Sydney Ukulele Player
I grew up in Sydney and first started playing ukulele when I was in High School. I was either in Year 8 or 9. It was a long time ago, the the actual year is a bit blurry in my mind.
I had already taught myself to play the harmonica. I’d seen an advertisement in the “New Idea” about being the ‘life of the party’. Norman Gunston was in his prime and had brought the instrument to my attention. After I had taught myself to play the harmonica, I was looking to expand and spotted a ukulele in a music shop. My first ukulele cost me $5.00. I bought an instruction book and off I went. Then I put the two instruments together.
From the age of 15, I would catch the ferry into Circular Quay (Sydney) and go busking, playing the harmonica in a rack and accompanying myself on ukulele. My repertoire at this stage consisted mostly of old Australian bush songs. Everything I played was in the key of “C”. (I later learned that there are actually 12 different keys)!
Later, I would start singing. I also took up a few other instruments – the trombone, the trumpet, the guitar and the electric bass – but the ukulele has stuck with me throughout the years.
I am amazed at the current level of interest in the ukulele. I believe that all of the ukulele’s credibility was destroyed in the 70’s by Tiny Tim. He gave it the reputation of being merely a prop for clowns and freaks.
The ukulele had to wait until the end of the Twentieth Century to regain popularity. The inclusion of Israel Kamakawiwa’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” with “What A Wonderful World” on the sound track to the film “Meet Joe Black” brought the ukulele back into public attention. Fortunately, the Israel gave the ukulele back its credibility.