UKULELE MUSINGS 2020, No. 20: 9 May 2020–“Mothers’ Day Tunes of Those and These Days”

In these days of sequestration, a lot of mothers and their offspring will not be able to spend time together as in the sweet old days of just two or three months ago. Still, for this Mothers’ Day weekend, I am reminded of the plethora of “Mom Music” that’s out there and–just like all our mothers–found in different styles or musical personalities. Mothers’ Day is one of those holidays where those of you who are mothers, and all of us who have or have had mothers, can celebrate in remembrance or in person about our starts in life.  

So, when it comes to ukuleles—unless our mothers are or were strummers—any association with a uke was probably in the form of a gift when we were children. 

Seeds are planted, even though those first ukuleles probably wound up in the toy box rather than the music room! Except for some.

Anyway, the word “Mama,” or some infantile form of it, was probably the first intelligible word most of us spoke.  Needless to say, the world of popular song is replete with references to “Mother” in all its other linguistic forms—some quite meaningful,

including the most repeated “Mother” song of those days.

Click on the next image for a listen to this oldie from 1916.

And, then, there were some that were pretty maudlin “Mother” songs–particularly during the World War I era. These were, of course, always popular tearjerkers when played on folk’s parlor pianos or on the wartime vaudeville stage. 

Here’s a more modern, barbershop take take on this Jolson tune. Click on the next image to see and hear the sailors sing.

And then, there are all the “remember your grey-haired mother” songs, another category of “tearjerker.”

There a great song that alludes to a grey-haired Mother even though the words are not in the title.

Tap or click on the next image for a banjo ukulele interpretation of this old standby.

And, of course some ethnic tunes,

Click on the next image to give a listen to the great Sophie belt this one out!

And, needless to say, examples of what we might call “cultural appropriation” today.

Click on the next image to here Jolson himself belt this out this most popular song of his. And, if you want to see him do this in his signature blackface makeup, just go to YouTube and search.

Now, just to wipe the tears away, there were some comedy “Mother” songs.​

And, needless to say, the “slangification” of the word “Mama”–much like “Baby” and “Babe”–was a stalwart of the Jazz Age and gave new meanings to the words.

Instead of a scratchy, 1920s recording of this musical chestnut, here is a more up-to-date version played on one of my favorite non-ukulele instruments–a plectrum (four-string) banjo. Click on the next image for a real treat!

And, another take on the “Mama” theme.

Now, here’s a cultural transition from the 1920s to the 1950s–an interpretation of this old tune by Tennessee Ernie Ford. Click on the next image to tune in.

And then, here’s a red hot version of another “Mama” song of the period:

Click or tap on the next image to hear the great Sophie.

​Anyway, remember your mothers on this day and send them a message of what they are, or were, to you—whether or not it involves flowers. Maybe just a ukulele song on Facebook or Zoom or even the old-fashioned telephone!   

Here are a couple to try. On your ukulele, of course!

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay in touch with Mom 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.

2 thoughts on “UKULELE MUSINGS 2020, No. 20: 9 May 2020–“Mothers’ Day Tunes of Those and These Days””

  1. Hi Bruce,
    I remember your Mother with fondness. She had such a nice way with young people. My family enjoyed visits in Chesterton with Ruby and George.
    Happy Mother’s Day to Allison.


    1. Hi, Diane,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Needless to say I have fond memories of both your and John’s folks and the many, many good times we had together. We hope all is well with you and yours during these strange times. Our small-town life here in New England is manageable these days with friends and neighbors helping all around. Time will tell when we can venture out without masks and hand sanitizer! Happy Mother’s’ Day to you. Keep strumming!
      Alison & Bruce


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