Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lest You Wonder How the Humble got into Humble Uker

I must first acknowledge Pete the percussionist whom I forgot on the YouTube comments when downloading this video.

This is a good time to explain why Humble Uker Ramblings was started. I had my father's 1950-ish Harmony ukulele in my hands about 5 years ago. It had sat in the kid's toy box for about 20 years. Kids are moving on and I started to doodle with the uke. My neighbor tells me about the Northern California Ukulele Festival which happens each year in the adjacent city of Hayward and is less than 5 miles from my home.

Going to that ukulele festival coincided with the end of years of watching and coaching 4 kids through baseball, softball, track and soccer. There was suddenly time for my own hobby. As you can tell by my performance above I am a humble musician but I have an extraordinary amount of fun and comraderie due to this little four-stringer. My voice is best suited for solos in the shower but I keep trying.

This blog is my "notebook", a history of learning and adventures, it tries to be open to a variety of genres, and it is not completely ukulele related. I have researched other instruments, tried a balalaika, a dulcimer, a recorder, and built a diddley bow. I have also been enamored with the baritone ukulele and have created a brother blog called Humble Baritonics.

The band above was started in Rhan Wilson's UkeU Class in Santa Cruz. We went by the name the Uklectics and got a chance to learn from Rhan, to learn from each other, and to get a bit of the garage band experience. At times we sounded really good but I think there's too much emphasis on performing by many people. There is so much gained by getting together with friends, proposing songs, singing loudly and moving past inhibitions. We were so lucky to have Jay Holiday (guitar), Judy Plicka (Bass & Uke), and Pete (Percussion) because they had many years of band experience and expanded us beyond just a group of unison strummers. The ukers were: Robbie Barbour, Sheila, Chuck, Bob, and myself (El Jeffe').

There is a website called The Top 50 Ukulele Sites. It has over 150 sites on it and I have been pleased that Humble Uker has been in the top 30 for several months now. It sits one place behind Ukulele Porn and two places behind Mike DaSilva's Ukemaker site. My Humble Baritonics blog has really surprised me and is just outside the real top 50 at 52.

Another fun thing about doing a blog is getting to know a little bit about people from around the world. If you read this I hope you can stop for a moment and leave a hello from wherever you are.

Thanks, HU / Jeff / or El Jeffe'

(Oh yeah, that's me on the left missing my cue -- but we practiced working thru mistakes!)


  1. Well, Jeff, I just read this and I'm stopping for a moment here in the California Wine Country to leave a "Hello." You might have to go after the Uke Porn site with some adult entertainment yourself. Spice things up a few bits, HU, and then it'll be time to get Mike in your sights. No mercy on El Jeffe's slash and burn march up the charts. But this color scheme will have to go, first...

  2. Any who really want to see how the Humble
    got into Humble Uker need look no further than -

    Jeff & the Stray Cat Strats

    And yes, too much emphasis on performing, too much emphasis on technique - we sell the uke as a fun instrument that's inexpensive and easy to learn, and then put our fingers to the grindstone in our obsession with jumping our flea fingers all over the neck, and then fill our closets with different ukes for different songs (can't play that song with a cedar top, no, no, no, no, no, it has to be spruce for just the right resonance, and make sure it's not one of those cheap plywood, I mean laminated toys, and strings, well if they aren't just right -AH-qui-la- then my ears wil fall off),
    obsess about our fancy uber-ukes (no need to say anything, just show up with one to show-up
    others, very subtly done, but very definitely done), and put into place our various uker caste systems and hierarchies at club meetings, jams, festivals, and of course, YouTube (know where you stand?, everyone else does).

    Now, kids don't do these things. Kids just play the instrument and have fun. It's when adults take up the uke (just as when adults took over Halloween from kids) that the simplicity disappears and the gamesmanship begins.

    It's fun, it's cheap, and it's easy to
    learn - that's all that's really important about our instrument. All the barnacles that we've
    added during this wave need to be scraped away and the humble ukulele will re-emerge in all it's simple glory.