Tickets Now Available!

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Hope to see lots of you next Friday or Saturday night.  (Or come BOTH nights!)  For tickets head over to www.greenvalleytheatre.com/tickets. I’ll be featured in our performances of “Kiss Me,” written in 1997 by Matt Slocum for Sixpence None the Richer’s debut album, Noel Gay’s 1933 hit “Letting in the Sunshine,” recently popularized on YouTube by Piney Gir.

Hope to see you there!

Heavy Ukulele?

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Canadian ukulele star Ralph Shaw (www.ralphshaw.ca) sends out a regular email newsletter, the Ukulele Entertainer, that’s always interesting.  In his most recent edition Ralph stands up for the late Herbert “Tiny Tim” Khaury, who some ukulele fans unfairly characterize as having set the ukulele back.  Ralph comments that he was surprised when, at the Saturday night show at this year’s Reno Ukulele Festival, there was very little crowd reaction when impressionist Tom LaGravinese, who had been ably hosting the evening’s “Lost Sullivan Show” with his spot-on impression of Mr. Sullivan, emerged for the grand finale from a magician’s box, made up to look like the spitting image of Tiny Tim.

I agree with Ralph.  Tiny Tim seldom gets his deserved accolades.  My own Tiny Tim fandom goes back to 1968 when I worked at Antioch College’s FM station, WYSO, and we received a copy of the “God Bless Tiny Tim” album from a record promoter. My colleagues and I loved the album, with “all those great old songs” that no one had performed in decades. (Given the historic context of 1968, we were especially impressed with Tiny Tim’s rendition of what I still believe is Irving Berlin’s only anti-war song, “Stay Down Here Where You Belong.”)  Tiny Tim absolutely loved and respected some of America’s greatest tunes, i.e., the type of music that I play. He was a one-man human sheet-music encyclopedia. And when he insisted that Johnny Carson bring Nick Lucas along when Tiny Tim appeared on The Tonight Show, it exposed the wonderful Lucas to an entire new generation of music lovers. (It was a bit like the Rolling Stones refusing to appear on Shindig a few years earlier, until the producers agreed to book blues pioneer Howlin’ Wolf.)

While overall the crowd at Reno was a bit subdued for the finale, when LaGravinese emerged from the box as Tiny Tim resurrected, I was hooting and hollering as loud as I could. I loved it. But I fear that among today’s festival crowds are folks who not only don’t know who Tiny Tim was (or what he meant to classic songs), but who, worse, are under the impression that the first person to actually play a ukulele was Jake Shimabukuro.  No knock on Jake, but I do a 45-minute scripted show that salutes Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards and his connection to the Gershwins. No one remembers Edwards, either. In fact, no one remembers the Gershwins. One night one of my two songs at a local open mic was “Fascinating Rhythm.” After my 10 minute slot, an attendee came up to me at the bar, shook my hand, and said, “Hey, that was a great tune … did you write that?” Hmmm. Don’t I wish.

And finally, speaking of “no one remembers,” as “Ed Sullivan” LaGravinese made a remark about the Sullivan Show not being “heavy with ukuleles” back in the day. I assumed he was making a great insider ukulele joke, but I was on the only one at our table who laughed. So maybe he didn’t know (and I had to explain to my table-mates) that the first time the Beatles appeared on the Sullivan Show (in February 1964), with a nod to Great Britain, Sullivan also booked and presented the fabulous banjo-uke’ing and singing “Two Ton” Tessie O’Shea. Talk about “heavy with ukulele”!  And as you can see, above, John, Paul, George and Ringo were long-time fans.

Back to the Future!

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Just got back from the 7th Annual Reno Ukulele Festival.  Promoter Doug Reynolds outdid himself this year.  A splendid event.

I spent a lot of time visiting long-time friends, and making new ones, in the Vendor Area.  As I went from booth to booth I thought, “so many ukuleles … so little time!”  There were scores of beautiful instruments, with prices that went up to $2,500 and more.  But the uke that caught my eye (and my wallet), and that I brought home with me, was one of Kala’s new plastic “Makala Waterman” ukuleles, purchased at Stu Herreid’s & Dan Elliot’s vendor booth for The Strum Shop, of Roseville (www.thestrumshop.com):

plasticukeCream-colored top, orange swirl back and sides.  Not exactly a wallflower.  This uke isn’t going to challenge any of my high-enders for tone, intonation, projection or playability, but for $49 (and you can get plain solid-color ones for $39) it’s pretty amazing.  And it definitely takes me back to my roots.  Check out my photo, below, from 1956 (playing my sadly long-gone Maccaferri “Mauna Loa” uke).  I’ll post an updated photo soon, showing me with this new baby.  But for reasons of taste, this time I’ll have a shirt on.

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More news soon.  In the meantime, don’t forget the Ukulele Rob Trio +3’s show at Sacramento’s Torch Club, this coming Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.