UKULELE MUSING 2020, No. 12–21 March: Springtime, Stuck at Home

I’m not going to make light of the virus swirling around our country and our need to stay out of each other’s way and space.

Not much musical mirth in all that, but, we should take time to tune into our Happy Valley friends, “The Ukulele Scramble,” and listen to their take on communicable diseases.

Tap or click on the image to give a look and listen!

But, let’s move away from the virulent news of the day and take a look at what else is happening this week–the first day of Spring! So get out your uke, find lonely solace in that, and practice, practice, practice alone until we all get together to strum again!

Technically, this Thursday is the first day of Spring.  Ha Ha.

We New Englanders have a longing for the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.  I guess that this is wishful thinking on our part.  But, Spring does happen even if the flowers are peeping out of the snow. 

Spring WILL come!  Won’t it?  Please . . .

Spring in ukulele land can be as colorful as it is in flower land and there are plenty of songs out there from the heyday of the ukulele that celebrate this.

How about a Hawaiian version of this tune? Islands instead of Rockies?

Tap or click on the following image for something a tad different!

And then . . . But I digress.

Moving on, one of the better Spring songs of the Roaring Twenties—one that was at the top of the charts when it was first published in 1929—was “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” performed by the so-called “Crooning Troubadour” Nick Lucas.

Tap or click on the next image for a peek at this tune in one of its earliest recordings.

Sadly, in my humble opinion, this lovely little tune was irrevocably spoiled by the parody performance of one Herbert Buckingham Maury,

for better or worse known as “Tiny Tim.”  Maury was a self-educated expert on the music and lore of Tin Pan Alley and a bit of an eccentric gadfly in the New York music world.  He only became “famous” after performing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” in falsetto on the “Rowen and Martin Laugh In” back in 1968.  That, and subsequent performances on “The Johnny Carson Show,” turned what was a lighthearted love song into comedy and Tiny Tim into a costumed caricature of a musician. 

Needless to say, however, America loved it and we are stuck with the “earworm” version of Tiny Tim’s version today. Tap or click on the following image to listen, if you must . . .

At times Tiny Tim played the ukulele—which he carried around in a paper shopping bag—left-handed, but played the mandolin and guitar right-handed, though he retained the standard string placement for all three instruments.  Go figure.  The ukes that he played included a vintage Martin, a Favilla, and a Johnston metal resonator.  He taught himself to play using a method book that came with the Arthur Godfrey-endorsed Maccaferri Islander plastic ukulele.   It’s said he only played three or four uke chords at the most.  With a voice like his, that’s all you apparently needed!

Despite his popularity, it is said by many serious strummers that Tiny Tim tarnished the reputation of the ukulele for decades.  Even today, pull out your ukulele and, inevitably, someone will say, “can you play ‘Tiptoe?’”  SAD—Kinda like Spring snow! 

So, to come back to our senses, here is a real taste of Spring–Vivaldi on a Gypsy Ukulele! What’s not to like? Tap or click on the following image for a real musical treat!

So, Think Spring and stay connected with friends and family–albeit at a social distance. Take care, be well, and–above all– STAY TUNED!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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