"Hot Ukulele!" CD

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"UK Ukulele Envoy" CD

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Musical influences & likes
My musical tastes are extremely wide, ranging from Elgar to Elvis, Hank Williams to Vaughan Williams, Ray Charles to the Ramones. It’s impossible to put my likes and influences in order of preference, and I don’t like pigeonholes, so here in alphabetical order are just some of the artistes, songwriters and composers that I dig . . .  man . . .

J.S. Bach, The Band, Lionel Bart, Beach Boys, Beatles, Jeff Beck, Tony Bennett, Chuck Berry, Blur, Julian Bream, Martin Carthy, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Clash, Eddie Cochran, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ivor Cutler, Damned, Bobby Darin, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Lonnie Donegan, Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Edward Elgar, ELO, Everly Bros., Ella Fitzgerald, Flanders & Swann, George Formby, George Gershwin, Jimi Hendrix, Jools Holland, Buddy Holly, Gustav Holst, Ink Spots, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jack Johnson, Nic Jones, Louis Jordan, Kinks, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Peggy Lee, Tom Lehrer, Jerry Lee Lewis, Vera Lynn, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Nirvana, Paolo Nutini, Oasis, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Carl Perkins, Tom Petty, Elvis Presley, Bonnie Raitt, Ramones, Little Richard, Rolling Stones, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Searchers, Sex Pistols, Shadows, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, Bruce Springsteen, Status Quo, Stray Cats, Richard Thompson, Mel Tormé, KT Tunstall, Gene Vincent, Muddy Waters, White Stripes, Hank Williams, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Tammy Wynette, ZZ Top

. . . and DISLIKES

The music I actively dislike forms a much shorter list, but on that list must go: rap, hip-hop and what is now called R&B (totally different from what USED to be called R&B - rhythm & blues - which I love); modern "boy bands" / "girl bands" and, I'm afraid, opera, most of which I find tedious. I've tried to like it (honest!) but I won't lie - I just don't. Oh, and I'm not keen on John Denver (Annie's Song makes me want to tear my ears off). Oh, and I know Karen had a great voice but I don't like the Carpenters. I never watch Pop Idol, X Factor, The Voice or anything similar.

UKULELE INFLUENCES

I started playing ukulele at the age of 4, long before I’d heard the instrument being played and long before I knew the names of any players. Even George Formby was a relatively late discovery: my parents didn’t have any of his records largely because my mother, bless her, considered him “smutty”. I do remember catching him on radio and TV once or twice when I was young, and also Tessie O’Shea, another uke-playing variety artiste. Later I came to admire Formby’s technique, but at the time neither of them made a huge impression on me.

I took far more notice when I saw Elvis strumming a ukulele in his film Blue Hawaii. I was already a huge fan of “The King” and, for me, he gave the instrument enormous credibility. The movie also made me aware of Hawaiian music for the first time, and although most of the songs were admittedly pastiche, I still love them to this day.

Then along came Tiny Tim. Sorry to say this about a fellow strummer but I found him too repulsive to be an influence. He must have turned millions OFF the ukulele.

With the rising profile of the uke, I’ve become aware of players like Jake Shimabakuro, James Hill, our own Steven Sproat and Phil Doleman. Although I admire them all, it’s fair to say that none of them has had a huge influence on my playing as I've discovered them too recently. Set in my ways? No, I'm still learning but from the 60s, when I first played uke in public, I have developed my own way of doing things. 

I can also claim that influence can sometimes travel the other way. It seems that seeing me play uke in Roaring Jelly in the 80s was a major inspiration to the founders of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, now the world’s top ukulele group, who have done so much to popularise the instrument.

HUMOUR

Humour has always been important to me, and a large proportion of my songwriting output has been comic - or at least that's been the intention! Even during the Cajun years I was still writing the occasional comic song. My top comedy tastes are:

The Goons, Monty Python, Tom Lehrer, the Marx Brothers, Flight of the Conchords, The Fast Show (and most things Paul Whitehouse has a hand in), Reeves and Mortimer, Al Murray and Peter Kay. Lots of Brits in that list, but also I used to love the great cigar-chewing American comic George Burns. Jackie Mason can also be very, very funny. Oh, and Rich Hall is hilarious.

Combining two of my great loves, humour and rock'n'roll, the work of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller must get a mention. I was lucky enough to meet them once, in the green room at BBC Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham. Charming, friendly guys. Sadly, Jerry Leiber died in August 2011.

I'm NOT keen on most TV sitcoms, although Frasier and Outnumbered are both excellent, and M*A*S*H was one of my favourite TV shows ever. The Carry On films should never have carried on . . .  and on . . .

CH, 2012
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