All Things Ukulele: Summer of uke


This past week has been a uker’s paradise in Noblesville. Any time of day, I’ve been able to drive past the Judge Stone House, and check out the Blue Stone Folk School ukulele building class. I’ve had the chance to make some new friends from across the country and play music with some very gifted musicians.

We had an amazing Blue Stone Folk School Ukulele Society meeting on Thursday night. Besides talented Meat ‘N Taters participants Mike Wilson from Kentucky and Chris McCarthy from Massachusetts, uker Alan Johnson joined the group from Chicago. It was like being in the midst of a big family reunion, though more than half of us had never met our visitors before that night. The music was bright and happy, and ended with a new Folk School tradition: an all-out jam of GOODNIGHT, IRENE.

Here’s Mr. Leadbelly himself showing how it’s done:


Mike Wilson, a graduate of two previous Meat ‘N Taters Ukulele Intensive performance and music theory workshops, crafted his fist ukulele, the headstock paying homage to Indiana ‘s own Frank Bremermann’s headstock design. By the way, you can visit Bremermann’s grave at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. I’m sure he’d enjoy the visit. You might want to think about taking your uke along and playing him a song or two while you’re there.

Mike was a delightful addition to our Blue Stone group; I can’t stop smiling when I think about his performance of Marty Robbins' DEVIL WOMAN at the open mic on Friday night. I have fond memories of seeing Marty Robbins performing at the Grand Ole Opry when I was young, so I was especially pleased with his selection. He sang and played expertly, inserting enough flawless comic timing and intonations to make the song absolutely his own. There were plenty of great songs performed on Friday night, but I am pretty sure that was my favorite selection. I pressed Mike for a video, but, being a modest type, he has none to date. I hope with this bit of encouragement, he might start posting some of his work on YouTube. Since we don’t have Mike playing the song, here’s the Marty himself, holding his guitar that funny way.

A Blue Stone Folk School uke gathering wouldn’t be complete without some Geoff Davis strumming. Another highlight of the evening was his performance of Sol Ho’opi’s I LIKE YOU on a Roy Smeck Vita Uke. It’s pretty much a song that needs to be played on a vintage ukulele. Here’s Geoff playing it on another antique treasure: a ca. 1920 Frank Bremermann ukulele:


My new friend, Ukeeku's creator Tim Szerlong drove from his home in Normal, Illinois to Indiana for a one-day ukulele odyssey on Friday. He started by driving to Columbus to visit with luthier David S. Gill and to pick up his very own spruce top concert pineapple uke. I’m sure he’ll be posting a review of this beautiful instrument soon, but if you can't wait, you can see one for yourself at the wonderful Weedpatch Music in Nashville, Indiana.

Following Friday night’s open mic, Tim spent the night at our house.. He brought in a half dozen or so ukuleles, parked them in the living room and set up a ukulele petting zoo for my family to enjoy. Since he reviews ukuleles, Tim always has an arsenal of the latest cool ukes for folks to try out. Among the treasures he brought was a light as a feather all-koa soprano uke from the Big Island Ukulele Company. It was the dreamy sort of high-gloss Hawaiian ukulele that makes a girls’ heart race. Add to that the fact that it has a mother of pearl sea turtle inlaid in the headstock, and you have yourself one of the most beautiful little objects man could make. I am thinking that a person couldn’t do much better than to have one of these instruments in her collection.

Tim also brought along a brand new, so-new-can’t-find-it in —any-store Martin all-laminate OXK uke. I had the chance to strum it a bit last month at the Ukulele World Congress, but now I got to have some serious one-on-one time with that lovely, well-made instrument. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of ukuleles, I am not an expert, but it doesn’t take much experience to recognize a quality instrument. Don’t let the fact that it is laminate and not solid wood fool you. Since he can explain things better than I, here’s Tim’s playing and talking about that lovely little soprano.

You can read the entire review of it at his blog:

Among his bag of tricks, Tim also had an unusual 6-string Oscar Schmidt OU-26 concert sized ukulele. My son, Spencer was quite taken with this ukulele and its unusual tuning. On Saturday morning, Tim managed to make the end of this wonderful week seem like Christmas in July, when he gave this really cool ukulele to Spencer. In return, he asked Spencer to make a video of himself playing the OU-26. You can pick up one of your own at the bargain price of about $75. It takes some practice to get used to the double strings, but it’s well worth it. I’ve already discovered that the “One String, Two String” strumming technique I learned from Ukulele Underground’s Uke Minute sounds amazing on this instrument.

With many thanks to Tim for his generosity, here is Spencer playing The Beatles’ ALL MY LOVING on his cool 6 string ukulele:


The Louisville Ukulele Jam

July 17, 11 AM -8 PM, Zeppelin Café 1036 East Burnett Avenue Louisville, KY

This looks like a super fun event; there’s bound to be a lot of talent strumming around this place. It would be worth a road trip to Kentucky just to play and make some new friends.

Blue Stone Folk School Ukulele Society Bi-Monthly Meeting

Thursday, July 22, 7-9 PM,

The Judge Stone House, 107 South 8th Street, Noblesville, IN

Bring a uke and a song, and be ready to have a great time. All levels are welcome.

Sam Ash Uke Group

Meets the first Saturday of each month, from 10 AM-12 PM at the Sam Ash Store in Castleton.

This is a great chance to meet with a diverse group of musicians. All levels are encouraged to participate!

If you are aware of a meet up in your area and would like me to mention it in this blog, let me know.