“Ukulele Heroes” and “The ‘Ukulele: A History” – Book Reviews by Ukester Brown

Two interesting books on different aspects of ukulele history, have been published this year.

(1) “The Ukulele” – A History : by Jim Tranquada and the late (and greatly missed) John King.

This is a fine scholarly piece of work by Jim Tranquada and John King. Tranquada is director of communications for Occidental College in Los Angeles and a great-great grandson of ukulele Pioneer, Augusto Dias and John King was acknowledged as one of the modern masters of the ukulele. He was also the author of “The Hawaiian Ukulele and Guitar Maker; 1884 – 1930”

(2) “Ukulele Heroes” by Ian Whitcomb.

Ian, a former 60’s pop star fell in love with the ukulele in the 60’s and has become one of the world’s best known exponent of the ukulele which dovetails nicely with his fascination with Ragtime and his passion for early twentieth century popular music.

They are both different approaches to different aspects of ukulele history and are fine books in their own right – it all depends on what you want. In “The Ukulele – A History” you will find an exhaustive and definitive history of the ukulele with many fine illustrations. But it is not a quick read-on the other hand every detail you could possibly want to know on the development of the ukulele from its inception to now is contained within its covers.

Ian Whitcomb has written an extremely interesting accessible and popular book on the people he calls “Ukulele Heroes” . Its a great read and is interlaced with Ian’s own journey of exploration with the uke and his very individual and personal take on many of the well known important popular figures in ukulele history but focusing mainly on the players and stars.

I’ve read both books with great interest and was not disappointed by either (horses for courses) and was about to do a video review for the website when I came across Ukester Brown’s own video review and as his take was quite similar to my own, I decided to feature it instead.

If you are a ukulele enthusiast – either book is a good buy.