Ukulele man

This year I took on a ukulele pupil, a man in his sixties like me. He must be retired; he certainly gives time to it and he is coming on delightfully. We get along well, and he is amazed by every little thing I can do without thinking.

The ukulele was my first instrument; I think I was four when my cousin Malcolm first taught me some chords and songs:

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight,
Goodnight Irene, goodnight I scream,
I’ll see you in my dreams

I went round a straight crooked corner,
I met a dead donkey alive,
I took out my gun to stab it
And it gave me a kick in the Irene goodnight

A few years later I was interviewed by a chap whose hobby it was to visit people’s houses with a re-recordable gramophone disc, play them his last interview and then record an interview with the people of the house. Technology was expensive then, so the one disc was reused, and your interview was erased on his next trip. I was visiting Fred Rountree, my school pal, son of the teachers who taught us in Monkstown Parish School; my family would never have countenanced a stranger, however well pre-arranged, coming to ask personal questions.

One question he asked me was about hobbies. I can’t remember what answer I gave, possibly ‘making papier maché models’, but it didn’t occur to me to mention the ukulele. I only remembered while running home afterwards that that would have been the right answer. Not a hobby; now it’s my jobby.

The ukulele is a fine instrument I’ll have you know. It is essentially the Renaissance guitar, with a repertoire published by early printers such as  Phalèse (Selectissima elegantissimaque Gallica Italica et latina in Guiterna ludenda carmina, Leuven, 1570). It got its present name in Hawaii, where it means ‘jumping bug’. Plink!

Here is some virtuoso uke playing:
Jake Shimabukuro: While my guitar gently weeps

And here’s a sweet little ditty:
Joe Brown: I’ll see you in my dreams

8 Responses to “Ukulele man”

  1. samwell Says:

    i think this one is going to be my favourite blog.

  2. malo Says:

    yup, serious competition…

  3. marta Says:

    so nice Andrew
    thank you

  4. azahar Says:

    “Not a hobby; now it’s my jobby.”

    That’s exactly what I need – a hobby that is now my jobby. And preferably one I can mostly do from home.

    Nice videos. When will we see one of Recumbentman playing?

  5. azahar Says:

    That Chimpanzee song stayed with me all day!

  6. Fred Rountree Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Glad your message re moving on from papier mache to ukulele has finally reached me and I now know its not a hobby but a jobby.

    Kind regards and best wishes,


  7. recumbentman Says:

    Hey Fred! Nice to hear from you!

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