By Greg Olwell
For this week’s Throwback Thursday, I wanted to make a personal post about my first ukulele.
After playing guitar for many years, I fell in love with vintage Hawaiian music back in the mid-’90s. Soon after I began digging into the amazing music, I got the idea that picking up a ukulele might be a great way to bring me closer to this music. Plus, playing one seemed like it would be a pile of fun.
I started looking around and quickly found that most of the ukuleles I came across sounded terrible and played worse. Visiting music stores, pawnshops, and yard sales, it seemed like what I was finding was either mostly-broken relics far beyond their good years or cheap ukulele-shaped objects (USOs) with an emphasis on “cheap.”
I knew I could find a better instrument if I just kept looking, so I made a promise to myself: I was going to play every ukulele I could get my hands on until I find the best sounding ukulele for sale anywhere. I also gave myself permission to spend whatever it was going to take.
It took patience and lots of shopping, but I found it at a high-end music store after playing at least 100 different ukes over the course of a year.
My first strum was like many of the stories I’ve heard from other players about the moment they found their favorite instrument. Right away, I knew that I needed to buy this ukulele. That day.
So, I did and I went home with a Maui Music CK. It’s a concert-sized ukulele made in Lahaina, Maui by Peter Lieberman, with a koa body, with a mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard.
Since I was shopping back in 1997, I couldn’t look up the maker on my phone and like the company’s Facebook page. I didn’t know anything about who made this or anyone’s reviews online, but I knew that this was the ukulele I had been waiting to meet.
Since then, I’ve taken this ukulele on many, many trips (including two trips to back to Hawaii), played a couple hundred gigs, and swapped out the tuners and nut to make it play better. It has had an active life and now has the marks to prove it.
Here’s to you, little uke. We have many more years of strumming together.