A ukulele player's look at jazz and popular songs of the early 20th Century



One of the joys of learning the ukulele is discovering the wonderful songs of long ago--the beautiful melodies and lyrics that deserve to be remembered and revived. Thankfully, vintage sheet music abounds on the internet, and so I've had a great time tracking down lots of the old songs, transcribing them to chord/lyric sheets--in a good key for my voice--and then learning them on the uke. If you would like to receive my chord/lyric sheet for any of the songs featured here, email me and I will be happy to share them.


Have a listen to Van and Schenk, a popular Vaudeville duo:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Look for me at musiciansfriend.com

New this month is a series of articles about the ukulele and uke players (including myself) at musiciansfriend.com.  It was an honor to be interviewed, along with many performers well-established in the uke world, including Julia Nunes, Ralph Shaw, and Aldrine Guerrero, among others.

Check out part one here:
Part One: Four Strings of Happiness

And part two is here:
Part Two: Beginning and Bonding with the Ukulele

What is musiciansfriend.com?  It's a great website full of resources for musicians, including instruments, recording equipment, amplifiers, music, accessories and more.  Their blog, "The Hub", is a resource that includes artist interviews, videos, buying guides, product reviews and more. 

Thanks, Bridget McCarthy, for inviting me to be interviewed!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thanks for the Sandwiches

If I may stoop to cliche, let me remark, “Where has the time gone?” It's been more than two years since I posted on this blog, but not for lack of interest. Life has been busy, and finding time to rehearse a new number and then spend hours taping it and editing....well, it's always easier to postpone it, of course. Next thing ya know, time has raced by.

However, I still get requests for some of the songs I've shared here, and it's very rewarding to know I've been able to share the great old compositions with new generations, no matter how great or small their numbers.  Thanks to all those who read, viewed and wrote!

And I must add—though I'm sure you know it by now--that in the five years since I started this blog, the ukulele has become mainstream once again!  I don't know whether I feel happy or sad that my playing the uke is no longer a charming eccentricity.  Everyone knows someone who plays the uke, I'd wager.

So keep those requests for music coming in. And sooner or later I'll get around to posting more often, and maybe even sharing a video performance.  In the meantime, here's a clip of the delightful Harry Rose, from those delightful vaudeville days!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The Girl in the Little Green Hat"

One of the many British period films in recent years was the engaging 2005 musical MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS, set in the London of the World War II years. The film stars Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins and presents the story of a performance hall run by Mrs. Henderson which embarks on a series of all-nude reviews in an attempt to stay in business during hard times. One of the stand-out numbers, for me, was this jaunty, up-tempo tune from 1933, performed by pop star Will Young. Of all the songs I've ever attempted to learn by memory, this one takes the prize as the most difficult. The nonsensical lyrics are the biggest challenge with their many repetitive but slightly altered phrases. On top of that, one must learn exactly where to breathe in order to finish without gasping for breath. After a year or so of trying, I've yet to make it through from start to finish without some hitch or stumble. Perhaps that's why it's fun to keep trying.
Songwriter Jack Scholl wrote songs for Warner Bros. from the mid-'30s to the mid-'40s, the best known being CASABLANCA (1942). His best-known songs include "Throw Another Log on the Fire", "My Little Buckaroo" and "It Had to Be You." Co-writer Max Rich's best known songs include "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" and "One For All - All For One". As for the third contributor, Bradford Browne, I have yet to find any details about his career.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Tiptoe Through the Tulips"

At last the world is beginning to discover that one can sing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” without imitating Tiny Tim. The song itself is quaint and charming, particularly in its original context. It was introduced in the 1929 film GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY, performed by the popular tenor Nick Lucas, “The Crooning Troubadour”. Another hit song he introduced in that film was “Painting the Clouds With Sunshine”.
Nick Lucas in GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZMHJX4b9bU&feature=related
In 1968, the song was permanently tainted by the novelty performance of Tiny Tim (Herbert Khaury) who managed to imprint the song with a whimsy and buffoonery it carries to this day. But with the renewed interest in the ukulele, the song is once again seeing the light of day--and indeed deserves to be enjoyed again. Tiny Tim was a fan of Nick Lucas, and in fact, had him perform this song on the occasion of his wedding to Miss Vicki on December 17, 1969 on THE TONIGHT SHOW. On the same show he also sang “I’m Looking at the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses”.
Songwriters Joseph Burke (1884-1950) and Al Dubin (1891-1945) collaborated on many other songs including “All I Want to Do Do Do”, “As Long as I Have You”, “Crosby, Columbo and Vallee”, “Darn Fool Woman Like Me”, “So is Your Old Lady” and “Painting the Clouds With Sunshine“. Separately, their collaborations included hits such as “Oh, How I Miss You Tonight”, “Rambling Rose”, “South American Way”. Al Dubin wrote dozens of songs with Harry Warren over many years, beginning in the 1930s, and included titles such as “We’re in the Money”, “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”, “I Only Have Eyes for You” and their 1935 Oscar winner “Lullaby of Broadway”.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Cryin' For the Carolines"

One of the most popular and prolific songwriters of the first half of the last century was the amazing Harry Warren (1893-1981), a personal favorite of mine. His long string of #1 hits include: "I Found a Million Dollar Baby", "Forty-Second Street", "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby", "Jeepers Creepers", "Chattanooga Choo-Choo", "At Last" and "I Only Have Eyes for You". He wrote more than 400 songs for close to 90 movies from 1928 through 1981. His Oscar winning compositions include "Lullaby of Broadway", "You'll Never Know" and "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe".
Songwriter Sam Lewis (1885-1959) also contributed many well-known songs to the American songbook, including "Dinah", "For All We Know", "Rockaby Your Baby With a Dixie Melody", "Five-Foot-Two, Eyes of Blue" and "My Mammy".
Joe Young (1889-1939) did not have the output of Warren or Lewis, but his well-known works include "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" (with Fats Waller), "Lullaby of the Leaves" and "Was That the Human Thing to Do".
Warren, Lewis and Young joined forces to create the haunting "Cryin' for the Carolines" of 1930. I first heard it a few years ago on one of my LPs, and finally managed this year to get my hands on the chords. I performed it at the Lone Star Uke Fest's open mic, but the video wasn't decent enough to share. Hence, I recorded this home-on-the-sofa version to post.