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Happy (uke) birthday to me




You knew this was coming. It’s my birthday week. As you may have guessed, I have plenty of wants. But, I’ve crossed new shoes, earrings and pocket books off my list this year. I’m pretty easy to shop for these days: As long as my present has something to do with a ukulele, I will be happy. I’ve even gone so far as to make a helpful list for anyone who is asking themselves: Hmmmm, I wonder what Miss Joni really, really wants for her birthday?


Top Honors on the Miss Joni Birthday List goes to Mainland Ukes. I’ve been daydreaming about Mainland Ukes since my cousin purchased a beautiful Mainland mango back in June when we were in Nashville during the Ukulele World Congress. I have been thinking about getting one of my own—and fondling hers—every chance I can get. You can’t find many things as perfect as this uke: Solid mango wood—many other companies offering “mango” ukes are actually selling laminated ukuleles with a mango veneer, so you get the look of mango, but not the warm, rich sound. Mainland Ukes are big on the visuals, too. The rope binding gives their ukes a distinctive vintage flare—just perfect for playing in a jug band, I think. And, they come equipped with Aquila strings—arguably among the very best strings on the market, but I wouldn’t blink twice about changing them out for some custom cool pink Guadalupe strings.

This video has been especially helpful—I’ve been debating between a Mainland Mango and a Mainland Red Cedar. I’m pretty sure that I really like the warm, loud full sound of the mango much more than the cedar. And I KNOW that I only ever want friction tuners. Now the question is: will I go with a soprano or concert uke? I perform on an Ohana Mahogany concert uke now, but I have a certain fondness for sopranos. I suppose I will make up my mind for myself when I finally make the pilgrimage to Nashville to try them out for myself later this fall.


I would LOVE to outfit all of my ukuleles with custom wound Guadalupe Stings, but I’d be happy with just one or two set of these awesome strings. Can you imagine it? Any color you can think of. Hand wound with love just for me (or you, too, if you want some!). The coolest thing about Guadalupe, located in California, is that you can custom order strings. My friend Jim has rainbow strings on his ukulele. But, you know that my preferred color is pink. Monofilament for my sopranos and concert, of course. It might take awhile, but I don’t mind. They’ll be worth the wait.


I just love that Janet Klein. She is a breathtaking walking anachronism; she is ladylike and wonderful and quirky and amazingly talented. In an ideal world, I would have known Janet Klein about 20 years ago, and she would have taught me a thing or two about how to play ukulele like a lady. Instead, I am pretty much on my own. I’ve acquired a flower to stick in my bobbed hair when it suits my fancy, but as for the rest, I suppose it’s best to let Janet be Janet and I’ll stick to being Miss Joni.

That said, there’s plenty of cool Janet Klein stuff to be had. Her website, offers everything from great photos of the Amazing Ms. Klein that look every bit like they were taken about 80 years ago, to an online catalog where you can order Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys CD, as well as books by Janet—who is also a book and paper artist—and poetry by her friends. You can also peek at her collection of vintage Vaudeville photographs. She’s probably about the coolest person I have never met. And for that, I’d love to be the proud owner of some Janet Klein merchandise. Oh, and she is also so wonderfully antiquated, that the only way you can purchase Janet Klein stuff directly from HER is to send a check or money order. Ms. Klein does NOT accept credit cards. For that, you can order CDs from the likes of Elderly Instruments.

I gave Miss Klein a passing mention last month when I was talking all about jug band music. I think it’s high time you had a peek at what she’s all about


This weekend:

National Jug Band Jubilee
It’s this Saturday! In Louisville! With special guests Jim Kweskin and Geoff Muldaur! You better get down there! It’s free!

Historic Home Tour, NoblesvilleThe ONE AND ONLY reason I am going to miss the National Jug Band Jubilee. The Blue Stone Folk School will be hosting an open house at the historic Judge Stone House in Noblesville, and I will be there! Come and observe a shaker box making class. Check out cooking demonstrations. Visit with some folk school artist friends and have the chance to purchase some of their crafts. It’s a great opportunity to meet the nice people from the Blue Stone Folk School and find out what this great organization is all about.

Later this fall:

Milwaukee Ukulele Festival
September 25
I really shouldn’t complain, because I have pretty much one of the coolest jobs on the planet. But, I can’t help feeling just a little bit sad that I will be missing this really cool event on September 25. Li’l Rev will be there. There will be ukulele vendors, workshops, concerts, and countless ukulele players flooding the fabulous city of Milwaukee. It’s not that far away. You should really think about being there.

Southern Illinois Ukin' In the Woods Campout and Uke Fest
Carbondale, Illinois
October 15-17

Filled with uke love and a ton of inspiration after heading home from the ukulele world congress, Ukulele Underground's bornagainjeeper decided to put together a somewhat free-form uke-out of his own. He reserved a camp out spot, made arrangements and got the word out. The response on Ukulele Underground has been huge—if you ask me, this sounds like an excellent way to tumble into fall. What could be better than staying up late under the stars with a couple hundred other ukulele players? It’s not that far away, either. I think you’d better go ahead and add this event to your “to do” list right away.

To learn more, follow this link to the Ukulele Underground Forum:!


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