This is my final post. It’s been almost three years, and I really enjoyed being a small part of the ukulele community, but it’s time for me to move on.
As a fan of music, I grew up on music review and journalism, an art form where snark and snot are the bricks and mortar of construction. Being a sarcastic SOB by birth, and having so many fine examples, it would have been easy to follow in that tradition. Luckily, I spent a little time in this community before I started this blog and absorbed enough of the goodwill that drips from it. I made the conscious decision to be positive here, and it has paid many dividends both on and offline. Being negative might make you look/feel like you are smarter than X – but being positive will make you a part of X. You choose….
One of the most positive influences on UkeToob has been the support of my wife, Jeanne. Having lived though three kids taking violin lessons, I know it’s not easy to share a home with someone learning an instrument. While there have been momentary lapses (i.e. rewording “Tonight, You Belong to Me” as “Shove it Up your Bunghole” when I played it a few million times too many) she has been amazingly tolerant and supportive of my interests. If you found anything you liked here it was more than likely inspired by, thought of or generally improved by her input. Jeanne, I love you and thank you for all you have done to help me be a better, happier person than I could have ever been without you!
Lastly, thank you to all who have viewed, subscribed, commented and made suggestions over the years. I wish you all the best.
Keep on uke’ing!
Don Lawson (AKA Donnie Bubbles)
(Part 4 of my self-indulgent goodbye – see three previous posts for details.)
When I first entered the online ukulele world, the Top 50 page was my road map. It was the easiest way to find out which sites my new peers thought were the best of the numerous ukulele sites available. After watching many bad YouTube videos, and noticing that there was no site on the Top 50 dedicated to videos, I came up with the idea for this site featuring only the best ukulele videos so you wouldn’t have to watch the bad ones. The funny thing is, with the way the Top 50 was formatted at the time, the number one site looked like a header, not an entry. I assumed the phrase “Ukulele Hunt – Articles for the advancement of the gentleman’s pursuit of the ukulele” was their description of the Top 50, not what I would latter discover to be the Holy Grail of Ukulele Sites.
Applying all my mighty powers to the cause, I came up with probably the most obvious name for this site, UkeTube.com (oh, they will cheer and hail and laugh and might even drop me off their shoulders if they are not careful reveling in my brilliance!!!) only to be thwarted by some domain-parker who has had the name registered for years and still hasn’t done anything with it. Turns out, that was a good thing. Unable to get my first choice, and having already spent all my energy coming up with that great name, I instead settled for the sad facsimile, UkeToob.com.
So I was chugging away at this site before I discovered what my new peers already knew – the best possible uke site had already been made. With impeccable taste in music, funny and biting commentary, excellent tabs and chord sheets, infinite support and advice for beginners and experts, the sole proprietor and auteur of UkuleleHunt.com, Al Wood, is a treasure. If bagpipes had a champion like Al we all might be really annoying our friends and families instead of just boring them with our sad plucking and strumming on the comparatively quite uke.
When I published UkeToob’s first interview (Merrill Garbus of tUnE yArDs) Al sent a note with kind encouragement. I quickly pounced on his kindness and drafted him to be the second interview. Al’s generosity was not exhausted by that interview. Over the few years UkeToob has been online he has been our most vocal supporter. When he saw that I was throwing in the towel, Al was the first to offer to pick up the domain so it wouldn’t slip into oblivion – a better future for the blog than I could have ever hoped for – and I instantly took him up on the offer.
So back to the name. Imagine my embarrassment when I finally noticed that the regular Saturday feature on my favorite ukulele site had the same name (spelled correctly, of course) as my blog! I guess I have a problem with not reading titles and first lines on web pages. It’s a real testament to Al’s character that he never complained about such a gross error. Al, even though you never asked for it, I offer my humble apologies for stepping on the name of your feature, and thank you for all you have done for UkeToob in particular, and for ukulele fans in general. At least five of my new favorite bands I would never have heard of without you. I look forward to each and every post on UkuleleHunt.com, and wish you all the success in the world!
Don Lawson (AKA Donnie Bubbles)
(Part 3 of my goodbye – see two previous posts for details.)
One of the things you hear over and over again about the ukulele community, both virtual and real, is how the members of this group are so helpful, kind and accepting. My experience with them has proven this to be not just an fact, but an immutable law. I can’t decide if loving the uke makes people better, or if it’s just that good people love the uke.
Out of this subset of humanity, if I had to chose just one that personifies the exceptional essence of the group, it would hands down be Ken Middleton. As an example of his good nature, in an interview I asked Ken what skills a beginner or immediate player should focus on. Like the “Liar Paradox” Captain Kirk used to defeat an android, this simple question almost shut Ken down.
Being innately honest, Ken had to say he felt the technical skills of playing an instrument, while useful in the pursuit of art, were not the most important part of the art of making music. But being innately kind, he did not want anyone to think he was discounting their impressive and hard won technical skills. Even with the added pressure of me dunning him with reminders that I was impatiently awaiting his answers, Ken managed to gracefully walk that line, and in the process, gave one of the best answers I have seen for this age old question. Ohana brand ukes, and the ukulele in general, have in Ken the best possible ambassador of the spirit and joy this little instrument inspires in people.
The attached video is one of my personal favorites from his enormous catalog. Ken, thank you for your friendship, and for the enjoyment you and your uke have given me.
Don Lawson (AKA Donnie Bubbles)
Web Site: http://kenmiddleton.co.uk/default.aspx (free tabs and online store for his exceptional books)
(Please forgive my indulgence in this second farewell post – see the previous post for details.)
When I think of the ukulele, the first image that pops into my mind is of Howlin’ Hobbit. Diminutive yet imposing, gentle but with a snarky bite, capable of the smoothest tones and the fiercest growls – these words could just as easily describe Howlin’ as the uke. As much as I love his performances, it was his name in my comment box that always made my day. Witty and charming, but with a short fuse for things that don’t ring true or real or right, Howlin’ contributed some of the best words on these pages.
While on a recent trip to Denver I went out for dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp House. The food was edible and the prices reasonable, but the overall experience was nauseating. Here we were, in a major city in the middle of one of the most naturally beautiful areas in North America, where only a few generations ago our forefathers crossed the wilderness at great risk in pursuit of gold and glory and anything else the Indians hadn’t thought to nail down, eating frozen seafood in a new building that was artificially distressed for authenticity and filled with imitation artifacts from a marginally amusing big budget motion picture. It made me wonder if we are nearing a point where there are no real experiences anymore – where every nook of the world has been homogenized and Disneyfied for our guaranteed satisfaction.
As an inoculation to protect you from my (hopefully) imagined dystopia, I offer one of my favorite ukulele videos: Mr. Hobbit caught busking in the wild. On you or me, wearing a fez and playing the uke might make us ridiculous posers – on Hobbit it’s who he is. There are better produced ukulele videos. Heck, there might even be better performances of this song. But it’s the thought that I might turn the corner some day and unexpectedly encounter someone this authentic playing his heart out for your pocket change that keeps my hope alive.
Thank you, Howlin’ Hobbit…keep on strumming!
YouTube Channel: HowlinHobbit
Web Site: www.HowlinHobbit.com
If you haven’t noticed, I have started winding down this site. After daily posts for almost three years, I find my interests and time being pulled in directions away from the ukulele universe – not that I don’t still play daily – just that I have other things I want to do more.
August 5th will be my final post, and come September 29th, I will allow the domain name to slip back into the ether. From now until then, please forgive my indulgence as I use my remaining posts to thanks those who helped make the experience so rewarding.
First up is one of my favorite ukers and a true class act – Uncle Jeff. Jeff is exactly as gregarious, friendly and giving as you would expect from watching him perform. From my experience with him, the only mean bone in his body he has honed into one nasty clawhammer so he could kick out some killer tunes.
By the time he asked me to review his new album, the fine Hillbilly Uke, my orbit around the uke was already so wide that I didn’t feel I could do it the justice it deserves. In shallow stead of the superlative review it warrants, I can only offer this: Jeff – every time one of yours songs comes up in rotation on my iPod, I smile. Your music makes my day, and I thank you for it!
Don Lawson (AKA Donnie Bubbles)
Song: Strawberry Plains
YouTube Channel: unclejeff64
Buy Hillbilly Uke: iTunes
His Notes: very different from what i usually write.
more chords and words anyway.
100% autobiographical as well.
for me and jeri and that old gray cat.
performed on my 1947 gibson tenor.
YouTube Channel: UKISOCIETY
Played on a miniature Tangi model ukulele and acoustic Kala UBass.
Sorry for the long time between posts – traveled for work and then my oldest graduated from High School this week!
YouTube Channel: KenMiddletonUkulele
One of my favourite Irish folk tunes. This improvisation was filmed during our family holiday to a cottage on Shell Island in Wales.
That’s Harlech Castle on the rock in the distance and the largish mountain on the left is Snowdon.