Jim Beloff of Flea Market Music

: : I’ve recently rediscovered the ukulele! An instrument I’d neglected since my grade seven music class, when I used to take it home for the weekend at every opportunity… : :

: : The “magic” of the uke recently came back to me upon viewing The Beatles Anthology DVD box-set, in which George Harrison is seen in his backyard plucking Beatles’ tunes and Chuck Berry solos on his uke. Defiantly playing over Paul’s comments, George is totally engrossed and having a good time. How great it was to see that this man who produced so much more complex and experimental music, who introduced the Indian sitar to pop music, was able to spend the last couple years of his life making music with a ukulele. His last album, in fact, features a lot of uke playing, including the old chestnut “Caught Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” : :

: : So entranced was I by the simple beauty of this instrument, that I immediately headed to my local music store to buy a Hilo (“since 1927”) soprano uke. It was love at first site… again! : :

: : Seeking further inspiration and some songs to play, I went looking for songbooks and soon came across something by “Jumpin’ Jim” Beloff. I must admit, the vintage song-sheet covers reproduced in the book were what first grabbed my attention but upon trying out a few of the tunes, I found the selection to be fun and easy to learn. I went on to buy all the Jumpin’ Jim books I could find… Curious to learn even more, I went ahead and contacted Jumpin’ Jim, reaching him at the office of his Flea Market Music in Los Angeles. : :

: : Jim Beloff is a positive, enthusiastic guy who is simply excited to share his love of the ukulele. Born and raised in Connecticut, music was a part of Jim’s life from early on, as he played guitar and wrote songs while growing up through the 60s and 70’s. Later moving to New York City, Jim went on to work for Billboard magazine, moving to L.A. in the early 90s. : :

: : It was out on the west coast that Jim discovered the ukulele, coming across an old classic Martin Tenor uke at the big Rosebowl flea market one day. Jim bought the instrument, figuring it would be easier to carry around than a guitar. : :

: : Much as I recently did, Jim then sought out song books and eventually struck gold when he discovered an old music store in east LA which still had original sheet music and songbooks that had remained unsold since the 1940s. Of course, Jim bought it all up, since there wasn’t much else available at the time (the ukulele had virtually disappeared off the pop culture radar after Tiny Tim’s “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”). : :

: : It didn’t take long for Jim to fall under the spell of these old tunes, surprised at the rich, jazzy chords the little uke could produce with just 4 strings. Figuring others might be as equally enthralled by the instrument, Jim decided to create some new songbooks. : :

: : Through Hal Leonard Publishers, his first book, “Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Favorites,” was released. Based on its success, he followed this with an instructional book called “Tips and Tunes.” Today, his company offers over a dozen ukulele song and instruction books, videos, and even a recent hardcover tome on the visual history of the ukulele. : :

: : However, the really big turn of events came seven years ago, when Jim announced his first newly-designed model of ukulele called The Fluke. Not satisfied with the cheap plastic ukes available on the market, Jim designed a ukulele made of wood that nonetheless remained affordable, compared to the $300 USD or more price-tag for a new Hawaiian uke (let alone the astronomical prices for collector ukes). : :

: : In the year of the redesigned VW Beetle and the Apple iMac, the aerodynamically triangular-shaped Fluke literally took off. With 11,000 Flukes sold to date, Jim introduced a new model last year, already selling over 3000 units. The Flea is a smaller, oval shaped ukulele that comes in a multitude of bright colors such as “ukeberry” and “ukelyptus”. The Moo-kulele, black-and-white cow-patterned color scheme is among the funkiest, as is the pineapple-shaped and patterned Pineapple Flea. : :

: : Jim’s Flea Market Music web-site also stocks a variety of rare or hard-to-find CDs of ukulele music, from authentic Hawaiian recordings to discs by more recent uke virtuosos (my favourite being Lyle Ritz and Herb Ohta’s recording A Night Of Ukulele Jazz recorded live at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica). : :

: : Jim seems to be having a great time running his company, traveling, and sharing his passion for the ukulele. This past May, he performed at the first ever Great Canadian Ukulele Expo in Manitoba. He’s also scheduled to attend the upcoming Hukilau event in Florida, with his new songbook “Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Island” (which includes an original piece called "I'm Carrying a Tiki Torch For You"). : :

: : Thanks to Jumpin’ Jim, I have been able to fully rekindle my love for this happy little instrument and now never miss a chance to strum away whenever and wherever I can… As Dean Martin used to say “Yeah I take requests… but I’ll sing anyway!” : :

Flea Market Music

Box 1127

Studio City, CA

91614 USA

Fred “Dag-Tiki” Sarli © 2004

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