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It followed me home, Mom!

Posted by bj on Sunday, June 27, 2010

A ukelele has adopted me. It followed me home, just like my two cats did. Forced itself in the door. And now is sitting around waiting for tuning gears and pegs, along with my junker fiddles that need various repairs.

It first spotted me at the local thrift shop. It was lurking on the floor in the back corner, amongst the broken vacuum cleaners, baby puke stained throw rugs and boxes full of old TV vacuum tubes, waiting to pounce on the ankle of the first unsuspecting musician to wander by. Which was me.

The bible-pushers who masquerade as thrift shop managers knew a minion of evil when they saw one, so they priced this demonic little waif at a sum that no true fleamarketer slash musician could possibly walk by. I put the thing down five times, yet still ended up walking out of the store with it for the grand total of $4.94. Plus sales tax. And the bible-pushers accomplished their goal, to get it out of their holy thrift shop as soon as possible, since gospel music sung by large white ladies, with big hair and wearing spangled polyester, is never accompanied by a ukelele.

I really did put it in one of the flea market boxes, ready to dump it down at Lambertville with the other junque . . . um, I mean fine antiques. But somehow it ended up following me in the house. I think it had something to do with that conversation I had with Jane. I should know better than to EVER tell her that I bought an instrument. The conversation went something like this--

Me- "I'm not keeping it. I'm gonna sell it."

Jane--"No, you can't do that. You need something you can strum. You can't sell it for much, so you should keep it. Just imagine the tunes we can play!"

Me-- "But I'll never play it. It's not a fiddle."

Jane-- "Yes you will. You need a strum instrument. They're cute, they're fun to play, and it's smaller than a guitar. You need a strum instrument.  It's perfect for you."

Me-- "You keep telling me that, but it never works out that way. I just wanna fiddle. Besides, it needs work. And the work will never get done. You've still got my banjolin, right?"

I meant it. I only ever play the dang fiddle. And I need another project like I need fleas. So why is this little piece of junque sitting in the corner of my living room?

It's a Harmony, probably late 40's to early 50's vintage with a mahogany body, a fingerboard and frets made of a single unibody piece of plood (aka plastic made to look like wood) and, as I  already mentioned, it's missing all the tuning pegs and gears.

It's a sickness, I tell ya.

At least it doesn't need feeding every day.

30 comments on “It followed me home, Mom!”

fairportfiddler Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @2:17:24 AM

BJ, I know how you feel. The fiddles are only part of my obsession. The guitars... I've got one, or two, or three is just about every room. That's how it all started. I have the mandolins under control, they had taken over for awhile. And of course there is the autoharp. One lonely autoharp abandoned in a basement for twenty years that cried to me, "Please bid on me," when I saw it on eBay. Now it sits where ever it will fit while in the process of being repaired. At last count there are three more fiddles waiting for spots in my rescue and oh yeah, two more guitars.

WoodshopFiddler Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @4:59:42 AM

Wow!! You know you really have it bad when you are rescuing wayward ukes from "antique" shops. It appears that you are now incurable.

Humbled by this instrument Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @6:59:55 AM

Gospel music sung by polyestered, big-haired, white womens? I'm there! Whew! The party is on now--

mudbug Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:18:24 AM

Love the oversize headstock and the painted purfling! Oh, and are some of those fret markers, phillips head SCREWS?

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:26:14 AM

Yes, the phillips head screws hold the plood fingerboard and frets on. :-)

SueH Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:27:19 AM

Keep the uke. They're fun to play and have around the house, especially for friends and family to try. I bought my 8 yr. old granddaughter a purple one last year. Fun to play, small and easy on the fingers.

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:34:05 AM

Are you in cahoots with Ms. Jane? LOL! Yeah, I know, I need a strum instrument!

janepaints Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:44:51 AM

if ya git serious about the uke....

('git serious about the uke'--see: oxymoron)

you can do swell stuff like this:

FiddleJammer Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:51:25 AM

Oh, that's a beaut, BJ. Get it fixed up soon. Jane is right on this one, stop arguing and just give in.

Mark my words, young lady, there will come a day when there are 6 fiddlers and you. You'll be glad to be prepared to play a uke on that day.

janepaints Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:54:35 AM

i quit listening to rock, to old time, to country...all i listen to is mainstream pop and only on two stations--Radio Disney and 94.5 fm outta Trenton, NJ. Tjhere's something wonderful happening sonically with the Young Generation and radio-listening has become once more as it was when i was a kid laying in my bed marveling to the beatles, motown, bob dylan, dusty springfield,,,one of my ab-fab current faves is Train's 'Hey Soul Sister'...i've heard it a zillion times and like the stones 'satisfaction' or 'start me up' it's one a them songs i never tire of, 20 times a day it comes outta the radio speaker and each time i TURN IT makes a great fiddle tune and indeed i've been playing it on the sidewalks as such...anyhow the song is anchored by one of fender's great new ukes (which IMO are a steal of a deal at only about $120) HEY SOUL SISTER AINT THAT MISTER MISTER:

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @8:04:34 AM

Ya know, whenever I think of Ukes, I remember this one:

Oh wow, look who wrote the words!

carlb Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @9:03:32 AM

For me, I've accumulated too much. As in the words of the Blind Alfred Reed song
"You must, you must unload"
My banjo-uke is now a banjo-fiddle; redesigned for an all-banjo band at Clifftop one year.

janepaints Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @9:50:01 AM

uh carl, giving yer banjo-uke a sects-change is NOT what Mr. Reed meant by 'unloading.'

PeterG Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @10:10:13 AM

They do make rather good kindling except for the plood fretboard, and you don't even have to take the strings off first.

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @11:04:03 AM

I don't have a fireplace or woodstove. Yet.

M-D Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @3:20:49 PM

Well, it's high time I admitted it, but I have a uke very similar to this one, and have since I was probably eight years of age. Sigh.

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @3:47:35 PM

Oh, how . . . SWEET! ROFLMAO! The gruff mountain man has a sentimental side!

frogeyes Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @5:38:42 PM

Its so cute i have a ukulele that did something similar they simply won't leave you alone, they decide you are going to look after them forever whether you like it or not, So you may as well accept it now . Its picked you theres no going back. Its like going to the pound you always end up walking out with the uglist dog or cat. All because cause you feel sorry for them Especially when they pull the sad eyes. No doubt about it that uke saw you coming, pulled the sad eyes and appealed to your better nature.

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @5:50:59 PM

It wasn't sad eyes.

I swear, all the stray cats in the neighborhood have figured out a way to mark this house as the one that belongs to the woman who can be bullied into supplying the whole stray cat population of Easton with food. Though only two cats have gotten in the door recently, the rest get fed outside. The two who own me were the ones who bullied me, would NOT take no for an answer. That's what this damned uke did. It bullied me. I can stand up to human bullies, but animal bullies and noisemaking implement bullies have their way with me.

Tennessee Tom Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @6:20:26 PM

I request to hear you play it, and sing "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" for your next recording. :)

Ozarkian DL Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @6:25:20 PM

Lest we ferget :
LOL, you shop like I do BJ, & you 2 gals crack me up.

bj Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @7:08:31 PM

Tom, I can't sing that HIGH!

Oz, I have a feeling that if we ever did meet in person we'd be old pals instantly.

ChickenMan Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @9:37:46 PM

I got my wife a uke for her B-day and wouldn't you know it, she got me one for mine! We have formed a 5 person ukulele club (all of whom purchased their ukes after we urged them to join) called Britches and Hose, and are practicing a piece for a "one tune, leave 'em beggin' for more" debut in the near future.
The first club rule is: you don't talk about ukulele club... oops, I've said too much.

fiddlepogo Says:
Monday, June 28, 2010 @11:25:25 PM

I recently bought a baritone uke-
ukes ARE good strum instruments.
They are also easy on tired or problem fingers,
which is part of why I bought it, and the baritone is nice because
I can think of the chords as if they were 4-string tenor guitar chords-
no transposition required.
(normal uke is like playing guitar capoed on the 5th fret, and so you
have to transpose like that)
I use it in my programs for seniors too-
and I even do "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", but NO FALSETTO!!!
I try and cop a 20's crooner style for it, and it seems to work well.
(it IS a 20's tune- Tiny Tim was not the first to sing it)
I was actually already doing the song, but on nylon string guitar,
but the baritone uke just makes it so much nicer.

I think every fiddler should be issued a uke of whatever size-
in addition to being nice to strum, it (along with singing about chickens)
will help keep you from taking yourself too seriously!!!

fairportfiddler Says:
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 @3:49:44 AM

This is the ukulele page from the 1959 Harmony catalog
I think your uke is No. 125 1/2 at the bottom left.

bj Says:
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 @4:44:32 AM

That looks to be the same instrument. Too bad it isn't the blue one with the white palm trees, I like that one . . .

You mean I can't tune it like a fiddle? That's it. It's getting sold.

FiddleJammer Says:
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 @7:10:38 AM

You'll be ssssssssooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyy!

bj Says:
Thursday, July 1, 2010 @6:01:01 AM

I took it to the flea market to sell yesterday. Nobody wants it. And Jose said he's got tuners to fit it. * sigh! *

Feodosia Says:
Thursday, July 1, 2010 @9:03:22 AM

I don't have a uke ... but I did meet Tiny Tim once !

fiddlepogo Says:
Thursday, July 1, 2010 @12:43:17 PM

You can't REALLY say whether you like it or not till you've strung it up and played it.

I kind of know how you feel, I once had no respect for ukes once.
But the little bodies are soooooo light, that they just resonate like crazy,
and the sound is unique- not like any other instrument I can think of.
And that particular uke has really old, dry wood!!!

And don't think of it as being analogous at all to a fiddle- it's not.
It's a shrimpy guitar, with a really unique sound.
Most other stringed instruments are strung with much higher tension-
that low tension is just very unusual.

If you REALLY want to get rid of it, has a bunch of uke zealots
who probably have room for one more stray uke.
But I'd put the tuners on first, string it up, and post a recording with it to get 'em salivating first!! ;^D

Look at it this way.... it could be a stepping stone to banjo-uke, which is a really cool sound to add to an Old Time jam.

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