Of Dads & Ukeleles

My Dad was born in 1914. He grew up in San Francisco, with a short sojourn in the Philippines. While kids can easily offend their parents now by taking up electric guitars and drums, in those bygone days kids could achieve similar results with the Hawaiian guitar or the Ukulele. My Dad took up the Ukulele. It was his constant companion in schools, fraternities, and social events.

You see my Dad went to college during the depression. An uncle was his mentor and saw that he was in school and that all of his basic bills were paid.

But there was virtually no spare money. At one point my Dad and his fratemity brothers decided that if they had a car the social standing of the fraternity would be greatly enhanced. So collectively they financed a Ford, a model T phaeton, which was for sale for $7-. While this vehicle certainly performed it's intended job admirably, alas the fraternity was not able to keep up the payments and it was repossessed.

A Ukulele went with my Dad when he was a Navy pilot in WWII. There he met my Mom, a Navy WAVE. His Ukulele technique never progressed beyond basics but he knew the words to EVERY popular song. My Mom could play ALL of them on the piano. What a match!

As we were growing up there was always a "Uke" in the house. They were cheap and transitory, made of plastic, cardboard or "selected hardwoods" but he still enjoyed playing for us and with his friends of a similar bent. For his 65th birthday I made him a real Ukulele. Koa, abalone, ebony, rosewood, the works. Dad bought a new suit just so he could have his picture taken with it. He even put away the old Martin uke that I had found for him earlier. I think that it was the only physical thing that I was ever able to produce for him. Good memories, Dad passed away in 1999.

It seems that Ukuleles are making a comeback. They are everybody's second instrument. Small, portable, friendly, convenient, they are the Teddie Bears of the guitar world. Whether you strum like my Dad or are a virtuoso like Roy Smeck enjoy them!