Ukulele Players: Ukulele Ladies

Queen Lili’uokalani

Who? Hawaiian Queen 1891 – 1894.

What’s so special? The ukulele really took hold in Hawaii thanks to its extensive use by the Royal Family. Queen Lili’uokalani and her brother King David Kalakaua were massive supporters of the early ukulele makers and players. She is said to have written the ultimate ukulele tune ‘Aloha Oe’ and caused rows by saying that ‘ukulele’ means ‘gift from afar’.

May Singhi Breen

Who? 20s and 30s ukulelist, singer, arranger and radio star. The original Ukulele Lady.

What’s so special? A tireless promoter of the ukulele responsible for the almost universal adoption of ukulele chord diagrams in sheet music and for convincing the Musicians Union that the ukulele is a real instrument. Put together and taught numerous ukulele groups. She brought in the talents of Albert Allen to create the first electric ukulele.

Want to hear more? Take a listen here.

Learn to play like her May Singhi Breen’s New Ukulele Method

Tessie O’Shea

Who? Welsh girl with a Lancastrian voice and a Vegas sensability.

What’s so special? Tessie started out in the music halls of Blackpool before making it big in London – even having Noel Coward create a role for her. She rocketed to US startdom thanks to her appearance on the legendary Beatles edition of the Ed Sullivan show. Her signature tune was a rousing banjolele version of Two Ton Tessie from Tennessee

Want to hear more? Tessie at Sea Sounds

Ingrid Michaelson

Who? Ukulele songstress and GIGAPUS figure-head.

What’s so special? Her catchy, laid-back tunes have made her the female Jason Mraz and inspired a slew of arty girls to pick up the correct instrument.

Want to hear more? Ingrid Michaelson – Be OK

Learn to play like her You and I Chords

Julia Nunes

Who? Leading light of the UkeTube generation.

What’s so special? Julia Nunes started out making ukulele videos in her dorm room and became a weblebrity after being featured on YouTube. Her success has spawned the ‘cute ukulele girl’ trend and been responsible for thousands picking up the uke and making videos.

Want to hear more? Julia Nunes – I Wrote These

Learn to play like her Build Me Up Buttercup Chords

View Comments


  1. Duppy March 2nd, 2010 11:10 pm

    Even though she has no idea how to tune a uke (or perhaps just doesn’t care), Amanda palmer should probably be added to the list.

  2. alec March 3rd, 2010 1:08 pm

    Julia is why I picked up the ukulele, and John King and Ken Middleton are why I didn’t put it down again. Them and this webiste. Great series!

  3. Ron and Jeanne March 3rd, 2010 2:50 pm

    We’d like to make a pitch to have Victoria Vox added to this list.

  4. Steve Provost (rockinstephen) March 3rd, 2010 7:59 pm

    Excellent! Keep on rockin’ er ah ukin’!

  5. Woodshed March 3rd, 2010 9:51 pm

    Duppy: Good call. She’s certainly gaining a lot of attention for the uke.

    alec: Thanks!

    Ron and Jeanne: Your pitch might well be successful.

    Steve: Cheers!

  6. Phredd March 4th, 2010 8:43 pm

    I second the Victoria Vox vote

  7. Stormchaser2032 March 4th, 2010 10:45 pm

    Have any of you checked out Tally on Youtube?

    She wrote in Feb, 14 Uke songs relating to TV shows and several of them have made her a Net Celebrity.

    She is worth checking out.

  8. live2tivo March 4th, 2010 11:01 pm

    Thanks stormchaser.

    I have to add Kate Micucci here. She may not be totally well-known, but she’s def. the reason I play the ukulele, and a lot of people know here from her appearances on Scrubs.

  9. Woodshed March 5th, 2010 11:46 am

    Stormchaser: I agree. Tally rocks.

    Tally: Good call. I was going to include her in a ‘Celebrity Ukulelists’ post.

  10. Beeejums April 23rd, 2010 1:34 am

    What about Molly Lewis? She plays uke more than Julia Nunes (who seems to spend an awful lot of time playing guitar… traitor).

  11. Woodshed May 3rd, 2010 2:18 pm

    Beeejums: I think Molly is definitely in contention for inclusion on this post. But she’s not in the same level of fame as Julia Nunes… yet.

  12. JustLovely September 2nd, 2010 11:47 pm

    A couple more to consider:

    Sophie Madeleine is so quirky and really uses ukulele a lot

    and Zooey Deschanel. She played the uke at a She & Him concert i went to in June. It was awesome.

    and i third the Victoria Vox recommendation.

  13. Woodshed September 3rd, 2010 10:37 pm

    JustLovely: Thanks for the suggestions. They’re all getting there. Zooey needs to play her ukulele more regularly though.

  14. Jon June 8th, 2011 11:11 pm

    I may be several months late, but I have to second the Molly Lewis recommendation

  15. Woodshed June 9th, 2011 12:19 am

    Jon: Thanks for the vote!

  16. Rebekah July 21st, 2011 6:37 pm

    I hope this isn’t too late but I’d love to see Rebecca Sugar up here. She’s a storyboardist for Adventure Time and she’s written quite a few songs for the show too.
    She’s the whole reason I took up learning the ukulele but unfortunately I don’t think she’s quite as well known as The Gooch or Julia Nunes…

  17. Woodshed July 23rd, 2011 1:08 pm

    Rebekah: Thanks very much for the suggestion. I wasn’t familiar with her.

  18. Ken December 15th, 2011 10:20 pm

    Three words: Danielle Ate the Sandwich

  19. Woodshed December 16th, 2011 6:18 am

    Ken: I’m pretty sure that’s four words.

  20. Larra June 21st, 2012 9:14 pm

    Julia Nunes is easily my all time favorite uker. It’s not only her spiffy harmonies and ability to play everything from a uke to a melodica to a cardboard box well, but her quirky refreshing personality. Plus she’s just adorable.

  21. Juli August 1st, 2012 6:18 pm

    What about Kate Micucci?

  22. Juli August 1st, 2012 6:19 pm

    never mind, just saw someone else suggested her.

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