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The ukulele – Airstream connection

There are certain things that go with Airstreams. One of them, I’m coming to realize, is ukuleles.

Bear with me on this one. It’s all Tommy Green’s fault. He poured gasoline over my inner desire to learn a fun solo instrument and tossed on a match. Now I’m hooked on the uke, playing it as often as I get a chance in the hopes of being good enough someday to play in front of people who don’t already tolerate me.

The ukulele is an ideal instrument for the Airstream: it’s small, light, fun, and good around a campfire for sing-alongs. Try that with a harp or a trumpet. Sure, a guitar or harmonica is good too, and very traditional, but sometimes players of those instruments can’t resist the temptation to play depressing songs. It’s hard to play a sad ukulele song, and most of the time the thing is so darned cheery that you just don’t want to.

Those of us who are uke nuts have plenty of heroes. Ever heard of Jake Shimabukuro? You’ve never heard uke like this guy can play. Try his rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” by George Harrison. It’s amazing.   It sure isn’t the annoying stuff you remember from Tiny Tim on “Laugh In”.

Or how about “Iz” (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)? He was huge phenomenon in the ukulele world (sadly, he is now deceased) and I’m not talking about the fact that he weighed about 500 lbs.   He’s like a deity in Hawaii.   Guys like Iz and Jake are so amazing on ukulele that every time I hear one of them I have to get my uke and strum a few chords. Jake, Iz, and a few other guys are taking over my iPod, so if you ride with me you’ll get to hear them.

I think the nicest thing about the uke is that you can learn it much more easily than a six-string guitar. It’s something almost anyone can do with some practice, and before you know it you’re strumming your way through a song.

Of course, being enthusiastic about it, I’ve passed on the disease. Bill Doyle and Larry Ko, our Airstream friends from San Diego, have started up on uke.   Now we’re exchanging tips and chord tabs via email. I don’t know where it will stop. At this point, it’s not just a few nutty guys — it’s a movement.   You may want to join voluntarily before we kick in your door and hand you a uke.

My current challenge is to get a lot better at strumming. I need to learn some new patterns besides the basic up-down strum. I also want to expand my knowledge of chords considerably, so I’ve chosen a fairly difficult song to learn in the next few weeks: “Blue Skies” by Irving Berlin. It sounds great on uke — really.   My family will be entirely sick of it soon, but I’ll try to keep their pain to a minimum by practicing in the house when they are in the Airstream, and vice versa.

And that is another reason that Airstreams and ukes go together.   Airstreams make great practice studios — just ask Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam why he bought a Bambi.

I can see a future where Airstreamers gather in huge groups not to chat and chew, but to camp and jam.   Wouldn’t that be fun?   Grab a soprano uke for as little as $47 and get started.   I’ll listen for you this summer.   Aloha.

56 Responses to “The ukulele – Airstream connection”

  1. Jack Palmer Says:

    Great Ukulele ,”Pauls Dance” on you tube. Probabaly my favorite group of all time: The Penguin Cafe. The creator, Simion Jeffe (spelling) died I beleve in 1999.The group has gotten back together for concerts in London just this year. they used the Ukulele alot in their music. Also check out anothe song by them Air A’ Dancer. You’ll love it.

  2. Jack Palmer Says:

    Also listen to: “Music for a Found Harmonica”

  3. Beth Says:

    google in Dr. Uke. A great site.
    How can you not be happy when you play a uke.
    Happy Streaming and Strumming,