UKULELE MUSING 2020, No: 17, 18 April 2020–“Smoke Used to Get Into Our Eyes”

After writing and posting my so-called “ukulele musings” for the past four or so years, I find myself searching my bookcases and trolling the internet in search of topics I haven’t touched on before.  I do revamp some of my earlier postings by adding new YouTubes and images as well as commentary on life in our trying times; but, every once in a while, I stumble across something that might be fun to share—sometimes questionable, sometimes off limits (to only a few, I hope), and—suffice it to say–sometimes just plain tacky. 

Times being what they are, however, tacky might be just what we need.

So, here is a take on that once glamorous, now ugly habit of smoking and how tobacco seems to have permeated music and tunes we can take on with our favorite little instruments. 

This is certainly not an endorsement of a nasty, unhealthy habit, but bear with me.  Tacky-tak-tak, here goes!

Needless to say, there are many, many songs about smoke and smoking. Not much ukulele playing here but good tunes nonetheless. To make things even simpler, however, I’m just going to focus on cigarettes in this posting–cigars and smoking pipes anon. And, I’ll touch as little as possible on what might–by a few of you gentle readers out there–be considered as “recreational” puffing in these modern times and in our Happy Valley!

Tap or click on the image for this one. Not really about tobacco smoke but the quintessential “smoke” song. Who else but Fred, Ginger, and Jerome.

And, a few others out there. I don’t know about the music but the images are fun!

And then there are songs specifically about cigarettes,

Tap or click to join in on these.

Here’s a bit of cinematic fun set to music–snap or click on this one!

Or how about cigarettes the old fashioned way, the way my grandfathers did it. With “makins” you can roll your own!


About a bit more than rolling cigarettes, but a good commentary on the fashions of the day. Click or tap for a prurient peek-a-boo.

And, where would we be without John Wayne? I tread a bit close to the boundaries on this but, what would Willie Nelson say?

And then, there is the moralistic take on smoking, and a couple of other related things of which I–and I assume more than a few of us–have little or no objection.

This song is pure country but here it is by–of all folks–The Muppets. Click or tap away on this one.

Now, if you want to try this yourself, I put together a ukulele arrangement of the song just for fun–four chords and about as “country” as you can get! Waltz time, in the Key of G.

And, course, there are a few sheet music images of ladies puffing away not, however, with ukes in hand and obviously not singing.

It’s a banjo, of course, but Gibson did advertise its ukuleles on cigarette packs of the time–a real collectors item! Let’s call it a steel-stringed baritone banjo uke.

Now, how about some of the glamorous guys with their ukes and omnipresent cigarettes! As they say, “there’s something about a sailor!”

And of course some of the big names of ukuleledom. Arthur Godfrey “making love, ukulele style.”

And, finally, a new use for a ukulele–a cigarette holder! He’s not called “Ukulele Ike” for nothing.

This little journey into the mix of tobacco and music is certainly not an endorsement of consuming tobacco products in any form.  Tobacco, smoking, and related songs are part of musical history but, unlike history, we don’t have to inhale. 

But the music sure was fun!

So, there it is.  What shall I explore next in these days of stay-at-home isolation?  Not being one for today’s so-called “recreational smoking,” perhaps other consumable vices will come to mind—over-consuming booze, Oreos, Zoom, or Netflix?  Who knows?

Where there’s fire, there’s smoke in ukulele land. So, stay safe, stay home, stay busy, stay viceless (sort of), and 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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