UKULELE MUSINGS 2020–Number 7: Good Old Tunes for Your Sweetie and Your Uke. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!

For the past three or four years I have posted and commented on vintage banjo and ukulele related Valentine’s Day cards that I have found on the web.  I’ve reached the point where this tradition—while a lot of fun—is just too easy!  Vintage Valentines are low hanging fruit when it comes to surfing the internet.

So, this year I thought I would focus on vintage sheet music and tunes with Valentine or Love themes.  Here goes!

Needless to say, there are some quite early ones.

A bicycle tune:

Then there are some that focus on young love.

An arithmetic lesson in love:

Or, how about the wild and crazy love of days of yore?

Give a listen:

Some funny Valentines.

A rowdy tune!

Love is in the air!

Or at sea.

How about soldiers?

Let’s not forget Hapa Haole.

Here it is:

A sad tale or two, alas.

And, there is the never ending stream of more recent days.

Anyway, have fun browsing through and, here’s hope that all of you have a way to share this day!

Oh yes. Here’s a Ukulele Tune for you and yours:

Stay Tuned–happily ever after!

UKULELE MUSINGS 2020–Number 6: “Flappers, Sheiks, and Their Ukuleles–Oh My!”

After vowing to keep life a bit simpler this year, here is a modification of a past posting that will. hopefully, turn our minds from the news of today to the views of the past–all within our ukulele theme, of course! So, here we go as I riff through my collection (online, needless to say) of apropos pictures.

Viewed by many today as a cultural heroine, the “flapper” is one of the most enduring images of Jazz Age youth. 

In the 1920s, however, many folks regarded flappers as threatening to conventional society.  They represented a new moral order—girls who flouted middle-class values.

The word itself evolved from 19th Century English and French terms for women who wore loose clothing (it flapped!) and, needless to say, often had equally loose morals.

Flappers’ behavior was considered outlandish at the time. 

But it redefined women’s roles in society in the US, in Europe, and even in Japan.

The evolving image of flappers was of independent young women who went by night to jazz clubs, such as those in, which were viewed as erotic and dangerous.

And where they danced provocatively,

smoked cigarettes,

and dated freely, perhaps indiscriminately.

They were active, fashionable,

rode bicycles, drove automobiles, bobbed their hair,

and openly drank alcohol—a defiant act in the era of Prohibition. 

And, OMG! They played ukuleles!   

The flapper era saw the evolution of ragtime dance styles to the more “shocking,” such as the Charleston, the Shimmy, the Bunny Hug, and the Black Bottom.  But, these were a symbolic badge of the flapper’s rejection of traditional standards. 

Take a look:

Sheet music of the day almost always included ukulele chords–in a variety of tunings.

Here’s a fun 1920s flapper version of one our favorite tunes of the times:

And, of course, we can’t forget the flappers’ male equivalent, the “Sheik” with his oiled hair, bell bottoms, collegiate or cosmopolitan style. 

And, once again, his ukulele!

I have to close with a couple of “flapper/sheik” ukes from my collection. 

And, of course, a ukulele club version. Any thoughts about First Night?

Ain’t we got fun?

Stay Tuned!

UKULELE MUSINGS 2020–Number 5– A Two-Fer: World Play Your Ukulele Day and Groundhog Day

Admittedly, Groundhog Day is more of an annual “event” rather than a “holiday.”  Nonetheless, it takes on importance in that is it also “World Play Your Ukulele Day.” 

Who knew? 

It is also a day that we New Englanders sense the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring—at least those New England natives of the groundhog persuasion.  Pray for a cloudy day!  Avoid shadows!

Aside from some cute pictures,

I couldn’t find many ukuleles directly associated with a groundhog.  But, our animal friend has a long and historic association with that older cousin of the ukulele, the banjo.  It seems that it wasn’t uncommon back in 19th century Appalachia to use a groundhog skin to make a primitive banjo. 

There are even a few contemporary banjo makers using groundhog skins, both on five-string mountain banjos

and even—YES—a banjo ukulele or two.  Sorry, none in my collection as of yet! 

There is also a great old-time tune called “Groundhog.”  Here it is played on a fretless banjo just like an old Appalachian mountain one!

The ukulele lends itself to being played in the old-time banjo style called “frailing” or “clawhammer.”  The standard high-G string of the ukulele can serve the same melodic/rhythmic function as the fifth “drone” string on a banjo.  

On the ukulele, the index finger picks a string (usually a melody note), then brushes down across all four strings followed by the thumb plucking the G string—pick, brush, thumb.  The rhythm is 1-2/and, 1-2/and, etc., played in a slow, quick-quick motion.  Pete Seeger called this a “bum-ditty, bum-ditty” sound.  We could call it a “North-amp/ton, North-amp/ton” strum!

Got it?  Of course, there are thousands of intricate variations, but this is “Clawhammer 101.”   Here’s a basic YouTube to get you started.  Have some Springtime fun!  

At the risk of all my vegan and vegetarian friends—to say nothing of those simply of the squeamish persuasion—I must add an good ole recipe for groundhog stew.  Well, why not?

Now go seek out a groundhog, before he sees his shadow, and play him a tune on “World Play Your Ukulele Day!”      

Stay Tuned!

UKULELE MUSINGS 2020—Number 4, “A Strum of Ukers”

What do we call a group of ukulele players? Let’s come up with a new word!

Searching through my trove of ukulele related thoughts and photos from the past few years, I ran across this posting that seems worth another look and a bit of an update. So, here goes!

 We enjoy playing our ukuleles and our enjoyment is multiplied by the number of friends with whom we play.  That enjoyment is multiplied again when we perform as a group before an audience.  That makes us “performers” rather than merely “players.” Throughout ukulele history, performing groups have dotted the musical landscape.  Needless to say, we have our own here in our Happy Valley.

Here’s the Scramble playing ukes from my collection! What fun:

Give these folks a listen:

All of these performing groups–to say nothing of various “strum sessions” keep us both busy and entertained week to week and throughout the year. And, of course, there is our own Saturday Strum Session.

While there are collective nouns for groups of animals—a murder of crows,

bask of crocodiles,

crowder of kittens, etc.—

alas, there seems to be no such noun for ukulele players.  Therefore, I hereby humbly propose: “A Strum of Ukers.”  Let’s see if it catches on!

To return to the theme . . .  There have been numerous photographs taken throughout ukulele history of groups of ukulele players or performers that have found their way into my Picasa file.  A one-man-band seems to fit in,

but I am going to focus on pics that feature Strums of Ukers (sounds good!)

Here are some from days of yore.

Here are some from today.

A huge strum of ukers from New Zealand:

The music goes on and on, particularly with a STRUM of Ukers!


UKULELE MUSINGS 2020—No. 1—”A Hawaiian (and First Night) Tradition: The Aloha Shirt”

UKULELE MUSINGS 2020, No. 1—”A Hawaiian (and First Night) Tradition: The Aloha Shirt” 

Well, here we go again.  It’s a brand-new year and I am taking a brand-new approach with my ukulele musings for 2020.  Rather than being locked into themes and schedules as I have been for the past four years, I’m going to allow myself to be “footloose and fancy free.”  In other words, I have given myself permission to drift from topic to topic, to explore some new things, and to dip into postings past for inspiration this year.  So, come along (and strum along) for the ride—a surprise every time!

So, let’s start out with something I was reminded of during our First Night performance here in Northampton on New Year’s Eve.  The music, of course, was lots of fun.  But, looking around the group assembled, there was a common denominator—our Hawaiian shirts.  A bit of cultural appropriation?  Yes.  But ukuleles and Hawaiian shirts go together like “C,” “F,” “G7,” and back to “C.”   

As with my previous postings, all is not frivolity, so I’ll start with some serious scholarship about these shirts, their history, and place in island culture.

To go back a couple of hundred years or so, the first shirts associated with the islands were not what we think of today as a “Hawaiian Shirt.”  Rather, these were simple, loose, long-sleeved work shirts, modeled after those worn by visiting British and American sailors.

They soon became the “uniform” for pineapple and cane field workers and island cowboys.

These came to be known as “palaka” shirts, from the Hawaiian word for “smock.” For the island trade, British cotton mills wove this denim-like fabric in a unique checked pattern which soon became known as “palaka plaid.” 

Still made and sold today, this has become an iconic garment embraced by many native Hawaiians.

Moving on, in the 1920s a Japanese tailor in Honolulu came up with the novel idea of making shirts from odd remnants of printed silk he had on hand after making traditional kimonos. 

These patterned, brightly colored shirts achieved almost instant popularity and soon became the standard for the local beach and surf crowd. And, of course, these became a must-have for the growing number of Mainland tourists.

Then, in the 1930s, a Chinese tailor made and marketed a variation on these originals and had the entrepreneurial wit to copyright the name “Aloha Shirt.”  The go-to garment that we ukulele players know and love was born!

Soldiers and Sailors stationed in Hawaii during World War II brought their colorful and casual silk and rayon shirts back home, as did more and more tourists in the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

What was a cheap souvenir in those days has spawned an industry and early, well designed shirts have become scarce collectors’ items today. 

Some sell for hundreds of dollars and even find themselves in museums and galleries.  

Today, the Aloha Shirt (now the generic name) has become standard business attire for many in the islands—replacing neckties and jackets— during nearly nine months of the year. 

As would be expected, the Aloha style even extends to those formal occasions where a tux would be called for in other climes.

For the girls, the cover-up of the muumuu (forced on bare-breasted native girls by those shocked nineteenth century missionary wives) moved from palaka plaid, to intricate patterns,

to the bright florals we see today in lovely dresses—

as well as the missionary-shocking crop-tops! 

While Hawaiian flora and activities dominate fabric patterns, just about any theme can be found on a Hawaiian shirt these days.  Ukuleles, of course!

Adult beverages, naturally!

Other interests or proclivities, you name them!

Presidents have worn them.

Along with tats and a nose ring, no less!

And even some police officers and police station mug shots show them!

Movie stars and movies made them famous.

And now, the BIG question!  Do you wear a Hawaiian shirt tucked in, or not tucked in? The answer is simple—as with all shirts with a straight hem and side slits, you wear them UN-TUCKED and flying in the breeze.

Except, maybe, with a blazer in the office.

Or on a fashion show runway,

 But is it acceptable to wear a shirt unbuttoned?  It all depends.  .  .

And, they even work for really BIG guys like me!

So, let’s keep making music in our Hawaiian shirts for another year.

Speaking of music, how about a rap version of an “Aloha Shirt Song?” For next year’s First Night performance? Perhaps not . . .

Rap Version of “Hawaiian Shirt Nation”: 



UKULELE MUSING 51, 28 DECEMBER 2019:There’ll Be Some Changes Madeas we move on to a New Year!

Well, fellow strummers.  This is the last weekly musing (Number 51!) that I’ll be posting for 2019.  This year I have delved into the back stories of some of the songs from our Blue and Yellow Books and, because of my chronological age and musical interests, I have focused mostly on songs from the mid-twentieth to mid-nineteenth centuries. I have tried to explore these within their historical as well as musical contexts. 

At times that history might seem a bit too sharp or too flat for today’s ears; but, while facts and history don’t evolve over time, most music and many of our thoughts about it do. Nearly all of the songs in our books that I have mused about have morphed into so-called “standards”—fun to strum, fun to sing, and—to me—fun to know and learn a bit more about. All of this is what I have mused about over the past year.

So, thanks to those of you who have joined me for the ride.  Rest assured, my musings will continue next year in one form or another!

Anyway, as we make this transition to the New Year, there is a song found in our Blue Book appropriate for the occasion: “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” This was written by William Benton Overstreet (1888-1935), music, and William Wendall “Billy” Higgins (1888-1937), lyrics. Published in 1921, this is a good example of a popular song that has flourished in several genres, particularly as a jazz standard.

The song and its recording debut were revolutionary in that the composers, publisher, vocalist, record label, and the leader and musicians in the orchestra were ALL African-American.  Musicologists identify this song and recording as a notable milestone of the Harlem Renaissance.     

Overstreet was a songwriter, bandleader and pianist who worked in Kansas City, Chicago, and Harlem and early on used the word “jass” to describe his music. When he wrote and published the tune “Jazz Dance” in 1917, he changed things a bit and it was the first known use of the word “jazz” in a song title. 

As a songwriter, Overstreet was rated by Langston Hughes, a chronicler and leader of the Harlem Renaissance, as one of the “better poets of jazz.” 

Higgins, on the other hand, was an entertainer, and stage comedian. He was a singer as well as a songwriter—critically acclaimed as one of the most popular African-American comic actors of the 1920s. Often, as was done in those days, he performed in “blackface” makeup. Langston Hughes named him as one of the “Golden Dozen” black comedians of the Harlem Renaissance. He started his entertainment career in the South and achieved recognition performing in so-called “soldier shows” when he served in World War I.

After the war, he moved on to a vaudeville and musical career in Harlem where he linked up with Overstreet.

In the 1920s, “Changes” was recorded by vocalists Ethel Waters, Sophie Tucker, and others. 

Ethel Waters:

Sophie Tucker:

In the 1930s, it was Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, and others,

Benny Goodman:

The Boswell Sisters, 1932:

in the 1940s, Vaughn Monroe and Peggy Lee and the movie “Play Girl,” which used our song as one of its themes, kept “Changes” alive. 

Peggy Lee:

In the 1950s and ‘60s there were recordings by Billie Holiday and Tony Bennet. 

Tony Bennett:

There were other movies that used the song and even Country and Western recordings by Bob Wills and Chet Atkins.  In all, there have been over 400 recordings since the 1920s! 

Bob Wills, The Texas Playboys:

Chet Atkins (“updated” lyrics):

And, how about some dance? Fosse Choreography:

And, of course, Banjo Ukulele:


I began my postings on ukulele lore and music back in 2016 by focusing on some of the more interesting ukuleles in my collection. 

The next year I mused about ukulele history and ukulele culture.  The following year I wrote about ukuleles and ukulele music relative to holidays and calendar events.  And, of course, this year was about songs in our Blue and Yellow Books. 

Believe it or not, these add up to a posting nearly every week–almost 200 postings over the past four years!  Whew! Saved, of course, the old fashioned way. 

This might be all for this year but, all I can say is “STAY TUNED!”


UKULELE MUSING 50, 21 DECEMBER 2019: “MELE KALIKIMAKA,” A Bit of Western Swing from America’s Westernmost State.

This wouldn’t be a serious ukulele posting this Christmas season without taking a look at that old favorite (chestnut?) Hawaiian holiday song, “Mele Kalikimaka”—the “thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day!”  This lively song, from our Yellow Book, is, however, a bit more “Hawaiian sort of” rather than “Hawaiian actual.”

Our song was written in 1949 by Robert Alex Anderson (1894-1995) and takes its title from the Hawaiian phrase “Mele Kalikimaka” meaning “Merry Christmas.”  The phrase, despite its island sound, is actually fashioned directly from English and was first coined and published in Hawaii in 1904.  Since the Hawaiian language follows a different phonetic system than English, it’s not possible to render a pronunciation that is really close to “Merry Christmas.” Standard Hawaiian does not have the “r” or “s” of English and it doesn’t use consonants at the end of syllables or in clusters.  So, without those alphabetical tools, the closest approximation to “Merry Christmas” evolved as “Mele Kalikimaka.”  Here’s a fun explanation of how this linguistic filtration works:

A Linguist’s Explanation:

One of the earliest recordings of “Mele Kalikimaka”, 1950, was by Bing Crosby with the Andrews sisters—with more of a “western swing” rather than “hula” beat. 

This is the classic interpretation followed by, needless to say, hundreds of other cover artists over the past seventy years!

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters:

And, of course, Don Ho:

While our song falls squarely in the hape haole musical genre—that is, a song about Hawaii in English rather than from Hawaii in Hawaiian—it does have island cred because Anderson was born in Hawaii and settled there after college at Cornell and service in World War I.  He was an electrical/mechanical engineer and had a successful business career along with being an avid songwriter.  Not surprisingly he specialized in Hawaiian-themed songs and, aside from “Mele Kalikimaka,” his best known of more than two hundred songs is “Lovely Hula Hands.” 

Hula Hands:

A graduate of Hawaii’s Punahoa School and Cornell University, Anderson was considered the “most Hawaiian” of the hapa haole composers and was inducted into the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame in 1985.

Here is a rare recording of him talking about his work:

R. Alex Anderson himself:

Not just a composer, Anderson was a fighter pilot in World War I, was shot down over enemy territory, and made a daring escape from a German POW camp.  The 1935 Errol Flynn movie, “The Dawn Patrol,” was based on this adventure!

So, let’s have some fun with a few interpretations of this traditional Christmas—or should we say “Kalikimaka”—greeting from Hawaii.  Notice also how the Hawaiian steel guitar sounds a lot like the pedal steel guitar of country and western music. 

Small world!         


Puppini Sisters with Ukuleles:

The Long beard Brothers:

Bette Midler:

And, of Course, Ukulele:

 So, may you and yours have a Merry Christmas, “Mele Kalikimali, or whatever this year—and Stay Tuned!


It isn’t often that I muse about a song that comes from a story written the same year I was born.  Yet, there is one that has become locked into our Christmas folklore, to say nothing of our eardrums! 

There is not a child today—or a Christmas display this day and age—that fails to include the newbie ninth of Santa’s reindeer, “Rudolph.” Needless to say, his eponymous song is played way too often in malls and stores this season. Nonetheless, the story and song does deserve a bit of recognition in our seasonal musicological sleigh ride.

In the beginning, the character “Rudolph” was created by one Robert Lewis May (1905-1976), a copywriter for the now defunct, Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department store, in a booklet published in 1939.

May created “Rudolph” for the retail and catalog giant that had been buying and giving away thousands of Christmas coloring books every year.  It was decided that by creating their own book they would save money, hence May’s assignment. 

The story goes that May, himself Jewish, was staring out his Chicago office window pondering how best to craft a new, marketable Christmas story.  Meanwhile, a thick fog from Lake Michigan blocked his view.  Inspiration!  “Suddenly I had it!” he recalled. “A nose! A reindeer with a bright red nose that would shine through fog like a spotlight!”  May considered naming this ninth reindeer “Rollo” or “Reginald” or several other names before deciding upon the name “Rudolph.”

Alas, there was a stumbling block in that prudish day and age. May’s big bosses were concerned that most folks associated a “red nose” with chronic alcoholism and drunkards. So, his idea was rejected. Bah, humbug!

Determined that he was on to something good, however, he asked an illustrator buddy to draw a “cute reindeer” for him, one with a happily bright, red nose.  The decidedly PC sketch won over management and “Rudolph” began his trek “down in history!” 

Christmas coloring books featuring “Rudolph” were rushed to press and nearly two and a half million copies were distributed. But, the first publication acknowledging May as the creator of “Rudolph” waited until 1947.


By that time, “Rudolph” had become so popular with children around the country that the retailer made a fortune by advertising and selling a host of Rudolph toys and trinkets.  Every kid wanted something and the Ward’s mail order catalog was the place to find them.  

Anyway, for the two or three of my gentle readers who may not be familiar with the “Rudolph” story, let me quote a dry, academic summary: Our tale is a poetic chronicle of a young reindeer who has an unusually luminous red nose. Mocked and excluded by his peers because of this distracting trait, “Rudolph” is called upon to prove himself one Christmas Eve when inclement weather at the North Pole results in poor visibility thus jeopardizing the yearly mission of Santa Claus. Potential tragedy! But, recognizing a glowing red nose as an instrument rather than an impediment, Santa commandeers Rudolph to lead his sleigh for the annual deliveries. “Rudolph” agrees and is finally lauded by his fellow reindeer for his heroism and accomplishment. Positive triumph!

The story reads better as poetry and, for you English Lit Majors, here is a link to a copy of the original illustrated manuscript—written they say in “anapestic tetrameter,” the same as Clement Clarke Moore’s 1837, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”   The manuscript is a bit too long to include in this simple musing, but for you of a scholarly bent who would like to pursue it more fully, you can check out the following link (alas, not a YouTube) for an NPR presentation on this–delightful!

Now, to our song! 

In 1949, a couple of years after May’s book was published, our story takes an interesting turn.  The song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written by May’s brother-in-law, who happened to be the New York songwriter Johnny Marks (1909-1985).  Although he too was Jewish, he specialized in Christmas songs and, along with “Rudolph . . .,” wrote songs like “Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  Alas, most of his non-holiday songs were pretty forgettable.  Not so jolly! 

In another interesting turn, our song was recorded in 1949 by—of all people—the “Singing Cowboy” himself, Gene Autry!  It hit number one on the charts that Christmas. 

Autry’s recording sold 1.75 million copies its first Christmas season, eventually selling a total of 12.5 million. Cover versions included, sales exceed 150 million copies, second only to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” a song by another Jewish songwriter, Irving Berlin.  Again, go figure! 

Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for a look and listen!

We won’t say anything here about the too many (in my humble opinion) movies and TV specials featuring “Rudolph” and the fact that Montgomery Ward and Gene Autry made a LOT of money from all this.  Sadly, not so much went to May and Marks.  They, however, well deserve to “go down in history!”

So, just to leave us with an earworm, here are a few interpretations—from the simple to the . . . Click or tap on the triangles in the next images for a bit of Christmas fun!

And, of course, a banjo-ukulee version!

To avoid your own red nose, stay away from too much eggnog, whiskey, or beer this Christmas and STAY TUNED!

Oh yes, stay as thematicaly masked as you need to be!


UKULELE MUSING 46, 30 NOVEMBER 2019: “Ain’t Misbehavin'” with lyrics by Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo, no less!

We associate this song from our Yellow Book with the stride and jazz pianist Thomas “Fats” Waller (1904-1943) but forget that the lyrics were by one Andy Razaf (1895-1973) who gives us a much more interesting back-story.

Razaf was born in Washington, D.C.  His birth name was Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo.  His father, part of the royal family of Madagascar was killed during the French invasion of that country and his pregnant mother, the 15-year old daughter of a black American diplomat, was forced to escape to the United States.   

He and his mother moved to Harlem, and at the age of 16 he quit school and took a job as an elevator operator at a Tin Pan Alley office building.  

A year later he penned his first song text, embarking on his career as a lyricist.  Swept up by the Harlem Renaissance, Razaf published poems in the emerging black press and soon was working with several Harlem composers. 

Collaborating with Waller, they wrote—along with “Ain’t Misbehavin’”—many now-classic songs including “Honeysuckle Rose,” “The Joint is Jumpin’,” and ”Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now.”   In 1972, Razaf was recognized by his Tin Pan Alley peers in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“Fats” Waller was an American jazz pianist, organist, composer, violinist, singer, and comedic entertainer. His innovations in the Harlem “stride” style laid the groundwork for modern jazz piano.

“Fats” Waller:

His best-known composition is our song, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and it was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984.   Waller copyrighted over 400 songs, many of them co-written with his closest collaborator, Razaf,

who described his partner as “the soul of melody… a man who made the piano sing… both big in body and in mind… known for his generosity… a bubbling bundle of joy.” It’s possible he composed many more popular songs and sold or gave them to other performers when times were tough.  Who knows?  How about some jazz organ?

“Fats “ Waller Organ Jazz:

Meanwhile, back to our song!

Ain’t Misbehavin’” was written in 1929 for the Harlem and Broadway musical comedy “Connie’s Hot Chocolates”—a revue featuring black artists that, because of its popularity, was one of the earliest Harlem musicals to move to Broadway and play for predominantly white audiences. 

Girls from the 1929 show:

It is said that Waller had the idea for the song while “lodging” in prison (for an alimony violation), and that is why he was not “misbehaving.”  Razaf picked up the theme and ran with it!

As usual, our Yellow and Blue Books seldom offer more than the chorus of a song.  So, here are the two verses used in the musical that make the song-story a bit more fun.

Ain’t Misbehavin’

 Verse 1: Tho’ it’s a fickle age, With flirting all the rage,
Here is one bird with self-control, Happy inside my cage.
I know who I love best, Thumbs down for all the rest,
My love was given, heart and soul, So it can stand the test.

Chorus: No one to talk with  . . .

Verse 2 : Your type of man is rare, I know you really care,
That’s why my conscience never sleeps, When you’re away somewhere.
Sure was a lucky day, When fate sent you my way,
And made you mine alone for keeps, Ditto to all you say.

Chorus:  No one to talk with  . . .

Ruth Etting, With Verses:

Another back-story has to do with, of all folks, Louis Armstrong. 

He made his Broadway debut as part of the pit band for the show and his cornet solo on opening night was such a hit with the audience that he was asked to perform it on stage for the rest of the show’s run.  Another musical tidbit! 

Louis Armstrong:

Our song has been around a long, long time and has been covered by nearly everyone in nearly every genre.  It was the theme of a movie (with an all-white cast)

and a popular Broadway Musical (with an all-black cast) was based on the works of Waller. 

From the Musical:

Here are a few other interpretations—choose your earworm of the day!


Bill Hayley and His Comets:

Willie Nelson:


And, of course, Ukulele:

Stay Tuned!

MUSICAL MUSING: No. 2, October 2022: Colorful Days and Songs in New and Old New England

Those of us who live in New England—whether or not we grew up here or chose to live here—recognize it as a special place in American culture as well as history. It wasn’t just the Mayflower of 1620; remember the Winthrop Fleet of 1630 as well as those who arrived well before and well after! 

We can take pride in the fact that many of our towns date back to the 1600s and that New England has long been a leader in manufacturing, commerce, and education.  All this with a colorful, rolling landscape from the hills and valleys to the shore. 

Needless to say, a lot of musical pride has been exhibited over the years giving us a nice segue into this seasonal musing.

Here’s an early take on romantic New England from one of the original “crooners” of the 1930s. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to listen and look at the full moon!

Alas, we don’t have a period sheet music cover for this next one, probably because it dates from about 1630! In fact, it’s considered by some historians and scholars as “America’s first folk song.” It doesn’t paint that pretty a picture of New England but here it is! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to be taken way, way back in time to learn about “New England’s Annoyances.” Have things changed that much?

Make’s you want to ask: “Tell me again why we chose to live in New England.” Just kidding, of course . . .

Let’s just move on to other New England states and their contribution to musical lore. There are so many tunes to choose from so I’m going to cull down to just a few. That gives me more to post at a later date!

Let’s start a counterclockwise musical “bus tour” through New England pivoting around our home state of Massachusetts. As we make those twists and turns–no Midwestern grid system here in New England–so don’t forget to “USE YA BLINKAH!”

Heading due south . . .

This song doesn’t have much to do with the State of Connecticut but it is a fun reminder of the Bing Crosby film of the 1950s based ever so loosely on Hartford dweller Mark Twain’s opus. Click or tap on the next image or link to make yourself “busy doing nothing.” I guess that musing is a form of not doing much of nothing.

And, of course, the Connecticut state song–a ukulele version, no less. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to strum along. It’s pretty much an all-New England tune but Connecticut claims it as their own. I guess they get the “macaroni.” Go figure.

Continuing our tour east along the coast . . .

Here’s the Guy Lombardo version from 1945 of this most well known of all Rhode Island songs. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to hear it on an early 78.

Alas, nothing about Rhode Island from the state’s most famous musical son–George M. Cohan. Go figure. Moving on . . .

But, don’t chicken out. Just click or tap on the next image or link to hear a rather silly song of the 1950s but, it’s about Rhode Island, of sorts.

Moving a bit farther north around Cape Cod, Boston, and the North Shore of our home state on our musical trek . . .

Alas, pretty fuzzy photos with this one but the early wax recording doesn’t sound that bad. To be transported back to the 19th century, click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link.

Now, I’m going to break my musing rules a bit and add a new New Hampshire song that’s too good not to include. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to see what this state is all about!

Moving way up north now, even if it is known as “down east” . . . Again. Go figure!

Here’s a jazzy version of this 1920s musical Maine treat. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link for the music, lyrics, and visuals!

Sometimes a “state” song has more to do with something other than nostalgia and more with real history. Folks probably “Remember the Maine!” more than they think about the State of Maine. Such is the power of song, history, and a famous American rallying cry.

This isn’t a recording of the above song but it is one of the more famous old-time folk songs and, after all, it does have something to do with the sinking of the battleship Maine! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link for a nice version of this one.

And, of course, we need the quintessential Maine song from the 1930s. Here it is performed by a bunch of “Mainiacs” (I guess they prefer “Mainers”)! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link, grab a stein of Harpoon or Alagash, and join in on this campus rouser!

Time to sober up (buuurrrp,) and head southwest . . .

Now here’s another song from a few hundred years ago, again without a period sheet music cover. But, click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link for a ballad of Vermont’s own “Green Mountain Boys.

Here is what has become a jazz standard in daylight as well as moonlight, played on the ukulele, no less! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to float away on a moonbeam of sorts.

As a bit of a digression, we folks from Northampton, Massachusetts, can proudly claim Calvin Coolidge as one of our own, but the folks in Vermont do hang on to the mere fact that he was born and grew up there. We have the Massasoit Street home and the Presidential Library; they can have the birthplace. Credit goes where credit is due! Besides, Massachusetts has better Maple Syrup! Nya, nya, nya . . .

And now, let’s “flip the blinkah” and head back home to Massachusetts!  

There are a few relatively new songs that are decidedly Massachusetts in origin and lore if not in title. Suffice it to say that if you want to dig into these on your own, head over to our friends at YouTube and there will be all sorts of fun waiting for you!

But, back to our favorite little musical instrument and musing.

Here’s a nice ukulele version of this Massachusetts tune played on an eight-string baritone uke. Nice sound! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for a listen.

While “Alice’s Restaurant” is probably Arlo Guthrie’s most well known song about Massachusetts, did you know that he wrote the official state FOLK song? Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for his rendition of “Massachusetts.”

Now, to put the cherry on top of the Massachusetts part of our musical tour, here is one of the strangest musical performances you’ll ever see. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image or link to take the statewide tour!

So, as the sun sinks slowly in the west (that is, non-New Englandy New York), we end our musical bus tour.

And, even if we remain sequestered and safe, we can look out the windows of our bus (or home) and take in New England in all its Autumnal glory.

So, STAY TUNED! And, remember, in New England we welcome folks of all proclivities and persuasions!