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View Full Version : What exactly defines a 'Golden Age' of the Ukulele?



happyslappysoong
04-11-2010, 07:26 PM
Hi all.

I've been doing some light reading about the history and popularity of the Uke and i keep seeing the term 'Golden Age' appear. I was wondering, what is the solid definition or criteria for a 'Golden Age' and who's to say we're not experiencing one right now??

:confused:

Let's discuss!

GVlog
04-11-2010, 07:37 PM
IMHO, the "Golden Age", whatever that means, never ended in Hawaii. Maybe it's defined by sales figures or popularity worldwide ... or at least in the continental US ... or maybe in the coastal states ... or the big cities in the coastal states.

For all you know, that "Golden Age" might just be the "Bronze Age" compared to today. :D

HoldinCoffee
04-11-2010, 11:07 PM
I think a golden Age can only be decreed after the fact. It would be judged on the quality of the ukes made during that period and the music that comes from those ukes. Also, the general public perception of the instrument and its musicians would figure into the equation.

The Golden Age of the Ukulele was from the 20's thru 40's if memory serves me (which it usually does... shit, where are my car keys?). So, do today's premium ukes rival or even surpass the Martins of old? Certainly modern technology would give today's Kalas and Ohanas an advantage over yester-years' factory produced ukes like Harmony and such. What about custom made ukes? I wonder how a Pete Howlett uke would compare against a Nunes. Unfortunately, I'll never know.

As far as the music goes, I'm not a fan of the Vaudville ukers and it seems that the Golden Age of Uke refers to that style of play. Today's ukers usually refer to Jake or James. But who, outside the uke community knows who they are (as opposed to Roy Smeck or Arthur Godfrey in their day)? With players like Aldrine doing so much to spread the knowledge, the New Golden Age can include the vast numbers of ukers we see here on this site and YouTube. Maybe the New Golden Age will be harder to define because the spotlight will shine on so many more than just a mere handful.

Pippin
04-11-2010, 11:10 PM
The Golden Age of ukulele generally refers to the time period of 1920s and 30s when lots of composers wrote tunes specifically for the instrument. The wave diminished a bit and came back some with popularity of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and a few other remnants from the wave. Arthur Godfrey revived interest in the time-frame that his "Arthur Godfrey and His Ukulele" was on the air. In the same period, Marty Robbins, one of the biggest names in Country Music, played a lot of tunes on ukulele.

happyslappysoong
04-12-2010, 12:31 AM
I think a golden Age can only be decreed after the fact. It would be judged on the quality of the ukes made during that period and the music that comes from those ukes. Also, the general public perception of the instrument and its musicians would figure into the equation.

The Golden Age of the Ukulele was from the 20's thru 40's if memory serves me (which it usually does... shit, where are my car keys?). So, do today's premium ukes rival or even surpass the Martins of old? Certainly modern technology would give today's Kalas and Ohanas an advantage over yester-years' factory produced ukes like Harmony and such. What about custom made ukes? I wonder how a Pete Howlett uke would compare against a Nunes. Unfortunately, I'll never know.

As far as the music goes, I'm not a fan of the Vaudville ukers and it seems that the Golden Age of Uke refers to that style of play. Today's ukers usually refer to Jake or James. But who, outside the uke community knows who they are (as opposed to Roy Smeck or Arthur Godfrey in their day)? With players like Aldrine doing so much to spread the knowledge, the New Golden Age can include the vast numbers of ukers we see here on this site and YouTube. Maybe the New Golden Age will be harder to define because the spotlight will shine on so many more than just a mere handful.

Interesting. Who exactly gave the Golden Age its label? Sorry if thats a silly question.
And comparatively to the 70s, 80s and 90s, would you say the Uke has dramatically increased in popularity?


The Golden Age of ukulele generally refers to the time period of 1920s and 30s when lots of composers wrote tunes specifically for the instrument. The wave diminished a bit and came back some with popularity of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope and a few other remnants from the wave. Arthur Godfrey revived interest in the time-frame that his "Arthur Godfrey and His Ukulele" was on the air. In the same period, Marty Robbins, one of the biggest names in Country Music, played a lot of tunes on ukulele.

Isn't music being written for Ukulele more so and more so today? It would be interesting to find out figure about how much Ukulele music was being written in the different decades and if that has increased now...

With all this thinking i've been doing, i was thinking I might write a thesis based on what seems like a Uke fad of the last decade or so, and how technology has played a role in all this...

ukantor
04-12-2010, 12:47 AM
I would agree that a Golden Age can only be properly judged after it has happened, but I do think we are experiencing one, right now. I started about fifteen years ago, and I didn't know anyone else who played uke. About six years ago uke clubs started popping up in towns and cities across Great Britain, and the upsurge in interest was under way.

IMO this current wave of popularity can be attributed to the internet. Like the waves which came before, it is a product of the times.

I suppose you would evaluate a "Golden Age" in terms of the level of popularity of the ukulele, the standard of the music being produced, and the quality and quantity of instruments available. On all those scores, the present day qualifies, without doubt.

John Colter.

Chris Tarman
04-12-2010, 04:20 AM
I suppose you would evaluate a "Golden Age" in terms of the level of popularity of the ukulele, the standard of the music being produced, and the quality and quantity of instruments available. On all those scores, the present day qualifies, without doubt.

John Colter.[/QUOTE]

Agreed.

whetu
04-12-2010, 04:22 AM
"golden age" is a term used always looking backwards. For example, "golden age" wrestling often refers to the WWF of the 80's, when there were people like Jake The Snake Roberts... the only names from that era that damned kids these days would recognise would be Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Randy Savage. Then you've got "golden age" comics, like "golden age superman"... though the comic book nerds go further and have a "silver age"

Often the term would be used to indicate some kind of nostalgic or evolutionary pinnacle. So, for us, the golden age of the Uke was likely the so called 'first wave', simply because the 'second wave' was in some ways a bit rubbish... mostly because of Tiny Tim and Tiptoe Through The Tulips (which, in the golden age, was a seriously good song, and still is when listening to or playing an original rendition), along with the flooding of cheap plastic knock off ukes that for a long time gave the uke its toy status.

Who knows, maybe in the eighth wave of Ukulele popularity, they'll look back at our third wave efforts fondly as if we're the golden age. Jake's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" or Aldrine's "Schizophrenic Snowflakes" will be benchmarks of a better time, while they suffer with the neo-hip-hop-cum-punk nonsense of the 2060's.

In other words, read it as a temporary-and-revokable synonym for the first wave, rather than a set-in-stone-for-all-eternity reference.

hoosierhiver
04-12-2010, 04:29 AM
I'd say currently we are in a ukulele renaissance.

Pippin
04-13-2010, 12:23 PM
I'd say currently we are in a ukulele renaissance.

Absolutely. There is no finer description.

scottie
04-13-2010, 12:25 PM
. . . when men were men and sheep knew it?

scottie
04-13-2010, 12:27 PM
aarrrrrrrrgh. . .

scottie
04-13-2010, 12:33 PM
I've got you in my grip. . . I'll go away for a pound. . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44DlSj6bnn4

Fio1999
04-13-2010, 07:42 PM
i was about to say that too. We are experiencing a ukulele rebirth (although mr hoosierhiver said it better, "ukulele renaissance" ;)

ichadwick
04-14-2010, 01:47 AM
The Golden Age of ukulele generally refers to the time period of 1920s and 30s when lots of composers wrote tunes specifically for the instrument.
Based on the song sheets and music books I've found with ukulele accompaniment, I'd peg it as just post WWI (early 1919) to 1935. That was the year the very popular GEM Dance music books went from ukulele to guitar accompaniment. A lot of music publishers followed suit and by the early 1940s, guitar was predominant in arrangements.

While the history of the uke extends considerably outside that range, I think you'll find the majority of the manufacturers/distributors/re-labellers and music publishers in that 17-year span. I've got sheet music for ukes from 1899 right up to 1963, but the vast majority is in that period.

"Golden Age' generally refers to a period of extended creativity, popularity and expansion for an industry. The British motocycle industry, for eample, had its Golden Age in roughly the same inter-war period, when there were 300-plus manufacturers. Despite the growing popularity of the uke today, it's difficult to find commercial music publishers who note ukulele accompaniment in their songbooks, and usually modern uke songbooks come from speciality publishers, not the mainstream. During the Golden Age, it was in the mainstream.