Back up to present day with my series of Ukulele Heroes, and to a group of players this time, who, in my view, are a big part of the resurgence in ukulele playing in the UK of late - The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain.
The group formed in 1985 as a bit of fun, but immediately found a rapidly growing fan base. There have been several line ups but currently play as an octet of David Suich, Peter Brook Turner, Hester Goodman, George Hinchcliffe, Richie Williams, Kittie Lux, Will Grove Wright and Jonty Bankes.
The group are instantly recognisable in their sharp outfits (ball-gowns for the ladies, tuxedos for the gents) and each play an acoustic ukulele of various sizes (strictly speaking, the largest is an acoustic bass guitar played by Jonty). The group dont choose to play ukuleles that cost the earth, and some of the instruments are very simple, thus promoting the accessibility of the ukulele.
Whilst they do compose and play their own tunes, they are perhaps best known for playing cover versions of songs that the listener would normally think unlikely to work on a ukulele, including Nirvanas "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" and "Miss Dy-Na-Mi-Tee".
Having started playing smaller gigs, with their first ever gig at the Roebuck Pub in London, their bookings got bigger and bigger. They have since been seen on stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms 2009 season (of which a DVD is available on the UOGB site) and on numerous TV shows including the Jools Holland Hootenanny. They also appeared on stage with the Kaiser Chiefs providing ukulele backing to a version of their hit "Ruby".
With a number of albums recorded and an ever increasing buzz in ukulele circles, their popularity continues to grow rapidly.
MORE ABOUT THE MUSICIANS
- David Suich - musician who also performs as Joe Bazouki in his own band - The Missing Puddings.
- Peter Brooke Turner - Also a comedian and Eurovision finalist, Peter also plays uke as his alter ego - Tony Penultimate.
- Hester Goodman - started in theatre and also appears in her own comedy and theatre shows including the Mary Poppins Experience and Elvenbitch
- George Hinchcliffe - founded the UOGB with Kitty Lux and is also the groups musical director. Before the UOGB George was in several other bands of his own and worked as a session musician.
- Kitty Lux - co founder of the UOGB and before the group was involved with a number of punk bands.
- Richie Williams - the baritone uke player in the group - his career was founded in music, and played guitar as a session player for several major acts alongside George Hinchcliffe.
- Will Grove-Wright - also as solo musician and before the UOGB worked as a cinematographer and director
- Jonty Bankes - the bass uke player of the group and plays bass guitar in a variety of other bands.
UKULELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN WEBSITE