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Harold O.
08-17-2012, 05:34 AM
I'm reading through an old Time Life series of books on aviation history. The volume entitled "Knights of the Air" is about the first fighter pilots. The book does a decent job of telling about the how the pilots got along in such terrible conditions, tells of the airplane development, tactics, that sort of thing.

Then it mentions that a group of aviators from the American 20th Aero Squadron had formed a vaudeville team to help entertain the guys. A close look at the photo shows a ukulele in the hands of one of the men.

A page or so later, I came across some text describing how the late arriving (to the war effort) Americans had brought fresh food and spirit to the front:

..."Soon French and British aviators were arriving in a stream [to the American camp], enjoying not only food but the noisy, incessant dice and poker games and a gramophone that played an endless assortment of ragtime, fox trots, and operas. (The records also included Hawaiian music, which the unit's French commanding officer, Captain Georges Thenault, described as "strange melodies by a sort of banjo called a ukelele.")"...

Wow. That was early 1916.

Jim T.
08-17-2012, 05:57 AM
World War I played a major role in introducing the 'ukulele to Europe. Ukuleles were often found in American training camps -- one organizer in Los Angeles started a drive to put a ukulele in every Army tent in Southern California -- but Army regulations forbade the troops from bringing instruments with them. So the YMCA organized an entertainment bureau in September 1917 and sent out a national call "for everybody to take down 'that old ukulele' from the top shelf and send it to the boys 'over there.'" Retailers happily jumped in, taking out newspaper ads suggesting "Our Boys 'Over There' Would Appreciate a Ukulele." During the war, the YMCA shipped more than 18,000 instruments to overseas troops. Because ukuleles were popular, small, and inexpensive, that meant a lot of ukuleles were sent to Europe by the Y. For the same reason, ukes also were common among American entertainers performing in front of combat troops.

The Big Kahuna
08-17-2012, 06:06 AM
George Formby invented the Banjolele while in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme. He came across a Bluegrass/Hawaiian fusion vaudeville act who had been practising during a period of particularly heavy shelling. They had taken a direct hit from a German 155mm Howitzer and been blown to pieces.

Whilst searching the bodies for chewing tobacco and poi, he discovered what remained of a Banjo and a Ukulele. Being a Lancashire lad, he was unwilling to leave behind anything worth stealing, and thus the Banjolele was born!

I managed to find the original photo in an old archive of the British Museum. It's probably only of interest to military historians.

41846

Trinimon
08-17-2012, 06:15 AM
Just finished reading Jim T's The Ukulele: A History book. It's quite interesting to read about the evolution of the uke and how it was introduced into Europe and throughout North America etc. Definitely worth reading.

Lalz
08-17-2012, 06:50 AM
I managed to find the original photo in an old archive of the British Museum. It's probably only of interest to military historians.

41846

Did you photoshop in that hula dancer in the background or was she removed from the previous picture? Hehe

The Big Kahuna
08-17-2012, 07:02 AM
Who ? Me ? Noooooo.

Louis0815
08-17-2012, 10:18 AM
Is it just me or are the guys left of the guitar in the first picture holding Flukes and Fleas?
:rolleyes:

salukulady
08-17-2012, 11:31 AM
Is it just me or are the guys left of the guitar in the first picture holding Flukes and Fleas?
:rolleyes:
Lute? .

RyanMFT
08-17-2012, 11:42 AM
Is it just me or are the guys left of the guitar in the first picture holding Flukes and Fleas?
:rolleyes:

Ha! The one next to the drummer is a bowlback mandolin as is the one next to the guitar. Can't really see the one in the middle.

mm stan
08-17-2012, 01:11 PM
Nice Find Harold....thank you for sharing....wow

Harold O.
08-17-2012, 02:22 PM
Nice Find Harold....thank you for sharing....wow

Happy to add to the game at hand. It was totally unexpected. I was looking at European aviation history when the ukulele came up. I also got a kick out of how the French officer spelled it (ukelele).