Why You Should Take the Ukulele Seriously | Los Angeles Public Library
Print this page

Why You Should Take the Ukulele Seriously

Kelly Wallace, Librarian, History Department,

“The ukulele is a toy guitar and not worth a second thought.”    
           - Hart Stillwell, ESQUIRE, October 1940

What comes to mind of when you think of the ukulele?  Tiny Tim warbling Tiptoe Through the Tulips on Laugh-In?  SpongeBob Squarepants?  Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii?  The plastic toy you received as a child? 

The story of the ukulele is so much more than those images, stereotypes, and myths.  It starts on Madeira, a small island off the coast of Morocco, travels nearly 8,000 miles to Hawaii, then across the globe to the continental United States, Australia, Japan and Europe.  It features such well-known and diverse persons as Queen Liliuokalani, Arthur Godfrey, Lewis Carroll, Jack London, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Neil Young. 

The ukulele is currently enjoying a third wave of popularity, with performances by Paul McCartney, record prices on the collectibles market, and festivals around the world. 

Join author Jim Tranquada this Saturday, May 9th in the Taper Auditorium at 2:00 pm for Why You Should Take the Ukulele Seriously, a look at the fascinating social and musical history of the “tiny four-stringed thingamajig.”