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Legends of the Ukulele

Fred Sokolow is best known as the author of a library of instructional books and DVDs for guitar, banjo, Dobro, mandolin, lap steel and ukulele. There are currently over a hundred of his books or DVDs in print, sold all over the world. Fred has long been a well-known West Coast multi-string performer and recording artist, particularly on the acoustic music scene. The diverse musical genres covered in his books and DVDs, along with several bluegrass, jazz and rock CDs he has released, demonstrate his mastery of many musical styles. Whether he's playing Delta bottleneck blues, bluegrass or old-time banjo, 30s swing guitar or screaming rock solos, he does it with authenticity and passion.

Born in Los Angeles September 14, 1945, by the early 1960s Fred was well known in the California bluegrass scene, playing with Jody Stecher, Brantley Kearns, Sandy Rothman and Eric Thompson. Relocating to Berkeley, he toured and recorded with a hippie rock band throughout most of the 60s, the Bay Area-based Notes From the Underground (Vanguard Records). In the early 70s Fred performed with R&B, rock, country and bluegrass bands. By 1975 Fred had played with bluegrass luminaries like John Herald, Frank Wakefield and Jerry Garcia, had opened for the Dead, the Doors, B.B. King, Country Joe and the Fish and countless other acts.

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    Hard Copy   $19.95  Item Number:  GW706

    Legends of the Ukulele

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    This 92 minute lesson teaches and celebrates the songs of uke legends - players and singers who popularized the instrument and innovators who took it to new musical heights.

    You'll learn backup and solos to classic tunes (including a few instrumentals) by Cliff Edwards (Singing In the Rain), George Formby (My Ukulele), Johnny Marvin (12th Street Rag), Arthur Godfrey (Making Love Ukulele Style), Ian Whitcomb (The Uke Is On the March), Tiny Tim (Tiptoe Through the Tulips) and Roy Smeck (Music Box Waltz).

    There are plenty of beautiful chord melody solos along the way, as well as stories about uke's trailblazers. Fred makes it easy to learn, with split-screen, slowed down versions of the songs and helpful hints about the licks and picking styles. 

    92 minutes - Level 3 - Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD

    Review: Biggies in the mini-world of ukulele: That's who Johnny Marvin and Roy "Wizard of the Strings" Smeck are. Same goes for the five other Legends, each honored here for their own signature way of charming the beloved instrument into public consciousness. Younger generations might have a better shot of identifying Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards as the wish-upon-a-star voice of Disney's Jiminy Cricket. But back when the uke was one vital third of the 1920s uniform (rounded out with raccoon coat and a porkpie hat), he was the cat's pajamas, plucking out sunshine like "Singing in the Rain." Of questionable purity is goofy George Formby's "My Ukulele," 1930s-grade innuendo mischief. "12th Street Rag" is just great hotsy-totsy shenanigans based on three notes and one snazzy flick of the strings. And by the time TV sets turned on in the 1950s, Arthur Godfrey was waiting, pitching sweet woo via his stardusted "Making Love Ukulele Style." Ian Whitcomb's "The Uke Is On the March" could well be the collective anthem, but instead freshly salutes the ukulele's current upsurge in popularity. The big finale? "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," of course. Being for ukulelians what "Lady of Spain" is to accordionists, it's a mandatory must, so it's here. (Fortuitously, Tiny Tim's fingers-down-a-blackboard falsetto is not). To all this classic fun Sokolow adds a sparkling handful of miniaturized solos and chordal spins around the circle-of-fifths. - Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag

    Review: Blues For The Ukulele, Songs Of Hawaii For The Ukulele, Legends Of The Ukulele These three new titles by Fred Sokolow are an absolute delight for ukulele players. They all follow the same format so I'm going to focus primarily on the one with the most immediate appeal to me - Blues For The Ukulele. Big Bill Broonzy's Just A Dream, in the key of A, starts with basic strumming accompaniment comprised of simple, movable blues chord shapes and a bunch of generic blues licks applicable to any blues jams.

    The DVD steadily introduces more advanced techniques like picking licks and pull-offs through an excellent selection of songs. Fishing Blues, Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, Hesitation Blues and Blind Blake's Diddie Wah Diddie all sound particularly great on the ukulele!

    Little Red Rooster, played in open C tuning, is surprisingly effective, if acknowledged as something of a novelty by Sokolow's rhetorical: "Holy moly, bottleneck uke! What'li they think of next!?"

    Each song is demonstrated in three stages - performance, teaching and split screen (to show what each hand is doing). Between the teaching, Sokolow tells a few anecdotes about the blues originators and blues folklore but there's no time wasted. While he's demonstrating the slowed-down sections, he sings too, so you always know exactly where you are in the song.

    Ukulele Legends is the one to get if you want to learn authentic versions of Cliff Edwards' Singing In The Rain, George Formby's My Ukulele, or Tiny Tim's Tiptoe Through The Tulips, while Songs Of Hawaii offers the likes of Blue Hawaii, On The Beach At Waikiki and I Wonder Where My Little Hula Girl Has Gone. I was unaccountably delighted to discover that, like me, Sokolow originally heard Ukulele Lady by Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band, so promptly set about learning it - a process made even easier by the inclusion (on all of the DVDs) of a PDF file with full notation, tablature and chord boxes. Fred Sokolow seems to have about a million instructional DVDs on the market, and with good reason. Anyone who uses his DVDs can expect not only to improve their technical ability, but also to increase both their musical thinking and their enjoyment in playing. Achievable and lots of fun! - Steve Hunt/fRoots






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