“…it is the one instrument you can’t play and not laugh.”

You ever get a song stuck in your head?

I used to all the time but lately it’s been much more persistent. You see, back in October, I did a foolish thing while I was in Amsterdam. (Not that kind of foolish thing!) I bought a ukulele. Mrs. Maddog and I had met a few friends from the USA in the Netherlands as it was a halfway point between the Middle East and North America. Our friend, Steve, is an accomplished musician. Our wanderings through Amsterdam took us right by The Uke Boutique and we walked right in. After about an hour of messing about with ukuleles, I walked out with a beautiful sunburst blue Makala Dolphin soprano ukulele and a postcard with how to play the basic chords and I never looked back.

Now, I’ve been playing the bodhran (traditional Irish drum) in a music group over here on a regular basis. One of the Irish pubs in a nearby country sponsors a “trad session” where we sit and play music for a few hours in the pub and they feed us free beer. Not a bad gig. I also regularly get together with other expats and have what my Newfoundland friend calls, “kitchen parties” were we get together at someone’s house and play all night (usually drinking our homemade booze and sounding better with each drink!).

With a bodhran, when I’m not accompanying other musicians, it’s not usual to sit around and just play music for my own entertainment. I sometimes do but there’s only so many times you can practice the “Mother of all Jig Rhythms.” Nor do I often find myself picking out a tune that I heard on the radio that I liked.

Well, owning a ukulele changed all that. I can’t put the dang thing down! I found it MUCH easier to learn and play than the guitar and much more portable. I’d hear a song and decide I wanted to play it. One of the first things I decided was I would learn an extensive repertoire of Tom Waits songs on my ukulele because it seemed the most ridiculous to do so (and, I think, Mr. Waits would approve).

So, now I’m playing the ukulele almost all the time. Mrs. Maddog doesn’t even mind when I play in the house. I guess I must be getting good! Or, at least, not so horrible anymore. On my last trip to the USA, I picked up a Kala brand mahogany concert cutaway ukulele with equalizer and pickup (so I can plug into an amplifier and ROCK!!). Again, I’ve not been able to put it down. It’s just too much fun to play and, more so, too much fun to be able to play and sing a song for myself.

The other night, we had some folks over to my place for another “kitchen party” and the usual suspects showed up: RockstarSteve on the mandolin, Julie-U on the accordion, KiwiDoc brought his guitar and amazing bean dip, YoungThomas brought his twelve-string guitar and even by old friend Bruno came by to drink my homemade beer and listen. I’ll elaborate on these “characters” in a later post if I write about them again.

I had a couple songs in my head that I wanted to learn and play for them. They had all heard my ukulele renditions of “Chocolate Jesus” by Tom Waits and “Tell it to Me” By the Old Crow Medicine Show as well as my country-music-styled “Friday I’m in Love” by the Cure. (I only do that one to annoy Mrs Maddog.)

A few days before the kitchen party, I heard “Gravity’s Gone” by the Drive By Truckers come up on my playlist while I was going to work. It stuck in my head. I picked out the chords and played it up. Now I can’t get that song out of my head. It’s not the only song in my head. I’m also a HUGE fan of Michael Franti and Spearhead. His song, “Sound of Sunshine” is pretty much one of the most fun to play on the ukulele. There’s something about strumming away on my ukulele and singing lyrics like:

I wanna go where the summer never ends
With my guitar (ukulele) on the beach, yeah with all my friends
The sun’s so hot, the waves in motion
And everything smells like suntan lotion
The ocean, and the girls so sweet
So kick of your shoes and relax your feet
They say that miracles are never ceasin’
And every single soul needs a little releasin’
The stereo thumpin’ ’till the sun goes down
And I only wanna hear that sound!

Yeah. It’s much fun.

“Maddog! This has nothing to do with EMS. Why are you posting this to your blog?”

Well, it’s something going on with me right now and I find it important. I’m remembering some advice I got when I first started writing this thing from a blogging (at the time) FF/Medic named Clarke Oliver:

Just write about you- all of you, not just the fire dept you.

So that’s what I’m doing. There will be more EMS-related stuff coming up, I’m sure. I’ve been away at training and holiday so I haven’t run that many calls. In the meantime, go out and get a ukulele. As George Harrison said:

Everybody should have and play a uke, it’s so simple to carry with you and it is one instrument you can’t play and not laugh.

–maddog

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  • Lynda Gilbert Esparza

    I love reading what some might consider random life stuff here, I like your style