My uncle Thad lives in a small town in western Kentucky. A few years ago, he was looking for videos online and came across what was then the most-popular clip on YouTube: a rendition of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” performed on solo ukulele. At first, Thad thought this must be a joke, but he watched the video and was awestruck. He sent me an e-mail telling me to watch the clip: “Your life will be forever changed for the better...any thoughts you might have of tiptoeing through the tulips will be forever dissipated, and you will have newfound ability to mention Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and the ukulele in the same sentence.”
The player was Jake Shimabukuro, who was already a star in his native Hawaii before the “Gently Weeps” video made him a sensation on the mainland. Soon after seeing the video, Thad took a two-hour drive to see Shimabukuro play in Nashville. Thad was so eager to get there on time that he arrived at the venue two hours early and caught Shimabukuro having a pre-show dinner. In another breathless e-mail, Thad told me what happened next: “Then, the man who has been described as a god on the ukulele shook my hand.”
Okay, it’s not quite the same as shaking hands with Jimmy Page, but Thad’s story tells us something important. Because of Shimabukuro, people all over the world have been starting to see the tiny, four-stringed, two-octave ukulele as a legitimate instrument — and not only that, but an instrument worthy of its own hero.
The event is selling out fast.
JAKE SHIMABUKURO: Anthology, Wednesday, March 23. 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. 877-828-0891. $24, $28.