Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dia de los Ukuleles

Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, is an important part of Southern California culture. Growing up I would see sugar skulls in Mexican bakeries and gift shops. I always found them fascinating. It wasn't until high school that I began to grasp the significance of the holiday.

The indigenous people of Mexico have been honoring the dead for over 3,000 years. Original it was an Aztec practice that was celebrated during the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, approximately the month of August. Festivities were presided over by Mictecacihuatl, the goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead." Death was viewed as the continuation of life. To them life was a dream and only in death did they become fully awake.

Over 500 years ago the Spanish Conquistadors tried to remove the practice from the local culture. Needless to say, old habits die hard and they were fighting a losing battle. So they decided to compromise and move the celebration to All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day, Nov. 1 & 2.

Today the tradition is celebrated by many cultures here in Southern California. Altars at set up in art galleries and gift shops. Street parades featuring costumes and giant puppets are not uncommon. But let's not forget that it is a day to remember those whom we have loved who are no longer with us.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I've been busy this month with lots of projects and just realized I haven't drawn any thing on the chalkboard ukulele in quite a while. So, here's a little tribute to Halloween. I recently heard that more money is spent by consumers for Halloween supplies than is spent on Christmas gifts. I don't know if that's true or not but it is the one holiday where one can indulge oneself without having to feel guilty.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which is pronounced "sah-win." Large bonfires were lit to celebrate the end of the harvest season. The fires attracted bug which attracted bats. No doubt the bats were seen as evil spirits. Masks and costumes were worn to mimic or appease the evil spirits. Are things starting to make sense?

So, here's to all who celebrate this day in all its glory. And here's to all the kids that are just out there for sacks of candy.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Father and Son Ukesters Greg and Jonah Price

What does the UPS man do in his spare time? Well if you're Greg Price you make ukuleles. I first ran into Greg and his son Jonah while performing my magic show at Seaport Village. They were watching my show because Jonah is an aspiring magician. The fact that all three of us are ukulele players was just an added bonus. Seeing them again at the San Diego Ukulele Festival was a pleasant surprise. Greg is known for his cigar box ukuleles and for his gourd ukuleles. Cigar box ukes have been around for a long time. I've even built a few myself. But gourd ukuleles???!!! Greg is the only one I know of making 'em. And they sound wonderful! You can find out more about Greg's gourd ukuleles here and his cigar box ukuleles here. You're gonna love them!

Next up is Greg's talented son Jonah. Jonah and I share an interest in magic. In fact it was after watching my show that we first met. Then he saw my ukulele case sitting next to my show rig. What are the odds of meeting someone who shares your interest in both magic and ukes? Jonah was a member of the Magic Castle Junior Magicians. He is also one talented musician. Playing guitar and piano as well as the ukulele he's a triple threat. You can hear his music over at his YouTube channel here. And, if you're looking to add a little magic to your day you can see some of Jonah's magic at his YouTube channel here. Thanks Jonah and Greg for being part of the chalkboard ukulele experience. I'll see you on the streets!

Fred Shields Ukuleles

While strolling around the San Diego Ukulele Festival I heard a voice call out, "Hey, aren't you a magician?" It was none other than San Diego uke maker Fred Shields. Fred is a one-of-a-kind ukulele craftsman. In addition to the standard soprano, concert, and tenor models he also makes Tahitian, oval, triangle, teardrop, paddle, backpacker, and banjo models. His banjo model is all wood instead of having a skin head. It reminds me of the old Gretsch Camp Ukes. He's also the guy who made the custom ukulele Boone plays. You can find his ukes at my favorite guitar shop, Moze Guitars over in La Mesa. Do yourself a favor and head over to Fred's facebook page and see the interesting ukuleles he's made. You just might end up asking him to make a custom one for you!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tiki Oasis - Let's Tiki

Is there tiki in Wisconsin? There is if you know where to look! And the place to look is Let's Tiki. I had the pleasure of meeting Randy and Damon at the Zen Tiki Lounge podcast at Tiki Oasis. Damon, the guy on the right, is the tiki genius who runs It's a great source for tiki information. You'll find tiki bars listed by state, province, and country. For the record, Florida leads the nation with 25, closely followed by California with 24. But Wisconsin has a very respectable 2, make that 3 if you count the one in Damon's basement. But wait there's more, you will also find "all of the latest tiki headlines in one place" and a bar-load of great cocktail recipes including the Milwaukee Mai Tai.
To make one fill your cocktail shaker with:
1 cup crushed ice
2 oz. Roaring Dan's Rum
1/2 oz.Cointreau
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Orgeat syrup
Shake well, until the outside of the shaker is frosted. Pour unstrained into a cocktail glass. By the way, Roaring Dan's Rum is made in Wisconsin by the Great Lakes Distillery. It is distilled from pure sugarcane molasses and Wisconsin maple syrup. Sounds yummy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tiki Oasis - Zen Tiki Lounge

I really enjoy listening to podcasts and one of my favorites is Zen Tiki Lounge. Sunshine and the Ladies of the Lounge spend an hour chatting and sipping cocktails for our listening pleasure. For the past two years I've been invited to be a part of the podcast live from Tiki Oasis. Sunshine, Kalani, and Starshine (from left to right) are wonderful hosts. Starshine redecorates his hotel room to look like a tiki bar, serves a couple of exotic cocktails of his own invention, plays a round or two of 'What's in Kalani's Bra' (which for the past two years my wife has won, um, not the bra but the contest) and generally makes us all feel very welcome. I'm honored to have all three host add a little something to the chalkboard ukulele. Check out the podcast here Zen Tiki Lounge. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Tiki Oasis - A Pair of Kings

One of the great things about living in San Diego is all of the great events that happen here. Of course there's the huge San Diego Comic Con. But there are also some interesting smaller events, too. For the past few years I've been spending a weekend at Tiki Oasis. The best way to describe the it is a Woodstock for hipsters. It's at the now renamed Hanalei Hotel famous for it's tiki architecture. While there I had the opportunity to meet some ukulele royality.
First up is Tiki King. Hailing from Felton, CA he is well known in the ukulele community. His website is a great source for ukulele information including a very comprehensive listing of ukulele makers both past and present. Almost 700 ukuleles are listed! Tiki King is also an accomplished artist having made his own custom ukuleles as well as designing artwork for the popular Flea and Fluke ukes. He also fronts his own band Tiki King and the Idol Pleasures. Their songs are definitely worth a listen. And if that's not enough activities for one man he's also an amateur bartender! On his website he has a great list of cocktails both tiki inspired and conventional. Here's the Mai Tai recipe on he wrote on the ukulele:
1 oz. Light Rum
1 oz. Dark Rum
1/2 oz. Rock Candy Syrup
1/2 oz. Orgeat
1/2 oz. Orange Curacao
Juice of 1/2 a lime.
Shake well, strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice garnish with lime shell, mint sprig, orange slice and a maraschino cherry. Delicious or should I say, "Mai tai!"

Our next royal guest is none other than King Kukulele. King Kukulele is a Southern California ukulele fixture. He's performed at many ukulele events, night clubs, and even McCabe's Guitar Shop. But he is probably best known as the emcee of Tiki Oasis. Every year he keeps the stage running smoothly from one band to another by keeping the audience laughing at his spontaneous humor. Personally, I'm a big fan of his ability to entertain both the kids and the adults in the audience. This is not an easy thing to do when the grown ups are enjoying a tasty adult beverage and the kids are watching their first burlesque dancer! If that's not enough to do he also fronts his own band Kink Kukulele and the Friki Tikis. You can find more information about this one-of-a-kind entertainer at his website:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SD Ukulele Festival Star Derick Sebastian

While hanging out in the sun at the SD Ukulele Festival my wife grabbed my arm and said, "Did you hear Derick Sebastian play? You should get him on the chalkboard ukulele!" Never one to miss an opportunity, I waited patiently in line with his other fans and asked him to draw a little something on the uke. He was laughing the whole time he drew his big-eared creature. It seems that his family says he has no artistic talent! I think he did a great job. He also did a great job at the ukulele festival. He shared the stage with Jake Shimabukuro, did a set of his own, and taught a couple of workshops. A week later he was in Arizona playing the national anthem at a Diamondback's game. Derick is one busy guy. You can keep up with him over at his site Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jim D'Ville - Chalkboard Ukulele by Ear

While at the San Diego Ukulele Festival Mike DeSilva was again nice enough to introduce me to ukulele instructor Jim D'Ville. In addition to being a wonderful ukulele player Jim is best know for his 'Play Ukulele by Ear' DVDs. While I haven't viewed his DVDs I have perused his blog. I'm a big fan of his '3 Chord Club.' It's amazing how many songs use just three chords. You can see that Jim drew a big '5' on the headstock of the ukulele and a 'circle of fifths' around the soundhole. While playing music can be a lot more complicated than that three chords are a great place to start. And, Jim D'Ville will get you off with the right start. Check out his blog, Play Ukulele by Ear. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Artist Tim Blackburn

I've know Tim off and on for quite a few years. I say "off and on" because he lives in Plano, Texas and I only see him on his all too rare visits to California. We first met through the mail. It seems we both share an interest in eraser carving, making relief prints on the soft smooth surface of white vinyl erasers. We then make prints on postal cards and send them off to other like-minded artists. Our first face-to-face meeting was in the 90's in Santa Barbara at Stampfest, an artist retreat for eraser carvers. Did you know such an event even existed? Since then he's come out to Comic Con, the HUGE comic book and pop culture event in San Diego. On his most recent visit a few weeks ago he showed me a journal he's filling with little figure sketches. I immediately asked him if he would sketch them on the chalkboard ukulele. Of course, he was more that happy to do it. And here they are for your viewing pleasure. Thanks Tim, you're amazing!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sketch Pals

Once a month I get together with these wonderful ladies to sketch in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park. From left to right is Kathy, Diane, Rachel and Sara. Since Sara is a fellow ukulele player I thought it would be fun to bring the chalkboard ukulele with me on this month's outing. Sara was quite upset that I was going to eraser her entry on the chalkboard ukulele. So, I decided to wait until she was gone to erase it.

Personally, I've found a somewhat perverse pleasure in saying, "Thanks for drawing on the ukulele, that was great!" and then erasing it right then and there. Diane, on the other hand, was totally with it and decided to draw some flowers on the uke for her artist trading card blog. Inspired by the Noah Scalin's skull-a-day blog she has decided to do an artist trading card everyday for a year! Check it out here And, if any of you are interested in sketching with us you can find out more at San Diego Sketch Crawlers over at Yahoo Groups. On a related note, Jane LaFazio, who started the SD Sketch Crawler group, recently asked my wife if if the chalkboard ukulele was playable or just a chalkboard. Well, it is playable. But, it's not all that in tune due to it's budget construction. More later!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ukulele Virtuoso James Hill

While at the San Diego Ukulele Festival Mike DaSilva was nice enough to introduce me to the talented James Hill. Hailing from Langley, British Columbia, Canada (check out the maple leaves on the ukulele) Ukulele James began playing the uke as a school boy. It was mandatory in many Canadian schools. How cool is that? As a teenager he honed his skills as a member of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble. He then went on to co-author the book Ukulele in the Classroom with J. Chalmers Doan, the very teacher that pioneered the use of the ukulele to teach music to Canadian school children. But that's just the back story. His real talent is his playing and composing. Rafe Mair of Vancouver's 600Am has called him "one of the world's top composer for the ukulele and probably the best player on the planet." His YouTube videos have had over 150,000 views. He's constantly in demand for for concerts and music festivals. If you know about the ukulele then you know about James Hill. If you need to know more you can find it at his website and you can see his custom tenor ukulele over at DaSilva Ukuleles. And, as James like to say, "Uku-Lel-Eh!"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ukulele Luthier Michael DaSilva

While at the San Diego Ukulele Festival I reintroduced myself to Berkeley ukulele maker Mike DaSilva. I met Mike several years ago at another uke fest here in town. Mike took the time to sketch a nice beach scene complete with palm trees and hammock. Unfortunately, I took the photos in the bright sun and most of the detail isn't visible. Sorry Mike. Have you heard about DaSilva Ukuleles? His ukuleles are amazing works of art and craftsmanship. I had a chance to strum a few jazz chords on his prototype archtop ukulele. Absolutely fantastic! Every instrument he builds is top of the line. His ukuleles range from traditional Hawaiian and mainland models to whimsical and artistic to innovative bamboo and carbon fiber ukuleles. And he's a big supporter of the ukulele scene in the Bay Area. His ukulele workshop hosts concerts and ukulele lessons. In addition to being one of the most creative ukulele makers, Mike is also an all around nice guy. He was very helpful in arranging a couple of guest artists for the chalkboard ukulele. Thanks Mike. Please take a little time and check out the amazing DaSilva Ukuleles at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

San Diego Ukulele Festival

Dateline San Diego - I spent a wonderful day at the San Diego Ukulele Festival. I got things started by checking in with festival organizer Jan Hatch. She was kind enough to use the chalkboard ukulele to help promote the event. With an all star line up that include headliners Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill, as well as Ukulele Bartt, Derick Sebastian, Fred Thompson and the Ukulele Orchestra of Southern California, Uncle Dave, James D'Ville, Sarah Maisel, Ukulele Ray, Ronnie Seno, Brad Norris, Erich Blase and Bassman Mike, the Kalama Brothers and Mitch Chang there was a great assortment of music to listen to. There were also quit a few ukulele vendors there as well. Whether one was an experienced ukulele veteran or a first time strummer there was a ukulele wait for you to play. I avoided UAS, ukulele acquisition syndrome, and left with a DVD of The Mighty Uke and a Rhythm Ring for my strumming hand. Liberty Station (the former Naval Training Center) was a great venue for the event. The large grassy mall and the sea breeze made for a wonderful time. Although I couldn't spend as much time at the festival as I would have liked, I did manage to get a few guest artists to pose with the chalkboard ukulele. I'll be posting more updates as I have time to write them. Stay tuned, I think you will enjoy what's coming up. In the mean time, check out the San Diego Ukulele website to see what you missed. And, bookmark their site so that you will be ready for the 2012 festival.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

David Kamatoy - Entertainer, Entrepreneur, E-Marketer, and Ukester!

I've know David Kamatoy for decades. When he was in high school he used to come out and watch me and my fellow buskers perform in Balboa Park. Soon enough he had a show of his own and was juggling in the park, too. Later he went on to be a popular member of San Diego's musical theater scene. In addition to being San Diego's best comedy juggler, David is also an innovative entrepreneur. By using his performance background as a starting point he offers a variety of unique marketing services. From email marketing to video blogging to custom presentations David's Kamatoy Media Group is at the forefront of social media. In addition, he is also an avid ukulele player. I'm pleased to say that I gave him his first uke, which was so cheap that it caused him to quickly upgrade to a Kala tenor ukulele. David, thanks for being a good friend and for being part of the chalkboard ukulele project. And, if any of you are interested in contacting David he can be found at and

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Go Skateboarding Ukulele Day

Today, June 21, is Go Skateboarding Day. So, in honor of one of Southern California's best inventions, I rode the 5th Annual Sector 9 Poker Run. That's the Sector 9 logo on the uke. Sector 9 is a San Diego institution. In fact, my son spent a year running maple plys through their belt sander. Sector 9 throws this great ride along Mission Bay. It ends with an awesome party in Mission Beach that includes contests, games, music, Wahoo's burritos and lots of swag. It's a casual ride for skaters of all ages. I think this year they ranged in age from 5 years to well over 60! I rode my one-of-a-kind custom Galac LDP (Long Distance Pumping) deck. Although Galac is no longer producing decks it's still my go-to ride most of the time. Thank you Sector 9 for a great day and for giving my son a job. You guys are the best! And, if anyone is interested, you can find more info on Go Skateboarding Day and Sector 9 via these links:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ukulele Busker Ukulele Boone

Here's another San Diego ukulele busker. You can find Boone all over town. I usually see him in Balboa Park sitting in the shade singing his favorite songs and playing his custom Fred Shields ukulele. He also plays outside of Petco Park when the Padres are in town. I once found him on the Pacific Beach boardwalk while I was out skateboarding. If you keep your eyes and ears open I'm sure you will find Ukulele Boone, too. If you don't want to wait you can friend him over at Facebook. In the mean time, as Boone likes to say, "Keep on smilin'!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ukulele Mama

Recently my Mom came out for a visit from Alabama. She didn't have a banjo on her knee but she did have a chalkboard ukulele in her hands. For the record, she's not from the South. She's a Minnesota Swede through and through. She headed south from California to be closer to my sister and her family. Mom has been keeping a round robin letter going with her friends since they graduated high school. What started with ten ladies is now down to three. They are still keeping in touch although often via email. I miss having my mom near me, but she does come out for an annual visit. She's a great mom, too. Our visits always include a trip to Hodad's for the best burger in America. She loves hamburgers. And speaking of love, I love my mom. Thanks for being the greatest mom around! Here she is contemplating all things ukulele in the shade of the bodhi tree.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hard Travelin' Uke

One of my goals with this blog is to pay tribute to some of the people who shaped my life. With that in mind here's a little portrait of Woody Guthrie. Woody was an American folksinger, songwriter and guitarist. Although he died in 1967 his music is still influencing musicians and songwriters today. The list of those inspired by Woody Guthrie is much too long to list here. His songs are part of America as well as the rest of the world. "This Land is Your Land" was in my grade school chorus book. The song's author was listed as either anonymous or traditional. I remember thinking, "Don't the people who made this book know who Woody Guthrie is?" If you don't know who he is you can find out more at Even if you do know who Woody is you might want to follow that link.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ukulele Busker Annie Rettic

One of the best aspects of being a ukulele player is meeting other ukesters. Case in point - Annie Rettic. Annie is a busker in San Diego's Balboa Park. She can be found on the Prado most weekends singing and playing guitar, 5 string fiddle, and, of course, ukulele. You can hear Annie and her music at Thanks Annie for being the first guest artist on the chalkboard ukulele. If you find yourself in San Diego look for Annie in the park, you'll be glad you did!

Friday, June 10, 2011


Here's the first image on the chalkboard ukulele. I've been a fan of Noah Scalin's Skull-a-day blog for quite some time. I've also been a long-time fan of skulls, too. So, as a tribute, my first drawing is a skull ukulele - a skullele. The skull was drawn with Prang Colored Paper Chalk. Before settling on the skull image I did a few test runs to see how the chalkboard paint handles the chalk. The Prang chalk is harder than the Crayola chalk but the colors are more vivid. The t-shirt I'm wearing is a stencil I designed. I used bleach in a spray bottle to lighten the black fabric. Thanks to the Mrs. for taking my portrait. If you haven't been to Noah's blog you can find it here

This Could be Interesting

For quite a while I've had this cheap ukulele I found at the swap meet. I've been trying to think of something interesting and/or artistic to do with it. While looking at art cars on the web I saw some that were painted with chalkboard paint and I knew what I needed to do. A quick trip to the hardware store and I was ready to go. I dismantled the little uke and gave it several coats of Rust-oleum Chalkboard paint. A trip to the toy store and my garage studio produced two boxes of chalk. We're off and running, I hope you like the results.