Monday, 18 February 2013

Mike Warren, Music Box Waltz and facebook group

I want you to meet Mike Warren. When I went to the George Formby meeting in Blackpool in September, I was chatting to a chap, talking split-strokes (of course) when he said - "You need to get on facebook and join Mike Warren's group... he's really helpful..." and eventually, I did. I'll be meeting him in the flesh in a week or two... but one thing I have heard, over and over, is just what sort of a genuine bloke he is. I'm really looking forward to meeting him - and he really does do great little tuition videos! - but read his story for yourself, here in his own words.... the bit that really resonates with me is where he tells about "the moment in my life I knew I had to learn to play a ukulele"... because I had a moment like that, watching Joe Brown.

"Here is where my Ukulele story starts. I went to firth park school at the age of 12. I was a little Sh*t back then, having being expelled from a boarding school on the isle of Wight. One day at school I went to an art class by a Mr Litherland. We got on quite well so I behaved in his class, (most of the time.) In the storeroom of the art class where they store paper, paints, pencils etc. was a ukulele. It had no strings or tuning pegs but I thought it looked quite sweet. I asked what it was, and he told me it was a Ukulele, and that he was going to learn to play it. I was cheeky and asked if I could have it. He said that if I behaved in his class for so many weeks, (can't remember how many now) I could have it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got it, and it got put into a cupboard for years until I left school.

One night I was watching the TV and the Michael Parkinson show came on, and as a guest he had Peter Sellers. I liked him from the goon shows and films etc., so I decided to watch it. During that show out came a ukulele, and Peter played an old song on it. I instantly thought about my uke in the cupboard. Later on in the show he played again only this time he sang When I'm Cleaning Windows and did a solo.

That was the moment in my life I knew I had to learn to play a ukulele. I bought some tuning pegs and strings and a book and started learning. A year or so later I went into the shop where I always bought my strings from and started paying so much per week towards a ukulele banjo. I went into the shop and asked if I could have a go on it. The chap in the shop (funny enough was called George) said yes. I fumbled around a few chords and he said give it me, and then went into this song and did a GF style solo. My mouth fell open. I asked who sang the song and he said a chap called George Formby. I'd never heard of him. He then said I've got some records at home, If you come back tomorrow you can borrow them. So as the story goes, I borrowed them. I then recorded them onto an old reel to reel recorder that belonged to my grandad.

Months later I came across a book called The George Formby Complete, it's now got a lot thinner and it's called The George Formby Songbook. I bought it and my life-long George Formby passion started there, and the rest is history. I slowed down the tapes of George and figured out the strumming patterns by ear and used to play along note for note, or as near as damn it.

I had been playing for around three years and never met another uke player when I saw a documentary about George Formby and the George Formby Society were on it. I wrote to the BBC asking for details about the said Documentary and they wrote back with the name, address and telephone number of the then secretary of the society. I rang him up and got all the details and I joined. It cost me £2.60 for the years membership.

I went in March 1981 to my first GF meeting in Blackpool. I've never looked back since.

Over the years I've met some wonderful people and uke players. Some are dead and gone now (god bless em') Jack Jones, Dennis Taylor etc. Wonderful people that I have been privileged to have met.

It's now 2013 and come March I'll be off to Blackpool yet again to remember our George and meet some more fantastic people. I couldn't imagine life without the George Formby Society meetings. I now have a ukulele group on Facebook called Learn Ukulele Free which I started about 7 months ago and already there are nearly 700 members from all over the world. I love giving something back from my years of playing and the pleasure from it by helping other budding Ukulele players via this group.

Well folks that's my Ukulele story. I hope you liked it.

Happy Plonking!

Mike Warren."

Lovely story.... thanks Mike, for sharing it! And particularly, for me, for the "shake" video! :D

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HI! I hope you enjoy this blog and I'd love to hear your comments! But I know you'll forgive me if I read them over before I click the "publish" button! Thanks!