In this round of Uke Tales, the ukulele leads to a hair-changing experience; a 1930s Martin Soprano helps memories live on; and ukulele groupies can be found in all ages.
PLAYING FOR (PURPLE) TIPS
In the winter of 2020, my family took a vacation to Kauai. We stayed at the Sheraton Kauai Resort and they offered many cultural classes by their pool. I signed up for a ukulele class and was hooked from the moment I picked one up. I left Hawaii with my very own ukulele and spent the next couple of years figuring out how to play and writing my own music.
Last summer I really wanted to dye the tips of my hair purple. My parents wouldn’t even consider it. I hatched an idea to write a song and perform it for my parents. How could they say no? My song was about Blushing Beauty Salon in Lakewood, Ohio. The song wasn’t perfect, but it came from the bottom of my heart and when I sang it for my parents I was confident. They recorded the whole thing and said yes to my purple tips!
My parents thought it would be fitting to send the video to the salon, so I did and few days later we got a response from the owner saying that she loved the song so much and offered to dye my hair for free! The first week of summer break came around and it was time to meet the people at the salon. The stylist even came in on her day off to do my hair. The process took a long time and by the time I was finished I felt like a princess right out of the movies.
In between the response from the owner and the day of the appointment, I thought it was only right that the salon get some recognition for their kind act. I forwarded the video and the message to the local news station (WKYC) and the next thing you know, they did a story on the whole experience. Then they did a follow-up story with a remix of the song, thanking everyone who made it possible.
Ten-year-old me never would have guessed that the ukulele I bought on a whim (that everyone assumed would be a short-lived phase) would end up having such an impact on my life. I write music and play almost every day in hopes of getting better and also to inspire others. I believe that music is the best way to share ideas with others and connect with people, and I’m glad to have my ukulele as a creative outlet. —Margaux Butzback Parma Heights, Ohio
SAD STORY, HAPPY POSTSCRIPT
My husband Tim and I were married for 37 years and we played ukulele together for about 20 of those years. Mostly just us and occasionally with a couple of friends. But we never joined a club or played in public. Tim was a good player. I was just OK, but he put up with me! A few years ago, after Tim was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he told me that he wanted his beautiful old 1930s Martin ukulele to be buried with him. Of course I said “yes,” though I was actually disappointed because I loved that ukulele, too, and would have loved to own it. Well, in a happy twist in a very sad Uke Tale, about four months before he passed, he announced that he no longer wanted to be buried at all, and that he should be cremated… and that I should keep the Martin! Which I did. It sits in the corner of our living room on a little stand, and now, two years later, every time I look at it I think about him and all the fun we had with our ukuleles. And I still play with friends.
—Carla Stephens, Oceanside, California
After stopping music for 20-plus years thanks to a motorcycle accident, a friend asked for help with ukulele and talked me into playing again. We started going to Uke Night at a local pub (70 massed players).
I trained as a classical singer, and the professional bass player there, realizing I could sing, asked me to join him on the senior homes circuit. I was doing a couple of Everly Brothers tunes and we decided to call ourselves the Elderly Brothers. I was disappointed to find we were not unique in the name. Oh, well!
One quick story: A while back we played a senior home for the first time. I’d just finished Elvis’ “Return to Sender” and I heard a voice call out from the back, “Four o’clock!”! I had no idea what that was about but after finishing our set, this little old lady hobbled up to me with her walker and said, “Four o’clock! Your place or mine!” Then she laughed heartily and wandered off. I’ve finally got a groupie; she’s only 95 years old!
—Robert Gibb, Victoria, BC, Canada
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