Yuke's Ukes

Living life, singing songs, teaching, and telling stories



Ukulele at The Red Lion in Lincoln Square!

I’ll be hosting a couple of ukulele jams/sing-a-longs at the Red Lion in Lincoln Square this summer and I want you to join me! We’ll do some tunes by the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Folk Songs, and any other requests we get from the crowd. The Queen wants to hear you sing!

Who: YOU!

What: Ukulele Jam/Sing-a-long

Where: The Red Lion, 4749 N Rockwell St, Chicago, IL 60625

When: 7:30pm, specific dates to be determined

ImageWe’ll gather around 7:30pm for a brief lesson to learn some chords and then from 8:00 on play, sing, share stories,  and enjoy the fabulous atmosphere, libations, and food at The Red Lion. I’m going to toss out a couple of dates below to figure out when we can get the most people together. Make a comment on this post to say you’d like to come on a specific day or days. Bring a uke if you have one, but I’ll have about 15 ukes to share, chord charts, and music. More details soon!

Possible Dates

Tuesday, July 9th

Saturday, July 13th

Sunday, July 14th

Tuesday, July 16th

Wednesday, July 17th



Music’s Biggest Night

The Grammy Awards are hailed as the “biggest night in music”. People from every aspect of the music industry gather and collectively pat each other on the back. The night also features performances from the hottest acts out there that range from the serene to the extreme, as well as collaborations between artists we never imagined together (Elton John and Eminem or Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, and Linkin Park). Personally, I’m still waiting for the Phish/Snoop Dogg collabo, it will be epic, no doubt.

I mean, they've covered "Gin and Juice", it's bound to happen.
I mean, they’ve covered “Gin and Juice”, it’s bound to happen.

So we, the general public, watch at home waiting for the bizarre choices in attire, crazy performances (Gaga and that egg?!?), and rooting for our favorite acts, but ultimately, our opinion doesn’t matter, right? The Grammys are decided by “industry” professionals who belong to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Granted it’s made up of over 6,000 professionals from mixers to sound engineers to artists so it is at least a varied group. I worked for a professor in undergrad who was a member and when he got the envelope with the choices for the year I VERY much wanted to fill it out myself and send it in, but I never did. Looking through the nominees/winners for the years I worked for him makes me a little mad– how did some of these acts “win”?!

In the end it is a matter of personal taste, the whole one man’s trash is another man’s treasure–to prove something is objectively good or bad means little if it is subjectively “loved”. Tonight we will most likely find ourselves both pleased and displeased with the results because what we like or deem as “good” is a matter of personal taste. The members of the academy have cast their votes for a variety of reasons built on criteria they have set up themselves and reflecting their personal tastes. I’m not saying that winning a Grammy isn’t an accomplishment– it is.

There’s a lot of music out there, a lot of music that will never be nominated because of a myriad of reasons and obstacles. Personally, I’d love to see people like Theresa Andersson, Jake Bugg, or Kings of Convenience nominated, but again, it’s personal. It should also be said that I love me some Taylor Swift and hate me some Pink.

I've just been looking for an excuse to use a graphic like this, and I can't stand her songs-- but you can like her, that's cool.
I’ve just been looking for an excuse to use a graphic like this, and I can’t stand her songs– but you can like her, that’s cool.

Here are my picks for the big categories tonight.


The Black Keys “El Camino”

For me, this is the most complete “album”. It rocks my face off, song after song.

Fun. “Some Nights”

Mumford & Sons “Babel”

Frank Ocean “Channel Orange”


This one is all about production, not composition.

The Black Keys “Lonely Boy”

Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Fun. featuring Janelle Monae “We Are Young”

Gotye featuring Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know”

Frank Ocean “Thinkin Bout You”

Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

My pick would actually be for “I Knew You Were Trouble”, but I think that this one was equally well done.


Ed Sheeran “The A Team”

Miguel “Adorn”

Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”

Yup. I said it. With the choices we have, why not pick the humorous, catchy pop-tune that gets stuck in everyone’s head. 

Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

fun. “We Are Young”


This is a TOUGH one for me. Since I don’t have to play by the rules I’m making it a tie between the Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers. They are both really solid groups with completely different sounds.

Alabama Shakes


Hunter Hayes

The Lumineers

Frank Ocean


Drake “Take Care”

Lupe Fiasco “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1”

Nas “Life Is Good”

The Roots “Undun”

This album is really well done, varied and thoughtful.

Rick Ross “God Forgives, I Don’t”

2 Chainz “Based on a T.R.U. Story”


Zac Brown Band “Uncaged”

I’ll admit that I haven’t listened to the other acts in this category but I can’t help but like Zac Brown Band, they’re fun loving and happy, and I dig it.

Hunter Hayes “Hunter Hayes”

Jamey Johnson “Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran”

Miranda Lambert “Four the Record”

The Time Jumpers “The Time Jumpers”


The Black Keys “El Camino”

Coldplay “Mylo Xyloto”

Muse “The 2nd Law”

Bruce Springsteen “Wrecking Ball”

Jack White “Blunderbuss”

Although I really like all the acts nominated I think Jack White killed it with this album. The songs feel real to me and resonate with my sound palette as well as my heart– it’s mellow at times, but it’s rock through and through.


Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Florence & the Machine “Ceremonials”

fun. “Some Nights”

Tons of catchy tunes that range from upbeat to introspective as well as 20 million harmonies on the title track. Reminiscent of Queen at times but it’s own beast as well.

Maroon 5 “Overexposed”

Pink “The Truth About Love”


Adele “Set Fire to the Rain” (Live)

Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”

What can I say, I love this girl, well, I love her more than I love the other artists. Adele is good and I like her, but I think I listened to that album too much when it first came out.

Katy Perry “Wide Awake”

Rihanna “Where Have You Been”


Avicii “Levels”

Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo “Let’s Go”

As far as “dance” music, this is the one I could attempt to dance to. I don’t know how to dance to dub step really, but I would put Skrillex in at a close second just based on sound.

Skrillex featuring Sirah “Bangarang”

Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin “Don’t You Worry Child”

Al Walser “I Can’t Live Without You”

If you watch tonight, don’t be discouraged or downtrodden if that act that you hate wins or you know none of the nominees in the historical or production categories. Revel in the pageantry, laugh at the jokes, take in the performances–the good and the bad and keep hoping for the Phish/Snoop Dogg collabo, you know I will be.

Remembering Why

The last couple of weeks are a little hazy (much like this photo), but I am happy to say that all the ukes—every last one—is now strung and somewhat in tune! Applying polyurethane with an HVLP (high volume, low pressure) sprayer was great for the ukes, but easily one of the most exhausting tasks I have ever undertaken. After that, we still had to string them, but I’ll detail that process on the uke project page soon.

This week in class, I was reminded of why I wrote the grant that led to the craziness that has been life over the past couple of months. We played. We sang. We made mistakes. We learned something new. We laughed, and we had FUN. I sincerely hope that the experiences we have had throughout this project are just the beginning for my students. They have created a unique instrument from scratch, and have shared that experience and the experience of social music making with their peers. We have given them what they need to enjoy a lifetime of music making in whatever capacity they wish. Perhaps they’ll continue to play and advance in their abilities. Perhaps, they will write their own songs, teach a sibling how to play, or just play casually every now and then with friends and family. Whatever their choice, I’m happy they have the abilities and experiences to make it.

On Monday, International Ukulele Hero, Jake Shimabukuro, will join us via Skype. Early on in the project, we reached out to Jake just to let him know what we were up to; and soon, we were trying to figure out a way to include him in our project. The kids’ first introduction to the ukulele was a video of Jake talking about ukulele and how playing it has changed his life. It is fitting that we will culminate the project by coming together with Jake to play for each other, share some music, and have fun. I encourage you to do the same this week. Come together with some friends, share some music, and have some fun.

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