ABOUT ME


Hi everyone, and welcome to my website. I have developed my interest in ukuleles and banjo ukes over the last forty-five years and in that time I have learnt to play them to a reasonable standard. During my childhood there was always an old ukulele lying around the house because one of my two older brothers (Richard) had bought one and learned to play it. My mother - quite a promising self-taught pianist - could also play the Ukulele, having once bought one for the princely sum of two shillings and sixpence (twelve and a half pence in today’s money) and the purchase price included a free lesson! However, my interest really began to develop from the day I decided to pop inside a small junk shop, and sitting there on a table was a little black case marked up at £4. I looked inside it and found what I now know to be a Dallas ‘B’ Model banjo uke. I took a gamble and bought it and slowly learned to play it, and I started to become interested about the history of this little instrument, about which I knew nothing. There was nothing to indicate who had made it, nor when or where it had been made, and it was my search for answers to these questions that slowly led me into contact with other people, and which in turn led to an accumulation of knowledge as well as to some important events in my life. Throughout this time I was pursuing my career as a Geography Teacher in secondary education, teaching students from aged 11 to 18. Having spent over 35 enjoyable years in this profession I retired (at the end of August 2011) as Head of Geography and Housemaster of Burnaby House at Oswestry School, a school that has provided fine education and opportunities to its pupils on a continuous basis since its foundation over six hundred years ago in 1407.


The first really good instrument that I bought (although I didn’t know it at the time) was a Ludwig banjo uke. It was back in early 1979 and I had never seen a Ludwig before, in fact the only image of one that I had ever seen was a rather poor photograph of one at the bottom of page 30 of Alan Randall’s excellent tutor book called ‘Playing the Ukulele and the Ukulele Banjo’. I was fortunate enough to have been given first refusal on this Ludwig by Doug Parry, who ran John Alvey Turner’s shop in Great Russell Street in London which was for many years was a very good shop offering an excellent range of new and vintage Banjos and other instruments at reasonable prices. Doug wanted £140 for the Ludwig including its original case, and when when I was offered it I just didn’t know whether to buy it or not. £140 was quite a lot of money at the time, in fact I only had £140 in my savings account at the time plus my return rail ticket back home to Bath, and I didn’t even have the Bus fare to get home from Bath Spa Station! Anyway, I took a gamble and bought it, and I remember sitting in the train going back to Bath clutching the Ludwig’s black case in my hands and thinking “What have I done?” Well, what I had done was to be introduced to what I have since come to consider as the finest banjo ukes ever made, and once I had got it home and set it up, the sound that the Ludwig produced was simply stunning. Ever since that day my appreciation of Ludwig banjo ukes has remained undiminished.


In November 1979 I joined the George Formby Society (GFS), and shortly afterwards in early 1980 I became a member of The Ukulele Society of Great Britain (USGB). Before he died in 1961, George Formby had been one of Britain’s premiere stars from the mid 1930’s onwards, and for three successive years at the height of his fame he earned more than the top three Hollywood film stars put together! He had made his name by singing amusing songs with a timeless appeal and had accompanied them with his own brilliant style of playing on the banjo uke. I was privileged to have been elected Secretary of the GFS from 1982 until 1987 and President from 1988 until 1992. The USGB is much smaller than the GFS, having fewer meetings, fewer members and a rather broader musical base, but thanks to both of these societies I have had the opportunity to meet some great musicians, to make many, many friends, play some fabulous instruments to and to develop my knowledge and love of the ukulele and the banjo uke.


It was in October 1990 whilst I was President of the GFS, that I received a phone call from George Harrison (yes, the George Harrison), who wanted to re-generate his interest in George Formby and in playing the ukulele and the banjo uke, both of which he had held since he was a child. He had phoned me wanting some advice about the instruments that he should be looking for. We met shortly afterwards and we remained good friends for eleven years, until his sad and untimely death in 2001. George loved playing the banjo uke and the ukulele, and he was a brilliant player and composer. I am really proud that it was me who first helped him to start his collection of banjo ukes and ukuleles and that I was the person that first advised him about which instruments to look for, how much he should expect to pay for them, as well as helping him play in the style of George Formby. I was also the person who persuaded George to attend the March 1991 meeting of the GFS at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool (together with his wife and son and George’s friend Jimmy Nail) and to attend a meeting of the USGB at Digswell, Hertfordshire. Both of these meetings he enjoyed immensely. I am also proud to have had a number of instruments restored for him including the first vintage banjo uke that he ever bought after talking to me in 1990, which was a gold plated and engraved Ludwig. After restoration, this instrument looked magnificent and sounded superb.


George Harrison was a very kind, friendly, caring, thoughtful and deeply spiritual man, and it was both a privilege and a pleasure to have known him. He was kind enough to give me a ‘Big Resonator’ Gibson UB-3 with a ‘three dot’ fingerboard and three thumbscrew mountings, which was originally presented to me in one of his large Kamaka ukulele cases! He had written a message to me on the old vellum and had signed it on behalf of himself and his family. Sadly, the vellum had a small hole in it and had to be replaced so that the instrument could be played and enjoyed, but I carefully removed the original vellum and it is kept in the original Kamaka case. That is one instrument that I will never sell because it means so much to me and it brings back so many unforgettable memories. George loved his banjo ukes and ukuleles and he had a great collection, but he always wanted to buy my gold plated and engraved Ludwig banjo uke (shown in the ‘Seventh Heaven’ section of this website). However hard he tried to persuade me to sell it to him I refused - and believe me he offered me a lot of money for it - but I knew that if I sold it to him I would probably never ever find such a beautiful looking and beautiful sounding instrument again. Tempted though I was, I preferred to keep, admire and play that beautiful instrument rather than exchange it for a large pile of banknotes, and it remains with me to this day.


Finally, a major reason for this website is to enable people to benefit from the knowledge and expertise that I have accumulated over the years (and continue to do so) by offering for sale a variety of really nice instruments that I know to be of really good quality. Over many years I became frustrated at not being able to get reliable advice about instruments and other associated products, so I have tried to put this right through the medium of my website and I always try to sell instruments and other items that are of genuinely good quality and ones that I would be happy to use myself - as I frequently do!

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Web site founded in 2001


Over 45 years of Experience and Expertise with Ukuleles and Banjo Ukes

John Croft, Glan Tanat, Llanyblodwel, Oswestry, Shropshire, SY10 8NQ, England.

Tel: (+44) 01691 828850

Email: theukuleleman.com@gmail.com