Sue's New Uke - This Isn't Your Parents' Ukulele!

"Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," the stage musical, stopped off in Sacramento recently.  Sue had tickets for the Thursday night show.  Loyal readers know that the Pups practice on Thursdays.  Some people might ask, “You practice to play like that?”  Or "You practice and play like that?"  But this post is not about condescending skeptics of Pup music.

Knowing that Sue had a conflict, an email went out.  What is a good night to practice?  The consensus was Monday.  Sue’s further response was, “Great, can’t wait.”  That telegraphed that she had something to share.

Come Monday night, Sue walked into the Doghouse with a downsized version of a Gibson guitar case.  This was a departure from the gig bag that housed her uku-tar.  One look at the case told us that something special was inside.

She did not keep us in suspense long.  Actually, the look on her face showed that she was quite proud of whatever was in the case.  Sue opened the case to expose her new ukulele.  An electric solid-body ukulele.

Words may not suffice to describe Sue’s find.  It looked like a small Les Paul.  Mahogany sunburst body.  Black and cream pick ups.  Pearl inlays on the bound fret board.  For you non-guitar geeks, all that you need to know is that this was thing of beauty.

Sue’s search for a solid-body ukulele began more than six years ago.  On our way to see Slacktone at the Hotel Utah in San Francisco, we stopped at a guitar show in San Rafael.  The show was a mixed bag of boutique amps and custom guitars and vintage instruments and parts.  There, she met a couple of luthiers who made ukuleles.  They, however, really did not seem very enthused over her vision.

An afternoon of Slacktone helped push her to explore her vision further.  Sue talked to some guitar builders in Sacramento.  Their responses were lukewarm.  “The body and the neck are not that hard, but what are you going to do for pickups?”  None of the local builders ever made a serious effort to explore whether and what pickups might be available.  Why do something difficult or different when "no" is an easy out?

Sue’s vision was an electric baritone ukulele -- something that would not be drowned out by amplified basses and guitars.  She finally yielded to the naysayers, purchased a SE lookalike, and took off the two lowest strings.  Sue then had an electric solid-body tenor guitar or baritone ukulele with a long neck -- an imperfect, but functional, solution.

Monster Mash 2013, however, demonstrated that imperfect, but functional, was problematic.  Sue broke a string in the middle of our set -- a learning opportunity.  She then realized that having a six-string, short scale guitar in standby was unworkable without disabling or cutting off the two lowest strings.  She survived an event -- stuff happens -- that would have caused the melt down of a lesser musician.

The next day, Sue was on the Internet searching in earnest for a solid-body ukulele.  Lo and behold, it was in Folsom -- a mere 20 miles away -- on consignment.  It was barely used, still had clear plastic on the pick ups, and came with a case that would cost more than her short scale standby guitar.  Her six-year search was over.  Despite the naysayers, her vision was fulfilled.

Check it out for yourself on Saturday afternoon at Old Ironsides.  Wow!


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