Who are you?
I’m “the Ukulele Man,” a tag hung on me 15 years ago by the owner/promoter of Stach’s (now Little Brother’s) *1 (*relates to links at bottom), a revered night club in Columbus, Ohio.
I’m a crusty old bard (61 yrs.) seasoned by Joe McCarthy, the 60’s, and the education wars (31 years in an 8th Grade English class – the last 18 years as local union president too). I write songs and sing them, write poems and speak them, see what’s going down in our country and the world and resist it.
I’m an Ex-Boy Scout, an Ex-Catholic, an Ex-Good Boy – but I’m NOT a “Grumpy Old Man.” “Grumpy” is a constant state. I’m generally a “Sweetie.” It is true, though, that I have no patience with stupid, conniving grown-ups who, for example, still swear Saddam was behind the NYC and Pentagram attacks. I’m an active activist (I’m told that Humboldt County understands that term). And, finally, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!”
Where are you from? (originally/now)
My Mom was from a small town, Chillicothe, Ohio – the first state capital. My Dad was from Kendallville – a small agricultural town in the northern Indiana. I was born and grew up in Columbus – the present capital and hotbed of right-wing/business clap-trap. Twenty-eight years ago, I moved to Circleville (“Home of the Pumpkin Show” ta-daaaa!!! *2) – located south of Columbus and north of Chillicothe – another small town and – it turns out – more politically backward than Columbus – you know: the kind of place where if you ever get to the point where you no longer know what you’re doing, lots of folks can tell you.
Looks like I haven’t gotten too far; but I HAVE traveled – East and West coasts, from New Orleans to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and to Europe twice. Now I’m traveling to California again.
What do you do?
I write songs and sing them, accompanied by my Uke or by my Band, “Ukulele Man & his Prodigal Sons” *3. I write and perform poetry, and sometimes “act.”
I “play out” regularly with the band or solo. All seven of us toured New York *4 and Boston *5; three of us did Santa Cruz *6. We play Festivals*7, clubs, and bars in Central Ohio, and have done our share of benefits. Periodically I get to NYC for the Ukulele Cabaret*8 and for the public-access TV Show “Midnight Ukulele Disco.”*9
I’ve appeared in two films: the short Auraprint *10 playing a gay-porn producer and in the full-length Man of Faith playing Rev. Leroy Jenkins’ degenerate neighbor. I recently performed in a stage production, Dr. Danga Grimaldi’s Exhibition Fantastique, part of the month-long Columbus Fringe Festival.
I’m a member of NION (Not In Our Name), an activist group dedicated to opposing the Bush agenda*11. Besides attending/marching-in various protests in New York City these last six years, I initiated the organization of “Ukuleles for Sanity,”*12 a group who marched together first in the “No RNC” (“No Republican National Convention”) protest (we marched along near the Green Dragon that someone set on fire soon after passing Madison Square Garden and Foxxx News). During that time we also organized and performed “Dubya’s Ukulele Farewell Party”*13. It didn’t work, but we’re still trying.
Having given up on effectively haranguing the local news-rags via “letters,” I’ve started a blog*14 (http://www.ukuleleman.net/blog.html) and have developed a growing number of readers. Check it out!!
Why do you do what you do?
Because it’s there (to do)? Because I must? There’s some truth in that.
Also, I was a little naïve as a “young person” – remember the “Boy Scout / Good Boy” reference above? Emotionally, I was with the revolution of the 60’s, but didn’t have a clue about how to get involved physically. I’m trying to make up for that.
At the same time, what I “see” (I’d like to say “as an artist”) makes me pretty “far out” in the context of this Midwestern, Red State, Conservative, Republican, Bible-thumping “oasis in a world of sin” that is Ohio.
A fellah has to do SOMETHING to stay sane living in a nuthouse.
What are you working on?
Well, we’re still trying to get rid of Bush, and will be joining with World Can’t Wait and others on October 5 (it’s nationwide) to “Drive Out the Bush Regime.” The point is to organize people around the knowledge that the only way real change will happen is if the People themselves demand it.
Musically, I’ve got most of my tracks laid down for my third CD (all original stuff, as with the first two*15 ). We’re starting to lay down band tracks now.
A poetry book has been in the planning stages – on and off – for a while now too.
And I’m working like crazy going over my set lists for the California trip – and practicing (old guys think they have to do that).
A few days after I get back to Ohio we play the Pumpkin Show – it should be interesting – it’s the centennial year for it. But I guess the next Big thing will be planning a trip to the UK to see some friends and play some music, particularly in Glasgow while visiting Alistair Hulett*16 and the Centre for Political Song.*17
When will you be here? With who?
I’ll be in the area from October 7 through the 10th. I’m playing Six Rivers Brewery October 10, and I’m bringing two Ukuleles with me.
Tentatively it’s a new Ovation “Applause” soprano uke and an old-reliable tenor “Fluke.”
Please check out my Blog (# 14 below) and any other sites that seem interesting!
1. Little Brothers: http://www.littlebrothers.com/ 2. Pumpkin Show: http://www.pumpkinshow.com/
3. Band My Space: http://www.myspace.com/ukulelemanandhisprodigalsons 4. NYC – Bowery Poetry Club: http://www.bowerypoetry.com/ 5.Boston Sky Bar: http://www.skybar.us/ 6. Santa Cruz – Uke Fest West: http://www.ukefestwest.com/perf.html 7.COMFEST (Community Festival): http://www.comfest.com/schedule.htm and Columbus Arts Fest: http://www.gcac.org/fest/ 8. Ukulele Cabaret: http://www.ukulelecabaret.com/ 9. Midnight Ukulele Disco: http://www.ukuleledisco.com/ (may be under renovation)
10. Auraprint: http://www.alienstevens.com/vid_aud_pix/artflixx_m/auraprint.mov 11. NION: http://www.notinourname.net/index.html 12. Ukuleles for Sanity: http://www.ukesanity.org/ 13. Dubya’s Ukulele Farewell Party: http://ukesanity.org/concert.htm 14. My Blog: http://www.ukuleleman.net/blog.html 15. CD’s, “SumoNinjaLele” and “Crazy Old World.”: http://cdbaby.com/found?artist=Ukulele+Man&soundlike=&album=&style= 16. Alistair Hulett: http://www.alistairhulett.com/ and http://www.folkicons.co.uk/alistair.htm 17. Centre for Political Song: http://www.caledonian.ac.uk/politicalsong/
Anything else you want to add?
Well, I think I’ve said enough, except for:
I hope everybody comes out to the Six Rivers Brewery on October 10. That’s my one chance to see everyone!!! I understand it’s not a real late evening; so stop by. The Uke and I will be goin’ at it from early to closin’.
Yours – Ukulele Man
p.s. Here’s a short list of my “roots” & “influences”:
Dad, Big Billy Goat Gruff, Mom, Horton, “Hippity Hop Bunny,” Captain Video, Howdy Doody, Pinky Lee, Captain Kangaroo, Scrooge McDuck, Sister Ann Mary, Alfred E. Newman, Mark Twain, Li’l Abner, Tarzan, Uncle Vern, Turok Son of Stone, Aunt Sis, Laurel & Hardy, Hank, Sally Flowers, Soupy Sales, The Kingston Trio, The Mouseketeers, Pete Seeger, Little Richard, Ed Sullivan, Elvis, Sherlock Holmes, Chuck Berry, the Plymouth, Honorable Ball Peen Man, Woody Guthrie, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Beatles, Edgar Allen Poe, Dylan, “Brown Eyed Girl,” Inherit The Wind, Herman’s Hermits, Herman Melville, the DeSoto, the Temple of Psychic Prophecy, The Monkees, the “Jones-Lawrence Memorial Award,” Don Quixote, Indian Ike, Twilight Zone, MLK, “The Conqueror Worm,” Star Trek, Malcolm X, Robert Frost, Dr. Strangelove, Venice, The Rolling Stones, Fellini, “Ozymandias,” Don McLean, Edvard Munch, Animal Farm, Al Crapp, the TR3, Emily Dickinson, Kung Fu, T.S. Elliot, The Crucible, e.e. cummings, Leaves of Grass, Jung, Steven Crane, the Bug, Joe Cocker, Brave New World, Carlos Castenada, “Eldorado,” Bob & George, New Orleans, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Kenny Sparky Mona and Ray, John Lennon, Café Du Monde, San Francisco, “The X-Files,” Waiting for Godot, Oscar Wilde, the Redwoods, The Simpsons, Manhattan, the Eldorado.