: : After several rounds of phone-tag, I finally got in touch with Chris Davis Sr. – who was on a business trip – in his hotel room in Jacksonville, Florida. Since I was in my car, I pulled over and scribbled my notes on the only piece of paper available: the take-out menu from a Chinese restaurant! : :

: : An avid enthusiast of Hawaiian music since his teenage years in the late 1960s, Chris Davis Sr. has made playing this music a lifelong passion. He is now also a dealer of rare, antique, and authentic Hawaiian ukuleles. : :

: : Davis’ musical interests started with the guitar, playing the traditional menu of folk and rock, ultimately turning to the ukulele following a very inspiring visit to Hawaii. Posted there during the Vietnam War, Davis says he fell in love with the island, as many visitors do, and promised himself to visit again under more leisurely conditions. Learning to play Hawaiian music became a natural extension of this interest. : :

: : “This music is always upbeat; not depressing – it conveys gentleness and promotes relaxation!” : :

: : Dealing in ukuleles soon followed, as his passion for the instrument grew. His speciality was the simple “catch & release” type of dealing, which enabled him to progressively widen his network of contacts. His personal collection now stands at about 200 ukuleles! : :

: : Jumping from flea market to flea market also enabled him to meet big collectors from all over the world (including Japan, the U.K., and Hawaii) all willing to spend up to $10,000 U.S. for vintage Hawaiian ukes! One such collector from L.A. was known to have a collection worth 7 million dollars. : :

: : While a plain ukulele can cost about $20 to $50 in a music shop, a collectible can average around $2000 U.S., especially if made by a renowned U.S. or Hawaiian manufacturer during the heyday of the Hawaiian music craze back in the 1920’s. : :

: : The rarest and most valuable ukuleles are made from tiger maple and Kao wood, indigenous to Hawaii. Due to their fragility, not many have survived, and supply and demand has caused their price to triple in the last ten years. The Hawaiian ukes are collected for their beauty and craftsmanship, while the U.S. made Martin ukes are collected for playing and their superior sound quality – a “player’s” ukulele. : :

: : As Roger Sipe wrote in Hawaii Magazine (July/August 2001), a four-stringed miniature guitar called a braguinha arrived in Hawaii in 1849 aboard a Portuguese ship full of workers destined for the sugar fields. The popularity of the instrument was such that Hawaiians made the instrument their own and called it the ukulele, meaning "jumping flea"; it is believed that this refers to the way one's fingers jump around on the strings while playing the instrument. : :

: : There is even a Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum in Duxbury, Massachusetts, with a mission to preserve and promote the history of the ukulele. A nonprofit organization, the Hall of Fame has a large collection of vintage ukes, CDs, videos, and sheet music. It also publishes a quarterly journal, Uke Said It, ran a masters tour, and each year hosts an expo highlighted by new inductees to the Hall of Fame. When funds become available, the Hall of Fame hopes to have a physical location where people can visit. : :

: : Nowadays, Chris Davis can be seen playing in “Miss Ewa’s Hawaiian Trio” with recent gigs at Joe’s Pub and the South Street Seaport in New York City. They only play vintage material on period instruments… “nothing later than 1939!” They feature the classic line-up of ukulele, steel slide guitar, and rhythm guitar, with Miss Ewa’s vocals backed by hula-dancing girls! They fill out their performance schedule with various private parties, corporate functions, and of course… luaus. : :

: : To learn about inductees, become a member, or purchase merchandise, contact: : :

Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum

c/o 15 Concord Ave.

Cranston, RI 02910

(401) 461-1668

Fred Sarli © 2003

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