More than just a fun instrument, the ukulele has a very interesting history full of interesting facts. Here are some fun facts about the ukulele that you can use to impress your fellow ukulele players!
The name ukulele is thought to mean “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, but could also mean “the gift that came to us.”
Rock stars that have fallen in love with the ukulele include George Harrison, Eddie Vedder, Joe Brown, and Joni Mitchell. In fact, Eddie Vedder made a whole album of songs written for the ukulele!
The ukulele is descended from a Portuguese instrument, the machete de braga, which was brought to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese sailors in the 19th century.
The first ukulele maker, Miguel Nunes, was originally a cabinet maker. He started making ukuleles in 1880s in Honolulu.
The first major ukulele performance in the mainland United States was the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The Exposition was a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the Americas.
The first “Ukulele Craze” happened in the 1910s and continued through the 20s. In fact, during the 1920s, the popular guitar maker CF Martin sold more ukuleles than guitars!
In 1950, instrument maker Maccaferri was churning out 2,500 of its popular plastic ukuleles every day.
Like violins and other string instruments, ukulele strings were made of “catgut” before nylon was invented. It wasn’t made from cats, though; “catgut” is actually sheep intestines! Glad they make ’em out of nylon now, aren’t you?
After becoming the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong had to spend 21 days in quarantine when he got back to Earth. He made sure to bring his ukulele to pass the time and entertain his fellow astronauts.
Many different kinds of ukulele have evolved over the years, including banjo, bass, resonator, 8-string, and electric ukuleles.
Also published on Medium.