7.2.11

Ukulele Heroes - Cliff Edwards

A move back now towards the first classic era of ukulele stars, with a short bio of my next ukulele hero - Cliff Edwards


cliff edwards ukulele

Cliff Edwards, or "ukulele Ike" as he was often known, was a huge ukulele star in the 1920's and 30's and probably one of the biggest "pop stars" of his day.  In his later years he became a movie star, TV star, and provided well known voiceovers for Disney films.

Cliff was born in Hannibal, Missouri in 1895 and immediately after leaving school, moved to St Louis where he started work as an entertainer in bars and saloon, accompanied by the ukulele he had taught himself to play.  It was during this period that a bar owner named him "ukulele Ike".

He got a break on the Vaudeville ciruit in 1918, eventually working with the Ziegfield Follies.  He started making his first records in 1919, and by 1923 had become one of the most popular music stars of his day, appearing on Broadway, and having hits with songs like "I'll See You In My Dreams".  By 1929, his rendition of "Singing In The Rain" made it to number one for three weeks.

It is often accepted that Cliffs success led to the first great boom in the ukulele, with lyric and song writers prompted to write songs specifically for the uke, or to include ukulele notation on their song sheets for sale.

By the 1930's and 40's Edwards was often seen in movies as a supporting actor including The Bad Man Of Brimstone and His Girl Friday, but he is perhaps most famous as the voice of Jiminy Crickett in the Walt Disney feature cartoon Pinocchio.  Who doesn't love his rendition of "When You Wish Upon A Star"?.  Edwards provided more voice work to Disney, including one of the crows in Dumbo.

By 1949, he had his own TV show "The Cliff Edwards Show".  He continued to play and record songs with his ukulele until his death in 1971, with Disney stepping forward to pay for his headstone.

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