History of the Ukelele  – 8th September 2014 – Mike Harrison.

Mike, who teaches music to Junior schools, brought 3 ukuleles to entertain us with – a small plastic soprano, a concert and a tenor. All very simple 4 stringed guitar like instruments. He also brought a ukulele banjo which had a circular frame with a raised velum sound box. There are other forms of the instrument such as the Baritone, & Banjelele.

The Ukulele evolved in Hawaii even though its roots are Spanish, with the influence coming from  Portuguese immigrant furniture makers. In 1874, the King of Hawaii promoted the Ukulele (which means ‘The Dancing Flea) as the National instrument and it became synonymous with grass skirts , Hula hula girls etc.

The simplicity and easily learnt instrument began to catch on in the early 1900s worldwide and was taken up by such as Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) who had hits with ‘Singing in the Rain’ and ‘It had to be you’,  George Formby whose big hit was ‘Leaning on a lamp post ‘ from Me and My Girl, and 2 Ton Tessy O’Shea who sang “I’ve got a luverly bunch of Coconuts” and ‘Teach the World to Sing’. The Japanese banned it at the time of WW2  for political reasons.

Between 1940 and 1960 there were 9 million plastic ukuleles made.

More recently, 3 of the Beatles played the ukulele.

Mike sang all the above mentioned tunes finishing off with Joe Browns ‘I’ll see you in my Dreams’ – a fitting end to an interesting morning.