The Ukulele – Still Fighting for Respect?

I never liked plastic ukes. My dad thought they were cool. He always had a “TV Pal” hanging along side vintage Hawaiian ukes. I guess for those that lived in their hayday it has a nostalgia appeal. And I know some Plastic ukes are better than others. But to me they represent the root of a misconception. A violin is not considered the kiddy version of a cello. A flute is not considered less of an instrument than a saxophone. Yet many people outside of Hawaii, and even some here, look at the ukulele as a toy. Why? Even soon after becoming an instrument, musicians made intense and powerful music on the ukulele. Roy Smeck was one of them. Check him out, rippin’ it up-

The first wave of ukulele popularity in the teens and 20’s came about from adults that fell in love with this musical instrument. The second wave of the late 40’s and 50’s had many great players, yet it was dominated by the plastic ukulele and it was mostly adopted as a kids toy. Mattel sold 11 million plastic ukes from 1947-1957, and they were just one of the insanely cheap and crappy toy ukes on the market. Cheap has it’s place and these may have helped some kids get involved with music, but at that point in time the publics mindset changed. Dad’s didn’t want their teenage boy playing ukulele. You’re supposed to get a guitar when you grow up. And that’s the baby boomer era’s initial perspective of the instrument. Hawaii never thought of the ukulele like this. Yet the consumers need for cheap allows our ABC store equivalent. Aloha painted on the front. It does the instrument a similar disfavor (IMO).

plastic ukulele copyThe ukulele has come a long way. The advent of internet and online sharing has revealed it’s potential again. It’s light hearted perception is part of the charm. Not taking yourself too serious. But my family has been making high end ukes for the last 20 years. I’ve heard, “Boy, I remember when they were $1.49.” And ukes over a grand have often given way to the ol’, “what’s it made of gold?”…hilarious.

The value of the injection mold into society is arguable. But maybe it has given value. I don’t wish things different and I don’t mind plastic ukes like I used to. Actually we have a number of them from a collection we bought last year. Yet for some reason I can’t bring myself to list them on the website… they’re cool…I just can’t do it…maybe I will.

What’s your thoughts? Is plastic ok? As this ukulele craze grows, is that something we may see more of? Followed by a new Tiny Tim?? Noooo, Someone wake me up~