Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Johnny Foodstamp, my Kiwaya KTS-4 and a bit of Roy Smeck - what a combination!

I told you that Johnny Foodstamp (from Nashville, Tennessee) made the pilgrimage to a George Formby Society convention in Blackpool again... just a week or so ago...

He was interested in my Kiwaya uke, knowing how George Elmes (read about George here on Uke Ireland ) thinks so highly of his Kiwaya ... and as he wanted to play it, and I wanted to hear him play it, the result was this lovely impromptu performance of Roy Smeck's Music Box Waltz.

Pure magic.

Please enjoy....

Mmm, delicious!

Thanks for dropping in....

Monday, 29 September 2014

Carter Picking - bring it ON! Tutorial by Aaron Keim, The Quiet American

Two or three weeks ago or thereabouts, I was scouring the net, looking for a tutorial on Carter-picking. Uke players come in two kinds, one with a huge background of guitars, and the other with little or no guitar experience. I'm from the latter, and had only just become acquainted with the term - but when I did, I wanted to be able to do it on the uke. Nothing doing - but I did see Aaron Keim (AKA The Quiet American) pop up somewhere in the search, saying that he was preparing some tutorials on it. Well now he has, and it's really exciting....

Carter picking is a finger picking style where you pick out a melodic line with the thumb, and flick in strums with the first finger. Although Maybelle Carter didn't actually invent the style, it was she who became well known for using it and brought it to prominence. It's a lovely catchy, bouncy style that just gets your feet tapping right away... think Johnny Cash!

Aaron gives four pages of help and tabs - for that and videos click here

I've featured Aaron Keim on these pages before, he's a fantastic uke player - just check out the tag cloud at the bottom. If you're in the UK and want to see Aaron live - well, he'll be coming to the 2015 Grand Northern Ukulele Festival in Huddersfield next year! I've got my ticket already, oh yes!

(Pssst - that's a Mya-Moe uke he's playing. Beautiful American luthier-built ukes. Fred (the rooster song) from Quebec was playing a Mya-Moe banjo-uke in my post from the other day, too... see that distinctive headstock....)

Thanks for dropping in! Now to practise that Carter picking.....

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Just between ourselves, we call ourselves The Gibson Girls... Caroline, Lesley and Kate - GFS Blackpool September 2014

I always have a great time at the George Formby Society Convention in Blackpool. You know I do. I tell you all the time. But last weekend was even a bit extra-special.

Here's one reason. My very good friend Caroline Stewart became Chairman of the society. My first convention in June 2102 was her second, and we quickly became pals in the "thrash" when she advised me that the reason my uke sounded out of tune was that it should have been tuned in D, not in C - and we have been good friends ever since. Caroline sings adn plays very well, and that, together with her love of George Formby have made her very popular with the GFS audiences, as has her willingness to get involved in the society and do her bit - a very able and lovely lady, is Caroline, and a stalwart friend - someone you want in your corner.

Another such is Kate Howard, who attended her first convention, traveling all the way from her home on the Isle of Skye with a Long-Suffering-Husband in tow last year. She loves Formby and the tricky syncopated banjo-uke solos - and my goodness, can she play - yes she can! The three of us have all become good mates, all the proud owners of vintage Gibson UB2 banjo-ukes, and even the three Long-Suffering-Husbands, uke-widowers all, have become great pals and now take themselves off during the conventions to find their own amusements in the local hostelries! Such is the power and appeal of the GFS to bring people together.

Back in March, Caroline suggested that the three of us could perform a medley together, a medley of jazz standards that George performed on TV in 1958 with the Deep River Boys. We all live too far apart to be able to practise together, but we found the chords and learned these three songs, and finally on Saturday we ran them through a couple of times during the mid-afternoon break, ready to perform them during the main concert on Saturday evening. It's not a lot of rehearsal, is it, but we got through it ok.... these girls are such lovely performers, it was great to be up on that Formby stage with them!

Caroline, Lesley, Kate
Photo thanks to Jonathan Mallalieu

And here's a video! Thanks to another good pal, Pauline Aitken!

The band are fabulous. Just tell 'em what your're doing, what key you're playing in - and they're away! Matt, Tony and Dale, that time...

So now I must learn another Formby number, complete with solo. There's challenging...

Thanks for dropping in! Lots more to come...

Friday, 26 September 2014

GFS Convention September 2014 - Fred from Quebec and the GFS Band

Just had a really fabulous weekend of Ukafrolics at the September Convention of the GFS (George Formby Society) at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. These weekends happen four times a year, every March, June, September and November, and since our first, just over two years ago in June 2012, we have only missed one, and that was because were abroad. You go once, and you're hooked. The atmosphere is something REALLY special. The enthusiasm, the warmth, the friendliness - well, you just have to go and experience it to really understand what I'm talking about.

The main convention experience for most people is sitting in the audience to watch the performances. I, for one, hate to miss anyone's performance, whatever level player they are. That means I do miss out on a lot of back-room and bar-room interaction - but that's another story! The performances are what most people are there for, whether to perform or just to enjoy. And people will travel thousands of miles to be part of this. Last weekend was typical. There were enough folk from other lands to make a whole band of them on stage, for one special number! And most of them got up on that stage and did their own spot as well.

One such was a man I can only refer to as "Fred from Quebec". He performed to a very welcoming audience with great style, a very funny song about a highly-sexed rooster. Fred brought the house down, lovely performance. And he chose to be backed by the band. Now I really do want to spotlight the band at this point - because they are nothing short of magnificent. Sometimes people choose to perform to their own backing tracks, because that's what they are used to, but I do always think that's a shame because that band can back anything and anyone and they don't need the music in front of them, they just pick it up and give the performer just the right balance of backing, whatever they need.... so talented! Even on a song they haven't heard before, like Fred's rooster song.

In that part of the show, the band comprised Dale Norman on drums, Dave Partington (who has written an excellent book on how to perform Formby solos) on bass guitar and the GFS Musical Director, Matthew J Richards on keyboard. Fred began his song. The band listened for a few seconds. Dale came in with a light percussion accompaniment. Next in was Dave on bass, then Matt was in on keyboard - and it was as if they'd known the song all along. That's how good they are. It all sounded brilliant. What stars!

Fred's video doesn't show clearly how the band joined in, but they did, I was there!

I occasionally clamber up onto that stage, always with the fear that I will suddenly "blank" on words or chords, I know it happens to everyone at some time - but the thing is, if you are playing to a backing track and you do suddenly go blank, a backing track will not forgive a moment's hesitation, it just goes on and leave you derailed. With the GFS band you can have confidence that they will follow you and rescue you, even vamp for a while, while you get over it if necessary - it is pure joy to watch and listen how they support the performer, even when a performer misses beats, not waiting until the natural end of a phrase before before beginning the next. Some people do do that if they are sort of "new" to music - but the band are onto it and will not let the performer down. Brilliant. If I were a chap and I wore a hat, Id take it off to them.

Thanks for dropping in - more coming up!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Look out - Johnny Foodstamp hits the GFS September 2014 Convention!

I've been featuring Johnny Foodstamp in my blogs for exactly two and a half years. The first time was 22nd March 2012, very soon after I started this blog. I named him as one of my ukulele heroes, for helping me over a ukulele forum to sort out little problems with my very first (and very old) banjo-uke. So kind and helpful. Go back and read it and you'll see. Since then I've posted about Johnny lots of times. I love it that he, a young fella from Nashville, Tennessee, plays George Formby, Formby-style, split-strokes and everything and brings it to the Nashville folk. What a star. And last weekend he and his lovely wife made their second trip across the Atlantic to attend their second Formby convention. How fantastic is that! And I can tell you, he got a very warm welcome from the friends he made last time!

He didn't bring a banjo-uke with him this time, just his lovely vintage Gibson soprano uke. It sounds gorgeous. And he says that the strings are just the cheapest nylon uke strings from his local music shop.... food for thought there!

He gave us two Formby numbers on Saturday - "Little Ukulele" and "The Lancashire Toreador". Now, the purists will say that Johnny's vocal style "isn't Formby".... well, how can he sound like a Lancashire lad, coming from Nashville Tennessee, for goodness sake? Sure he has a very personal style of delivery, but whether you like that or not, the uke playing was excellent. Me? I loved it.

Here's the Lancashire Toreador....

Thanks to Pauline Aitken for the video

More Johnny to come...

After a monster couple of Ukafrolicking weeks, coming up...

Two weekend uke festivals in nine days takes some reporting on.... but I'm getting there, honestly, in between washing, various other bits of housework and sick-visiting - so, coming up...

(I love this pic of me with Johnny Foodstamp thanks to Kate Howard!)
The September convention of the GFS (George Formby Society) in Blackpool - a bit of a spotlight on the band, Johnny Foodstamp visits from Nashville, and as many more delights as I can possibly cram in before life tears me away....

Also - The GNUF (Grand Northern Ukulele Festival) in Huddersfield - this was two weekends ago, but I still have lots that I want to tell you about in my own way and from my own perspective. So bear with me and I'll be with you shortly!