Growing up on the South-East Side of Chicago along the beaches of Calumet Park and the rail lines connecting one steel mill to another my memories are as much visual as they are aural.
Waves crashing onto the shore, fall leaves rustling on the trees and the steady beat of Short Line trains pulling red glowing crucibles filled with molten steel from one end of the line to the other are the types of memories that played an influential role in designing and fabricating an acoustic ukulele and amp that were simultaneously local and global.
I searched for a way to hear the sounds of South-East Chicago, North-West Indiana & South-West Michigan. Research uncovered the Chicago area’s history as a manufacturing center for ukuleles. I thought it would be nice to bring the ukulele making tradition back to Lake Michigan’s Shores.
My electric-acoustic ukulele uses spalted maple from a storm damaged Buchanan Michigan tree sawed into boards and dried in a Sawyer Michigan kiln. The acoustic resonance of the ukulele and the electric notes of the portable ukulele amplifier allow the sounds of South-West Michigan to travel from one location to another. This is a ukulele who’s sound is always local wherever you play.
Although the idea of putting a sea shell over your ear to “hear the sound of the sea” was an initial inspiration, research revealed that the Chicagoland area was briefly the ukulele manufacturing capital of the United states and world. Manufacturers, such as The Harmony Company of Chicago, benefited from cheap labor and easy access to local raw materials for low cost manufacturing. Manufacturers also benefited from local catalog retail companies such as Sears & Roebuck for the distribution and sale of their products.