Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Home in Pasadena - "Ukey Dave" goes home

Ukey Dave

Since my last post post just a couple of hours ago, I've heard that my ukulele friend known as Ukey Dave died suddenly on 20th December.

A fellow member of the Ukulele Underground, I met him at the Great British Ukulele Festival in Cheltenham in June - you can read the post where I wrote about it - 23rd June 2014.

He kidded me into doing a little video with him on the Sunday morning, as we waited for the Big Busk to start. It's there on the page. Great company, it was a privilege to get to know him a little there and again at GNUF Huddersfield. We were in the same "make your own diddley-bo" workshop at GNUF and I appreciated his kindness and helpfulness. Jamming in the bar til after midnight too... good memories. I know he worked with vulnerable people and I've no doubt whatsoever that he excelled at that - a person who oozed gentleness and kindness.

RIP Dave, and most sincere condolences to your family ... you will be so sadly missed.

Here he is with one of my favourite Harry Warren songs, complete with both melody lines... Home In Pasadena

A little practice on a beautiful island - that's the way to do it! Lucky me....

The last day of the year, and how hectic it's been, 2014. A good year, I can't complain. Two big ukulele festivals here in England, and all four George Formby Society convention weekends in Blackpool. Long Suffering Husband only declined to accompany me to one - Cheltenham. Add to that lots of good company with lovely people - simply fantastic! So now I'm trying to play catch up.

October saw us having a wonderfully relaxing two weeks on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

The uke came too, of course.... Little Blue Uke... and our lovely verandah was the perfect place to sit for a gentle strum now and then.

What am I playing here? Practising chord melody, "Autumn Leaves" from Sarah Maisel's excellent workshop in Cheltenham, where she shared her strategy for working out chord melody. Seriously good stuff. Challenging on the day - but we all came away having truly learned something worthwhile, a tool to use to work out instrumentals. And a peaceful, relaxed environment with no chores to call you away is the perfect place to concentrate... and enjoy!

Beautiful island, blissful couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Just had to tell you about Zoë Bestel - Winter Song

Time, time, time, never enough of it, so much to tell you about, I feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland... but I just had to make time amid all the Christmas preparations to share this video with you. Zoë Bestel is a young up-and-coming singer-songwriter from the north of England who is now rapidly making a name for herself on the ukulele scene. I've just looked up when I first posted about Zoë here, and it was 17th October 2012, when she was still at school. She has continued to rise and shine, making her big uke festival debut at the Great Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield in September this year.

Her latest song dropped into my inbox the other day - everything about this video stopped me in my tracks and I had to immediately watch and listen again. She has the most gorgeous voice. Add to that the talent of her own writing and the lovely north of England winter footage..... well, watch it for yourself. I think Zoë Bestel is going a long way......

Thanks for dropping in! So many things to tell you... I'll try to get back to you soon!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

A day to go and at last I'm in "full Formby mode".....

Enjoying myself in the "thrash", September convention, Blackpool (photo thanks to Lynn Raybould)

With the November Convention of the George Formby Society only one full day away now, at last I've stopped flitting about from song to song, style to style, wooden uke to banjo uke and back again, and settled to the Formby numbers. Both banjo-ukes are out of their cases and near at hand, and I'm practising like mad - because at every GFS convention I curse myself for not spending more time learning Formby. Formby syncopation is a long and winding road, when you're not 13! It is the youngsters who learn this stuff the fastest. They can be highly competent players in a matter of months - and as for the rest of us, it is the more focused among us who achieve the most success. Focused? Me? Get away with you! I'm still enjoying myself learning to play blues, old jazz standards, finger-picking, chord melody .... anything that gets thrown my way. And Formby of course! And now these last couple of days, I'm trying to make up for lost time, knowing that when I go down to the front to join in with the "thrash" I'll be kicking myself, as my eyes try to home in on someone who really knows what they're doing, so I can follow the chords! And will I be venturing onto that Formby stage this time round...? I hope so. Because I'll be kicking myself if I don't. Getting up there and doing it is the only way to get used to it.

Thanks for dropping in - I've been missing, I know - life has been incredibly busy lately, but uke-life has been interesting and I'll tell you all about it, just as soon as I can - I promise!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ukulelezaza and his Ludwig banjo-uke - "Twilight Shuffle"

I posted yesterday about Peter Moss, ace ukulele and banjo-uke player - whose playing history began with the George Formby Society but didn't end there - he plays all sorts - well, Remco Houtman-Jannsen (AKA Ukulelezaza) is another such player, another one of my favourites, whom I've featured on here many times. Like Peter, Remco only plays instrumentals.

Here's his latest video, "Twilight Shuffle", once more showing that delightful ditties can be played on a banjo-uke! I love that Ludwig. If you haven't got several thousand to spare, dollars, pounds, it makes no difference, don't waste your time looking for one - they're uke-gold....

And you'll see at the end of the video that Remco has a new tab book out - "The Glory of Love", complete with a new DVD. AND he writes about Ludwigs in there... yes, I've got mine! Silly question....! Get yours here and I'll talk more about that later... meanwhile enjoy.......

Before you do, I must say that the videos I enjoy the most are the ones that are simply produced - just the uke and the player, self-recorded, where it's just like someone sitting down and playing just for you. So here you are, it's Ukulelezaza, playing JUST for you!

Beautiful! Such a pretty ditty! And have you noticed how Remco lets you see exactly what he's playing on the fret-board? Superb! Thanks for dropping in.... see you next time!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Peter Moss - US mini-tour starts 15th November!

Peter Moss - the name is spreading... and so it should be!

You know Lil Rev? He's quite a name in ukulele circles. Well now, at Lil Rev's request, Peter Moss is going to be appearing on the same bill at the 6th Annual Milwaukee Ukulele Festival on the 22nd November... and before that he'll be in Florida, doing concerts and workshops in Bonita Springs and Fort Lauderdale, then near Orlando,) and after Milwaukee he'll be in Dayton and Cincinatti, Ohio!

If you want to know what I think of Peter Moss as a performer and workshop leader, just type his name into the search box on the right, to find previous posts! He's just fantastic!

Here's the whole itinerary - the fun starts on 15th November!

If you can get to one of these events, seriously, do not miss - I mean it, do not miss!

Have fun, Pete - and Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Johnny Foodstamp, my Kiwaya KTS-4 and a bit of Roy Smeck - what a combination!

I told you that Johnny Foodstamp (from Nashville, Tennessee) made the pilgrimage to a George Formby Society convention in Blackpool again... just a week or so ago...

He was interested in my Kiwaya uke, knowing how George Elmes (read about George here on Uke Ireland ) thinks so highly of his Kiwaya ... and as he wanted to play it, and I wanted to hear him play it, the result was this lovely impromptu performance of Roy Smeck's Music Box Waltz.

Pure magic.

Please enjoy....

Mmm, delicious!

Thanks for dropping in....

Monday, 29 September 2014

Carter Picking - bring it ON! Tutorial by Aaron Keim, The Quiet American

Two or three weeks ago or thereabouts, I was scouring the net, looking for a tutorial on Carter-picking. Uke players come in two kinds, one with a huge background of guitars, and the other with little or no guitar experience. I'm from the latter, and had only just become acquainted with the term - but when I did, I wanted to be able to do it on the uke. Nothing doing - but I did see Aaron Keim (AKA The Quiet American) pop up somewhere in the search, saying that he was preparing some tutorials on it. Well now he has, and it's really exciting....

Carter picking is a finger picking style where you pick out a melodic line with the thumb, and flick in strums with the first finger. Although Maybelle Carter didn't actually invent the style, it was she who became well known for using it and brought it to prominence. It's a lovely catchy, bouncy style that just gets your feet tapping right away... think Johnny Cash!

Aaron gives four pages of help and tabs - for that and videos click here

I've featured Aaron Keim on these pages before, he's a fantastic uke player - just check out the tag cloud at the bottom. If you're in the UK and want to see Aaron live - well, he'll be coming to the 2015 Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield next year! I've got my ticket already, oh yes!

(Pssst - that's a Mya-Moe uke he's playing. Beautiful American luthier-built ukes. Fred (the rooster song) from Quebec was playing a Mya-Moe banjo-uke in my post from the other day, too... see that distinctive headstock....)

Thanks for dropping in! Now to practise that Carter picking.....

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Just between ourselves, we call ourselves The Gibson Girls... Caroline, Lesley and Kate - GFS Blackpool September 2014

I always have a great time at the George Formby Society Convention in Blackpool. You know I do. I tell you all the time. But last weekend was even a bit extra-special.

Here's one reason. My very good friend Caroline Stewart became Chairman of the society. My first convention in June 2102 was her second, and we quickly became pals in the "thrash" when she advised me that the reason my uke sounded out of tune was that it should have been tuned in D, not in C - and we have been good friends ever since. Caroline sings adn plays very well, and that, together with her love of George Formby have made her very popular with the GFS audiences, as has her willingness to get involved in the society and do her bit - a very able and lovely lady, is Caroline, and a stalwart friend - someone you want in your corner.

Another such is Kate Howard, who attended her first convention, traveling all the way from her home on the Isle of Skye with a Long-Suffering-Husband in tow last year. She loves Formby and the tricky syncopated banjo-uke solos - and my goodness, can she play - yes she can! The three of us have all become good mates, all the proud owners of vintage Gibson UB2 banjo-ukes, and even the three Long-Suffering-Husbands, uke-widowers all, have become great pals and now take themselves off during the conventions to find their own amusements in the local hostelries! Such is the power and appeal of the GFS to bring people together.

Back in March, Caroline suggested that the three of us could perform a medley together, a medley of jazz standards that George performed on TV in 1958 with the Deep River Boys. We all live too far apart to be able to practise together, but we found the chords and learned these three songs, and finally on Saturday we ran them through a couple of times during the mid-afternoon break, ready to perform them during the main concert on Saturday evening. It's not a lot of rehearsal, is it, but we got through it ok.... these girls are such lovely performers, it was great to be up on that Formby stage with them!

Caroline, Lesley, Kate
Photo thanks to Jonathan Mallalieu

And here's a video! Thanks to another good pal, Pauline Aitken!

The band are fabulous. Just tell 'em what your're doing, what key you're playing in - and they're away! Matt, Tony and Dale, that time...

So now I must learn another Formby number, complete with solo. There's challenging...

Thanks for dropping in! Lots more to come...

Friday, 26 September 2014

GFS Convention September 2014 - Fred from Quebec and the GFS Band

Just had a really fabulous weekend of Ukafrolics at the September Convention of the GFS (George Formby Society) at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. These weekends happen four times a year, every March, June, September and November, and since our first, just over two years ago in June 2012, we have only missed one, and that was because were abroad. You go once, and you're hooked. The atmosphere is something REALLY special. The enthusiasm, the warmth, the friendliness - well, you just have to go and experience it to really understand what I'm talking about.

The main convention experience for most people is sitting in the audience to watch the performances. I, for one, hate to miss anyone's performance, whatever level player they are. That means I do miss out on a lot of back-room and bar-room interaction - but that's another story! The performances are what most people are there for, whether to perform or just to enjoy. And people will travel thousands of miles to be part of this. Last weekend was typical. There were enough folk from other lands to make a whole band of them on stage, for one special number! And most of them got up on that stage and did their own spot as well.

One such was a man I can only refer to as "Fred from Quebec". He performed to a very welcoming audience with great style, a very funny song about a highly-sexed rooster. Fred brought the house down, lovely performance. And he chose to be backed by the band. Now I really do want to spotlight the band at this point - because they are nothing short of magnificent. Sometimes people choose to perform to their own backing tracks, because that's what they are used to, but I do always think that's a shame because that band can back anything and anyone and they don't need the music in front of them, they just pick it up and give the performer just the right balance of backing, whatever they need.... so talented! Even on a song they haven't heard before, like Fred's rooster song.

In that part of the show, the band comprised Dale Norman on drums, Dave Partington (who has written an excellent book on how to perform Formby solos) on bass guitar and the GFS Musical Director, Matthew J Richards on keyboard. Fred began his song. The band listened for a few seconds. Dale came in with a light percussion accompaniment. Next in was Dave on bass, then Matt was in on keyboard - and it was as if they'd known the song all along. That's how good they are. It all sounded brilliant. What stars!

Fred's video doesn't show clearly how the band joined in, but they did, I was there!

I occasionally clamber up onto that stage, always with the fear that I will suddenly "blank" on words or chords, I know it happens to everyone at some time - but the thing is, if you are playing to a backing track and you do suddenly go blank, a backing track will not forgive a moment's hesitation, it just goes on and leave you derailed. With the GFS band you can have confidence that they will follow you and rescue you, even vamp for a while, while you get over it if necessary - it is pure joy to watch and listen how they support the performer, even when a performer misses beats, not waiting until the natural end of a phrase before before beginning the next. Some people do do that if they are sort of "new" to music - but the band are onto it and will not let the performer down. Brilliant. If I were a chap and I wore a hat, Id take it off to them.

Thanks for dropping in - more coming up!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Look out - Johnny Foodstamp hits the GFS September 2014 Convention!

I've been featuring Johnny Foodstamp in my blogs for exactly two and a half years. The first time was 22nd March 2012, very soon after I started this blog. I named him as one of my ukulele heroes, for helping me over a ukulele forum to sort out little problems with my very first (and very old) banjo-uke. So kind and helpful. Go back and read it and you'll see. Since then I've posted about Johnny lots of times. I love it that he, a young fella from Nashville, Tennessee, plays George Formby, Formby-style, split-strokes and everything and brings it to the Nashville folk. What a star. And last weekend he and his lovely wife made their second trip across the Atlantic to attend their second Formby convention. How fantastic is that! And I can tell you, he got a very warm welcome from the friends he made last time!

He didn't bring a banjo-uke with him this time, just his lovely vintage Gibson soprano uke. It sounds gorgeous. And he says that the strings are just the cheapest nylon uke strings from his local music shop.... food for thought there!

He gave us two Formby numbers on Saturday - "Little Ukulele" and "The Lancashire Toreador". Now, the purists will say that Johnny's vocal style "isn't Formby".... well, how can he sound like a Lancashire lad, coming from Nashville Tennessee, for goodness sake? Sure he has a very personal style of delivery, but whether you like that or not, the uke playing was excellent. Me? I loved it.

Here's the Lancashire Toreador....

Thanks to Pauline Aitken for the video

More Johnny to come...

After a monster couple of Ukafrolicking weeks, coming up...

Two weekend uke festivals in nine days takes some reporting on.... but I'm getting there, honestly, in between washing, various other bits of housework and sick-visiting - so, coming up...

(I love this pic of me with Johnny Foodstamp thanks to Kate Howard!)
The September convention of the GFS (George Formby Society) in Blackpool - a bit of a spotlight on the band, Johnny Foodstamp visits from Nashville, and as many more delights as I can possibly cram in before life tears me away....

Also - The GNUF (Grand Northern Ukulele Festival) in Huddersfield - this was two weekends ago, but I still have lots that I want to tell you about in my own way and from my own perspective. So bear with me and I'll be with you shortly!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Last weekend GNUF - this weekend, GFS Autumn Convention Blackpool - the Ukafrolics go on....

It's all happening in Blackpool this weekend - the famous Blackpool Illuminations are on, and it's the September Convention of the George Formby Society, held as always at the Imperial Hotel, North Promenade...

Matthew J Richards will be there,

Mike Warren will be there,

Caroline Stewart will be there,

Lewis Clifton will be there,

I THINK Michael Adcock will be there, (featured in my last post,)

I KNOW Johnny Foodstamp from the USA Nashville will be there, having just flown in from Nashville with his lovely wife,

... and I will be there! Just hate to miss...

Will you be there?

See you there!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2014 - Michael Adcock makes his mark!

I first met 16 year old Michael Adcock two years ago, the first time I went to a George Formby Convention at Blackpool. I remember admiring his Cartwright banjo-uke and chatting with him in the lobby of the Imperial Hotel as we waited for the doors of the convention room to open. Michael has long been a fan of Formby-style playing and is well used to taking the stage at Blackpool, wowing the audience with split-stroke prowess - but he hasn't stopped there.

There are quite a few talented young Formby syncopators right now; brilliant players, all of them - and boy, is it hard to play those Formby solos - but Michael is one player who has branched out and discovered the versatility of the wooden uke, including the music of Roy Smeck. Roy Smeck, self-styled "Wizard of the Strings" was as famous in America during the 1930's as George Formby was here in the UK. He played a number of fretted instruments including ukulele and dazzled his audiences with his playing. I've featured players of his music on here several times before...

Michael also became a huge fan of Peter Moss and has been studying his style, working hard to emulate his hero - to great result! Peter invited Michael to join him on stage at Blackpool, also at the Nantwich Ukulele Festival and now, this last weekend Michael joined Peter Moss and the other fringe players at the GNUF.

And his verdict? "Best weekend of my life!" Well deserved, I reckon.

And here are the pictures to prove it - playing this time with Phil Doleman and also with Ukulelezaza, Remco Hautman-Jannsen

Bottom - with the Mersey Belles and with Zoe Bestel....

Photos thanks to Teresa Adcock.

Huddersfield hosts the Great Northern Ukulele Festival 2014 - I wonder what Harold would have thought?

Our first visit to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Walking towards the Town Hall, we passed the magnificent building which is Huddersfield Railway Station with its classical style facade and rather large statue of Harold Wilson, prime minister during the early 1970's - the first thoughts that came into my head were memories of the three-day-week and industrial strikes - it made me feel my age. Thank goodness for the GNUF. Inside the Town Hall with my weekend pass wristband, I was promptly rejuvenated! Stick with me for a day or day or two and I'll tell you all about it from my perspective.... if you can't wait, get over to Got A Ukulele blog for a full run down..... Barry Maz does a fantastic blogging job, running round taking photos, taking notes on the hoof, it makes me feel tired just watching him at work! Me, I'm a lazy blogger, I'm afraid .... much too busy just enjoying the music and chatting, and generally hoping I'll remember enough detail to share when I get home!

Fear not, I've plenty to tell.... come back shortly and I'll have the first snippets ready!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

George Elmes wows them all at The HotSpot

I've been practising 12th St Rag. I was starting to get sort of pleased with it. Did a Youtube today, was going to share it with you - then I spotted THIS....

You know, George Elmes is just up there in the ukulele stratosphere. Watch this set.... 12th St Rag is number four, I think.... this is the sort of performance where you sit open-mouthed and think "Why do I bother?" Well, I bother because trying to play harder pieces is a challenge, it's fun, it's what music has always been to me... and I shall keep on bothering although I will never ever play like George Elmes, I shall be content to watch and listen to him, because that is just heaven... and I'll just keep on trying. But you know, I won't show you my 12th St Rag JUST yet after all..... please enjoy this instead!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Great Northern Ukulele Festival 2014 - got my ticket - have you got yours?

The second Great Northern Ukulele Festival (England) is being held this year in Huddersfield, after great success in Pontefract last year. And this year I'm going, even though it falls only the week before the GFS September convention in Blackpool. LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) approves as he reckons he can spend lots of time exploring the Huddersfield taverns selling over a dozen different brands of real ale - should I say Real Ale!

With the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain headlining and a veritable host of big uke names performing and doing workshops, it's all set to be another rip-roaring success - so my advice is, get your tickets and workshop tickets NOW....

There are no fewer than seventeen workshops to choose from, over the two days (13th and 14th September) and they will sell out, so if you don't want to be disappointed, get it sorted! The workshops are selling well, and the latest additions to the list of workshop tutors are no other than two of my favourite performers, the great Peter Moss and Ukulelezaza (Remco Houtman-Janssen)

Peter Moss workshop

FROM MAJOR to MINOR, WHAT COULD BE FINER? - Music Playing Workshop Sat 13 Sep 2014, 2:00PM

"In the workshop we will explore how to play general root position chords.
Then I will construct popular chord sequences in the keys of C, F & G. Also
introducing Minor chords & relevant combinations. Next to explore what 4/4
& 3/4 mean and how they can be applied."

Ukulelezaza workshop

12th STREET RAG - Music Playing Workshop Sat 13 Sep 2014, 11:00AM

"Always thought the classic ukulele tune 12th Street Rag was beyond your capabilities as a strummer? It's not! Ukulelezaza will teach you the basic melody line and will show you how to elaborate on that with both the left and the right hand. Slowly at first, and with some practice you can speed it up and wow your partner, friends, family and pets even more."

Regular readers will know that I have featured both of these great instrumentalists several times in this blog - just search the tag-cloud at the bottom!

Five weeks to go and I'm quite excited about this festival - check it out, see who's going to be playing... and there's even a Festival Fringe! with a range of extra events!

Well - I'll see you there!

Thanks for dropping in!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Manitoba Hal - Ukulele Blues book! I've got mine.....

Manitoba Hal - what a lovely fella, what a great blues man... it was Ken Middleton who introduced me to Hal's music a couple of years ago, and when Jo and John Stevenson of Ukulele Crazy arranged for Hal to come and do a concert and workshop for us locally, last October (2013) I couldn't wait. I posted about it here. Both the workshop and the concert were superb, unforgettable.... I have Hal's CD's on my ipod, playing in the car - Hal makes blues on the uke sound the most natural thing in the world.

Then a week or so ago, I was reminded that Hal has now produced a book on his blues method - so I ordered one. The good folk at the Great Northern Ukulele Festival are assisting Hal in getting this book "out there", and the magnificent Mary Agnes Krell posted my book out to me with a sticker for this years GNUF... and a very classy sticker it is, too -

As for Hal's Ukulele Blues book, there's plenty in there to keep me busy for quite some time - the strums, progressions, shuffle chords, turn arounds, pentatonic scales, a few songs and more... I've read high praise of it, and here I'm adding mine! Get stuck in there!

Get your copy from the Great Northern Ukulele Festival on this link

There's also a link the GNUF shop with other goodies on their webpage, here....

Friday, 1 August 2014

A must-watch! Francesca and Catalina Davies - Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree

Still trying to catch up on all the blog posts I want to do...

We hardly recognised Francesca Davies in her 40's-style outfit and hairdo last weekend as she and her sister Catalina busked with Alan Yates, John Taylor, Stuart Lowther and Cameron Aitken at the George Formby Society one-day convention at Morecambe Winter Gardens. They drew the crowds with their skilled Formby strumming - but here's Francesca and Catalina as we are used to seeing them - this time wowing everyone in Blackpool at the June convention! And for once, not playing ukulele at all... this is a must-watch, as they sing together the Andrews Sisters wartime number, "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree". It's a real treat!

If these two sisters are not bound for stardom, I'll eat my hat! Francesca is sounding a little like Alma Cogan these days - remember her? And Catalina's voice rings out in the harmonies above. Absolutely delightful! They also performed "The Boogie-woogie Bugle Boy of Company B"... I can't wait to see what they come with next time!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Morecambe Winter Gardens July 2014 - Baby - Caroline Stewart

Following on from my post yesterday.... Caroline does this song so well - one of the highlights of the one day convention at Morecambe Winter Gardens last weekend, 26th July. This one-day event is great fun; it's such a thrill to get into this wonderful old theatre and see it used for the sort of entertainment it was built for - and to help to raise funds for its restoration. I've posted Caroline singing this song on stage before, in March, with a wooden uke, but the banjo-uke (a Gibson UB2 de-luxe, this one) gives it a slightly different feel.

We have quite a few teenage members of the society, and they are all very good players indeed... they made use of the lovely weather to busk outside the main door when not on stage. An appreciative public threw a total of £80 into their uke cases, which was swiftly handed over to the Morecambe Winter Gardens restoration fund.

Francesca and Catalina Davies, Stuart Lowther and Cameron Aitken, busking for the restoration fund, Morecambe Winter Gardens

The audience!

The thrash! (Everyone joins in!)

Look at that stage... Laurel and Hardy, Lawrence Olivier, Sir Edward Elgar, Morecambe and Wise, the Beatles and George Formby himself have performed on that stage!

Myself... with Caroline Stewart, Kate Howard, Peter Pollard, Dale Norman and John Walley..... and Eric!

So much fun, laughter and good friendship...

So that's it for Morecambe, until next year - I do hope we do it next year... and I do think we shall!
Video and some of the photos by courtesy of Peter Pollard, GFS

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A GFS Ukafrolic at the Morecambe Winter Gardens, July 2014

Been too busy to blog. Sorry. Some have missed me - they said so... which is really nice, and I thank them and you for dropping in for time to time to see what's been going on in this Life of a Lady with a Ukulele or Two.... (now eleven, actually..... shhhhhh!)

Well, last weekend, a real humdinger of a Ukafrolic with a one-day convention of the George Formby Society at the old Winter Gardens theatre in Morecambe. Read more about this beautiful old theatre and the quest to restore it to its former glory here....

And here's a cracking video put together by Boris Seagal, to promote the Winter Gardens and the Trust... lots of Formby ladies represented here.... see my very good friend Kate Howard, who had traveled with her own LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) all the way from the Isle of Skye - that's a LONG way from Morecambe - as she makes a wonderful job of Leaning on a Lamppost, on the very spot where George himself performed... you'll hear a few words from me and a glimpse of a quick strum on my lovely Dallas D, and you'll catch a glimpse of the incomparable Clarice Wokes and her sizeable array of tattoos, strumming away also! It's a great video and thanks to Boris for doing it - good for the Winter Gardens, good for the GFS!

Here's a full write-up of the day on the George Formby Society website.

There's a great gallery of photos, and you can read about how the society raised £1200 that day for the Winter Gardens restoration project. £80 of this was raised by a group of players including some of the younger members, who busked outside the theatre to the delight of the passers-by, many of whom then came in (the event was free of charge to the public) to enjoy the entertainment on offer. Read all about it...

Tomorrow I'll pop a few pics on here.

Did I play on stage? No. Shame on me. Woulda shoulda coulda - but didn't - because I wasn't happy that I had anything ready that day. To go on stage to sing and play, you need to feel that you have something so well buttoned up that you can't do it wrong - that's called confidence! Last weekend that just wasn't there. I don't want to do the same couple of songs every time I venture up on stage - so the repertoire has to grow - that takes commitment, effort, and practice. Practice, practice, practice - you just gotta do it. I've just gotta do it. No gain without pain. Ah me. And here's a night when I haven't done any - so - time to get the uke out.

Thanks for dropping in!

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Hawaiian theme went down a treat! More from the Uke Fest GB 2014

They'd got Taimane from Hawaii to top the bill - they'd got Craig Chee... so a Hawaiian theme for Uke Fest GB 2014 was a must. We had the weather, we had the music. We had the mood... a Hawaiian Ukafrolic in all but place!

Here are my mates, father and son Mark and Jim Watson... capturing the mood just beautifully, don't you think? It was great to see them again...

And here's another uke-pal Simon Grove (officially "Best Dressed Man"!) with Sarah Maisel and Craig Chee! The girl behind them is holding Sarah's de Silva Special ukulele, with the guinea-pig headstock... I had a hold of that, too... beautiful thing!

Craig Chee opened up the Saturday night concert, and brought Sarah on stage to join him. The songs they did together made one of the most heart-warming performances I've ever seen, their on-stage chemistry is perfect. Could be something to do with the fact that their off-stage chemistry is perfect, too!

For example - just watch this, a highlight of their performance together that evening..

Video by courtesy of Ed Doherty

Wonderful, just wonderful!

More to come... thanks for dropping by!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

In The Money with the Hot Potato Syncopators at Uke Fest GB 2014

The Saturday Night concert at the Uke Fest GB in Cheltenham was a blast from start to finish. The second act to appear was the band the Hot Potato Syncopators.

I'd never seen then before, but as soon as they came on stage in their suits with tails, I knew they'd be doing my kind of music - songs from the 20's, 30's and 40's, and doing it well.. but I wasn't prepared for the comedy... they were hilarious and fully deserved their standing ovation! Featuring two ukuleles and a teachest bass, and three of the most talented musical comedians I've ever seen, this band should be seen more!

Please watch and enjoy the Hot Potato Syncopators in their fabulous finale to their act, "We're In The Money"... video and photo courtesy of The Hot Potato Syncopators

And yes - I did catch some!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Uke-Fest GB 2014 - the Big Busk - a mass Ukafrolic!

The midsummer sun shone obligingly down from a clear blue sky, as we gathered with our ukuleles in the Imperial Gardens on Sunday morning, ready to hold a Big Busk outside Waterstones bookshop ... but a last-minute "Health & Safety" hitch over use of their balcony for the PA meant that the Big Busk stayed right where it was, on the lawn in the Imperial Gardens behind Cheltenham Town Hall. A much nicer spot for everyone to play anyway, I thought - as you'll see from my little video!

The Hawaiian theme was well in evidence from all the Hawaiian shirts and flower garlands sported by the ukers! And there was no shortage of dazzling costume hats, deely-boppers and sunglasses, all adding to the festival atmosphere. There were visitors from California and New Jersey, Australia, to name but a few of the foreign countries represented... and Hawaii was represented here by Craig Chee! Spot him on the stage here with Sarah Maisel, during "Making Love Ukulele-Style"!

And here's a grand photo, courtesy of Craig Chee!

A mass Ukufrolicking Busk that even managed to better last year's, in every respect! How that can bettered next year, I don't know, but I do know that they'll try!

Thanks for dropping in - I think I've just about recovered from all the fun!

Coming up, ASAP - the concerts and the new addition to the family, bought at the uke-fest - new uke!

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2014 - The Ukafrolics came thick and fast!

LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband)at last decided that he'd suffered enough and dispatched me to the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain alone, with his blessing. Dear reader, do not kid yourself that "everyone loves the ukulele... they don't! And at a big uke-fest, it's very full-on uke. Well, he missed a treat at the Saturday night concert, but more about that later.

I wrote last time about the world-wide uke community that is the Ukulele Underground Forum, and the fun that some of us have with the Seasons of the Ukulele contests. Those who take part are known as Seasonistas! I have a go from time to time, if I can find both the time and a song... in the results of Season 116 (Tin Pan Alley) I actually got a "shout-out" from Eugeneukulele (host that week, from Tasmania) in the results video! That was lovely... I'd done "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"..)

You get to know the faces and "handles" of regular contributors. At Last year's festival, I wore my UU tee-shirt and as a result met Paul Redfern, one of the p'Ukes. This year, I recognised UkeyDave from his Seasons videos, and now that's another Seasonista that I've met!

So, here we are, UkeyDave and I, a contribution for the UU Forum thread "Seasonistas jamming with Seasonistas" not exactly jamming, as I'm not playing, just singing...

My apprehension shines out like a beacon!

That was just one Ukafrolic of several....

Coming up, a bit of the Big Busk; the new addition to my family of ukuleles, (I swear the fastest uke purchase I've ever made!) And - I'll be telling you about the concerts and the workshops I attended. Gold, pure gold.....

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Seasonistas Anthem, Ukulele Underground Forum - a Mega-Ukafrolic!

Adapted for the Seasons of the Ukulele
of the Forum

It's so good to be part of a ukulele community, people who share your love of the instrument. I take part in no less than four uke communities; James Hill's The Ukulele Way, which I jumped aboard and told you about yesterday, being the fourth. If you are a regular reader, (and thank you, if you are!) you'll know that I'm a keen member of the George Formby Society here in England, where LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband)and I have made a lot of friends. I often post about their meetings and conventions, and feature Formby players here and in the States. A local ukulele group Go Ukulele Crazy is another uke community that I belong to. They meet weekly to play and sing songs, and do concerts around the area. And then there's the Ukulele Underground Forum.

The UU Forum was the first uke community that I joined. A great bunch of people, so friendly and willing to help others and offer good advice... a couple of years ago, one of the members encouraged me to start taking part in the Seasons of the Ukulele contests, where one member in turn suggests a theme for songs, and folk find a song and send in a video. All great fun. And someone wins. The whole thing is a great confidence builder, when it comes to performance, singing and playing, and getting used to being video'd. And seeing yourself on video is great self-feedback about what you're doing right, and what you need to work on!

And now, the video above - what a fantastic Ukafrolic is that! So many of the folk playing there are my internet friends and I have even skyped with one or two! The editing job is simply stupendous, don't you agree? I love the addition of drums, glockenspiel, kazoo, and the recorder was a nice surprise! Lovely sound from Geoff there!

As I'm trying to get ready for my next Ukafrolic, the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham (from tomorrow) I'll publish this post with no further ado!

Thanks for dropping in.... keep on strumming!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

James Hill - The Ukulele Way - Exciting new tuition series from the Master himself!

Now, James Hill is absolutely the Zeus of uke gods as far as I'm concerned, so I could not be more excited that he has just (yesterday) brought to the public a new online ukulele tuition series The Ukulele Way. He explains what it's all about right here...

When you've seen and heard James play his amazing no-loops-or-tricksversion of Billie-Jean, on YouTube, you become a fan... well, you do, don't you? Such creative virtuosity... and then, when you attend one of his workshops, as I did in Cheltenham at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain last year, you learn what a fantastic teacher he is. And what a really nice fellow. Then, watching him top the bill at the Saturday night concert - you learn just how diverse his ukulele repertoire is.

Like I said, The Master... and now I - and you! - can be a regular pupil and learn at his (virtual) knee! And no, dear reader, I'm not being paid to post this! But, having seen the 6 free video lessons, I hereby declare that I'm signing up my $9/month for the whole programme.

It's stupendous.

Get in there....

HIghlight number one - Andy Eastwood with Alan Yates, GFS Convention June 2014

And here's the first of my highlights from The GFS Convention, June 2014... Andy Eastwood and Alan Yates playing together - "When I Come Up On the Football Pools!"

Andy and Alan, two of the very best exponents of George Formby style playing. This song is not one of George Formby's, actually, and I know nothing about it, but the words will certainly ring a bell with "Brits" whose Dads or Grandads filled in those pools coupons every week, and listened with bated breath to the scores of all the football (soccer) matches at about 5.00 pm every Saturday, in the hope of winning a sizable cash sum - known as coming up on the football pools! You know, I don't know whether anyone does it any more... the very nature of it will have changed over the years.

But back to Andy Eastwood and Alan Yates! They have both been members of the George Formby Society since they were lads, often performing on stage together as youngsters - and what a joy to see them together on the Blackpool stage again, a most fitting finale to a stupendous talent-filled evening concert! Superb...

Monday, 16 June 2014

Andy Eastwood.... Lamppost solo, William Tell, Mr Sandman.... wow! Interview September 2012

Before I share with you Andy Eastwood in one of my highlights of the GFS Convention 2014, I just came across this and had to share it first! The interview is self-explanatory, but the particular joy is.... the solo from Leaning on s Lamppost, William Tell, George Formby's Gibson UB3, Mr Sandman, I'll See You in My Dreams... wonderful clip! Copy and paste the link...

Andy has been a GFS member since he was a lad, and a nicer person you could not wish to meet!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

My ukulele wishes are few, but here's one..

The sound of the waves, blue sea, blue sky, sand, sun and my ukulele - I've now played my uke on a beautiful sandy beach in the Mediterranean, with a little solitude, (no-one too near), and it was wonderful, something on my wish-list achieved... so where else would I like to play?

Here's a place. I love daises - just common, ordinary daisies, the kind that plague people who like nice, green, manicured lawns - the photo above, I took from the window of a train as it stopped at a station on my way home from London the other week... those are not lawn daisies, they are big 0x-eye daisies, but just as lovely, I think..... and no, I don't want to play just there, with the trains rattling past! But it would please me no end to find a field or other large grassy place teeming with daises and sit there on a warm sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing, playing my uke.... and when it happens, I'll let you know...

"Daisies are our silver, buttercups our gold,
These are all the treasures I can have or hold..."

Thanks for looking in!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Coming up - highlights of the GFS Society Convention, June 2014!

Coming up ASAP, highlights include Andy Eastwood with Alan Yates, Francesca Davies with Catalina and lots more! look in very, very soon...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Strumming on the beach on a Greek island - just ukulele-heaven!

"Life for a Lady With a Ukulele or Two...." actually ten, now..... but when I go traveling, the one that comes with me is my little blue Mahalo, or simply "Little Blue Uke".

Just a couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Zakynthos, a Greek island in the Mediterranean, for a few days in the sun with my daughter. Just the two of us. A lovely chance to do some mother-and-daughter bonding. But not everyone loves the ukulele, in spite of rumours to the contrary... and my girl is one such. She's more for the guitar. So like a good-'un I promised "not to make myself a nuisance with it" ... and duly confined myself to a little solitary strumming in our holiday apartment, and a little more at a distance from others on the beach. I found an inviting little spot just in the sand dunes, spread my towel, got out my song sheets and whiled away an hour, strumming in the Mediterranean sun while number-one daughter whiled away an hour round the shops.

Now that's what I call a Ukafrolic!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

George Formby fans! New branch of the GFS to start in Chester!

Oh yes indeedy, Announcement! Hear this, hear this, a new branch of the George Formby Society is holding its first ever meeting in Chester on Thursday 3rd July!

From back to front, left to right - Greg Simister, Dennis Lee, Lewis Clifton, Cathy Darlington, Debbie Lee

Just look at this for a line-up of founder members.... the players shown here are all very active and talented members of the GFS, and regular readers and banjo-uke fans may recognise Lewis Clifton, whom I have featured a number of times in this blog, also Greg Simister, whose rendition of William Tell I featured here only a couple of posts ago! Dennis Lee (never seen without a smile and a word!) has been the Chairman of the GFS, and his wife Debbie recently made her Blackpool debut on the stage, to the warmest of GFS welcomes!

The Branch is being led by Cathy Darlington, another regular and popular performer whose lovely voice and ukulele skills I envy hugely!

So, where, you ask me.... Chester Rugby Club, 19.40, 3rd July and the first Thursday of the month thereafter! If you're a Formby fan in the North-West of England, want to play that super-syncopated strum, and to be a part of the warm family that is the GFS, be there! And I do believe the opening night will be quite something.....

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Caroline and Ray sing D-Day Dodgers at the GFS Convention, June 2014!

Since I raved about attending my first George Formby Convention in Blackpool in June 2012, it has become a four times a year pilgrimage, not to be missed if I can help it! Last weekend was one such trip, and what a weekend we had of solid music, companionship and fun! I love to take part, the demon just gets hold of me - and I had sensibly decided that this time I would not venture on stage as I hadn't anything properly prepared - the golden rule is, know it - words and music - so that you can't forget it! Well, I do know the chords to Lili Marlene really well, they are easy... so when, at short notice my very good friends Caroline and her husband Ray asked me to accompany them in a rendition of D-Day Dodgers, I was only too pleased for an excuse to get up on that stage! So here we are. Ray's very first time on stage... and Caroline's lovely voice... I first heard this song in the folk club I habitually frequented in the late 1960's, The Jug O'Punch, run by Ian Campbell in Birmingham. A fitting tribute for the D-Day commemorations. Lovely to be on stage with my friends, and not worrying about my voice!

Caroline explains the background to the song....

I should explain that the two day convention is pretty well exclusively devoted to George Formby songs on the Saturday, but Sunday has a lot of other banjo-uke and ukulele music - and the Sunday evening, when the regular band have gone home is quite informal. And that's when we did this, on Sunday evening.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Greg Simister plays the William Tell theme on banjolele.... what a treat!

The William Tell Overture has become something of must-do challenge for skilled banjo-uke players in the GFS, ever since Peter Moss first worked it out as a twelve-year-old back in the early 70's. I've seen a few performances by various players at the George Formby Society conventions in Blackpool, and I was thrilled when Peter Pollard posted this new video just a few days ago. Greg Simister was one of the very talented youngsters of the society, and over the last year has returned to the fold as a young man to the delight of all! He has a lovely easy way with a song, always a smile, and this instrumental further showcases his talents. There's a convention at the Imperial Hotel in Blackpool tomorrow and Sunday... we will be braving the atrocious weather that has been forecast for the whole day to get there... I just hate to miss... and I do hope Greg will be there to wow the crowd this time!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Simply stunning - Zahra Lowzley makes her festival debut!

There are people who play the ukulele - there are quite a lot of those;

There are talented people who play the ukulele - there are quite a few of those;

There are very talented people who play the ukulele - they are even thinner on the ground;

Then there are people like Zahra Lowzley.
Please watch and listen and prepare to be amazed...

This was N'Ukefest 2014, Nantwich, England, at the weekend. I wasn't able to be there, had to be somewhere else... and I know I missed a fabulous weekend, of which this was undoubtedly the highlight... Wow and double-wow....

That may have been Zahra's first festival appearance, but I'm very sure it won't be her last!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Ain't She Sweet, John Bianchi on Prince Wong's Martin ukulele...

Neglect - it won't do. I've never left my blog this long before.... just been so busy, busy.... but I had to share this. John Bianchi (Greenwich Village, New York) has such an individual and inspired way with these old tunes, and I swear he just gets better and better.... I'll shut up, and leave you to just listen!

Ain't She Sweet, by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, published 1927 - that makes the song the same age as my Gibson UB2 banjo-uke....

Monday, 31 March 2014

Progress at last, I'm playing Mr Sandman instrumental!

I was talking about progress a couple of weeks ago. A piece I've been working on for just about a year is Mr Sandman, the instrumental version so beautifully showcased by Ukulelezaza, Remco Hautmann-Janssen. Here is Remco's,, complete with tutorial and TAB....

It's a catchy tune, quite well-known, and part of the appeal for a uke player keen to develop instrumental skills is that the chords used are easy, basic ones in the basic position... all except for a few.... they are the ones that challenge you. I've put them in bold here..

C | G7 | C | G7 |

C | B7 | E7 | A7 |
D7 | G7 | C | G#7 G7 |
C | B7 | E7 | A7 |
Dm | Fm6 | D7 G7 | C |

They are four-finger chords up the neck with the chord melody built on them, and you need to be pretty nifty on the changes. It's the final G7 (fingered 4535) that had me struggling the longest and hardest. I had to think about which fingers to use on the melody on the preceding D7 (which is 5655), and I'm using the little finger on 7th fret of the A string and leaving it there whilst moving to the other frets of the G7...453(7) then moving the little finger to the 5th fret. It's not easy to play quickly and cleanly. I tended to get lost on the fingerboard, then I'd play it on time but muted, or late but clean! But once you've got used to finding it quickly, turning the hand very slightly whilst fretting that chord helps to exert more pressure on the strings, for a clean sound. And of course, the old mantra - practice, practice, practice!

I don't usually post my own videos on here, I'm no budding star... but I am pleased that persistence with this has paid off at last, so I thought I 'd share. This isn't perfect, but it's as good as it's going to be for a while yet!

Thanks to Remco Hautmann-Jannsen (Ukulelezaza) for the tutorial and TAB... (see link above!)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Phil Doleman - Spring and Summer dates!

A few days ago I posted one of Phil Doleman's excellent videos. If you can get to one of his gigs or workshops, don't miss the chance - I saw Phil at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain in Cheltenham last year, and have my ticket for this year's festival, where I shall be highly delighted to see him him perform again... if you haven't got yours, the bad news is you're too late, it's already sold out! But the good news is, see this poster for lots of other dates and venues coming up in the UK! And he's doing a couple of them with the wonderful Manitoba Hal, Hal Brolund....

I know a lot of you see this blog on your all-singing, all-dancing smart phones - and perhaps you can't see the dates on the poster because they're too small. In any case check it out here - you may need to be a club member or to buy advance tickets. Good luck!

Thanks for dropping in - it's always nice to see you!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

I sent a friend my latest uke youtube, and her response was "You're mad...."

It's a very cold, very wet, rather miserable spring day. Temperature not set to rise above 6 degrees C all day. Already, at 9.00 am I've had time and cause to ponder deeply about life thus far. I've been wide awake since 4.30 am, mind wandering all over the place. I made tea at 7.00. Husband declared he'd had a vivid dream about his brother, who died nearly thirty years ago. I'd already been planning my day, and had resolved to get out my mother's photo albums from the 1970's. Drinking my tea in bed, (bliss, that first cup of tea of the day!) I opened the first album - and the first picture was of LSH's brother. Such a coincidence... there followed pictures of my family, many of them with LSH's family, as they all shared some holidays back then. Most of the people in the photos are dead now. Pics also of us as a young family around the time our children were born in the late 70's, and when they were still very small. Such a very long time ago. So much water passed under the bridge, and our lives completely different now... careers begun, followed through and ended, parents passed, children well grown and living their own independent lives.

And me, since that Eureka Joe Brown "I'll See You In My Dreams" moment - I play the ukulele now. Nearly every day. I promised I'd talk about my progress over the last two years since I started this blog... well, for one thing, I used to be terrified of my own web-cam, but I've got used to it now - I reckon that has taken a full two years to accomplish... and now, if I want to do a youtube video to take part in the Ukulele Underground Forum "Seasons of the Ukulele" contests, I no longer feel as though the Thing is watching me.

So, this week, having finally found a space in time to take part, and a friendly theme for last week's activity, ("choose a song - or lots of songs - written or co-written by a woman") I bashed off three videos in three days - in one take, two takes and three takes respectively. Quite fun. I adore the lyrics of Dorothy Fields... she wrote "On the Sunny Side of the Street" in 1930 - a song that I also dance to twice a week at the tap class I go to - another childhood pleasure revived.... and the third song I made a video of was this very one. Feeling reasonably happy with my effort, I did a rare thing - being one of our dance tunes, I emailed the video to two of my tapping friends. One of these friends is also an ex-work colleague - knows me from a former life in the classroom .... so has a different view of me from that of newer acquaintances... is that relevant? I don't know. I only know this... when I asked her, as we put on out tap shoes "Did you get my email?" she just laughed and said "You're mad!" and that was that.

So here I am, perusing photos from the 1970's when I was young with small children and a life in front of me, and looking at myself now, in my 60's, playing my ukuleles, tap-dancing, my dear Long-Suffering-Husband still supporting me in all I do, as indeed I do him. I'm thinking of that poem that used to get passed round a lot among women of a certain age,


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in the slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

-Jenny Joseph, 1961

Marilisa Sachteleben expresses my views entirely in her words about this poem here...

In my youth I was sober and sensible, we married young and took on all the responsibilities of adulthood, mortgage, bills... brought up children on a tight budget, worked hard... and now it's purple clothes and red hat time. LSH has been scuba-diving. Me, I play uke and make cr*ppy youtubes. And if I'm mad, I don't care a kipper!

And just to prove it, here's a link to that vid.

Thanks for dropping in - and now I'm of to do something useful. Or perhaps I'll go out in the rain in my slippers and pick the flowers in next door's garden.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Here is an Aussie stunner - Azo Bell with a blistering original piece!

This one can speak for itself right now.... I heard it a few minutes ago, courtesy of another Aussie ukey friend.... thanks, Jason - it blew me away and I just had to share it with you. Not a long piece, please enjoy.....

When I've recovered from the aural freak-out, I may have more to say!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Here's Phil Doleman, Chasin' Rainbows in some style!

We are fortunate in the UK to have quite a few first class ukulele players, and without doubt, Phil Doleman is one of them.

I saw this video this morning and fell in love with the song right away! What a great little song to brighten anyone's day, and delivered by Phil with real fingerpicking panache!

I talked to him about his use of finger picks, and this is what he said...

"My fingerpicking style come from years of playing Fingerstyle guitar. I never used picks (well, I toyed with them, but they really require a level of commitment to get used to!) until fairly recently when I took up lap steel guitar. As most lap steel players use them I thought I should at least have a go and found they worked brilliantly (I use Dunlop plastic thumb and fingerpicks, by the way). I tried them on uke and found that I could get much more volume, so fingerpicking whilst singing became possible without my voice drowning out the uke. I also found it allowed me to do very fast runs - as I don’t have long fingernails, those can be difficult to pull off, but the picks made it quite easy. Keeping time with fingerpicking like that is all about the thumb. On guitar that would be the ‘bassline’, but on a uke (especially with a high G, which is what have) you have to just ‘suggest’ that. It took me a few months of playing with them on all the time for it to start to feel natural.

Chasin’ Rainbows is a great song, isn’t it? I first heard on a Cheap Suit Serenaders album (the album is actually called ‘Chasin’ Rainbows’), and I know that the Dallas String Band did it so it’s probably from the 1920s."

Thanks for that, Phil - wonderful!

Take a look at Phil's website.....

And now I need to check out the Serenaders, and the Dallas String Band!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

This blog - 2yrs old today.

Two years ago today when I started this ukulele blog,
I wasn't at all sure, whether I would still be doing it one year hence, let alone two... but here I am, still strumming, still learning, still enthusing, still writing, still sharing my ukulele loves. I'm not exactly proud, but I am pleased. And you're reading this, so whoever you are, thank you for sharing with me right now!

When I began, I had just the two ukes in my cover photo - a Greg Bennett laminate mahogany (UK50) bought for me by my husband , and a newly bought little darling of a near-mint 1920's Slingerland banjo-uke in bird's eye maple. This time last year that had swelled to four wooden ukes, (two concert and two soprano) and three vintage banjo-ukes.

The toll now? Total of ten. The same three banjo-ukes, and seven wooden. People who are not uke people don't understand, they don't get it ... but uke people do, and guitar people do. Different instruments for different music. And the love of a beautifully-crafted, beautiful sounding one. During the last seven days, I have played all ten - I played four yesterday. You see, they don't just sit there.

There's a new tab at the top, labeled "My Ukes"

As for my playing, yes I know I'm getting better, little by little; I have to keep stretching myself, trying harder things, I get bored strumming three and four chord songs all the time. At last I don't feel that I'm a beginner any more, but there's still such a long, long way to go before I could consider myself "good at it". I promised you a video to show you how I'm getting on, but I just haven't had time for that yet. Perhaps next week, after the George Formby Society convention in Blackpool this weekend. There's nothing like the sound of strumming getting closer and closer as you walk down that corridor at the Imperial Hotel, and walk through the door into that wonderful atmosphere! So many friends have been made there since our first visit in June 2012. Lovely people, great fun. Roll on Saturday....

Thanks for looking in, bless you - now I must get back to my split-stroke, down-up-down down-up-down-down-up.....

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

George Elmes - A Sweet Melody on Kiwaya KTS-7

You know, I post videos when I just can't resist them. So as far as I'm concerned, they are the Best, with a capital B. George Elmes is so very talented, I love everything he does, and could happily post every single one of his videos on this blog because they are all of the Best, without exception.

I've listened to this lovely original piece three times now and to me it's just full of sunshine, like a lovely spring day hereabouts, glittering light, easy warmth and full of promise... that's special to these islands, unlike anywhere else in the world. And this music speaks of this to me.

George is playing his lovely Kiwaya KTS-7, a top grade solid mahogany soprano uke crafted in Japan. I have a KTS-4, and I love it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Caroline Stewart sings "Baby"

Here is my great friend and ukulele kindred spirit Caroline (Robson) Stewart at Castleford GFS performing that rare kind of George Formby song, a romantic ballad - "Baby", recorded 1933, and from the film "Boots, Boots"

Doesn't she do that beautifully? I'm so jealous! What a lovely voice! I do believe she's playing her Gibson solid mahogany soprano uke here. Thanks to Peter Pollard for the video. Lovely ....

Monday, 10 March 2014

The 2014 March Convention of the George Formby Society approaches - and I'm still flitting...

Just quickly - In a day or two, this blog will be celebrating its 2nd birthday, and I'm hoping on that day to give you a roundup of my ukulele journey so far. I'll do my best, the intention is there - but as my mother always used to say, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions!" Meanwhile, let me report on last week's ukafrolics, as promised.

Peter Moss's ukulele workshop and concert for we members of "Go Ukulele Crazy" in Alrewas (Staffordshire, England) did not disappoint. We explored all sorts of jazzy intros and endings to songs, in different keys, and everyone got something out of it, even the real beginners who just knew a chord or two. Peter's warm and easy style made the atmosphere just perfect. And as for his performance for us afterwards - spellbinding. LSH had to agree. What a player! See him perform his signature piece "William Tell" here... Of Peter, Steven Sproat (great player) commented here "he's the only uke player who makes my jaw drop.." Praise indeed!

On Saturday we trundled off to Dudley to see Andy Eastwood open the second half for Ken Dodd, of Knotty Ash Jam Butty Mines fame.... stupendous. Andy performs with such energy and versatility - banjo-uke, ukulele, violin... a real professional. You need plenty of stamina to perform with Doddy - he's famed for not closing a show until 1.00 am....

My personal ukafrolics over the last week or two have involved lots of Formby-style banjo-uke practice, as next weekend it's Blackpool - the March GFS convention. I hate to admit that my good intentions apropos of the "thrash" for that have gone astray once again - at every convention I promise myself that I'll learn more songs ready for the thrash, (where everyone just gets up and joins in the playing) - and I always disappoint myself, I always fall short, through not putting enough time in on them. I then have to position myself where I can watch a good player's fretting hand, to follow the chords... good fun though! For my sins, instead of concentrating on Formby, in my playing I flit from piece to piece, from Formby to jazz, from Tin Pan Alley to pop, from folk to blues, from songs to instrumentals and back again, round and round, round and round... and just make slow progress, albeit across a pretty wide field.

But I am making progress, I know I am... and you know, I'm having so much fun....

Friday, 28 February 2014

Ukafrolics galore as winter turns to spring!

The last day of winter, spring is at last on the doorstep and the garden is white, yellow and purple with all the crocuses I planted last autumn. We are so lucky here. We live on a hill, so we don't get flooded, but driving across the city yesterday, a sudden hailstorm soon had the streets covered in surface water as the drainage system, already overloaded from the wettest British winter on record, struggled to cope and the drains overflowed across the roads. But walking a little later, I actually felt warm sun on the back of my head. Glory, glory. Spring fills me with joy, and a great ukafrolic weekend for me to look forward to!

Tonight, a local concert and uke workshop by Peter Moss, (see previous posts on here); then tomorrow,Andy Eastwood appears in Dudley with one of the greatest comedians Britain has ever produced, Ken Dodd. How fabulous is that! I will report, have no fear!

If you are in the UK and nearer to Greater London this weekend, there's the "Ukes for Unicef" Festival in Berkhamstead, between Aylesbury and High Wycombe. You'll find Ken Middleton and Sam Brown (Joe Brown's daughter) there as well as a host of other fantastic acts! Entry by donation, suggested donation per adult, £5. Shame I'll miss that one...

In any time I have left this weekend, I'll be polishing up 12th Street Rag as in Marcy Marxer's tuition video, - love that number - and polishing up my Formby - after all, the convention is only two weeks away! Another ukafrolic...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Joe Brown talks about playing ukulele. Lovely stuff....

I came across this video the other day and decided it was a "must share"... after all, like so many other ukulele players, it was Joe Brown's rendition of "I'll See You In My Dreams" at the concert for George (Harrison) that knocked me for six and began my love affair with the ukulele.

A lot of interesting points here... the first thing that grabbed me was the chord progression in EXAMPLE 1.... I'll figure the whole thing out if it's the last thing I do - and when I have, I'll share it with you!

Also - interesting to note that Joe talks about buying a banjo-uke for the president of the George Formby Society in 1964 - I must check up who that was!

And - the "scissor-movement" Joe talks about at the end of the clip is what Formby players call a "triple"... not difficult with a little practice - but it has other names - a thumb-roll for example.

Check the tag cloud at the bottom for my earlier "Joe Brown" posts ... and thanks so much for dropping in! Nice to see you - and watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Peter Moss plays two of my all-time favourite songs at the George Formby Convention, Nov 2013

This was so special. These two songs, played so beautifully here by Peter Moss, are among my top few all-time favourites. Til There Was You, and The Way You Look Tonight. I play them a lot, strumming versions, no melody-picking but beautiful chords - songs crafted by real song-masters.

Now, I've featured Peter on "Life's A Ukafrolic" several times before, but I didn't meet him until November, when at last he came to a convention of the George Formby Society and wowed everyone with this beautiful rendition. Isn't it gorgeous? Songs and playing that just melt your limbs. And the reason this is so special to me is because we'd been chatting during a break as he gently played through these songs, and I mentioned that they were my favourites - I didn't know he was actually going to play them on stage - well, when he did - and it's just before this video clip starts - he mentioned my name and sort-of dedicated them to me..... you can imagine how I felt! Such a lovely thing to do, and such a very nice fella... and of course, he was playing his lovely custom-built Pete Howlett tenor, which I've talked about on here before.

Now LSH, (Long-Suffering-Husband), had gone for a pint and a little walkabout round Blackpool, in spite of the cold and drear... so he missed my moment of.... I can't quite find the word! Perhaps its specialness.... that's what happens when you leave the room....

Thanks, as ever, to Peter Pollard for the video....

Next convention - less than two weeks away, 15th-16th March, Imperial Hotel, North Promenade, Blackpool.

This weekend will see Peter Moss doing a ukulele workshop for Go Ukulele Crazy near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Play 12th Street Rag on banjo-uke with Marcy Marxer - tuition video

12th Street Rag was written in 1914 - yes, 100 years ago - by Euday L Bowman, and was one of the most popular and best-selling rags of the ragtime era.

I've seen a lot of videos and versions of 12th Street Rag for ukulele, but I do like this one, a chord melody version which looks achievable for the likes of me - i.e not TOO hard! Marcy shows us the basics and then shows some fancier moves and chords which you can put in just to put the icing on the cake. Great to see a good tuition video for this great and enduring number, and using a banjo-uke too!

Do take a look at this video .... First Marcy talks about meeting the great Roy Smeck, who famously played a blistering ukulele version of this catchy tune. Then she plays it with Cathy Fink and James Hill! A few years back, now... 2008.

Right - I'm off to have another go at this! Catch you again soon!

Update, next day....

Having a go at this again I realised that I needed extra help after the first three lines of music, and searched on Google again. I came across this website. Chicks With Picks Melbourne, with the same Marcy Marxer video..... and a link to a tab. Now, I clicked on the tab and could print it, and all became clear - but as it isn't my tab to share, I'll just direct you to the page and you can go to it yourself. It does help with the middle and the end hugely!

Good luck! Getting on like a bomb with it now.....

Friday, 21 February 2014

Lonesome Moonlight Waltz - Ukulelezaza plays by ear so well.....

In my last post I shared with you my little triumph and milestone on my ukulele path in figuring out the song "Sway" by ear... and here is another of my very favourite players, Ukulelezaza, Remco Hautmann-Jannsen, with his new video Lonesome Moonlight Waltz... which he also figured out by ear!

This is what he has to say about it..

"I first heard this Bill Monroe instrumental at a late night jam at Haapavesi Folk in Finland and was immediately hooked. As soon as I was back home I figured it out. Here I'm playing my wonderful new Historia soprano ukulele in dreadnought "Ditson" style, made by Valerio Pennisi from Italy."

It just goes to show what you can do when you really know your way around a uke fretboard, which chords belong in which key, and what different sorts of chords sound like.

Jim D'Ville is a great exponent of the value of playing by ear. His website is well worth exploring thoroughly, and he does some great tuition DVDs for sale and download - I can recommend because I bought one!

Playing ukulele by ear is a skill I'm determined to develop... visit Jim's page if you want to find out more about learning this so useful skill!

And thanks once again, for dropping in - much appreciated!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Get that Latin Mambo vibe and "Sway" with me....

I've always enjoyed Latin-American music but really fell in love with it during a visit to Cuba last year. Away on holiday again a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to play the 1953 Dean Martin hit "Sway", but being away from the internet just had to fall back on trying to work it out by ear.


(Em) When marimba rhythms (Am) start to play
Dance with me, (Em) make me sway
Like a lazy ocean (B7) hugs the shore
Hold me close, (Em) sway me more

(Em)Like a flower bending (Am) in the breeze
Bend with me, (Em)sway with ease
When we dance you have a (B7) way with me
Stay with me, (Em)sway with me

(Em)Other dancers may (B7) be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will (G)see only you
Only you have that (B7) magic technique
When we sway I go (Em) weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Other dancers may be on the floor
Dear, but my eyes will see only you
Only you have that magic technique
When we sway I go weak

I can hear the sounds of violins
Long before it begins
Make me thrill as only you know how
Sway me smooth, sway me now

Of course, these are the most basic chords that will work, and if you search for the chords on the internet you'll find a version with more spice and pezazz. Curt Sheller has one... but for me. working it out by ear for myself was a challenge I enjoyed - and with these chords and this song, it isn't too difficult to find the melody notes and fret them in with the little finger, or pinky. The melody starts on the note B, 2nd fret, 4th (A) string. Try picking it out on its own, first, then have a go at incorporating it with the chords! My effort is simply too rough to share - just yet!

Trying to work out songs and melodies for yourself is a really good way to progress on any instrument. See what you think about this - and thanks for dropping in!

("Sway" is a mambo - the dance originating in Cuba. Read more about the song on Wikipedia here....)

Sunday, 16 February 2014

I packed my Little Blue Uke again - and discovered the progress I've made...

Any faithful followers among you must have wondering where I'd got to these last couple of months... if you missed me, I'm sorry - but sort of glad as well, if you know what I mean! You are reading this, so whoever you are, welcome back - and thanks.

In truth, there is so much that I have to share with you that I don't know where to start, but the problem has been simply one of a lack of time. Since I posted in early November the demands on my time just seemed to pile up - but I have no intention of boring you with the details, have no fear.

So - the things I should have been writing about? Well, I wanted to tell you about the thrill that was having a song played just for me by one of my favourite players at the George Formby Convention in Blackpool in November.

I wanted to tell you about the new electro-acoustic uke I finally bought for myself, and the gorgeous solid koa tenor that my lovely LSH (Long-Suffering Husband) bought me for Christmas.

I wanted to tell you about the blogger and player whose book and DVD I have bought, and whose blog postings are always hugely informative and entertaining. Who is it? You'll have to wait just a little while, sorry....

And I wanted to tell you about my own progress with my ukulele-playing journey. Because I am making progress, I know that, and sharing that with you is really the number one reason for writing this blog in the first place.

So, what progress, then? Well... having escaped the rigours of an English winter for a couple of weeks, Little Blue Mahalo tucked firmly in my case, I had to fall back on playing by ear when wanting to try out a song. I had packed a little sheaf of song sheets, but of course, I couldn't take everything. I have reams of song sheets here at home... and the song I wanted to play was "Sway".

Songs with a Latin rhythm seem to be particularly tricky.... but I managed to find suitable chords. Hurrah. HOWEVER - the big triumph was - I managed to work it out as a chord melody, Woohoo! Now, if I could do it well enough, I would do you a Youtube, but it's not there yet, not fluent enough, but you know, the sense of achievement in managing to do this was such a blast.....

I'll share the chords next time, see what you think.

And where did we go? Egypt. By the Red Sea. Camels, star-gazing in the desert... fabulous. But I tell you, riding this camel gave a whole new meaning to the word "Sway"... I really would not want to cross a desert on one!

See you next time..... thanks for dropping in!