With the Wine Country ‘Ukulele Festival behind us, it’s time to look forward to some terrific events just around the corner. So, save the dates:

Saturday, October 13: Sacramento Aloha Festival, at Cal Expo in Sacramento

Tuesday, October 16: UpValley Strummers.  This is a new group started by Bob Dwyer that will meet the third Tuesday of every month (6:30 pm) at Scarlett’s Country Inn in Calistoga, 3918 Silverado Trail. (You don’t have to join to attend, but it does make it easier to RSVP so folks know how many to expect.)  Bring songs to share & pupus.  All levels welcome.

Saturday, October 27: Fall Kanikapila with Kehaulani Hula Studio.  I am so glad this is happening and that we got invited. It’s from 1 – 5 pm at Rincon Valley Park in Santa Rosa.  Kehaulani Hula Studio is under the direction of our good friend Kumu Pomaika’i and you don’t have to hula to join in the fun.  Bring your ukulele(s) and some songs to share, if you’re so inclined.  If nothing else, it’ll be a great way to connect with our neighbors to the west.  Fun for the whole family!  Here’s a flier if you’d like to help spread the word: Fall Kanikapila

Sunday, October 28: Napa Valley Flea Jumpers at the Gordon Huether Hay Barn in Napa.  I’ll do another “mini-workshop”  at 5 pm, this time on “Messing around with the City of New Orleans,”  where we’ll do a little work with closed chords and chord melody embellishments…suitable for beginning and intermediate players.  We’ll break for pupus at 5:45.  Then on to our regular flea fest!  By the way, if anyone else ever has anything they’d like to share with the group in one of these mini-workshop sessions, just let me or Eva know.

Thursday, November 1: Early Bird Deadline for the West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat.  This is the first announcement we’ve made to the general public that registration is now open for the 2013 West Coast ‘Ukulele Retreat, May 8 – 12 at Asilomar in Pacific Grove. Past attendees have been signing up in droves and we do have limited space available.  Four days and nights of ‘ukulele instruction, fun, camaraderie, and general mayhem on the beautiful Monterrey Peninsula with Andy Andrews, Gerald Ross, Joel Eckhaus, Kumu Pomaika’i, Sarah Maisel, Jason Arimoto, and Rick Turner….and probably one or two more. Take a peek at what went on last year:

Monday, November 5: Free ‘ukulele workshop with Daniel Ho at the Guitar Center in San Mateo, 53 West Hillsdale Blvd.  This might be well-worth a trip to San Mateo.  Daniel is an extremely knowledgable and generous instructor of the ukulele, among many other things. Call (650) 312-8270 for more info.  The workshop starts at 7pm.

Saturday, November 10: Ukes on the Loose! I went to this last year and had a blast!  A very low-key day. full ukulele playing, learning, and sharing in a stunning location, Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg.  Just plain fun……and super affordable.


The lights go down and the curtain goes up as the the Flea by Night Band launches into a toe-tapping rendition of Fats Waller’s “Yacht Club Swing.” Everyone in the audience is moving and grooving and saying “Wow!” But you’re not there!

Don’t worry. We still have tickets available. But, this could be your last chance to purchase one of the coveted VIP tickets to the hottest show on the entire ukulele circuit: “Radio WCUF: Live from the Napa Valley Opera House,”  Friday, September 7, with a whole cast of characters that will tickle your funny bone and have you wanting to leap out of your seat and start dancing in the aisles!

It’s the kick-off event to the Wine Country Ukulele Festival, Sept. 7, 8, & 9, and you don’t want to miss it!

In just two days the VIP tickets will be released to folks in the general wine tasting public, who have been clamoring to get their hands on them so they attend the pre-show reception at Back Room Wines and sip on wines by Guilliams Family Vineyards and 94574; nibble on tasty treats by Redwood Hill Farms, Gary & Kit’s, Coonrad’s, and From Napa; fondle the fabulous ukuleles of Mya-Moe–all the while listening to the silky tones (up close and personal) of Sarah Maisel and her ‘ukulele. There are only a limited number of VIP tickets left and once they’re gone………Oh well.

But there’s still time. You can purchase your tickets online through PayPal. (The price that appears in your shopping cart includes the $3 historic preservation fee and a minimum “convenience” fee.) All tickets will be available at “Will Call.”

 You can also purchase premium and regular tickets directly from the Napa Valley Opera House, but you can only get the VIP tickets through the links above.

Still undecided?  Here’s a sneak preview of the Yacht Club Swing!

Hope to see you there!

Aloha Flea Jumpers!

Just wanted to let you all know about a new communcations option for ukulele players in Wine Country (and beyond):  Wine Country Ukulele Meet-Up. Ideally this will make posting updates about upcoming gatherings easier and provide a better option for RSVPing so we have a better idea of how many are coming.  It should also provide a more efficient means for posting about other meetings and ukulele events that you guys might be interested in.

So please, pay a visit , and sign-up and be sure to tell your ukulele friends!

Also, I had a huge response to my request for listings for other West Coast ukulele clubs……so please bear with me as I update that page.

And finally, some of you may be wondering why we have a Hawaiian Airlines logo on the Flea Jumpers webpage.  First of all…if you link to Hawaiian Airlines through that logo, you will receive an automatic 5% off your total fare on Hawaiian Airlines.  AND, if you are a frequent flier member, you will also get your frequent flier miles.  But, in addition, the Wine Country Ukulele Festival will get an equal number of frequent flier miles posted to its account, which we can then use to bring Hawaiian performers and instructors to the Wine Country Ukulele Festival.  It’s a win-win! 

See you on the 27th!

Just a reminder that Flea Jumpers will be gathering this Sunday at the Gordon Huether Studio, though there are a few scheduling changes you should be aware of.

Beginning Workshop This Sunday

From 5:00 – 6:15, I will be teaching a beginning workshop: Movable Chords for Dummies.  This is the first of a 3-part workshop I will be teaching at the West Coast Ukulele Retreat in May.   Here’s the description from the retreat website:

There’s nothing quite like a two-chord song to get your fingers moving in the morning.  And this workshop will do just that….with an eentsy weentsy difference as we take a few baby steps up the ukulele fretboard and learn to play some easy movable chords (and learn what that means) at the same time.  This workshop is definitely geared towards beginners and advanced beginners, but if you’re a more advanced player who wants to hone their skills you are welcome to join us. And, since practice make perfect, we’ll do plenty of practicing with a variety of fun, two-chord songs chosen just for the occasion.  We may even venture into the land of three- and four- chord songs, as well, all the while learning to move our fingers and hone our skills with movable chords.

The cost of the workshop is just $5.00. 

If you don’t want to take the workshop, you don’t need to arrive until 6:15, at which point we will do our usual pupu and happy hour before our regular flea fest.  

Ideally, splitting the meeting up this way will give the beginnners a chance to warm up a bit and learn some new skills before the more advanced players come.  By then we should all be ready to hit the ground running strumming.

I’ll also be bringing a few ukulele wall hangers for you to look at.  I’m guessing that many of your ukuleles don’t see the light of day, unless they come out for Flea Jumpers.  But, I think you’ll find that if you keep your ‘ukulele on the wall, out of harm’s way and within reach, you’ll be much more prone to grab it and play it

between meetings. Anyway, I’ll bring some of the standard wall hangers  plus some that are one-of-kind: hand-painted or carved.  And since some of you expressed interest, I’ll bring a few of the hand-made neck-tie ukulele straps, as well.  If there’s anything else you want me to bring (books, tuners, strings, music stands, etc.), let me know.  You can visit to see what else I have available.  If you want to keep abreast of new things I get in, please subscribe  to that website.

Butter & Eggs

I’m hoping we’ll also get a report from those of you participating in the KALA ukulele parade at Petaluma’s Butter and Egg Days parade on Saturday,  April 28. Don’t forget, they’re having a rehearsal today (Thursday) at 5:30 p.m. at Kala’s new offices at 1105 Industrial Ave., Suite 101, in Petaluma. Please RSVP (707) 775 4073 x 2818  so they no how many to expect. Here are the pieces you’ll be playing at the parade so you can practice ahead of time:

Kala Parade Medley

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

Coming to the Napa Valley Opera House

And, I’ve just learned that Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm will be performing together at the Napa Valley Opera House on May 3.  Keola Beamer is a slack key guitar player extraordinaire and personifies aloha. Raiatea Helm is an ‘ukulele player and simply amazing vocalist.  I haven’t heard them together, yet, but I can just imagine what beautiful music they must make. This really is a performance you don’t want to miss.

Keola also puts on the Aloha Music Camp that you have heard me speak so fondly of.  Their next camp is from July 1 – 7.  Lot’s of fun.  Lot’s of music. Lots of aloha. If you want to see Hawai’i beyond the shops of Waikiki,  stops on the standard tours, and massive tourist luaus,  and participate in some real, Hawaiian immersion, this is the place for you.

Stolen ‘Ukulele

And finally,  I went to the Reno Uke Fest a couple of weekends ago and had a very nice (retail $520) all-koa, KoAloha soprano Pikake  (just like the one I play and the one pictured here) stolen while I was there. Neither the festival organizers or security at the Nuggett (the casino where the festival was being held) did anything to try to retrieve it, so I’m just asking everyone to be on the look-out for it–there aren’t a lot of them around.  It has a date, 2011, stamped on the inside. It might’ve shown up on eBay or Craig’s list.

That’s it, except for a reminder, to those of you who haven’t signed up yet for our Yahoo group, here’s the link:  It’s a little more “private” than the website and often has more immediate information.

See you Sunday.


Thanks everyone who came to Lois’  last month.  That’s one of the biggest turn-outs we seen in a while and it was great to see so many new faces!  Hope to see you again.

There’s a number of announcements about upcoming events…but here’s the one that’s the most fun!

What do Seinfeld and Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay have in common?

Heidi Swedberg!

You may know her as “Susan,”  George Costanza’s ill-fated, envelope-licking fiancée on Seinfeld:

But we know her as a delightful ukulele instructor and entertainer, a perfect addition to the staff of Camp-Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay!

We’ll be posting more about Heidi and what she plans to bring to Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Layshortly, along with news about some other guest instructors who will be joining us.  In the meantime, registration is still open and we hope you’ll be joining us. It’s going to be great!

And, just in case you’re still in the dark about Heidi Swedberg, here’s a short clip (before “Susan” dies from licking the enevlopes for the wedding invitations):

On a different note, Aloha Music Camp, July 1 – 7, 2012, has just announced that slack key virtuoso (and amazingly nice guy) Jeff Petersen has joined the teaching staff for this summer.  (Even if you just sit and listen….you’ll be entranced.) As you may recall, it was Aloha Music Camp that gave me my bump-up in all things ukulele and has served, in many ways, as a model for the West Coast Ukulele Retreat.  In addition to Slack Key guitar and ukulele, there are lessons in hula, Hawaiian language, ole, and lap steel guitar.  You can even build you own ukulele under the excellent and watchful tutelege of master luthier, Dennis Lake. I’ve been to Aloha Music Camp three times and have loved every minute of it! If you ever want to do something really special for yourself….this would be it!

 That’s it for now.  As far as I know we’ll be back at the Haybarn on the 29th. 

See you next time!

Thanks everyone for hanging in there with me at last month’s Flea Fest, while we tried “Makin Whoopie.”  I think we did pretty darn well. I changed it into a format that might be easier to read and added the second half of the lyrics, which some of you might find amusing.  Others not so…….I’ve also added it to our songlist.

There’s also a few video links down at the bottom of this post,  if you’d like to see how it has been “performed” over the years by folks as diverse as Eddie Cantor, Michelle Pfieffer, Diana Krall, Sir Elton John, and Elvis Costello. 

Just got back from the Gorge Uke Fest and had a chance to talk to a couple of pros about uke strings for banjo ukes.  At our last Flea Fest one  of  our Flea Jumpers  was inquiring about what were the best strings to use on a banjo uke.  So, while I was at the Gorge Uke Fest last wekend I asked a couple of the pros.  I wish I had some definitive news, but I asked two different people and got two entirely different answers!

Ralph Shaw (banjo uke player extraordinaire) likes the sound and tone he gets on his banjo uke with nylon strings. If you’re not familiar with Ralph’s portrayal of English super-star (and banjo-uke player) George Formby, you might enjoy this little snip:

I also asked Gordon Mayer, luthier extraordinaire of Mya-Moe ukes (and someone who has researched strings exhaustively),  and he prefers the sound of  fluorocarbon strings.  So there you have it. 

Nylon strings for ukuleles are pretty easy to come by.  Hilo is a popular brand. Fluorocarbon strings are also becoming easier and easier to find and are made by Worth,  DaKine Line, and a few others.  As most of know, the DaKine Line strings are made by my son Taylor, who will be heading off to college in a year and a half  (can you believe it?) and would love to have your business!

Speaking of banjo ukes….I just got one to play around with and am having nothing but fun with it. It’s definitely a smile-maker….and loud. 

I hope to post more about some of the great ukes I saw at the NAMM show in January, but wanted to alert you in the meantime to the March Special on BugsGear ukes being offered by Kani Ka Pila.  These are definitely beginner ukes and can’t compare to a fine, hand-crafted ukulele.  But, if you have  a very young player in mind and are looking for something to put in their Easter basket (besides candy) you might like to consider one of these very racey little cut-aways….


Kani Ka Pila’s March Special includes one of these delighful little ukes, re-strung with DaKine Line fluorocarbon strings (what a difference a string makes), and Ralph Shaw’s The Complete Ukulele Course for Kids! DVD for just $39.95 (a $71.95 value)!  Visit the website  for more information and while there you might want to subscribe so that you’ll be notified whenever we run these specials.

Hope to see you at our monthly gathering on the 25th!



The Camp Oo-Koo-Lay-Lay registration deadline is fast approaching. Register by February 14 to assure yourself a spot in one of our ukecentric tent circles!

Ukulele (and other) fun for the whole family!

August 18 – 24, 2012

at The Lair of the Golden Bear

Pinecrest, California

Motorhomes and walk-ins welcome!

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