Nov 16, 2009

The tale of one old ukulele...

My brother Bill was a wonderful ukulele player. He first got interested in the ukulele during the early 1950's when Arthur Godfrey promoted the instrument on his daily radio show. My recollection is that his first Ukulele was a plastic one that was sold by the Arthur Godfrey folks. Willy learned to play using self-instruction books and eventually got an instructor, a gentleman named Vic Tyminski, who had played the ukulele and sang on the vaudeville stage.

As Bill's playing improved, so did his desire for better instruments. At one time in the mid-fifties he acquired a Vega baritone uke. He bought and sold a few others. But his pride and joy was his Martin tenor ukulele. He special ordered it from Martin in about 1954. He was working at Goldstock's Sporting Goods on lower Broadway at the time and had saved up for months. He played this wonderful instrument until shortly before his death in 1994. Then I became its caretaker.

A few weeks ago I heard that a young man who goes to church with me, John Philip Williams, had played a piece in church on a ukulele (John had played with me and some friends in the Bermudagrass Boys, an impromptu bluegrass band that entertained at a church cookout a couple of years ago). His playing in church got rave reviews. It gave me an idea. I decided that John should be the next caretaker of that treasured 1954 Martin. A couple weeks ago I gave him the instrument. I asked him to play it, enjoy it, and eventually pass it on to someone whom he feels will enjoy and treasure it.

Sunday evening, Mary Ann and I went to a concert of guitar and vocal music put on by John Williams. During the concert, he played the old uke and sang a song dedicated to me and Bill.

I knew I had made the right decision.

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