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southcoastukes
02-07-2012, 03:21 PM
Curious if there are any fans out there of the "King of the Mainland Ukulele".

I'm sure people have some of the instruments he lent his name to - the finest banjo ukuleles ever, the collectable Chicago built ukuleles and maybe even one of the 10s of thousands of his published ukulele instruction manuals.

You hear Cliff Edwards mentioned on this forum, even a bit about Johnny Marvin (the instrument more than the musician).

But are there any out there that know much about Wendell Hall or ever listen to his music? Any fans?

1931jim
02-07-2012, 03:35 PM
Hello Dirk,
As a kid I used to turn the handle on our Victrola (spelling) gramophone and after I got a little older even change the needle on it. They were 78's and I can remember "It ain't gonna rain no more" Gosh I must go looking for that stuff next time I'm visiting the family. I think my Dad had an instruction method book for the uke. Thanks for the memories.
Regards
1931jim

Jim T.
02-08-2012, 01:31 PM
Wendell Hall (1896–1969) of Chicago, “The Red-Headed Music Maker,” was the guitar- and ukulele-playing vaudevillian and songwriter who broke into radio in Davenport, Iowa, before becoming a national figure in 1923 with his immensely popular Victor release, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo,” a ukulele-backed number he plugged on a national tour of radio stations. Almost half a century before Tiny Tim drew one of the largest late-night television audiences ever for his marriage on the Tonight Show, Hall’s 1924 marriage to Marion Martin was broadcast live on the radio.

I think there's a whole chapter devoted to Wendell in Ian Whitcomb's forthcoming book about his ukulele heroes. It's due out in May, I beleve.

peewee
02-08-2012, 04:38 PM
Here's a trove of 17 Wendell Hall tracks for your enjoyment:
http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/search/results?q=wendell%20hall

southcoastukes
02-13-2012, 06:00 PM
Some nice posts about Wendell Hall!

31Jim, when I was a kid, my mom and aunt taught us little cousins a game with “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No’ Mo’”. They learned it from my grandmother. There were a ton of verses, and going around in a circle, you’d have to either remember and sing a verse, or if you couldn’t do that, make one up. If you couldn’t do either – out of the game.

Peewee, thanks for the Library of Congress link. I used to have a nice little collection of Wendell’s music, but lost most of it in 2005. I had forgotten some of the songs on that link – was great to hear them again.

Jim T - was great to hear that Ian Whitcomb will be including Wendell amongst his “Ukulele Heroes”. I hope he was able to find out more about his background than I could. He was, as you say, a mid-westerner by birth, and lived in New York, and I think San Francisco. His music was very southern, however, and he spent his last years just down the coast, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, where he passed away.

There was a sheriff there – Baldwin County – named Wendell Hall. I tried to get in touch a couple of times – no luck. Seems like more than a coincidence.

It would seem to me that Wendell would be more of a “ukulele hero” today, now that the instrument is becoming so popular again. After all, for one of the most popular singers of an era to be rooted in an ukulele blues style is something that will probably never happen again. One likely reason is that his recordings are so difficult to come by. I had put some of mine on disc – I still have those, and put them up on our website awhile ago for download. If you want them, click on Wendell’s picture, here:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/gumbo.htm

There are just seven songs - mostly the same you find on the Library of Congress link, but two are Stephen Foster songs not found there.

The other reason I think he may not be more popular is that his music is so foreign to us today. Even here in New Orleans, where old time music of various styles is played on street corners all over the city, this is stuff you won’t generally hear.

If you think you’ll hear ‘20s era jazz, you’ll be in for a disappointment. Wendell was wildly popular in the 20s, but not because he played the modern jazz age music. Even with his original compositions, his music was a throwback to the later 19th century. His blues was more a minstrel holler. He sang all sorts of popular forms, but all from an earlier age. He brought Stephen Foster’s music back from obscurity, and I imagine for the post-war people of that era, the old-time sounds were comforting among all the hustle and bustle of automobiles and “modern times”. Since the 19th century was before the recording era, in a way, you could say Wendell Hall is the finest recorded example of that century.

For historical interest, if for nothing else, I would think he would attract more interest. I think if you can get over what amounts to a form of “culture shock”, you can really enjoy the music on its’ own terms.

The evening I started this thread I had been doing one of my all too typical dawn to dusk routines – trying to put things back the way they used to be. Since the last bit of the day’s work would take me past sundown, I knocked off a little early. I went up on the front porch to relax a bit – the sun was going down over the Ponchartrain. The dog came bounding up to lay down beside me – he takes the canine companionship thing very seriously. My sweet wife brought out a glass of wine.

We have speakers set up out there, and it came to me to ask her to put on Wendell Hall – I hadn’t listened to him in a long time. Maybe because of the “old time” quality to the music, my mind just sort of drifted along – no real focus – to images and memories from before the hurricane.

The last song was “Land of My Sunset Dreams”, and it brought me abruptly back to the music. Wendell blares out the verse (that’s putting it mildly) in his best Bravura Irish Baritone: “The sun is slowly sinking, and the world is all aglow – That’s when you’ll find me thinking, of days of long ago”. He continues pummeling his way through the rest of the verse, but the second time through, he drops to a murmur, a semi-operatic device they loved in “the old times”. Think of old sheet music where you see above the bars, the words “tenderly”.

The light was almost gone when he hit his last muted falsetto, and almost on cue, the church bells from Our Lady of the Lake began to chime for evening vespers. A very fine moment, indeed.

Later that evening, I started wondering if anyone still paid much attention to this old “Ukulele Hero”, and decided to post this thread.

Jim T.
02-13-2012, 07:06 PM
Beautifully written.

Born in Kansas, raised in Chicago, where his father was a minister, Wendell's musical style was a throwback to an earlier era, which likely explains his popularity on radio. He began not as a ukulele player but as a singing xylophonist in vaudeville. When he started out in radio in 1922, he allegedly got tired of paying to have his xylophone hauled to the KYW studio, and so brought a ukulele instead. Not all of his songs were throwbacks, however: they included "Spank It Frank," "I'm in the Doghouse Tonight," "Egyptian Jam," and "She's a Hot Wave From Texas."