4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The Uke Renaissance Begins Now

For 30 years Owen Burke has been trying to make a living by handcrafting stringed musical instruments. Best known in San Diego music circles for his decade-long stint as drummer with lounge singer Jose Sinatra, he’s built everything from a bass sitar to a tambourine banjo (most of which have stayed in his collection). Now he’s convinced we’re on the verge of a ukulele revival.

“People had started telling me I needed to find something else to do, that maybe it was time to start painting houses,” says Burke. “But I told them the ukulele is coming back, that I was going to refocus my energy on reinventing it and help create a buzz.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Burke has managed to get one of his prototype models into the hands of acoustic troubadour Gregory Page. However, it was a chance meeting with vaudeville-influenced Americana trio the Smart Brothers that convinced him his hunch about “ukes” was correct.

Immediately following the Smart Brothers’ set at Java Joe’s March 1 showcase, Burke approached the band, ready to offer them, free of charge, their choice from his stockpile of handmade instruments.

“I instantly felt that they were made for the Smart Brothers, I just didn’t know it when I was crafting them,” says Burke. “When I approached them, I felt like saying to them, ‘I’ve got your instruments at the shop and I need the space.’ ” Burke invited the Smart Brothers to his workshop.

“Hanging from the ceiling, on the walls — everywhere, really — were the most peculiar and unique instruments any of us had ever seen,” says Jay Smart. “All made from interesting, unconventional materials such as recycled woods, tin pans, fiberglass, and palm-tree branches.”

To date, Burke has given the group a violin uke, an electric steel-string uke, a banjo-uke electric hybrid, a baritone uke, two electric guitars, and a stand-up mini bass. He will create custom gear for the Smart Brothers’ upcoming tours, including a cocktail drum set, and is designing instruments named after each band member.

Burke plans on producing a line of ukuleles later this year that will retail for between $250 and $1000, with models planned for beginners, special-needs players, and art collectors.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Thuy, Winter Wonderland Fashion Show & Luncheon, On The Trail of Der Blaue Reiter

Events December 1-December 2, 2022
Next Article

A poem for Thanksgiving by Lydia Maria Child

The New-England Boys’ Song About Thanksgiving Day

For 30 years Owen Burke has been trying to make a living by handcrafting stringed musical instruments. Best known in San Diego music circles for his decade-long stint as drummer with lounge singer Jose Sinatra, he’s built everything from a bass sitar to a tambourine banjo (most of which have stayed in his collection). Now he’s convinced we’re on the verge of a ukulele revival.

“People had started telling me I needed to find something else to do, that maybe it was time to start painting houses,” says Burke. “But I told them the ukulele is coming back, that I was going to refocus my energy on reinventing it and help create a buzz.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Burke has managed to get one of his prototype models into the hands of acoustic troubadour Gregory Page. However, it was a chance meeting with vaudeville-influenced Americana trio the Smart Brothers that convinced him his hunch about “ukes” was correct.

Immediately following the Smart Brothers’ set at Java Joe’s March 1 showcase, Burke approached the band, ready to offer them, free of charge, their choice from his stockpile of handmade instruments.

“I instantly felt that they were made for the Smart Brothers, I just didn’t know it when I was crafting them,” says Burke. “When I approached them, I felt like saying to them, ‘I’ve got your instruments at the shop and I need the space.’ ” Burke invited the Smart Brothers to his workshop.

“Hanging from the ceiling, on the walls — everywhere, really — were the most peculiar and unique instruments any of us had ever seen,” says Jay Smart. “All made from interesting, unconventional materials such as recycled woods, tin pans, fiberglass, and palm-tree branches.”

To date, Burke has given the group a violin uke, an electric steel-string uke, a banjo-uke electric hybrid, a baritone uke, two electric guitars, and a stand-up mini bass. He will create custom gear for the Smart Brothers’ upcoming tours, including a cocktail drum set, and is designing instruments named after each band member.

Burke plans on producing a line of ukuleles later this year that will retail for between $250 and $1000, with models planned for beginners, special-needs players, and art collectors.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Bluefin still holding out as season turns

Yellowtail missing at Coronados
Next Article

37K sidewalk repairs needed in San Diego

Should take about 20 years
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close