The Ukulele: A Visual History by Jim Beloff Review

Jim Beloff’s The Ukulele: A Visual History must be the longest surviving ukulele book in my collection. Others have been discarded as useless or had the info sucked out of them and left in a draw. So it’s about time I got round to giving it a review.

What You Get

125 very heavily illustrated pages.


History of the Ukulele
The Great Players and Personalities
The Great Ukulele Manufacturers
The Story Continues…

The review is for the 2nd Edition of the book.

The Good Stuff

Ultimate in uke pr0n – The book is jam packed with ukulele pictures (and ukulele-related pictures and sheet music covers). There’s a huge amount of fabulous stuff to look at. Some of my personal favourites:

– The most stunning Santo ukulele I have ever seen.
– Hank’s Eukadidles for the Ukulele
– Ancil Swagerty being the chicest geek on the beach.
– A 1993 UOGB grinning like kids’ TV presenters.

It’s made to be flicked through and stared at. And doing so is a real treat (this review has taken 10 times longer than necessary to write because of the amount of aimless perusing I’ve done).

Useful reference – I’ve regularly picked up the book to check a date, name or to to answer, “Where have I seen that uke before?” niggles. While it’s not designed as a reference book, I don’t think there’s anything out there that does a better job of it than this.

And, refreshingly, it has a section on the ukulele in Japan.

Coffee-table/toilet-side book – It’s heavily diverting and not at all taxing – making it perfect for those occasions when things are either going into or coming out of your body.

The Not So Good Stuff

Busy Backgrounds – I found it hard to concentrate on reading the book. There’s a lot going on visually and the backgrounds – sometimes photographs – make it tricky to read. Partly because of this (and partly because of the way the book is structured) I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and actually read it for a significant period of time.

Due For A New Edition – A lot has happened since the 2nd edition came out in 2003. The book is definitely deserving of an update and it feels like the right time for one.


If my copy was lost, eaten by mice or combusted on a bonfire of the vanities, I’d buy a new copy straight away. Definitely worth a buy if you’re interested in ukes (and I’m guessing you are).

The Ukulele: A Visual History on Amazon

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