Daddy Stovepipe’s bluesy ukulele videos are a favourite of mine and he’s recently tabbed up one of his tunes. So I took the opportunity to throw a few questions at him.
What’s your musical history? How did you come by the uke?
I started playing blues fingerpicking guitar when I was 16 years old; I mostly learned from records and with the help of the Stefan Grossman tablature books.
The reissue label Yazoo, specialised in blues music recorded between 1926-32 (the golden age of country blues) also had an lp by Ukulele Ike. I liked the album but never went any further. It’s only after starting with my Youtube channel, a few years ago, that I came to know uke players like my fellow countrymen Winin’ Boy and Ukulelezaza. Winin’ Boy is one of my subscribers and I always visit their channel to get to know them. Surfing the internet did the rest; your website proved very helpful to get to know the ukulele world. Same goes for your 101 book.
Who are you big musical inspirations?
Mainly the “old blues guys” who recorded in the 20-30ies; men like Lonnie Johnson, Blind Blake, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell, the inevitable Robert Johnson of course, etc.
What are your top tips for playing ukulele blues?
Listening to the music you want to play, is half the battle.
So far I only focused on keys like C and F as you can use the open top-string often and there is a lot of material in those keys. I found that the more jazzy blues by players like Blind Blake or Mississippi John Hurt works best for the ukulele.
Do you have any favourite blues licks?
Bending the 3rd and 4rd fret of the second string, when playing in F comes to mind,or playing the 3rd string fretted at the 3rd fret simultaneously with the open 2nd when playing in C.
How do you approach playing blues on a uke differently from blues on a guitar?
I approach it as a guitar with less strings. My thumb plays a monotonic bass on the 4th string or an alternating bass between strings 4 and 3. With the alternating bass I sometimes get in trouble if the 3rd string is needed for a melody note but then I simply quit the alternating bass pattern.
What I especially like about the ukulele is the re-entrant tuning. The sound of the high 4th string really does it for me.
Are you going to put together more uke tabs?
I sure will.