal play time with my concert uke, a Tanglewood laminate with a beautiful tone - and both are strung with Ken Middleton's Living Water 100% fluorocarbon strings. Simply beautiful, a bell-like chiming sound....

But - there's this itch now.... to explore electro-acoustic. And I was wondering whether my preference for concert and soprano sized ukes over the tenor still stands. So, a few weeks ago now, I phoned Mike, the ukulele friendly bloke at my favourite music shop to find out what electro-acoustics they had in stock? A Luna tenor and a Lani concert. And along I went to have a play. They know me up there - and they don't mind me strumming and picking away for an hour... I've bought four ukes in the last twelve months from them already, including a very nice vintage banjo-uke and a gift for a friend...

Well, eventually I was decided, about the tenor versus concert thing anyway... and I'm still more comfortable with the concert size. There isn't actually that much difference in the fret distances, but I found that I do still prefer a concert or soprano uke.

I told LSH.

A couple of days late, I was badly in need of cheering up. Now, my wonderful husband is not generally in favour of me increasing my little family of ukuleles - he just doesn't get it... they don't, do they? But he disappeared "to get petrol" and returned with the concert electro-acoustic he knew I'd been trying out in the shop. Well... I was overwhelmed, of course - what a lovely surprise, what a kind and thoughtful gift. The tears fell. And off we went for a couple of days away in the Lincolnshire countryside.

We stayed in Horncastle, an historic little town renowned as a centre for antique shops. Wandering around exploring on the first evening, we happened across a shop, the windows all barred - I peered inside - vintage guitars - everywhere. In rows, on the walls - and just in view of the window, one ukulele, a soprano. It had a fitting for an amp lead... an electro-acoustic uke! More than that I couldn't tell - but it looked like a spruce top. It looked interesting - very interesting.

Want to know what happened? I'll tell you... later... I promise!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Nailed a few targets ... feels rather nice.....

Been practising... using my practice file... and I have managed to learn some of the things I listed a couple of months ago, so I can play them without a sheet in front of me. It feels good to have nailed a few targets - for example:-

Ukulelezaza's tab for the chord melody version of Mr Sandman,
Twilight Time,
Til There Was You,
Dream a Little Dream of Me,

and - C6 C#dim Dm7 G7 up the neck. (see post 21st January, 2013 for the tuition video by Marcy)

Time to look at a few new targets!

I haven't posted here for a week or two - life has been pretty hectic and I wanted to work hard on learning some pieces. I must say, though, I do appreciate you looking in, and I look forward to comments, though I can't promise to publish every single one, especially if there are links to stuff that doesn't really fit in my blog. And I've been feeling a bit subdued - you know how life is just like that sometimes? Sure you do... and LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and I have been out and about quite a bit lately; short breaks, taking advantage of the nice weather to see a bit more of the country... but I have had a strum almost every day, a little one or a long one, it's fine as long as long as I can play a uke for a while.

I mean to do another post on the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, held in Cheltenham last month. It's just a while coming, sorry! As I say, a I'm bit subdued and lacking in the necessary oooomph. Life can't be rosy all the time. And sometimes it's distinctly a darker colour altogether. Time for a cup of tea and a strum - in the summerhouse..... yes...... see you again soon, I promise!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

UFGB 2013, so what was best, then?

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, June 2013, Cheltenham.... reigns as one of the best Ukafrolics of all so far, and likely to remain up there for some time, methinks... because it was simply FABULOUS.

It all started with the Friday evening welcome and get-together at the Exmouth Arms... this was the first big ukulele festival I had been to, and didn't know quite what to expect... I had thought this part of the proceedings would be in a big room... it would have to have been a very big room, if everyone turned up..... but no, as we reached the pub, having walked half-way across Cheltenham to find it, the fun was already starting to take place, outside in the beer garden and under a marquee. We were very early. But many were there before us.

The first person I spotted was Barry Maz, of Got a Ukulele blog, with his little party of N'Ukers... strategically well-placed opposite the entrance, so as not to miss anyone coming in... clever, that... we hadn't met before, but were great pals in no time. One by one, other familiar faces and ukey pals were spotted. Ale bought, seats found, tee-shirt purchased... and already, little groups were strumming and singing. What to do, but to get up and join in. I had only taken one uke, my Kiwaya soprano, but a lot of people had several ukes with them, including banjoleles. There were ukes and people everywhere, everywhere the sound of strumming, and soon there were no seats left... a few more songs from the Big Busk Songbook..... a blues jam with Barry and the N'Ukes....

They said James Hill would be there... and eventually I spotted him - a ukulele hero indeed - if you've been asleep up a corner somewhere, just look on YouTube for his version of Billie-Jean, and be amazed.... I was introduced to him... oh, my.... I told him how I'd booked tickets and a place on one of his workshops the minute they'd gone on sale in November - he is SO nice, so pleasant and unassuming. I was hugely impressed. I'd have loved to have taken a photo but it seemed so.... crass. So I didn't. I should have - he would not have minded, I know.... but my evening was made, I had met my idol, and many more lovely people besides.

The longest day of the year, and the weather had kept a friendly countenance for us but eventually the dusk began to fall and so did the temperature... it had been a long day, we had a fair walk to do back to our hotel, and the Saturday promised to be simply magnificent. It was. I still smile just to remember it..... I'll tell you all about it next time. Don't go too far, now!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Was this Ukulele Heaven? Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013, Cheltenham

The answer has to be..... yes.... oh most certainly it was..... I've just got back, although the fun continues today.... I have to be out again in ten minutes, leaving on a four day girlie break with my oldest friends.... but it will be with my head full of the fun and sounds of the last couple of days.

I can tell you - for a run down, get over to Got a Ukulele blog..... Barry Maz (lovely bloke) is not steam-driven like me, and seems to have kept up blog-wise with the fun. (And LSH and I can actually be seen on his first photo, from Friday night at the Exmouth Arms.... I'm just strumming along with the song of the moment. LSH enjoying the general ambience....)

I'll post some pics and share my thoughts..... next week. Sorry. My poor Long-Suffering Husband is poised this minute to take me to join my mates, who started their holiday this morning - while I was uke-busking in Cheltenham with 340 other joyful souls......

For now - the people - fab.

Workshops - bang on the nail....

Uke stalls, with ukuleles hand-built - fab.

Concert - out of this world....

I'll catch you later.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Johnny Foodstamp does Formby Nashville style at the George Formby Society Convention, Blackpool June 2013

Well - the GFS has surely never seen "Formby" done quite like this! Johnny Foodstamp and his lovely young wife made the trip over from Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday especially to attend the George Formby Society Convention. They flew in at 8.30 am and brought the Nashville sunshine with them. They saw Blackpool under blue skies with a blue sea, with people enjoying the beach, just as Blackpool should be.

In spite of the overnight flight and the jet-lag, Johnny was up for making the most of every minute with the Formby fans and star players, and he did.... the fun went on for those with strong enough constitutions well into the early hours! Johnny was made as welcome as the lovely weather he'd brought with him. The above performance of the George Formby numbers "She's Got Two of Everything" and "Under The Blasted Oak" was on the Saturday afternoon concert. Suited and booted for the occasion, you would never have known that he'd been travelling all night without a wink of sleep! Thanks to Pauline Aitken for the video! On Sunday, Johnny gave us "The Dumber They Come, the Better I Like 'Em", a deliciously un-PC Eddie Kantor number from the 1920's. John Bianchi did a lovely Youtube of this song last year... (see blogpost here 7th June 2012) and I'm sure Johnny Foodstamp's version from Sunday will be video'd and up for viewing soon.

And as for the June convention in general ... I can only say that it was one of the very best. I could never have hoped to see so many of my named ukulele heroes on one stage all in one day... just listen to who was there!

Johnny Foodstamp all the way from Nashville as I've said; Matthew J Richards, Mike Warren, Alan Yates, George Elmes was over from Ireland and gave us Limehouse Blues and lovely renditions of some of his short original pieces for soprano uke, Andy Eastwood managed to make the convention on both days even though he's very busy on the professional stage, and even.... wait for it... Ken Middleton. Yes, that's right, Ken Middleton, who came along to see what all the fuss is really about. He gave us a beautiful performance on stage of "I'll Fly Away" and "Try a Little Tenderness", jammed outside in the sunshine with George Elmes, and left with an inkling of what the GFS is all about, even if we didn't exactly manage to make a Formby fan of him! So glad you made it, Ken, and it was lovely to meet you in person at last!

Unfortunately, Ken had to leave before the 9.00 pm Sunday concert, and missed some highlights which I know he would have enjoyed... particularly Andy Eastwood playing Chopin on his soprano wooden uke. Absolutely breathtaking. Add Alan Yates on solo electric guitar with "Apache"; "I'll See You in My Dreams" beautifully performed and sung by Caroline Robson ... once more at the GFS I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Add in all the lovely performances by the wonderfully skilled split-strokers young and old, and the all-inclusive and well-named "thrash"... you know, there are just a few who just "don't get it"... but I get it... and I just love it.

More later. Thanks for dropping by... I have to go and massage my face. I've got face-ache because I still haven't stopped smiling....

Friday, 7 June 2013

John Bianchi, with "I'll Follow You" ...

Here's my very favourite uke player and singer, John Bianchi of New York... I could watch his videos all day long! Lovely playing, and what a voice.... that voice is reminiscent of Al Bowlly... you'd have to be in your 80's or 90's to actually remember Al Bowlly; he was a very popular singer during the 30's and 40's - killed by a land mine during the war. But he was my Mum's favourite singer, and when I heard his voice singing those lovely old songs, he became one of mine. And John Bianchi has that rare Al Bowlly sound, without a doubt!

This is what he says about this, his latest video...

"Here's my take on 1932's song "I'll Follow You", by Fred Alhert and Roy Turk. The song was recorded by Bing Crosby that year and was also a hit for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The lyrics, outside the context of the lovely melody, read like a stalker's manifesto. Still, I have always liked the tune.

Recorded in the car this morning on an alternate side of the street parking day and played on my 1960s Martin 0. It was a hairy parking day - moments before I shot this, a guy stole a space two cars in front of me and caused utter havoc; it pays not to get upset on mornings like these..."

And that's surely a cool delivery of that lovely song. Drooltastic.....

To see the other videos of John's that I have posted on this blog, just find his name on the tag-cloud at the foot of the page! Thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Peter Moss, GFS Convention 1993 instrumental medley on wooden uke - amazing.

I make no apologies for posting Peter Moss again. Peter Pollard of the George Formby Society has just posted this video on YouTube of Peter playing an instrumental medley of well-loved classics on wooden uke at a 1993 GFS convention - and he writes,

"This was a brilliant performance from Peter, probably the best example of playing the wooden uke that I personally have seen on the GFS stage."

How wonderful was that! Twenty years ago this year - thank goodness Peter Pollard has long been recording these wonderful performances for posterity....and I wonder how long we shall have to wait before Peter Moss graces the stage at a GFS convention again. The next one is this weekend, 8th-9th June at the Imperial Hotel, North Shore, Blackpool... Matthew J Richards will be there, Mike Warren will be there, Andy Eastwood will be there! The friends I mentioned yesterday will be there, and many more stalwarts and newbies... and happily, I will be there to watch and listen to it all, but unfortunately for us, Peter Moss will not be there... if my memory serves me right, he'll be playing to packed houses in Nova Scotia. Apologies to all if my memory has let me down on that!

The medley Peter is playing - I can't nail the name of the first tune, which is definitely Spanish... but the second is Liebestraume by Liszt, and the third is popularly known as the Can-Can, from the light operetta Orpheus in the Underworld, by Offenbach.

Welcome back to the world of the wooden uke, Peter.... you've been away for far too long!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

George Elmes, with a blistering "Limehouse Blues"

George Elmes is a great player. I've featured him on here before. This time, his version of Limehouse Blues, with triples and split-strokes..... Limehouse Blues was written in 1922 and made famous by Gertrude Lawrence - read more here

He's a also a big Formby fan - and he's making it over from Ireland to the George Formby Society Convention in Blackpool next weekend, 8th-9th June! I know he'll be made very welcome - as will Johnny Foodstamp of Nashville, another devotee from further afield, indeed from rather further away. In March we welcomed Ukulelezaza, Remco Houtman-Janssen, who made the trip over from Belgium and set the place alight with his fabulous instrumentals. Every fan of Formby or at least his style of playing has to make that pilgrimage sometime! And we will be there again, LSH and I... our fifth convention in a row.

But back to George. George Elmes, that is! Read more about his music and his ukes and meet his idols here, on his own blog....

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A bluegrass duet on ukulele from the city walls of Lucca, Italy.... SNOWDROP from Ken Middleton

I love bluegrass played on ukulele... so I had to share this. Ken often plays bluegrass clawhammer style, but this time decided to play finger-style. Any style is fine by me... Ken has such a laid-back, relaxed and relaxing style of playing - I always feel soothed and smoothed down after listening to him play! Nice to hear Lorenzo, (Ukulollo) too.. love that tee-shirt - I want one... Ukulele Underground?

Ken writes... "Lorenzo (Ukulollo) and I sitting high on the old walls of Lucca, Italy.
We are playing an old bluegrass banjo tune called "Snowdrop". It was apparently first recorded by Kirk and Sam McGee in the 1930's."

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ready! Peter Moss's new Pete Howlett uke!

What Peter Moss has been waiting for... just completed.... watch this space for first video performance!

For fine ukuleles hand-built in the UK, find Pete Howlett ukuleles here...

Monday, 27 May 2013

Will travel - will take uke!

About to go away on a break to discover exciting tropical parts, I steeled myself to ask LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) "Er... Love, do you mind if I take my little blue uke away with us?" and to my astonishment, he didn't mind at all... so with great care and precision, Little Blue Uke was packed into my case.

With a dozen hastily chosen song sheets, I was prepared, all ready to find a quiet corner in the hotel gardens or on the beach for a little strum - and to introduce the ukulele to the uninitiated of Cuba.

The streets of old Havana are full of live music, played by small groups of musicians... the bars and restaurants resound to the Latin dance rhythms of rumba, samba, cha cha and salsa... I've always enjoyed those rhythms - now I've been completely seduced by them.

The band above were wonderful, their music full of joy - would we like to buy a CD? of course - and we did. Songs new to us, and some very familiar - La Bamba, Guantanamera, Besame Mucho, Quizas, Quizas, Quizas; The rumbas, oh, the rumbas...

One highlight of our stay in Havana was a visit to the famous Buenavista Social Club, playing at the Cafe Taberna... we, shame on us, had never heard of this. Those musicians play music all their own - traditional Cuban music (son) fused with Latin jazz - we've never heard anything quite like it, and probably never will again... (Read their bio on Rolling Stone here...

There were about ten musicians playing, and singers - clearly very famous singers, highly revered by those in the know... oh how I wish we had taken a video camera on this holiday. Why didn't we? Why oh why?

So I have searched YouTube, and found this, Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Portuondo of the Buenavista Social Club, recording Quizas, Quizas, Quizas. Composed by Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés, this rendition is breathtakingly beautiful... I don't think I have ever seen or heard such a deeply moving rendition of a song. Please watch, listen and enjoy...

I can't follow that, not in this post. So, more next time... and I'll tell of how I discovered a new fretted instrument, and introduced two wonderful Cuban musicians to the ukulele! And if you like those Latin strains too, the good news is - I've found some music for the uke!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Ukulele quote of the day, #4

Hi! And thanks for dropping in! Sorry I've not been around; I've been away on holiday to tropical parts, and I can't wait to tell you all about it - and I could not resist taking a uke with me, I must add - but more of that later. It's a beautiful day here in England, somewhat rare over the last twelve months or more, and I don't want to miss it sitting here inside hammering away on my PC.... so for now, here's a quote worth sharing. It's not exclusively "ukulele" - but the cap fits, so to speak. I just read it on a great website I recently discovered. Mote of that later, too....

Here it is... when it comes to being a better player, to achieving mastery over your instrument...

“There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.” ~Beverly Sills

Yes... sorry about that, but we are all in the same boat, plugging away at the practice!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Peter Moss and his return to his first love - ukulele

In my last post I told you about the new ukulele that Pete Howlett is building in Wales for Peter Moss…. now let me tell you about Peter Moss himself.

The fact is that Peter Moss, a Lancashire lad, has been pretty well-known in the fretted instruments community around Toronto and Halifax, Nova Scotia since 1989, when he was tracked down by Mel Collie and asked to cross the Atlantic to attend the first Toronto meeting of FIGA, the Fretted Instruments Guild. Since then, he has built up quite a following over there, having been back to Toronto three times and to Halifax Nova Scotia six times, and has a sell-out gig coming up in June, but he has not been so well-known here on his home patch for a little while. It’s his banjo-ukulele playing that has them all sitting up and taking notice in Canada…

Well… in February this year, Peter’s wife bought him a wooden ukulele for his birthday. That was an inspired gift… it was not his first wooden uke, but truth to tell, he had not played one for many years… oh yes, he had had one before….. and fellow uke addicts will not be surprised to hear that upon picking up and playing his new ukulele, an old flame was instantly rekindled in his heart – a passion for the wooden ukulele. He started a YouTube channel and made some videos – wooden uke and banjolele. When I saw them I was pretty impressed by his dazzling playing. Now, the name and ukulele playing of Peter Moss were completely new to me, but it quickly became clear that his name was already very well known to the ukulele and banjolele cognoscenti over here….. and I was very curious!

Well, I have been able to have a chat with Peter and I can tell now you more – as promised.

Peter has not been away from making music in the UK, but he has been concentrating on guitar and saxophone for some time. Life’s twists and turns had steered him away from his first love, the ukulele – but thanks to his wife and that birthday uke, Peter is back.

He has been telling me his story….

It began with another birthday ukulele. His father, who played Spanish guitar, bought him a wooden uke for his eighth birthday, and taught him to play it. Peter took to it like a duck to water. By the time he was ten and a half, he was a competent strummer and had already won a local talent competition hosted by the Manchester Evening News. He also had a little show set with his sister Wendy. In those days the Formby songs were considered too risqué for children to sing, so their Dad taught them the old Tin Pan Alley songs like Baby Face, Five Foot Two, Who’s Sorry Now… becoming a young member of the George Formby Society, Peter learned the split-stroke and other Formby strums and was rapidly increasing his skills and repertoire.
His father had taught him all he knew, and wisely introduced Peter to other skilled players.

One very influential person was Ray Bernard, a founder member of the newly formed George Formby Society. Ray played melody … Lady of Spain, Rubinstein’s Melody in F…. and Peter was fascinated. From that moment he was committed to this style of playing. Then George Graham, the banjo repair man for Shep’s Banjo Boys lent Peter a recording by Roy Smeck. And by ear, from that record, Peter learned to play Roy Smeck. Virtuoso stuff indeed. From playing around the chords and picking out melody finger-style, Peter taught himself chord melody playing and improvisation. He was not yet thirteen.

In 1973, when Peter Moss was still only 12, there came a significant milestone in his musical journey. Peter had been working on a banjo-ukulele version on the William Tell Overture, no less… with galloping triples, finger-picking and a great crescendo… he played it in the annual competition of the Northern Branch of the BMG – British Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar Federation, in Wythenshawe - it went down a storm – and he won. Later that year, he played it in the Southern Branch competition, and won that, too. Peter was the first person to work out the William Tell Overture of banjo-uke, and he was still only 12 and a half. It’s still played as a show piece by gifted players.

1973 ended with a TV appearance for the young Peter Moss, playing with his sister Wendy in the Christmas Special of Junior Showtime, playing old-time banjo-uke favourites like Somebody Stole My Girl.

It’s great to see Peter Moss back on the ukulele-banjolele scene here at home, where he is picking up new fans all over the place.

If you want to catch up with him, coming up – places world-wide to catch up with the great playing of Peter Moss!

The Light of the Morning - original instrumental by Eugeneukulele

The Light of the Morning - original instrumental by Eugeneukulele,
(Jon Duncan) featured on this blog many times before....

Jon used to have a great YouTube channel under his name eugeneukulele... then suddenly on day, adjusting his settings, he lost the whole thing. If you have tried to look at his videos via this blog lately, that's why you find them gone. His great website was also lost. BUT - the good news is, he has a new one! Check it out here - there's lots of interesting stuff on there - Jon's choice of videos, info on the ukes he likes - go and look!

He has a new YouTube channel now, under the name butterflybandito, and he has been uploading his old videos to it. There are 97 on there to date! Do check it out.... Jon is great songster, musician and ukulele player, and one of the very nicest people to get to know, in the way one does across this planet with the internet.... I do plan to check through here to replace all the dead video links with live ones to Jon's new channel, just give me time!

This new instrumental is so aptly named, don't you think? The Light of the Morning... where Jon is, that's autumn light... and it's there, isn't it, in the music... beautiful.

For "improvers" like me, there's so much to be learned just from watching fantastic players like Jon. I love the way he combines fingerpicking with different strumming techniques, and chord-melody style.... I've watched this twice already. And in The Light of the Morning , to hear it is a particular joy!

Thanks for sharing it with us, Jon. I hope the rest of the day is as good as the beginning...

PS - "You're the Cream in my Coffee", posted 9th May 2012 - replaced now with live video! One down - quite a few to go!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Ukulele Quote of the Day..... number 3, I think....

I read this today, and had to share it....

"I had a nice ukulele experience today. I visited a friend who lives halfway up a mountain overlooking a valley of orange and lemon trees stretching across to the mountains opposite and I took 'Bob' my Martin 2 with me to see what he'd sound like ringing out across the great expanse and it was really, really lovely. The sound just seemed to float out and the tone was gorgeous. I almost know what Julie Andrews felt like at the start of The Sound of Music now. Next time I'll have to take a banjo-uke, or maybe the whole collection to give them all a try."

(Chris Webster)

Sounds like heaven to me.....

Sunday, 5 May 2013

By Pete Howlett - Peter Moss's new custom-built ukulele in English Cherry

So - that's why Peter Moss was visiting the renowned ukulele luthier Pete Howlett at his workshop in Wales - Pete is building him a new performance signature ukulele ... and, courtesy Of Peter Moss, here it is in the first stages of build.

The body is English cherry and the neck is alder. My dream exactly - a perfectly-crafted Pete Howlett ukulele made of beautiful English woods.... the fingerboard is ebony and the inlay is green marble-type. What a beauty that is going to be. And in the hands of a virtuoso player like Peter Moss, it will sing like the angels..... we just have to be patient and wait a while until it's finished to hear it.

Do check out Peter Moss's YouTube channel, and Pete Howlett's website - see my previous post for links!

And coming up - more info on this great ukulele and banjolele player....

Friday, 3 May 2013

Peter Moss pays Pete Howlett a visit....

My last post was in praise of Pete Howlett ukuleles.... and I recently shared a video by the renowned British player Peter Moss. Well, Peter Moss decided to pay a visit to Pete Howlett's workshop in Wales... and here is the resulting combination - Peter Moss plays a sizzling solo on one of Pete Howlett's tenors.

If you enjoyed that, listen to this..... medley played by Peter Moss on his YouTube channel.

Wonderful, or what?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

On Shakespeare's birthday, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever...." my dream uke would be -

My dream ukulele would be a thing of beauty, a joy forever, gorgeous to the eye and gorgeous to the ear ...

It would be made in Britain from the finest woods available...

It would be designed and built with love and care, and an eye to perfection by a master craftsman...

It would be a Pete Howlett ukulele.

Pete has also won the love and respect of his luthier peers worldwide with his series of YouTube videos "Ukulele Building School" and "Ukulele Building Course". See his YouTube channel....

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever...." Happy birthday, Will... you were so right.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Doug Frink - original song, "You Might've Guessed, I'm in Love"

I don't know why, but it always gives me huge pleasure to hear an original song or instrumental played on a ukulele by the composer. I think perhaps part of it is the feeling that the ukulele itself is part of the inspiration, the instrument is such a joy to play.... and I think the very nature of it just brings out the whole musician in us.

And here's another.... this song, written and sung here by Doug Frink, has a definite jazzy vibe about it to me. The chords are certainly jazz chords, and the song includes quite a few of those diminished chords that give such a 30's sound. I love it. Dedicated to his wife - that's the way to do it!

I asked Doug to tell me about himself and the song. He writes:

"Although I've been an amateur musician most of my life, I started getting serious about the ukulele about 5 years ago after taking it along on a backpacking trip to Yosemite. My brother-in-law brought a small guitar, and we had some great fireside jams, and I decided to really learn to play. Along the way I discovered Ukulele Underground, and started writing songs and posting videos to YouTube, it's really been great fun.

This particular song developed one day when I was just noodling around. That descending progression seemed to just sort of fall into place, and I had most of the tune worked out in about half an hour. It reminded me of something from the 30s or 40s, so I added some old cultural references into the lyrics, and what could be more retro than a song about being in love? I forget how the tap dancing and baseball bat sound effects came to me, but they do seem to add to the fun."

I wish I could do that... one of these days, maybe I'll try....

Friday, 19 April 2013

Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013 - Tickets nearly sold out!!‏

Yes, folks, the news is there in the title today - tickets for the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2013 (June 21st-23rd) are nearly sold out..... this morning there were only 50 tickets left, so if you want to go, be quick!

Read all about it and Buy tickets here.....

I've got mine, and my workshop tickets for workshops by Ken Middleton and James Hill! What a great Ukafrolic that will be, can't wait.....

And there is also news now of A Grand Northern Ukulele Festival, to be held in Pontefract, Yorkshire on 12th and 13th October this year. More about that here..... This is a very new venture, with some fine performers lined up, including Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund - it's all there on the website. Workshops are being organised, too, including some very unusual ones, by the look of it!.... it's great that the north is getting its own uke festival at last!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

George Elmes - feel the joy ! "Sunrise" original piece for soprano uke

This young musician surely has far to go ... here is a truly delightful (if short) original composition for ukulele, called "Sunrise" - so well named... what came first, I wonder - the music or its name? It simply encapsulates the joy and splendour of sunrise on a Spring day, the cascade of notes throwing the sun's rays about the sky in a dance of gay abandon - every time you think you've nailed the pulse, it's lost again in a helter-skelter of shimmering notes in playful, changing rhythms. You just want to keep listening to it again, over and over. Simply gorgeous.... I've lost count of how many times I've listened to this already! "Sunrise"..... thanks for sharing it with us on Youtube, George!

And, dear readers - if you enjoy my blog, why not subscribe - just put your email address in the box over there on the right. I don't see it - all private!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Jazz Chord Melody lesson

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, jazz chord melody lesson with tab by Aaron Crowell, courtesy of Andrew Kitakis of Hawaii Music Supply at

Important - uke tuned with a low G string.

I've always shunned Twinkle Twinkle, but this is a great jazzy arrangement, I love it. It's my sort of level, not for the absolute beginner but not beyond the reach of an "improver". There was a tab freely available for this lovely arrangement but no longer, I have just discovered.... (edit 4/Sept/13)

This is a great piece for focused practice - it's not a long piece but there are lots of specific points that you can focus on to improve your playing. I'll be writing more on the subject of practice very soon..... I'm quite fired up by some ideas...meanwhile, thanks for dropping in to share my uke time with me!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Please meet Peter Moss, with a blistering "Some of These Days" on banjo-uke

I have only had the pleasure of hearing Peter Moss's playing over the last few days... I need to learn more of this man! Wooden uke, banjo-uke..... there will be more, just wait a bit..... I'll be back with more information, just give me a little time.... and meanwhile, enjoy that video again, and give Peter a sub to his channel....

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Little White Uke Around the World - how it all began

A little while ago I posted a lovely video by "filipinouker" with the Little White Uke that's traveling around the world. It's been to several countries already, and is currently in Scandinavia.... but just to keep this post short, this is how it all began.... meet "pabrizzer" of Australia, who started the whole thing off.... if you follow this blog, you've met him here before. Great musician.....

Just one of the wonderful things that started life on the webpages of the Ukulele Underground Forum! AN if you're on facebook, there's a Little White Uke facebook page on there.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ukulelezaza, the GFS and "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine"

Six weeks or so ago, I bought Ukulelezaza's vintage Gibson UB2 banjolele. I did tell you about it.... my Dallas D I love - it has a lovely art deco look about it somehow, and a very nice tone.... but after playing a UB2, I wanted one. Then Ukulelezaza (Remco Houtman-Jannsen) was selling his.... and two days later it was mine.

Then a month ago was the March convention of the George Formby Society. Our hotel room was already booked - I've been a member for just a year, after falling for the syncopated rhythms of Formby-style playing, and LSH and I are now regular attenders, for a our Formby "fix".

After a long absence from the Blackpool GFS conventions, Remco was also in need of a Formby fix, as I was telling you yesterday..... so I was pleased and privileged to meet him there. Lovely fella..... as everyone found out! Here at the Vicenza Uke fest of 2009 he explains all about his long-time association with Formby-style and the society. Interesting.....

There is another interview with Remco in issue 19 of Ukulele Player magazine, also a review of his lovely CD "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine"...... find it here.... I've got that CD in my car - on a continuous loop!

"Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" is a collection of jazz tunes arranged by the artist, Ukulelezaza, Remco Houtman-Janssen.

Here's a list of the instrumentals on it... he played several at convention and picked up a few hundred new fans at the same time!

1. I Surrender, Dear
2. Redcat Slack Key
3. Na Moku Eha
4. Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
5. Home
6. Heliotrope Bouquet
7. Pa'au'au Waltz
8. St. Louis Blues
9. Drifting and Dreaming
10. Flatbush Waltz
11. Downhill
12. Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
13. Why Don't You Go Down to New
14. Koa Lament

Friday, 12 April 2013

Fixed my embedding issue - and to celebrate, here's ukulelezaza - Was it a Dream?

Yes, I'm a happy bunny again, my blog looks so much better with the videos embedded! And this new video by Remco Houtman-Hanssen (aka ukulelezaza) makes for such a dreamy start to the day that I'm thrilled to share it with you right here. I blogged Remco's tuition video for "Mr Sandman" some time ago, that number has really taken off among the players who like to play chord melodies. Here is "Was it a Dream?"

Remco is playing his 60's Martin Style 1 soprano. And the style is typical of Remco's soprano uke instrumentals, so lyrical... there are more on his album "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine" - I have it in my car and it's my favourite play for driving just now... so calming.

I was privileged to meet and make friends with Remco at the last convention of the George Formby Society in Blackpool last month. I had just bought his lovely vintage Gibson UB2 banjo-uke from him so it was natural that we say "Hi" as we were both there. Yes, Remco is one of those people who, like me, love the wooden uke and the banjo-uke, and have a love of Formby-style playing. But Remco doesn't like to sing, his realm is the instrumental, and whilst he is perfectly at home in the famous "thrash", standing out with everyone else in front of the stage playing the Formby tunes and banjo-uke solos, Formby songs as such are not in his performance repertoire. Instead, he incorporates the Formby-style strums effortlessly into his banjo-uke instrumentals.

It was Remco's first visit to a Formby convention for many years... he lives in Belgium. But as he told us, he'd "got the Formby itch" again. Now, over the course of the weekend, we might expect a max of three numbers from any one player, at most..... two one day, one the next or vice versa. But Remco went down such a storm, we had... wait for it... I'm sure it was eleven! The comperes could see, we couldn't get enough .... what a player!

Before everyone left on the Sunday night, Remco kindly wrote down the titles of all the pieces he had played for us. The only paper we had between us was a few raffle tickets, and he wrote all the titles down on the backs.... and they were all here in front of me the other day....! But for the moment, I've mislaid them - typical, sorry... I will search for that information, but for the moment I can tell you that my favourite piece was another lyrical soprano uke instrumental, "Under Paris Skies"... I thought I'd died and gone to heaven!

More details in my next post about these.... CD "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" and Remco's excellent book of tabs + DVD "Happy Days Are Here Again" (16 Popular Songs from the Golden Jazz Era, arranged by ukulelezaza)- contact Remco through youtube for purchase details..... and the lists of songs are coming up!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Coming up if I get my act together....

There's a list in my head of all the blog posts waiting to be written... it's getting so long that I think I'll share it with you now so that you know what's coming.

There's the appearance of ukuelelezaza (Remco Houtman-Janssen) at the George Formby Convention last month. He brought the house down. So much to tell you about that....

I want to tell you about the British luthier Pete Howlett, who is among the top ukulele luthiers in the world, crafting some of the most beautiful and most coveted ukuleles you'll see... I want one, of course.... just take a look here.... maybe one day...

Then there's the new album by Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund. Devil on the Wall. Wonderful, as was his last. That man can play, can sing, and certainly can write songs.

And.... the new book "Ukulele Exercises for Dummies" that's coming out next week. It's by Brett McQueen, who teamed up with Al Wood of Ukulele Hunt for the project. I was so impressed by what I saw on Amazon and the free chapter (chapter eight) that I ordered mine straight away. You can read all about it here. It comes out next week on 15th April but for now you can order it at an offer price. Order two and you can be in a free draw for a nice uke. I'll be reviewing this book when it comes...

And I nearly forgot this one - the Little White Uke that's going round the world... where it is, and how that all started!

Meanwhile I must order my life... things to do, people to see, ukuleles to play... and I'll be blogging again very soon - I promise!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

How do you go about memorizing songs?

This questions is often asked, and as I've been trying to learn a few songs properly, this is the method I've come up with that works for me.

If you have difficulty learning songs, try this.....

Play and sing the song through a few times with the lyrics/chord sheet, in the usual way.

Then literally split the lyrics from the chords, to learn them separately -

Put the lyrics on one side of a sheet, without the chords cluttering up the page, and then write out the chords in sequence on the other side.

If there's a chorus, make it stand out by typing it in bold. Anything you need to remember about the lyrics, make it stand out - but as I said, leave the chords off.

Then try to sing it from memory, learning a verse at a time, with the sheet in front of you.

The other thing is to fix the chord sequences in your head, and writing them on the back of the sheet helps with that, because it helps to show up patterns - the lyrics are not getting in the way. So with the uke, play the song from the chords, without the words, perhaps humming your melody as you go.

Learn a line of music at a time; play it and repeat it, get used to the sequence of chords, and look for patterns. You'll know when you feel you can go on to the next line. Just build the song up line by line.

I learn the words and the music separately, like this, and as I go, now and then put them together from memory until I can do the whole thing. Then I just keep doing it, with no paper there, until I'm confident. It all takes time and lots of repetition to be properly learned. Eventually you'll know your song, and eventually with lots of playing from memory, you just can't forget it, which is perfect!

Lots of repetition is really important, but the method of getting there that I've just explained is what I find works for me. It may work for you, if you try it! I hope this helps!

Happy strumming - and happy singing! It's great exercise too!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Another must-watch..... Some of These Days - Julien Staudt

I haven't seen Julien Staudt's videos before, but after this I'm a subscriber to his channel..this great old song, written in 1911, gets a hum-dinger of a treatment here.... a slow, bluesy intro lulls us into a false sense of security, only to lead...... find out!

What a scorcher! And chock-full of jazzy chords. First recorded by Sophie Tucker, it became her theme song.

If you like these old jazzy numbers, take a look at this list of pre-1920 jazz standards - you'll recognise many, and it's amazing just how old these enduring favourites are!