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Jim T.
05-04-2015, 02:36 PM
This Saturday, May 9 at 2 p.m. at the L.A. Public Library's Central Library (630 W. Fifth St., LA 90071) I will attempt to speak persuasively on "Why You Should Take the 'Ukulele Seriously." Some history, some little-known facts, a lot of images (many not included in "The 'Ukulele: A History," which I co-authored with the late, great John King), and a fair amount of passion about a subject we all take seriously.

janeray1940
05-04-2015, 02:43 PM
Jim, this sounds great - I've marked my calendar! Here's the link (http://www.lapl.org/whats-on/events/why-you-should-take-ukulele-seriously) in case anybody needs more info.

(FWIW... I'm often accused of taking the ukulele *too* seriously!)

CeeJay
05-04-2015, 02:47 PM
Hi Jim T.

What is the apostrophe in front of the U for ? And when you say the Ukelele should be taken seriously , what does that actually mean ?

As a Brit living about umpteen thousand miles away from the "home" of the instrument and also yet on another Island , which has taken the Ukelele to it's heart and developed it into a style and significance pertinent to our culture and as an individual (me)unable to attend the L.A. Library I am curious as to what defines "serious".

I do not mean for this to be seen as anything other than a serious and interested question.

Thank You.


PS

If this post appears twice it is because something went wrong and it did not appear in one "window" and did in another but Janeray40s didn't ...odd !
Like me then !!

Jim T.
05-04-2015, 03:02 PM
[QUOTE=CeeJay;1690431]Hi Jim T.

What is the apostrophe in front of the U for ? And when you say the Ukelele should be taken seriously , what does that actually mean ?

CeeJay:

The apostrophe is an okina, or glottal stop, that is part of the Hawaiian spelling of the word. (Whether that's correct or pretentious, or how the word should be pronounced, has been the subject of several lengthy threads.)

For the last century, for a variety of reasons, the 'ukulele has been regarded as a joke -- as the Boston Globe once wrote, it "ranks in most people's minds somewhere between asteroid dust and space junk." The the modern era in the U.S., that has a lot to do with Tiny Tim; in the U.K., one could argue that it' image was influenced by the popularity of George Formby. The UOGB plays off this perception brilliantly; I'm hoping to make an argument that the instrument has an interesting and compelling history that is not what most people think; that it is a musical instrument like any other, capable of producing almost any genre of music imaginable; and that it's deserving of respect. It's also an opportunity show off fun stuff, like unpublished photos of Jose do Espirito Santo (one of the original Honolulu 'ukulele makers) or some of the first comic strips making fun of the 'ukulele from 1916-17.

CeeJay
05-04-2015, 03:44 PM
Thank you for your prompt and full reply Jim.

I detect a view that perhaps George Formby's music and playing is not regarded as a "serious" manifestation of the ukeleles potential . But I may be , and hope that I am wrong .

I would say this about George Formby . And the following is all from my own feelings, perceptions and observations over a long time associated with this little todger called a Uke.

The complex strokes and strumming styles coupled with the tricky chords and timings of Formby's music make his art
a very serious one indeed .

Most detractors from Formby's work can usually only quote "Cleaning Windows " "Leaning On A Lamp Post" and "Me Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock"

Dig deeper and find songs such as "It's In the Air " "Lancashire Toreador" " Fanlight Fanny" ( yes ,I know,I can feel the arguement accelerating away ...bloody awful titles) and the complexity of the chord ,rhythm and lyric relationship drive most normal players to just give up. I will admit that many time the style and content of lyrics let him down ,but the playing was in a class of it's own.

It seems current to disregard the likes of Smeck (whom I have been introduced to via this forum )and Formby in favour of Shimabukuro , Hill, Ohta San and John King. All great players in their own rights and spheres of style and genre.

However , this is where perhaps the world of Ukers becomes divided . When I listen to these guys play , my feelings are, well , it's great but I think it would sound better , richer fuller played on a guitar !!

Their playing is brilliant , but it is not , to me ukelele , to me, as Phil Doleman says "the ukelele is a plinky little instrument" and as such I take that very seriously indeed. At this point ...I must add that I am a Soprano and Banjo Uke foremost, various styles but best strummed . I also dabble with Concert and Tenor . I like messing with electro acoustic ukes and I love the look on peoples face when I bang out a Blues or a Rock 'n' Roll favourite (actually ,to be fair the way I play it's usually a look of eager anticipation,for it to be over !!). I am aware and appreciate the development and advancement of the uke . But I do have to say that without the likes of Smeck , Formby , Randall (a British player who unfortunately made his name impersonating Formby when he was brilliant in his own right) and others of that style and genre the uke would have probably died somewhere in the 60s and & 70s...well in fact it did commercially..it was only silly buggers like me who as kids took it up and carried it on as a tradition and some got good (not me alas) and developed into acts like UOGB etc that kept it going in the UK....because of Formby and Smeck and barky little Sopranos . Which allowed the likes of JK to move it forward and stretch it and bring on the campanellas and the fingerpicking and the other styles.

So there.

Seriously, would like to read a transcript of your speech or see a vid...

Cheers

Chris.

PS This is pretty serious for a Bourbon fuelled 3 AM screed , so be gentle ...

Inksplosive AL
05-04-2015, 04:25 PM
I so HATE the talk that Tiny Tim ruined the ukulele in some way or contributed to its not being taken seriously. Men with the balls to act how they wanted to and dress how they wanted to helped show me as a growing child to Hell with what other people think just be yourself. If anything Tiny Tim brought attention to an instrument that was a tourist doodad that you brought home to remember your vacation to an island. Hell without Tim I might not have seen a ukulele in the 70's other than the one my grandmother brought home from the Bahamas. It was bought for me but taken as a serious instrument so I was never allowed to play it.

The richer/ fuller on a guitar thing CJ's mentioned funny I posted a picture of my Warlock with Bill Lawrence pickups asking why the hell am I trying to play metal on a ukulele? Because its fun! The Warlock was never fun its pure seriousness in a larger format. I do want a Warlock inspired ukulele and have been slowly building up parts but thats a story for another thread.

Please stop ragging on Tiny Tim.

~peace~

plunker
05-04-2015, 04:41 PM
Besides Tiny Tim, I think the only other exposure to the ukulele was college kids from the 20's for most people. When I read the title, I first thought of Brittni Paiva, The UOGB, and of course IZ. I would think that an insturment that gives the ability to make music that is accessable price wise and relatively easy to obtain a degree of proficienty should be taken seriously. I guess you feel like you need to make an argument, kind of a shame you feel you need to.

Booli
05-04-2015, 05:16 PM
Besides Tiny Tim, I think the only other exposure to the ukulele was college kids from the 20's for most people. When I read the title, I first thought of Brittni Paiva, The UOGB, and of course IZ. I would think that an insturment that gives the ability to make music that is accessable price wise and relatively easy to obtain a degree of proficienty should be taken seriously. I guess you feel like you need to make an argument, kind of a shame you feel you need to.

It is an unavoidable fact that the dozen or so times that I have told the unwashed masses of my interest in, and practice of playing the ukulele that I have been ridiculed outright to my face, or behind my back with snickers and jiggering, and tasteless jokes at my expense.

Justification is provoked by such hostility and ignorance.

Sadly, I've kept my ukulele a closely guarded secret to be shared with a select few (outside of UU) who have proven themselves not to be jerks, and thus worthy of my sharing it with them.

Folks that dont play ANY instrument will put you down (even if only to inflate themselves), and other musicians that do, well, they are simply dead to me.

southcoastukes
05-04-2015, 05:36 PM
I would love to hear this. As I am in LA (Louisiana), and not L.A. I won't be able to attend on such short notice. But this is going to be something anyone who loves the Ukulele would love to hear, as Jim knows our favorite instrument so well.

Any chance this gets recorded? And if so, where might it be heard?

Rllink
05-04-2015, 06:03 PM
It is an unavoidable fact that the dozen or so times that I have told the unwashed masses of my interest in, and practice of playing the ukulele that I have been ridiculed outright to my face, or behind my back with snickers and jiggering, and tasteless jokes at my expense.

Justification is provoked by such hostility and ignorance.

Sadly, I've kept my ukulele a closely guarded secret to be shared with a select few (outside of UU) who have proven themselves not to be jerks, and thus worthy of my sharing it with them.

Folks that dont play ANY instrument will put you down (even if only to inflate themselves), and other musicians that do, well, they are simply dead to me.That is really too bad. Aside from other ukulele players and musicians that I know, if the topic does come up, I get a Tiny Tim remark once in a while, but that is just people trying to be funny, and while they aren't, they think they are being clever, so I just usually let it go and move on. Other musicians are generally very supportive to me about playing the uke.

Booli
05-04-2015, 06:38 PM
FYI - Jim's book is on Amazon via the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Tranquada/e/B006T961IQ

Fred Ukestone
05-04-2015, 07:06 PM
Besides Tiny Tim, I think the only other exposure to the ukulele was college kids from the 20's for most people. When I read the title, I first thought of Brittni Paiva, The UOGB, and of course IZ. I would think that an insturment that gives the ability to make music that is accessable price wise and relatively easy to obtain a degree of proficienty should be taken seriously. I guess you feel like you need to make an argument, kind of a shame you feel you need to.

I'm also a big Tiny Tim fan. I think he helped to re-popularize the uke in the late 1960s. He was a musical archivist who played music from the early 1900s. The fact that he was eccentric and some may say effeminate is irrelevant to me. If anyone out there has a copy of his biography by Harry Stein , and wants to sell it at a reasonable price, I'd be interested. Just PM me.

Andy Chen
05-04-2015, 08:12 PM
I get annoyed too when so-called music lovers dismiss the ukulele without a more credible reason than "It's a toy!"

But are some proponents of the uke doing the instrument a disservice when they seem to promote only its "fun" qualities and selling only cheap toy ukes at festivals devoted to the instrument?

I just attended one such festival held in Singapore. While I loved the beach vibe and headline performers such as Sungha Jung and Daniel Ho, I think the fest should have promoted the top skills that can be attained as much as it did the accessibility of the instrument.

There will be people who will leave the festival thinking the uke merely a fun toy.

janeray1940
05-04-2015, 08:13 PM
From things I've read here and there, I think Tiny Tim actually took the ukulele very seriously (as well as Tin Pan Alley as a whole). He may not have been a virtuoso player, and his singing might have been a bit over the top, but his love of the instrument and the material is pretty well documented and he was said to have encyclopedic knowledge of that era of songwriting. I've got nothing against the guy - I couldn't listen to him sing for more than a song or two, but I don't think he gave the uke a bad name at all. If the general public took it that way, well... that's another story.

janeray1940
05-04-2015, 08:17 PM
But are some proponents of the uke doing the instrument a disservice when they seem to promote only its "fun" qualities and selling only cheap toy ukes at festivals devoted to the instrument?


I think they are, as are all of the journalists out there who throw in the "you can learn to play it in fifteen minutes!" lie whenever they write a piece on the ukulele. It's all well and good to be all-inclusive, but there's a big difference between the local senior citizens' uke club and, say, Ohta-San, and I do wish that at uke events and in the press the more serious aspects of playing ukulele were addressed more.

Jim T.
05-04-2015, 08:18 PM
I'm also a big Tiny Tim fan. I think he helped to re-popularize the uke in the late 1960s. He was a musical archivist who played music from the early 1900s. The fact that he was eccentric and some may say effeminate is irrelevant to me.

Everyone: thanks for the thoughtful comments. More grist for the mill -- I'm going to try to see if I can't work some of these ideas into my talk. For good or ill, most people could not see beyond Tiny Tim's odd looks and eccentric mannerisms. He provoked strong reactions, pro and con, from the start -- Life magazine called his debut LP "dazzling" while the Chicago Tribune dismissed him as "fraudulent."

Similarly, many people didn't look beyond Formby's double entendres or saw him less as a musician and more as a very popular movie comedian who has the top UK box office attraction in the late '30s and early '40s. Both men are inescapably associated with the 'ukulele by the general public, which is why, for example, the UOGB refuses to play any Formby tunes. The point of my talk to make an attempt to move beyond this one-dimensional view and give the 'ukulele its due.

kohanmike
05-04-2015, 09:16 PM
I'll be there. Gladly my friends are intrigued by the idea that I play ukulele, especially when I tell them that I'm a member of a group 90 strong and meet twice a week (yep, a local seniors group), and we have fun AND take it seriously. Year before last, my friend who throws an annual New Year's Eve party asked me to bring my uke and we had a nice 45 minute sing-a-long with about twenty people.

Actually, the only time I felt slighted was when my cousin was visiting from Toronto, while sitting in my living room with my sister-in-law, I started to play Iz's "Rainbow" and the both of them laughed at me. You know I'll never play with them around again.

wayward
05-04-2015, 09:46 PM
At a bundle of gigs we've played I've heard people say "so, where's the ukulele?": either some of the people we play for have vision problems, they're blind drunk (...possible), or, as I suspect, they have a very limited idea of what a ukulele is capable of. I don't think it's just that they expect ukuleles to be Formby-style: I think they'd be equally, probably more amazed were they to listen to up and coming players like the wonderful Michael Adcock (who makes excellent use of Formby strums, and who can hold an audience spellbound at the tender age of 16); lots of people in the UK just don't expect to enjoy listening to ukuleles :( We've even been told we should cut the word ukulele from our posters as it might put people off :eek: So, I can see the reason for this talk, and would be very interested to hear a recording...

plunker
05-04-2015, 11:51 PM
We've even been told we should cut the word ukulele from our posters as it might put people off :eek: So, I can see the reason for this talk, and would be very interested to hear a recording
UOGB came to play in our area, Palm Beach County. Nosebleed tickets were in the $ 200 range. Are things that different in different parts of the globe?

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 12:01 AM
In USA before Tiny Tim (a music archivist with huge knowledge of pre-electrical-recording popular music who consulted on many film soundtracks) was Arthur Godfrey, immensely popular on early television here. Slightly before my time, yes, so I wasn't really influenced pro or con re: 'ukelele. But a generation of Americans saw their favorite TV personality constantly singing and playing 'uke. To yet earlier generations, 'ukes were commonplace; many songbooks of popular and traditional music included 'uke chords.

And now? Yesterday, while my wife was shopping, I sat on a bench at an outdoors mall near Sacramento and fingerpicked my Kala KA-6 in the sunshine. Passersby nodded; some stopped to chat; some asked, "Is that a... ??" and others stated, "Nice uke". I do not get such attention if I'm playing harmonica while waiting for shopping expeditions to end.

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 12:03 AM
Until I saw and heard the owner of the store where I purchased my two ukuleles playing solo fingerstyle, my impression of the ukulele was formed by how I had always seen it presented - as a fun toy, a comical relief. That is the ukulele "stereotype. I remember Tiny Tim on Laugh-in back in the 60s. His performance of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" was presented as a short comedy skit, rather than a musical performance to be taken seriously. I really had little interest in that. Any other time I saw anything involving the ukulele was always in the context of Hawaiian tourist "schtick". Any ukuleles I actually saw were toys built for tourists as previously mentioned in this thread.

My main instrument is the guitar. There have long been stereotypes associated with it too. For a long time, if I played acoustic guitar in front of other people, invariably I was asked "do you sing?". It gets to be disheartening, feeling that there really is no room for an instrumental player. I don't sing and have no desire to do so. The guitar was not considered an instrument on which one played solo instrumental music even though there is a world of classical guitar as well as players such as Chet Atkins, who had popularity in the country music world. If I mentioned playing in a band, it was invariably thought that I must play rock. The stereotype of playing in a band was a guy bouncing around in spandex, playing "rock guitar god", even though there are many guitar players in bands playing standards in supper clubs and that sort of thing.

I never had much interest in the ukulele myself until I saw and heard the owner of Willie's in St. Paul playing standards as instrumental fingerstyle solos. He is a very skilled ear player who works also as an on-call guitarist in orchestra pit bands and the like. I was amazed and immediately interested in what he was playing. It sounded beautiful and very complete, and it all came from just one ukulele. It did not have that "plinky" sound that the "toy" ukuleles I had previously encountered seem to have. I am not saying the ukulele has to be expensive to sound good, but the really cheap tourist-trap artifacts do seem to have that "plinky" sound. I have seen since heard even inexpensive ukuleles sound really good in the hands of those who know how to get a decent sound out of them.

Personally, I just enjoy playing ukulele, and am not on a mission to "convert the masses". Evangelism is simply not my thing. For me, the ukulele is fun to play. I don't consider it any easier to play than any other instrument in terms of developing real solid techniques, as is true for any instrument. However, it does seem easier than some other instruments I play (piano, guitar, harp) to start making some kind of music with. Its small size and nylon strings are certainly easier on the hands than is the guitar with its larger body, longer scale, and wider neck and more strings.

An interesting thing I have discovered is that with most any endeavor, whether, an instrument, a sport, collecting, etc., there is a whole world of people in that endeavor, giving it a depth and wonder that is usually not really visible to those not involved. That is certainly true with the ukulele. Most people don't give the ukulele a second thought beyond whatever preconceived notions that the cultural stereotypes of provided. However, at least some of these people, when exposed to what the ukulele is capable of, do become enchanted and will take it up themselves. Players such as Daniel Ho and Jake Shimabukuro, Stephanie Yung, and many others, have exposed audiences to the wonders of the ukulele and some increase in its awareness has occurred. I personally don't know anyone who takes the ukulele seriously, but I do occasionally read that even non-players attend and enjoy concerts by some of these really accomplished players.

Tony

Icelander53
05-05-2015, 02:46 AM
lol here we go again with the insecurities about the GREATEST INSTRUMENT THE UNIVERSE EVER INVENTED.

can we get back to playing now.

Ukejenny
05-05-2015, 02:58 AM
Please stop ragging on Tiny Tim.

~peace~

As a young child in the 70's, seeing Tiny Tim freaked me out. He looked scary to me. Period.


For those of us who live too far away to see the workshop/lecture, is there any chance a video might be taken? I would love to see every photo and hear every word.

Ukejenny
05-05-2015, 03:05 AM
I want to say that everyone here on UU and on the Internet have given me an incredible education on how important and wonderful the ukulele is. The first ukulele in our household was bought as a "toy" for my youngest son, then a toddler/preschooler. After I picked it up and began playing, my eyes and heart were literally opened to the potential and I've never looked back. It has been a complete blessing.

To me, the ukulele is the best, not of just both worlds, but of all worlds. It can be as easy and as fun as you want it to be, yet the virtuosic capabilities are vast - endless. Yes, you can make music immediately. Yes, you can learn three chords in a few minutes and plunk out a song. But, it is also an instrument that can be studied and mastered for a lifetime and beyond. What an incredible musical gift that is.

stevepetergal
05-05-2015, 03:08 AM
I've decided to stop taking the symphony orchestra seriously.

Icelander53
05-05-2015, 03:08 AM
Amen to that Ukejenny :cool:

Hms
05-05-2015, 03:10 AM
, for example, the UOGB refuses to play any Formby tunes.

I wasn't aware of that.
Don't/Didn't they play Leaning on a Lamppost in a Russian fashion?
h

Hms
05-05-2015, 03:19 AM
I'm in a bit of a quandary with TT and GF.
Tiny Tim was always presented on TV almost as a sideshow, look at this odd guy playing this little instrument. Whilst in later years I have learnt more about his love of tin pan alley stuff, the sideshow stuff put me off.
George Formby was in my youth a TV star, I wasn't enamoured of his music or humour, although my local group occasionally plays some Formby, 'Leaning on...', we also play 'In the air', a great song without the GF' turned out nice again' ethos.
h

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 04:37 AM
lol here we go again with the insecurities about the GREATEST INSTRUMENT THE UNIVERSE EVER INVENTED.

can we get back to playing now.

I don't understand the "insecurities" part. The ukulele is what it is, one of many instruments all equally worthy of musicians' attention. However, the fact is that the ukulele has been portrayed as little more than a "sideshow" much of the time in our culture. I don't see anything "insecure" about acknowledging that when there is discussion that calls for saying so. This thread was titled "Why You Should Take The Ukulele Seriously". I doubt that thought would have crossed the OP's mind if there wasn't cause for it, and there is nothing wrong with healthy discussion.

One real advantage of how the ukulele is often viewed is that people DO pay attention when it is played as a "real" instrument. Playing fingerstyle guitar, nobody pays much attention anymore because it has been done and redone often enough that people are now used to it for the most part. Though there are many fine players doing that on the ukulele now, the fact has not yet reached "the masses", so it is still a novelty that people do pay attention to.

Tony

Rllink
05-05-2015, 04:47 AM
I'm conflicted. I think that the ukulele is a serious instrument. I do not consider it a toy. But at the same time, I took it up because my friends, who were learning to play the guitar, were way too serious. I wanted something that wouldn't be taken so seriously. So I don't know what to think.

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 05:18 AM
I'm conflicted. I think that the ukulele is a serious instrument. I do not consider it a toy. But at the same time, I took it up because my friends, who were learning to play the guitar, were way too serious. I wanted something that wouldn't be taken so seriously. So I don't know what to think.

This is an excellent point. As a guitar player myself, I can say in my own experience, that the ukulele does seem to be more fun and does not have the "baggage" associated with the guitar.

One advantage of how the ukulele has been popularly portrayed, is that it seems much less "threatening" to people than, say, the piano or guitar. I can see this when I read in these forums of the number of older people joining ukulele groups as they take up the instrument. For some reason, people get really hung up on "talent", not seeming to realize that anybody can make music without having to aim for Carnegie Hall. It really is a part of being human. Unfortunately, another part of being human seems to be to make certain pursuits really complicated, setting much higher standards for even thinking of taking up music then there needs to be. I suspect that many of us have gotten caught up in that with other instruments. There is no reason why a person can't have fun strumming simple chords on the guitar. However, we often do get hooked into the "need" to study all manner of music theory and make the whole thing into a burden instead of a joy.

With the ukulele, there is an inherent "joy" in it and, hopefully that won't get lost if it does become widely recognized as a "serious" instrument (what an odd thing to say in one sentence - "joy" and then "serious"). The ukulele is more than capable of allowing people to play in whatever style they wish, however simple or complex.

When I first started with the ukulele, I was intent in making it a "serious" instrument. Over time, I have come to realize that I can RELAX and just let it happen. I am playing in the styles I am interested in, but have found that I don't have to "suffer for my art", which seems a silly concept to begin with to me.

Tony

wayward
05-05-2015, 05:28 AM
UOGB came to play in our area, Palm Beach County. Nosebleed tickets were in the $ 200 range. Are things that different in different parts of the globe?

Oh, we love UOGB here in the UK too, fret not (groan); I think people attracted by the word orchestra and those who love ukulele flock to see/hear them - my guess is a large percentage of their audiences here are ukulele players or friends of ukulele players, but it's only a guess & I would be very happy to be proved wrong on that.

"I'm conflicted. I think that the ukulele is a serious instrument. I do not consider it a toy. But at the same time, I took it up because my friends, who were learning to play the guitar, were way too serious. I wanted something that wouldn't be taken so seriously. So I don't know what to think."

:agree: with this too, except for the being conflicted part: for me the ukulele is fun and/or serious really. I just think people who discount it are missing out: but I guess I'm preaching to the converted by writing that here.

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 05:57 AM
In much of the 'civilized' world, 'civilized' folks look down on folk instruments. Tin-pot banjos, mountain dulcimers, jew's harps, jug bands and washtub bass, kazoo orchestras, blues harps and tinwhistles and ocarinas and panpipes, cornstalk fiddles, concertinas, kalimbas, rough zithers and lutes, charangos and 'ukuleles -- if they aren't "symphony orchestral", they're toys, playthings of children and childish adults. Performers are presented to audiences as novelty acts, or high-achieving retards. Look, a dancing bear! Look, a guy playing Bach on a 'uke! Look, midget acrobats! That's the company we keep in some public eye.

Lori
05-05-2015, 07:24 AM
Interesting thread. I guess part of the problem stems from the use of the ukulele as a cheap, decorative souvenir of travel in Hawaii. Those items are really just meant to be symbols of Hawaiian culture, with a bit of kitsch. So, the exposure for many folks is that sub-quality item, not worthy of the idea of a musical instrument. The use of it as a prop in comedy movies and music halls is also a strong factor. It is because of these associations that it gets treated the way it does. It is a two sided blade though. On the one hand, the ukulele is seen as a toy, or a novelty. On the other hand, people are not as intimidated by it, and are more likely to attempt to play it when they might be too intimidated to consider another instrument. I see it as a great opportunity. The fact that it is still misunderstood gives us the chance to reveal the truth, and get more impact by surprising them.

On the Tiny Tim angle, well, I was part of the audience when he first appeared on TV in the US. I know very well how he came off. I have no idea what his plan was by choosing his performing name, song list, speaking/ singing style, clothing, choice of shows to appear on, etc. What it came off as was a fascinating mix of "is this guy for real?", is he really being himself?, and "how did he get on TV doing this?". He kept coming on shows even though people were making fun of him, yet in his interviews he came off as genuine and sincere, polite and gentle (but still very odd). You kind of had to admire him for having the courage to be so odd in public. He was definitely a novelty act, punctuated by the "getting married on the Tonight Show" stunt. That kind of thing just wasn't done on TV at that time. Got great ratings, so maybe he was an extremely clever showman. That kind of thing really put the uke into the novelty category. At that time, there were few examples of it being used in more musical/ and less comedic applications. A few years later, I decided to learn an instrument, and chose guitar. Took me many decades to discover the ukulele and it's possibilities.

–Lori

CeeJay
05-05-2015, 07:30 AM
In much of the 'civilized' world, 'civilized' folks look down on folk instruments. Tin-pot banjos, mountain dulcimers, jew's harps, jug bands and washtub bass, kazoo orchestras, blues harps and tinwhistles and ocarinas and panpipes, cornstalk fiddles, concertinas, kalimbas, rough zithers and lutes, charangos and 'ukuleles -- if they aren't "symphony orchestral", they're toys, playthings of children and childish adults. Performers are presented to audiences as novelty acts, or high-achieving retards. Look, a dancing bear! Look, a guy playing Bach on a 'uke! Look, midget acrobats! That's the company we keep in some public eye.

They're called " Music Snobs " in my book and I don't want to associate, or be associated with them.

People make music and they make it at whatever level of sophistry, style, emotion is germaine to them and their circumstance and with what is available...

Louis Armstrong, for me, said it best " Man, all music is folk music. You ain’t never heard no horse sing a song, have you? "

We all just like different types of "Folk music"

Rllink
05-05-2015, 07:38 AM
This is an excellent point. As a guitar player myself, I can say in my own experience, that the ukulele does seem to be more fun and does not have the "baggage" associated with the guitar.

One advantage of how the ukulele has been popularly portrayed, is that it seems much less "threatening" to people than, say, the piano or guitar. I can see this when I read in these forums of the number of older people joining ukulele groups as they take up the instrument. For some reason, people get really hung up on "talent", not seeming to realize that anybody can make music without having to aim for Carnegie Hall. It really is a part of being human. Unfortunately, another part of being human seems to be to make certain pursuits really complicated, setting much higher standards for even thinking of taking up music then there needs to be. I suspect that many of us have gotten caught up in that with other instruments. There is no reason why a person can't have fun strumming simple chords on the guitar. However, we often do get hooked into the "need" to study all manner of music theory and make the whole thing into a burden instead of a joy.

With the ukulele, there is an inherent "joy" in it and, hopefully that won't get lost if it does become widely recognized as a "serious" instrument (what an odd thing to say in one sentence - "joy" and then "serious"). The ukulele is more than capable of allowing people to play in whatever style they wish, however simple or complex.

When I first started with the ukulele, I was intent in making it a "serious" instrument. Over time, I have come to realize that I can RELAX and just let it happen. I am playing in the styles I am interested in, but have found that I don't have to "suffer for my art", which seems a silly concept to begin with to me.

TonyI think that you stated the point well. As far as Lori's take on Tiny Tim, say what you want, he is not forgotten, he made a name for himself.

My thought at this point in the discussion is, who are these people who do not take the ukulele as a serious instrument? Because I would hazard to guess, that most people don't even think about ukuleles. So when we demand that they take them seriously, are we demanding as well that they think about ukuleles? Honestly, no one I have ever met, outside the ukulele community, which is pretty limited in my neck of the woods, has ever brought up ukuleles in casual conversation. How is it that all this spontaneous disrespect for the ukulele manifesting itself?

Rllink
05-05-2015, 07:44 AM
They're called " Music Snobs " in my book and I don't want to associate, or be associated with them.

People make music and they make it at whatever level of sophistry, style, emotion is germaine to them and their circumstance and with what is available...

Louis Armstrong, for me, said it best " Man, all music is folk music. You ain’t never heard no horse sing a song, have you? "

We all just like different types of "Folk music"Absolutely. Musicians who look down on ukuleles, probably look down on any and all instruments that they do not play. That is why we call them guitar snobs, or piano snobs, or trombone snobs. Because in their mind, what they think is all that counts. Maybe we need to take a close look at ourselves, lest we turn into ukulele snobs.

janeray1940
05-05-2015, 07:58 AM
who are these people who do not take the ukulele as a serious instrument?

I can think of a few! I play/take lessons/hang out at a guitar shop that, while being extremely uke-friendly, has a few staff members who clearly look down on uke (or at least that's my perception of it). And I've attended a few all-acoustic jams there where I've been the lone ukulele player; while overall most people have been EXTREMELY supportive, I had a mandolin player actually sneer and laugh at me when I started playing. Whatever - their problem, not mine.

The other side of "not taking it seriously" I've encountered is when someone I don't know well learns that I play, there seem to be two common reactions: either the aforementioned "Oh, you mean like Tiny Tim?" variety, or the one that irks me the most: when the person makes the assumption that I'm a strummer/singer, usually by asking if I play like whatever female strummer/singer they happen to know of (Kate Micucchi and Zooey Deschanel are two that I get a lot, being a petite brunette with glasses myself). This usually leads to the person expressing what I perceive as disappointment that I'm a "serious" player and not a happy-jolly-life-of-the-party player. Again though - their problem, not mine!

CeeJay
05-05-2015, 09:10 AM
I can think of a few! I play/take lessons/hang out at a guitar shop that, while being extremely uke-friendly, has a few staff members who clearly look down on uke (or at least that's my perception of it). And I've attended a few all-acoustic jams there where I've been the lone ukulele player; while overall most people have been EXTREMELY supportive, I had a mandolin player actually sneer and laugh at me when I started playing. Whatever - their problem, not mine.

The other side of "not taking it seriously" I've encountered is when someone I don't know well learns that I play, there seem to be two common reactions: either the aforementioned "Oh, you mean like Tiny Tim?" variety, or the one that irks me the most: when the person makes the assumption that I'm a strummer/singer, usually by asking if I play like whatever female strummer/singer they happen to know of (Kate Micucchi and Zooey Deschanel are two that I get a lot, being a petite brunette with glasses myself). This usually leads to the person expressing what I perceive as disappointment that I'm a "serious" player and not a happy-jolly-life-of-the-party player. Again though - their problem, not mine!

Actually,it has just struck me. To be fair to Non uke afficianados that will be the only uker that they probably know ...and I think the question
isn't do you play like TT, rather that they are confirming the ukulele to be the same instrument as TT ,possibly their only point of reference, played .

If they are not into ukeleles they probably won't know about the others like Shimabukuro, Hill, Ohta-San ,Tamaine, Doleman etc.




" the one that irks me the most: when the person makes the assumption that I'm a strummer/singer,"


...*GASP*...and what pray is wrong with strummer / singers oh pray tell do diddly please?:biglaugh::uhoh::biglaugh:

I strum and croak a bit ...I would LOVE to be a strummer / singer :nana:

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 09:10 AM
They're called " Music Snobs " in my book and I don't want to associate, or be associated with them.

People make music and they make it at whatever level of sophistry, style, emotion is germaine to them and their circumstance and with what is available...

Louis Armstrong, for me, said it best " Man, all music is folk music. You ain’t never heard no horse sing a song, have you? "

We all just like different types of "Folk music"

Yes! This is really at the heart of it.

Tony

Rllink
05-05-2015, 09:17 AM
I can think of a few! I play/take lessons/hang out at a guitar shop that, while being extremely uke-friendly, has a few staff members who clearly look down on uke (or at least that's my perception of it). And I've attended a few all-acoustic jams there where I've been the lone ukulele player; while overall most people have been EXTREMELY supportive, I had a mandolin player actually sneer and laugh at me when I started playing. Whatever - their problem, not mine.

The other side of "not taking it seriously" I've encountered is when someone I don't know well learns that I play, there seem to be two common reactions: either the aforementioned "Oh, you mean like Tiny Tim?" variety, or the one that irks me the most: when the person makes the assumption that I'm a strummer/singer, usually by asking if I play like whatever female strummer/singer they happen to know of (Kate Micucchi and Zooey Deschanel are two that I get a lot, being a petite brunette with glasses myself). This usually leads to the person expressing what I perceive as disappointment that I'm a "serious" player and not a happy-jolly-life-of-the-party player. Again though - their problem, not mine!Well, two things going there. First of all, you are saying that you get a lot of support for your ukulele playing. There are ass holes wherever you go, and you are never going to get away from them, no matter what you do. So when you say that most people are extremely supportive, that is what you need to hang on to. The second thing is people's responses when they learn that you play the ukulele. They are just commenting in the best way that they can. That is probably all they know about ukes. They have nothing else to fall back on. Their only option is to stare at you and say nothing, which would be even more awkward. So I wouldn't take it personally. They don't know what else to say. You have to wonder if they walked away and said to themselves, "that was a stupid thing to say." I know I've been on that end of the conversation before.

janeray1940
05-05-2015, 09:21 AM
" the one that irks me the most: when the person makes the assumption that I'm a strummer/singer,"


...*GASP*...and what pray is wrong with strummer / singers oh pray tell do diddly please?:biglaugh::uhoh::biglaugh:


Absolutely nothing! Except I'm not one, and I get kinda tired of people assuming that I am*, the implication being that they want me to burst out my uke and entertain them, something at which I would... fail miserably at best :)

*ETA: And I believe this assumption stems from what Jim expressed in the first post: that the general public, if they have heard of ukuleles at all in the first place, have a very limited perception of what ukes can do.

janeray1940
05-05-2015, 09:24 AM
Well, two things going there. First of all, you are saying that you get a lot of support for your ukulele playing. There are ass holes wherever you go, and you are never going to get away from them, no matter what you do. So when you say that most people are extremely supportive, that is what you need to hang on to.

Oh and I do! Even the young guys who call me "Ukulele Girl" (even though I'm old enough to be their mother) I take as supportive, although sometimes I detect a hint of poking fun. I'm okay with poking fun... just not okay with sneering :)

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 12:57 PM
Well, this might be of interest to those here who truly are concerned about other people taking the ukulele seriously. This comes from a description of a fingerstyle ukulele book by Tony Mizen at Amazon. I am not buying the book, but just happened across it while buying our vitamins for the next few months. I always glance at the books, though rarely buy music books anymore since I already have what I need.

The ukulele is becoming more and more accepted as a 'serious' instrument. There are now several examining boards offering grades in ukulele playing, the emphasis being on finger-style.

Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Learn-Finger-Style-Ukulele-Music-Theory/dp/150068144X/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430866319&sr=1-6&keywords=fingerstyle+ukulele

Dan Uke
05-05-2015, 01:01 PM
Absolutely nothing! Except I'm not one, and I get kinda tired of people assuming that I am*, the implication being that they want me to burst out my uke and entertain them, something at which I would... fail miserably at best :)

*ETA: And I believe this assumption stems from what Jim expressed in the first post: that the general public, if they have heard of ukuleles at all in the first place, have a very limited perception of what ukes can do.

I think that's the normal expectation as I would want someone to play whatever they have, dance if they're a dancer, or show me a trick if they're a magician. It would be a spectacle if they play an instrument while dancing and make the instrument disappear at the end. :p

Hippie Dribble
05-05-2015, 01:07 PM
limited perception[/B] of what ukes can do.[/I]
I think this sums it up perfectly. They only have to listen to John King, James Hill, Azo Bell, Corey Fujimoto or (*add your name of choice here*) to have that preconception destroyed instantaneously.

tbeltrans
05-05-2015, 01:07 PM
I think that's the normal expectation as I would want someone to play whatever they have, dance if they're a dancer, or show me a trick if they're a magician. It would be a spectacle if they play an instrument while dancing and make the instrument disappear at the end. :p

...or sawing the ukulele in half, opening the enclosure and taking the ukulele out as a whole instrument restored, and playing a set.

Tony

Andy Chen
05-05-2015, 01:38 PM
Full disclosure: I was one of those guitar players who sneered when my parents asked me if I'd like to try playing the ukulele. It was due to ignorance. I imagine it's the same for many others: Ignorance begets prejudice.

janeray1940
05-05-2015, 02:24 PM
I think that's the normal expectation as I would want someone to play whatever they have... :p

Sure, but the material they choose to play (or the style they choose to dance, or their magic trick of choice) might not meet your expectations if you had a very narrow view of what that "thing" was. Maybe your idea of dance was strictly ballet, and it was an encounter with a modern dancer... or you wanted to see the magician pull a rabbit out of a hat and they pulled out a monkey instead... or heck, all those 19th and early 20th century painters who were ridiculed for making art that "somebody's child could make" because it was something other than realism...

Like I said, limited perception. Since, you know, the ukulele isn't good for much other than strumming a few chords, right? :)

CeeJay
05-05-2015, 02:48 PM
Sure, but the material they choose to play (or the style they choose to dance, or their magic trick of choice) might not meet your expectations if you had a very narrow view of what that "thing" was. Maybe your idea of dance was strictly ballet, and it was an encounter with a modern dancer... or you wanted to see the magician pull a rabbit out of a hat and they pulled out a monkey instead... or heck, all those 19th and early 20th century painters who were ridiculed for making art that "somebody's child could make" because it was something other than realism...

Like I said, limited perception. Since, you know, the ukulele isn't good for much other than strumming a few chords, right? :)


Hmmm , well I know that !!!

Though actually you hit on another point that has just bounced back and hit me in the eye ....Thanks.....

no, seriously ....many people who are not in the "know"will associate the ukelele with the Soprano , which predominantly is strummed...they (like me a couple of years ago) will not be familiar with the Concert, Tenors and Baritones which are more the weapons of choice of those who develop the uke from the strummed playing (Yes I know all about Ohta-san and his sop :))...so the answer to the question " what like TT ...or GF ?" is Well no I actually play a (insert size,tuning here) and the larger size allows for fingerpicking and melodic playing . Thus educating and also letting their expectations down gently ....in fact you could add that the tenor and Baritone ukes are like little toy guitars.










.................................................. .................................................. .........................................Stop hitting me !!!!!!

Inksplosive AL
05-05-2015, 02:55 PM
And I believe this assumption stems from what Jim expressed in the first post: that the general public, if they have heard of ukuleles at all in the first place, have a very limited perception of what ukes can do.

I said in another thread "Many people are pretty ignorant of the things others take as normal." Motorcycles, electronics and instruments I know, things like sports bah couldn't be bothered. Pass interference what?

I think we can combine and shorten this to to read, Most people have a very limited perception.

:shaka:

Nickie
05-05-2015, 04:08 PM
Most people have a very limited perception.

:shaka:

You couldn't be more right! Jim's idea is fabulous, and has sparked a very interesting thread. Lori and others hit several nails on the head.
Tiny Tim freaked me out, gave me a totally wrong impression of the uke. I thought it was a piece of junk, when actually, it was only his act that was junk. If he'd come out and showed TV fans what he really knew and was capable of, it might have turned my head the other way. But things being left the way they were, there was no way I could take it seriously. I was too young to really appreciate Arthur Godfrey. Being age 6 already when we got our 1st TV, I was way behind the other kids (I didn't know it). When people asked me to do Tiptoe Through the Tulips, I used to frown. Now I just say "I don't know it, but maybe I should learn it".
There is always something about history that we're not going to like, no matter how fun the subject is.
Taking the uke seriously, well, I do, but taking music seriously, I don't know, when I try to learn music theory, I get all befuddled and frustrated, and toss the books aside. It isn't any clearer to me than it was 4 or 5 years ago.
I take it seriously enough to be "out of the closet" about it, tell people about it, and volunteer for our Library Ukulele Lending program, and play for sick folks, and lead a jam session each month. And I'm serious enough to try and try very hard to learn fingerpicking techniques. That goes a long way toward showing people it isn't silly all the time.

ohmless
05-05-2015, 05:12 PM
lots of people were mentioned as "serious" masters of the instrument but I failed to notice a mention of Roy Smeck.

I think the reason the UOGB doesn't play formby is because it would be a hot mess for that many people to play a thrash solo like GF could.

I sort of like that the ukulele isn't taken seriously since expectations are low and I usually achieve that level of play at least. :)

as for the ignorant ones, :troll:

Ukuleleblues
05-05-2015, 05:28 PM
As a young child in the 70's, seeing Tiny Tim freaked me out. He looked scary to me. Period.


For those of us who live too far away to see the workshop/lecture, is there any chance a video might be taken? I would love to see every photo and hear every word.
This is HK aka Tiny Tim in the late 50's
79205

After he became a celebrity

79206

My favorite, wish I had that range
:
http://youtu.be/5vsPwhnlRGc

Booli
05-05-2015, 06:45 PM
....in fact you could add that the tenor and Baritone ukes are like little toy guitars.

Every time I hear/read that statement it makes me want to hurt someone by repeatedly hitting them in the head with my TOY 'guitar'!





(Just kidding!) - LOL

Disclaimer: Dont worry CeeJay - this is NOT directed at you - you are my UU brother, and I bear no malice toward you at all.

drbekken
05-05-2015, 07:01 PM
I would love to hear this. As I am in LA (Louisiana), and not L.A. I won't be able to attend on such short notice. But this is going to be something anyone who loves the Ukulele would love to hear, as Jim knows our favorite instrument so well.

Any chance this gets recorded? And if so, where might it be heard?

Living in the almost-arctic, I second this.

Hippie Dribble
05-05-2015, 07:18 PM
Living in the almost-arctic, I second this.

Thirded from the almost-antarctic.

itsme
05-05-2015, 07:30 PM
I'll add to others who suggest that your talk be recorded for those of us who can't make it.

ohmless
05-05-2015, 08:10 PM
this is my favorite of his, not so much because it is his prettiest song, but because it is so interesting to me and that I can play it.


http://youtu.be/XbW9jEd5Tu8

CeeJay
05-05-2015, 11:23 PM
Every time I hear/read that statement it makes me want to hurt someone by repeatedly hitting them in the head with my TOY 'guitar'!





(Just kidding!) - LOL

Disclaimer: Dont worry CeeJay - this is NOT directed at you - you are my UU brother, and I bear no malice toward you at all.


I was being VERY tongue in cheek and made sure that I was well out of range of Janerays flurry of forthcoming blows......our little ukelele
"In" joke...if you like :smileybounce::music::rofl:

AndrewKuker
05-06-2015, 01:22 AM
Hey Jim! I read the book you and John wrote when it came out a few years back. It's the best on it's subject that I've seen. I really learned a lot, thank you.

Lori
05-06-2015, 05:37 AM
As far as Lori's take on Tiny Tim, say what you want, he is not forgotten, he made a name for himself.

Yes, Rllink, he made a name for himself, and in the process suppressed the interest in the ukulele for decades. I don't like to be negative or harsh, but these are the facts. Anybody bringing up a Tiny Tim reference now is reflecting the image of an infamously negative association. People like Arthur Godfrey, and Roy Smeck popularized the ukulele with their performances. Both of these entertainers have ukulele products named after them and were popular with the public. Not so with Tiny Tim, and references to him actually embarrass me as a ukulele player today. It is sort of like being a painter, and when you tell people you're an artist, someone relates how they saw an elephant paint a picture and it sold for a lot of money.

Jim T.
05-06-2015, 06:17 AM
Hey Jim! I read the book you and John wrote when it came out a few years back. It's the best on it's subject that I've seen. I really learned a lot, thank you.

Thank you for the kind words!

Jim T.
05-06-2015, 06:18 AM
I'll add to others who suggest that your talk be recorded for those of us who can't make it.

I'll ask and see whether this is possible.

VELARCA
05-07-2015, 07:25 AM
All of us that live away from the city of... El pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina De los Ángeles , would like to hear / see your lecture, I hope that it can be recorded and posted here or in Utube... Any way, best of wishes next saturday...

kohanmike
05-09-2015, 10:32 AM
My car had to go into the mechanic so I can't make it. Would be nice to see a video.

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 03:02 PM
The event was not very well attended but I really enjoyed the talk, as did my non-ukulele-playing friend who joined me.

I hope someone did record it for those who were unable to attend; I would have shot iPhone video were it not for the "no photography of any kind" signs all over. Being a librarian myself, I can't go breaking the rules at the library :)

For those who missed it - Jim is a really engaging speaker and it was a short, but substantial, presentation. Hopefully it won't be the last!

79389

Lori
05-09-2015, 06:42 PM
The event was not very well attended but I really enjoyed the talk, as did my non-ukulele-playing friend who joined me.

I hope someone did record it for those who were unable to attend; I would have shot iPhone video were it not for the "no photography of any kind" signs all over. Being a librarian myself, I can't go breaking the rules at the library :)

For those who missed it - Jim is a really engaging speaker and it was a short, but substantial, presentation. Hopefully it won't be the last!

79389
Wished I could have made it, but had other plans. Photo in the middle looks familiar ;). How flattering, and for such a good cause. If there is video, I would like to see it too. Keep up the good work Jim!

–Lori

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 06:47 PM
Photo in the middle looks familiar ;). How flattering, and for such a good cause.

I thought I recognized it from somewhere :)

equina
05-09-2015, 07:04 PM
Dear janeray, did you by any chance take down any notes from the talk? We would love to read from your notes.

janeray1940
05-09-2015, 07:14 PM
Dear janeray, did you by any chance take down any notes from the talk? We would love to read from your notes.

I'm sorry but I didn't (too many years of grad school made me swear off such things in my free time!). However, I highly recommend that you get Jim's book (http://www.amazon.com/The-Ukulele-History-Jim-Tranquada/dp/0824836340), as he touched on many of the points the book addresses: the uke's Portuguese roots, the PPIE, the 1920s craze on the Mainland ... and of course Tiny Tim :) The talk was brief, maybe 30 minutes, but he managed to fit all of the high points in there. As a former women's history scholar, what I found especially interesting was that Jim addressed how when the uke was first introduced to the Mainland, it was often viewed as a women's instrument: small, quiet, modest, no improper movements required to play it. Kind of funny considering these days, at least in my circle of acquaintances and friends, the guys definitely outnumber the gals!

equina
05-10-2015, 05:33 AM
Thanks, janeray. I will get the book!

tbeltrans
05-10-2015, 07:40 AM
I'm sorry but I didn't (too many years of grad school made me swear off such things in my free time!). However, I highly recommend that you get Jim's book (http://www.amazon.com/The-Ukulele-History-Jim-Tranquada/dp/0824836340), as he touched on many of the points the book addresses: the uke's Portuguese roots, the PPIE, the 1920s craze on the Mainland ... and of course Tiny Tim :) The talk was brief, maybe 30 minutes, but he managed to fit all of the high points in there. As a former women's history scholar, what I found especially interesting was that Jim addressed how when the uke was first introduced to the Mainland, it was often viewed as a women's instrument: small, quiet, modest, no improper movements required to play it. Kind of funny considering these days, at least in my circle of acquaintances and friends, the guys definitely outnumber the gals!

The "parlor guitar", which is now quite popular, especially among the ageing "boomer" male population, was originally considered an instrument for women to literally play in the parlor when entertaining visitors, especially potential suitors. I recently read a comment that said that when a man was visiting a woman, others in the household would be concerned leaving the two alone in the parlor only if the music stopped.

Tony

janeray1940
05-10-2015, 07:45 AM
The "parlor guitar", which is now quite popular, especially among the ageing "boomer" male population, was originally considered an instrument for women to literally play in the parlor when entertaining visitors, especially potential suitors. I recently read a comment that said that when a man was visiting a woman, others in the household would be concerned leaving the two alone in the parlor only if the music stopped.

Tony

Interesting! I always sort of wondered why the smaller-sized guitars were called parlor guitars but never really looked into it.