Saturday, July 29, 2017

Nursing home gig 7/29/2017

Great gig today, my first time in about a month, I think?  Anyway, there were two new people there who have been playing with the band for a few weeks now, but this was my first time with them since I've been gone so long.  One fiddler (James) and one drummer!  This was the first time I've played with a drummer since I was in jazz band in college.  He was really good and sat right behind me so I had this perfect metronome in my ears the whole time.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  So here's the set list.

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down - Otis
Bonaparte's Retreat - James (instrumental, fiddle)
The Lover's Waltz - Mac (instrumental, fiddle)
Cry, Cry Darling - me
Alone With You - JoDee
Green Eyes - Carrol (instrumental, guitar)
Jambalaya - Otis
Soldier's Joy - James (instrumental)
A Good Woman's Love - Mac (instrumental)
No One To Cry To - me
Faded Love - JoDee
South - Carrol (instrumental)
Truck Drivin' Man - Otis
I'll Fly Away - Sherri
Mockingbird Hill - James (instrumental)
Tennessee Waltz - Mac (instrumental)
Settin' the Woods On Fire - me
Satin Sheets - JoDee
Harbor Lights - Carrol (instrumental)
Waltz of the Angels - Otis
Red River Valley - Sherri
You Are My Sunshine - James (instrumental)
Rose of San Antone - Mac (instrumental)
Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow - me
Corrine, Corrina - JoDee
Welcome To My World - Carrol (instrumental)
Sunday Will Come Again - Otis
This World is Not My Home - Sherri
Turkey in the Straw - James (instrumental)
Ashoken Farewell - Mac (instrumental)
Goodnight Irene - me
The Old Rugged Cross - Otis

Since all I do is strum rhythmically, I considered myself part of the rhythm section, and with myself, the drummer (whose name I didn't catch), and Don, our bass player, I think we did pretty well keeping the rhythm.  Lots of fun!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Interview with Tom T. Hall

The title of this blog is kind of a pun.  "Ukulele Country" means both "a country with lots of ukulele stuff" as well as "country music on the ukulele."  This post has nothing to do with ukuleles.

My favorite songwriter is Tom T. Hall--an easy guess for anyone familiar with my YouTube channel.  Songcraft:  Conversations With Great Songwriters Podcast has an interview with the great Storyteller.  Go here to hear it:  Tom T. Hall.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alligator Man

This is a cover of a song written by Jimmy C. Newman.  This was the first time we had played this song together, and I was the only one who was actually familiar with it.  This time, you can hear my ukulele at the beginning as I set the tempo and started the song.

Jole Blon

This is me singing the bilingual lyric version of "Jole Blon" as recorded by Doug Kershaw.  At the local nursing home on July 17, 2017.

Just havin' some fun

Hello, my legions of readers!  Welcome especially if you came here from hearing about this blog on The Songs Stuck in Your Head podcast!  I know there's not much on here right now, but I'm working on it.

I'm behind on posting the usual track list from the nursing home gig.  This list is from last Saturday, June 17.  I'm also going to post a few audio only videos so you can hear some of the stuff we do.

We had a couple of people at the nursing home last time who don't get there very often, so there are a few new songs on the list that we don't usually do.  The guy who usually does the opening and closing songs wasn't there, so I was volunteered to take care of that.

I don't put everyone's last names on here because I don't know if they would agree to that.  I just use first names.  So...Jimmy is an old band-mate of Carrol's.  He plays excellent fiddle and is a great singer.  He has a low, velvety voice that reminds me of Jim Reeves.  I've played with him a couple of times before.  Trish also plays fiddle and sings a little, and this was the first time I had played with her.  So here's the track list.

Settin' the Woods On Fire (me)
Yes Sir, That's My Baby (JoDee)
Danny Boy (Carrol, instrumental)
Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me (Jimmy)
Singing Waterfall (me)
Alone With You (JoDee)
South (Carrol, instrumental)
I Didn't Know God Made Honky Tonk Angels (Jimmy)
Faded Love (Trish, instrumental)
Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland (me)
Crawdad Hole (JoDee)
Down Yonder (instrumental, Carrol)
Spanish Eyes (instrumental, Jimmy and Carrol)
Kate Martin's Waltz (instrumental, Trish)
Jole Blon (me)
Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey (JoDee)
Harbor Lights (instrumental, Carrol and Jimmy)
You Win Again (Jimmy)
The Ranger Waltz (Trish)
I Saw the Light (me)
Heart Over Mind (JoDee)
Green Eyes (instrumental, Carrol)
Still On My Mind (Jimmy)
Rubber Dolly (instrumental, Trish)
Room Full of Roses (me)
Coco Driel (JoDee)
Time Changes Everything (instrumental, Carrol and Jimmy)
didn't catch the title (instrumental, Jimmy and Carrol)
didn't catch the title (instrumental, Trish) I should know this one
Alligator Man (me)
My Darling Clementine (JoDee)
I Love You Because (instrumental, Carrol)
Big Mamou (instrumental and vocals, Trish)
Goodnight Irene (me)

It was a great gig, and I really enjoyed it.  I made one mistake.  I usually take my high-G tenor because it stands out better and is easier to hear, but this time on my way out of the house I accidentally grabbed my low-G tenor, which is pretty much impossible to hear among all those guitars.  New songs that I had never done at the nursing home before were "Settin' the Woods On Fire," "Jole Blon," and "Alligator Man."  The last time Jimmy and I were both there on the same day, he and Carrol had done an instrumental version of "Jole Blon," and I decided to learn the lyrics so I could sing it next time he was there since I knew he could do the fiddle parts.  "Alligator Man" is an old Jimmy Newman song that I wasn't planning on doing, but we had kind of gotten into doing some Cajun music so I thought I'd try it.  Jimmy easily improvised some fiddle parts for it even though he had never played it before, so it worked well.  "Settin' the Woods On Fire" is a Hank Williams song that was pretty easy for everyone to pick up.  I was somewhat familiar with "Big Mamou" because I had covered it for a Season of the Ukulele, but I don't have it all memorized yet and I hadn't printed a lyric sheet, so I didn't offer to sing any of it.  Maybe next time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Finally, an update...

I was able to play at the nursing home today for the first time in a month.  I had a long night last night and a long day today and I'm feeling pretty worn out right now.  Our usual start/end guy wasn't there today, so I did the first song.  It was me (vocals, ukulele), JoDee (vocals, acoustic guitar), Carrol (electric guitar), Otis (vocals, acoustic guitar), Merri (vocals, fiddle, various percussion), and Larry (harmonica).

All I Have To Offer You Is Me (me)
Sentimental Journey (JoDee)
Down South (Carrol, instrumental)
Pick Me Up On Your Way Down (Otis)
You Are My Sunshine (Merri)
Angel Band (me)
Never On Sunday (Carrol, instrumental)
You Will Never Be Alone (Otis)
Power in the Blood (Merri)
A Fallen Star (me)
It's a Sin To Tell a Lie (JoDee)
Down Yonder (Carrol, instrumental)
Truck Drivin' Man (Otis)
I've Got a Tiger By the Tail (Merri)
Build Me a Cabin in Glory Land (me)
Because He Lives (JoDee)
Harbor Lights (Carrol, instrumental)
Waltz of the Angels (Otis)
Dream a Little Dream of Me (Merri)
Stand By Me (me)
Still In My Heart (JoDee)
Double Eagle (Carrol, instrumental)
Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Otis)
America the Beautiful (Merri)
Singin' the Blues (me)
Hey Good Lookin' (JoDee)
I'm Sorry (Merri)
Goodnight Irene (me)
The Old Rugged Cross (Otis)

A good day, except that I felt exhausted the whole time.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

No update today

Due to technical errors.  The recording app on my phone failed to save the files again.  I do have a few other things to mention, however.

I have been learning to use a program called MuseScore.  This is an open-source (freeware) program for composing music.  I am going to use it to write up some decent lead sheets for various songs I do, on the off-chance that anyone is interested.  In any case, I'll be able to use them myself, at least.  They will be stored at  Here is the link for the directory:  Chord Sheets, Lead Sheets, Tabs.  I have also been using the old PowerTab to learn to write tabs, and as soon as I get any worth sharing, they will be in the same directory.

Yesterday I wrote a lead sheet for an old gospel song by Hank Williams called "Jesus Died For Me."  It is accessible at this direct link:  Jesus Died For Me.

We did have a good day at the nursing home, although there were some problems with the sound system, but we eventually got it working well.  Mac, the fiddle player, was there this time and I was able to photograph his sheet music for "Ashokan Farewell" and one other piece that I really liked.  I am going to work on a tab for them both, most likely chord/melody arrangements.  I have already worked up such a tab for "Ashokan Farewell" from some other already existing tab, but I want to compare it to his sheet music so I can make sure they are both the same.

I know there are already ukulele tabs for this piece, but I have been able to find them only in C and F.  The original was in D, and both fiddle players I know who play this piece, play it in D.  So I need a tab that's in D.

One other change I recently made was that all the gospel songs on my YouTube channel are now public.  I had previously kept them unlisted because I didn't think there would be much interest in them, but apparently there may be some interest in them, after all.  My YouTube channel is UkeintheHeartofTexas.  The playlist for all the gospel songs is here.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nursing home gig report 4/29/2017

As usual, a good day at the nursing home today.  We played for 2 1/2 hours.  Unfortunately, Otis couldn't be there this time, but we still had a good crowd.  Merri (vocals, various percussion and fiddle), Carrol (electric guitar), JoDee (vocals, acoustic guitar), me (vocals, tenor uke), Dusty (keyboard), Larry (harmonica), and Bubba (vocals, electric bass).  I did a couple of songs today that we hadn't done before.  They both went over pretty well.

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down (Bubba)
All I Have To Offer You Is Me (me, this one was new)
One More Time (JoDee)
Never On Sunday (instrumental, Carrol)
You are My Sunshine (Merri)
Crazy Arms (Bubba)
A Million and One (me, also new)
How Much is That Doggie in the Window? (JoDee)
Down Yonder (instrumental, Carrol)
This Land is Your Land (Merri)
That's the Way Love Goes (Bubba)
Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland (me)
Teddy Bear Song (JoDee)
Harbor Lights (instrumental, Carrol)
Never Ending Song of Love (Merri)
Silver Wings (Bubba)
Room Full of Roses (me)
Watermelon On the Vine (JoDee)
Double Eagle (instrumental, Carrol)
I'm Sorry (Merri)
Sing Me Back Home (Bubba)
Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow (me)
Long Time to Forget (JoDee)
Sweet Memories (instrumental, Carrol)
I'll Fly Away (Merri)
Fraulein (Bubba)
The Old Country Church (me)
Up the Lazy River (JoDee)
Spanish Eyes (instrumental, Carrol)
I Feel Good (Merri)
Cold, Cold Heart (Bubba)
Goodnight, Irene (me)
Make the World Go Away (Bubba)

Both of the new songs I did went over quite well, especially "All I Have."  I'm pretty sure it used to be in Carrol's repertoire back in the olden days when he was in a band.

Something strange happened during Bubba's "That the Way Love Goes."  I don't know if he had turned his bass up a little more or what happened, but it was so loud that I could feel my skull vibrating and by the end of the song I was starting feel a little sick at my stomach.  Very odd.  I had to ask him to turn it down a little.  It wasn't a problem anymore after that.  We were using Bubba's sound system today.  We usually use Otis's, but as I said, he wasn't there today.

"Fraulein" is one of my wife's favorite songs, and Bubba always sings it for her.  Sometime if he isn't there, I guess I may do it.  As it is now, I like singing backing harmony during the chorus parts.

A good time was had by all!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Nursing home set list 4/15/2017

Good day today at the nursing home, with five of us there.  Bubba (bass, vocals), me (ukulele, vocals), JoDee (acoustic guitar, vocals), Carrol (electric guitar), and Otis (acoustic guitar, vocals).  We played for a little over two hours.

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down (Bubba)
Angel Band (me)
Can I Have This Dance (JoDee)
Always On Sunday (Carrol, instrumental)
This World is Not My Home (Otis)
Walk Through This World With Me (Bubba)
I Saw the Light (me)
Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed? (JoDee)
Down Yonder (Carrol, instrumental)
Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet (Otis)
Sing Me Back Home (Bubba)
I'll Fly Away (me)
Grandma's Feather Bed (JoDee)
Half As Much (Carrol, instrumental)
Waltz of the Angels (Otis)
Your Cheatin' Heart (Bubba)
Stand By Me (me)
I Love To Think About You (JoDee)
I Love You Because (Carrol, instrumental)
Farther Along (Otis)
I'll Be There Before the Next Teardrop Falls (Bubba)
Act Naturally (me)
What's the Matter With the Mill? (JoDee)
Harbor Lights (Carrol, instrumental)
I'll See You in the Morning (Otis)
Silver Wings (Bubba)
Goodnight Irene (me)
Tennessee Waltz (JoDee)
Spanish Eyes (Carrol, instrumental)
The Old Rugged Cross (Otis)
Make the World Go Away (Bubba)

I did a few that I hadn't done in a long time, and as usual, "Goodnight Irene" was a big hit with everyone there.  We had lots of fun!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Just a weekend update

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I had to work, but I finished early so I headed to the nursing home for the weekend gig.  I usually just go straight home after working, but I knew that some people were going to be missing from the group and there were going to be only two singers, so I went to fill out the band.

There were only four of us there, myself on vocals and ukulele, Bubba on electric guitar and vocals, Otis on acoustic guitar and vocals, and Dusty on keyboard.  So the turnaround was pretty fast with only three of us singing.  Dusty actually did a few instrumentals on his piano that were good.  Unfortunately, something didn't work right with my phone app and although it appeared to work correctly, it didn't actually save the file that I recorded, so I can't go through the whole list.

But I played a few songs that I don't normally play there, which was fun.  We all had to kind of dig deep into our repertoires to fill out the two hours or so that we played.  And now that I know Dusty can play "La Bamba" on his piano, I think I'll try to learn the words.

And this week, we are doing cowboy songs at Seasons of the Ukulele!  This is one of my favorite genres, and I have already covered many cowboy songs that fit into the themes of various past Seasons.  Come and join the fun!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Nursing home set list 04/01/2017

We had a good time today with eight people in the band.  Carrol (lead electric guitar), JoDee (acoustic guitar, vocals), Otis (acoustic guitar, vocals), Don (electric bass), Mac (fiddle), Dusty (keyboards), Bubba (electric guitar, vocals), and myself (vocals and today tenor banjolele).  I took both my banjolele and a conventional tenor uke but played the banjo uke for everything.  We played for about 2 1/2 hours.  When Bubba is there, he always opens and closes the gig with the same songs.

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down (Bubba)
Peel Me a Nanner (me)
All of Me (JoDee)
Westphalia Waltz (Mac, instrumental)
Branded Man (Bubba)
Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow (me)
You're Still On My Mind (JoDee)
Double Eagle (Carrol, instrumental)
Unclouded Day (Otis)
Darling Nellie Gray (Mac, instrumental)
Your Cheatin' Heart (Bubba)
The Old Country Church (me)
You Don't Have To Be a Baby To Cry (JoDee)
Harbor Lights (Carrol, instrumental)
Truck Drivin' Man (Otis)
Fraulein (Mac, instrumental)
I'll Fly Away (me)
Waltz Across Texas (Bubba)
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter (JoDee)
Right Or Wrong (Carrol, instrumental)
Just a Closer Walk With Thee (Otis)
San Antonio Rose (Mac, instrumental)
City Lights (Bubba)
Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland (me)
My Darling Clementine (JoDee)
Down Yonder (Carrol, instrumental)
I'll See You in the Morning (Otis)
Bonaparte's Retreat (Mac, instrumental)
Silver Wings (Bubba)
Kneel at the Cross (Otis)
Make the World Go Away (Bubba)

This was the first time I had sung both "Nanner" and "Weeping Willow" and they both went over very well.  I'll probably be doing them in my regular rotation from now on.

I plan on trying to work more songs by the Carter Family into the stuff I do.  I also hope to write a very simple three-chord country song to do there that doesn't have anything unexpected in it so everyone can learn it easily.  I have written a number of songs but I don't consider any of them suitable for this situation.

Next week I will have to work, but if I can finish early enough I think I will try to stop by and join in, because there is only going to be a skeleton crew next week and they will need all the help they can get.

Today was a good day!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Set list 3/18/2017

I played at our local nursing home today, first time in a month.  Unfortunately, the recording app on my phone decided to set itself to storing the file in the internal memory instead of on the SD card the way I had it set.  So I got only about an hour of recording before it ran out of space.

There were a lot of people there today.  I got only four turns out of more than 2 hours of playing time.  I also had one magnificent multi-part blooper in which I kept trying to start a song in the wrong key, and it took me 3 tries before I figured out what I was doing wrong.

I won't be able to remember the entire program, but here's what I got:

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Victory in Jesus
Harbor Lights (instrumental, guitar lead)
I Can't Stop Loving You* (this is the one I kept screwing up on)
Uncloudy Day
Red River Valley (instrumental, fiddle lead)
Cold,Cold Heart
You Are My Sunshine
The Pillow That You Dream On

And that's all I got.  The other three songs I did were "Cross Your Heart, Not Your Fingers," "The Old Country Church," and "Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland."  The last two were regular songs, the first two were first times.

We had eight people there today:  bass, piano, fiddle, fiddle/percussion, guitar (3), and me on ukulele.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Set list 2/18/2017

I am behind the time on this one!  I just forgot about it.  I won't be doing the gig tomorrow because I have to work, but here is the set from last Saturday.  One of the usual guys wasn't there, and he usually does the same opening and closing songs, so this set was a little different than usual.

This time we had 3 guitars, 1 ukulele, 1 fiddle, 1 sometimes fiddle and sometimes various percussion, and 1 harmonica.  Three of us sang.  One of the fiddle players did an instrumental when it was his turn.  This one went for about 2 hours, 20 minutes.  So here's the list.  Asterisks mean I was the one who picked the song and sang the lead on it.

Five Foot Two*
Four in the Morning
Welcome to My World (instrumental, guitar lead)
Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
Lover's Waltz (instrumental, fiddle lead)
I'll Fly Away
A Fallen Star*
Blue, Blue Day
Double Eagle (instrumental, guitar lead)
Truck Drivin' Man
Ashoken Farewell (instrumental, fiddle lead)
I've Got a Tiger By the Tail
Singin' the Blues*
Across the Alley From the Alamo
Spanish Eyes (instrumental, guitar lead)
Long Black Veil
Saint Ann's Reel (instrumental, fiddle lead)
Dream a Little Dream of Me
Room Full of Roses*
Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On
Down Yonder (instrumental, guitar lead)
(something) Waltz (instrumental, fiddle lead)  I had never heard this one before and can't make out the title on my recording.
Your Cheatin' Heart
I Saw the Light*
Ramshackle Shack
(title unknown) (instrumental, guitar lead)  Missed the title on this one, too.
I'll See You in the Morning
Mansion on the Hill (instrumental, fiddle lead)
Power in the Blood
Miles and Miles of Texas*
The Old Rugged Cross

Another thing was different this time was that the guy who played the fiddle instrumentals had actual sheet music to play from, and since I was unfamiliar with some of the songs he played, I stood behind him and read along on his music so I would be able to hit the changes in the right places.  I haven't done that kind of thing in a while, so it was fun to exercise those muscles again.

And still another thing that was different was that I took my son along so he could video us with my digital camera.  Last week for Seasons of the Ukulele, we were doing songs that we played with friends, so I used several of the songs that I sang lead on for my entries.  I will include them all below.

Once again, I would like to recommend that you play with others.  It will greatly help improve your musicianship and is a lot of fun.

And finally, here is our lead guitar, Carrol Sammons, playing his trademark piece, "Double Eagle."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Arnett Cobb

I played alto sax in school band beginning in 6th grade. Later in high school I also played bari sax. In college, I played bari in the #1 jazz band and alto in the #2 band. I haven't played sax in years, however, and I'm sure all the necessary muscles are completely out of shape.  It's still my favorite wind instrument.

Arnett Cobb was from Texas, born in Houston.  He died in the same city in 1989.

You may expect to hear more about both Texan musicians and the saxophone on this blog.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ukulele Podcasts

I listen to a lot of podcasts.  My job is such that I can often listen to podcasts for 6-7 hours every day, or every weekday anyway, and it greatly helps me from dying of boredom.  So I thought I would list the ukulele-related podcasts that I listen to.  These are in no particular order.  Click on the podcast name to go to their website.

Ooktown - Primarily hosted by Stuart Yoshida, who is also the founder of the Colorado School of Ukulele, with a varying number of different co-hosts, each episode featuring a guest who is a prominent name in the ukulele world.  Each episode discusses a variety of topics that should be important for ukulele players as well as musicians in general.  This podcast began in 2011 and all past episodes are archived and available for download at the website.

Ukulele Underground - Unfortunately, this one seems to have gone on an indefinite hiatus, but the archived episodes are very well worth listening to.  The previous link will take you to the first version of their podcast, called The Adventures of the K-Town Heroes, in which you will be taken on a long, very entertaining and informative journey about how Aldrine, Ryan, and Aaron grew up, met each other, and eventually founded Ukulele Underground.  I binge-listened to all of these in a just a couple of days, and listening to them all was so much fun, I might do it again sometime.  Their feed is  Put that in your RSS reader and you should be able to access all of their shows, including the more recent ones that were put out last year.

Unplug the Wood - This is not specifically a ukulele podcast, but is instead a podcast dedicated to acoustic performances.  However, the host, Krabbers, is a ukulele player and he frequently does include ukulele music in the podcast.  There have been only 10 episodes so far and they are all available for download at the website.

UkeCast - This show is no longer being produced.  It ran for 4 seasons from (I think) 2006-2009.  It may have been the first ever ukulele-focused podcast, and it's great!  Each episode is almost all music and little commentary, running about 20-25 minutes each, with an occasional special episode going up to about an hour.  Almost all original ukulele music, and I highly recommend it!  It is also interesting to me as a part of history.  This podcast was before Jake swept the world with his incredible playing, before Aldrine made a name for himself, and for that matter before many of the big names in ukulele had become famous.  One of the co-hosts, who goes by the name of Nipper, was interviewed in one of the recent Ukulele Underground podcasts.  All of the episodes are still available to download in one big zip file at the website.  Lots and lots of great original ukulele music here, and every episode stands up to repeated listening.

That's it.  Happy listening!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Set list 2/4/17

I thought it might be interesting--mostly for me--to put a list of the songs played at the nursing home here every Saturday.  As I mentioned in the video of the previous post, a group of local musicians play for the residents at our local nursing home every Saturday afternoon, and I join them when I can.

The group consists mostly of what I guess you could call "amateur musicians" along with a couple of retired professionals.  Everyone plays guitar except for me, and I of course play the ukulele.  Most of us also sing.  We are also sometimes joined by someone on harmonica and someone on fiddle (but not always the same someones).  Most of the time there is also someone there who plays keyboard, but not this time.

Yesterday there were only six of us (sometimes it's more!).  We just go around the circle, taking turns singing.  It's very informal.  We just announce the song we are going to do, and the key we're going to do it in, and then everyone starts playing.  There were two electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, one electric bass, and myself on banjo ukulele.  One of our electric guitar players is a retired professional who doesn't sing anymore because of his hearing loss, so when it comes his turn he plays an instrumental.  Our bass player doesn't sing, so he doesn't take a turn.  We also usually begin and end customarily with the same songs.  So just for kicks, here is our full set list from yesterday.  The songs with an asterisk were sung by myself.  I recorded everything on my phone, so the audio isn't great and there are some songs I don't know the title of, and couldn't understand the lyrics well enough to guess.

Pick Me Up On Your Way Down
When He Reached Down His Hand For Me*
Send Me the Pillow You Dream On
Right Or Wrong (instrumental, Wanda Jackson version)
This World is Not My Home
Fraulein (on of my wife's favorites, but I didn't sing it)
Build Me a Cabin in Gloryland*
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Double Eagle (instrumental)
Waltz of the Angels
Sing Me Back Home
Stand By Me*
How I'd Love to Be in Love With You (not sure of the correct title of this one)
? (instrumental, I forgot the title of this one)
Walking the Floor Over You
Walk Through This World With Me
Goodnight Irene*
You Never Can Tell
Harbor Lights (instrumental)
? (another one I don't know the title of!)
? (another one I don't know the title of, I guess I need to ask)
I Saw the Light*
Amazing Grace
Down Yonder (instrumental)
Long Black Veil
Silver Wings
Room Full of Roses*
Ramshackle Shack
? (another instrumental that I keep forgetting the title of)
Truck Driving Man
Crazy Arms
I'll Fly Away*
Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home
Spanish Eyes (instrumental)
Farther Along
I'll Be There Before the Next Teardrop Falls
Make the World Go Away

Most of the songs I do are regulars for me, and I perform them there often because that's what the people want to hear.  "Stand By Me," in particular, is always requested by one man who lives there and since I hadn't been there in about a month, as soon as he entered the room I played it on my next turn.  "Goodnight Irene" was requested by the woman who coordinates the group and who sings and plays acoustic guitar.  She requested that I do it because she likes singing the backing harmony vocals for it.

It's a long list, and I need to ask about some of those songs, apparently.  We usually play for around 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Yesterday it was right at 2 1/2.  I also sing backing vocals on several songs, so it's quite a workout, and I'm usually pretty tired by the time it's over.  But it's a lot of fun, and the residents of the nursing home really enjoy it.

I was also once able to play with some of them for an event at the local Methodist church when I was on vacation, as well as once playing with them at our county stock show.  Playing "live" with a band is a huge amount of fun--I highly recommend it!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

New uke: the Duke banjo ukulele

A video about my newest acquisition:  the Duke tenor scale banjo ukulele.

The "happiest instrument in the world"

Does anyone else get somewhat annoyed by chirpy people who are always proclaiming that the ukulele is "the happiest instrument in the world"?  Or how about "you can't be sad and play the ukulele"?  Or even the extreme "you can't play a sad song on a ukulele"?

I have news for people who say those things.  It is not news that they will ever believe, because they have already decided to live by their established prejudices, but here it is:


That's right.  It doesn't have any special happy magical powers or anything like that.  It's an instrument, just like a guitar or a saxophone or a bagpipe.  Well, maybe not a bagpipe.

I once very pointedly told someone that if I couldn't play sad songs on a ukulele, I would never have wasted my time on it.

Okay, I love this instrument.  It's something that I can get my head around and my fingers to more or less work with.  I can strum chords as I sing.  That's all I ever wanted.  But no sad songs?

Do you have a favorite sad song that you like to play on your ukulele?  Leave a comment and tell me about it!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017


I was reading this post:  The Most Common Questions Every Beginner Ukulele Player Ask.  I don't entirely agree with everything said, so I thought I'd throw in my own 2 cents worth, which, adjusted for inflation, is probably worth a lot less than that.

1.  What is the best ukulele for beginners?

Get the best ukulele you can afford.  And by "afford," I don't mean use up your savings or take out a loan or do anything to financially stress yourself.  By "afford," I mean spend as much money as you are willing to spend, but let's face it, you're going to have to spend a certain amount to get a decent instrument.  Do not buy any nameless yet colorful uke from eBay because it only costs $20.  There is a very high probability that if you do, you won't like it.  As a rough guide, expect to spend between $50 to $100 for a budget soprano uke.  Also:  Do not buy your first ukulele from Amazon.  Make sure you buy it from a reputable ukulele dealer who does setups on the instruments they sell.  A "setup" means the instrument is examined for flaws and the action is checked and possibly adjusted so that it is almost always improved over factory condition before they ship it to you.  A few dealers that I know do setups are:  Hawaiian Music Supply, Uke Republic, and Mim's Ukes.  Related to this, make sure the dealer can tell you what kind of strings are on the instrument.  If it comes with some kind of generic, no-name strings, they will probably need to be changed to better strings.  You should always try it first, of course, and if you like the sound, don't worry about it.  Just be aware that better strings usually improve the sound, and changing strings is something that you will need to learn to do anyway, because strings don't last forever.

2.  What is the best size ukulele for a beginner?

The only way for you to know this for sure is to go to a store that stocks all sizes of ukuleles and test play them all.  The idea that sopranos are easier for people with small hands or that people with large hands have trouble with sopranos is pretty much nonsense.  Even the largest uke is smaller than a guitar and someone would have to have abnormally tiny hands for that to be an issue.  On the other hand (har har) I have seen videos of people with fingers like sausages deftly playing a sopranino uke.

3.  What is the best wood for a ukulele?

This is an unanswerable question, because there are as many different answers as there are types of wood and the players who prefer them.  Mahogany is so common because it is less expensive.  If you are a first-timer who is looking for a budget uke, you will likely end up with a mahogany uke by default because it will be less expensive.

4.  What are the best strings I should get?

Another pretty much unanswerable question for the same reason as above.  But as I said before, some ukes come with some unnamed strings that the factory put on there because they were cheap.  Many new ukes come with Aquila Nylgut strings and they are perfectly fine strings.  If you get a uke with these, keep them and play them for a while before exploring other possibilities.  Different strings have different characteristics that will give them all different sounds and different feels.  The nice thing about almost all uke strings is that they are not expensive and you should be able to afford buying many different kinds and trying them all until you find what you like.

5.  What is the best place to buy a ukulele?

Already covered above.  However, I would also add that if you have a local store that sells ukuleles, that would be the best place to buy it because you can try it out before you buy it.  If you know a local store that will do a setup for you, that's even better.

6. I'm a beginner / have small hands -would a larger ukulele be better for me?

Sigh...I think I already covered this, but no, the best size is not the soprano unless it is the best size for YOU.  There is no such thing as a universal best size.  I guess if someone really pressed me on this regarding their first ever uke, I would say try a concert first.

7. I have been playing for a couple of weeks and my fingers hurt / I can't form this chord - what am I doing wrong?

Nothing.  You are trying to train your finger muscles and your brain to do things they have never done before.  There is going to be a learning curve, no matter what you've heard about the ukulele being "easy" to play.  Just keep practicing.  Some people can pick it up faster than others. That's just how it is.

8. Can you recommend some good tuition videos?

YouTube is full of great videos, and many of the best videos you can learn from weren't meant for that purpose--you can still learn from them.  Go to YouTube and look up The Ukulele Teacher, Ten Thumbs, and Ukulele Mike just for starters.  Also search more specifically for things you want to learn like "finger picking the ukulele," "different ways to play the E chord," "how to do that strum that Brudda Iz used on Over the Rainbow," etc.

9. I am finding it hard to hold my ukulele. Is it ok to use a strap?

Yes,  I use straps on almost all my ukes, including the sopranos.  I like the Uke Leash, but you can find or devise on your own numerous kinds of straps.

10. What is the best place to play ukulele?

Okay, so I moved this question to the last on the list because this one will be the most fun to answer.   The best place to play is wherever you can.  There are many opportunities on the internet to play.  Just create a YouTube account (or Vimeo, if you prefer), or any other video platform that allows you to share your videos.  If you use Facebook, you can also upload them straight to Facebook.  However, if you do upload direct to Facebook, you won't be able to share your videos to anyone outside of Facebook.  Of course, you will also need a webcam or some kind of digital video camera--or even just your smart phone--to create your own videos.  Some Facebook groups you should check out are Ukulele Covers International, Soprano Ukulele Lover's Group, Original Ukulele Songs...there are many more.  My own personal favorite forum for doing this is the Seasons of the Ukulele sub-forum at Ukulele Underground.  The main forum there will also be a great place for you to find answers and opinions to many of your questions.

As to playing "live," this is something that you should do as soon as you are comfortable doing so.  In fact, I think it may be a good idea to do it before you are sure you are comfortable with it.  As a beginner, it would probably be better to be part of a group.  This will relieve you of some of the stress that comes with playing before a live audience, and allows you to experiment with different things "on the fly" without having to worry too much about messing up so badly you have to stop the song.

Some people busk with their uke--I have never done this and don't really want to.  If this is your goal, you'll have to figure it out on your own, or find information elsewhere.  Many cities have laws regarding public busking, some restricting it to certain areas and others requiring a permit or license.

The first time I ever played in "public" was at a family reunion, so that of course meant that I was playing for a bunch of people who knew me.  I'm not sure that made it any easier.  Later, I was invited to play with a group who plays on Saturday afternoons at our local nursing home.  I have done this fairly regularly for a couple of years now.  Most nursing homes (or rest homes, or retirement homes, or whatever you call them) are always looking for new things to help entertain the residents.  Just go in and ask the manager.  If you do this, you may find that you need to tailor your repertoire to songs that the residents are more familiar with.  But I can tell you from experience that residents of nursing homes are very grateful for anything you do, even if you make mistakes.

Many large cities have ukulele clubs that you can join.  Some music stores and restaurants have open mic nights that you could try.  Some ukulele players play it in their churches.

In closing, I want to emphasize that you need to eventually play for other people, somehow, for someone, even if it's just for your family or friends.  If you thought playing your uke in the quiet of your own room was fun, you will be amazed at the new possibilities and just plain joyfulness that you will find in playing for others.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quotes #1: Goethe

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Welcome to my new old blog

I am not new to blogging.  I was a blogger during what I consider the golden age of blogging:  roughly the first decade of this century.  To see other blogs that I have done before, which still mostly exist except I'm sure for some broken links to other blogs which have disappeared, see: Blogonomicon, Hymnomicon, The Briar Files, The Last Ancient House, and The Hunter Chronicles.

I also tried out Tumblr for a while but I didn't like how it seemed to be focused only on itself and not on anything that comes from other platforms.  It was a music blog called Eat the Music, but I deleted it, and there wasn't much there anyway.

I eventually stopped updating my previous blogs mostly because I just got tired of keeping up with it, constantly reading the news for things to talk about, and just sheer blogger exhaustion.  And I wasn't even one of the famous ones.

Anyway, with this blog I hope to continue on with blogging about my love for music.  I am a ukulele strummer and singer and although I'm not good enough to be noticed, I do enjoy myself enormously.  There will probably be a lot of ukulele-related content on this blog because that is my instrument, but there could be anything here about music that interests, amazes, or amuses me.  I also play around with the melodica, the recorder, and the Seagull Merlin.  Barry Maz has said more than once that there should be more ukulele blogs, so here's one.

I know everyone is looking for reviews.  I recommend going to Got a Ukulele for reviews, because Mr. Maz is very good at that.  I have attempted reviews myself, and I can honestly say that I am not good at that.  But I will offer my comments on the limited number of ukes that I own.

I am quite active at a Ukulele Underground sub-forum called Seasons of the Ukulele.  I encourage anyone who plays the uke to come and check it out and see if it looks like fun.  Every week there is a new volunteer host who posts a theme for that week, and we all record songs according to that theme.  I have been having a lot of fun there, having joined in December of 2014.  Related to this, most of the recordings I will likely post will be YouTube videos.  I also plan to talk about various podcasts that I listen to.

I will put up a blogroll soon.  If you have a ukulele blog, let me know and I'll add you.  I'll probably also add a link list to sites that are not blogs.

I did move some of my old Tumblr posts over to this blog and have saved them as drafts.  I will probably post them, as well as some stuff from the Hymnomicon to this blog.

My musical listening interests vary widely, however as for my own performances, I usually stick to what I know best and can get away with faking, which will be heavily tilted toward country (older country, not the modern cowpop stuff), cowboy songs and gospel songs.

Thanks for visiting and y'all come back now!