About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
I am a native of Illinois and grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. After dropping out of college, I moved to California in 1973 with my first husband. I married my present husband, Butch, in 1977 and got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me a grandmother 25 times over and a great-grandmother of 19. Three years after I married Butch I returned to school. I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication and was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 to return to school and get my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore and genealogy - and add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play a number of folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega with Genealogy Journeys where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that can be found at http://genaandjean.blogspot.com and more about my own business projects is on my Circlemending website.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Of banjo-ukes and hot dogs

My first fretted instrument was a ukulele. It had belonged to my mother (above), but she gave it to me so I could finally get one step closer to me dream: a guitar. Along the way, I also picked up the banjo - a beautiful old instrument that had belonged to one of my mother's uncles. But I never ventured into the hybrid: the banjo-uke.

This peculiar instrument has a banjo body (for that sound that can only be produced by that unique instrument) with a ukulele tuning. And, of course, there is a website to promote this: The Banjo Ukulele Haven. It is not likely that most people will have heard of this instrument, but I'll bet you are familiar with one of the songs that was originally played (actually composed) on one: "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener . . ." Yup, it was composed on a banjo-uke in response to a jingle contest in Madison, Wisconsin. To read about this story of how the banjo-uke was used to promote everyone's favorite hot dog in 1962 and how it found a final home, check out the Wisconsin Historical Society's website.

The Wisconsin Historical Society is a wonderful repository for research (that is where I located original documents for my great-grandfather, who served in the Wis. 24th Infantry in the Civil War) but also has a collection of "odd Wisconsin" - artifacts and information that are unique to the Dairy State.

So, if you have ever in your life found yourself wishing you were an Oscar Mayer Wiener (whether or not you literally had a desire to find yourself encased in a bun and slathered with mustard), check out the instrument that brought that memorable tune to the lips of many a hot dog eater! After all, don't we all have a desire to have everyone "be in love with" us?

1 comment:

  1. I like the bright sound of an banjolele, or is that term which I have always used for that instrument, slang?

    I am a lover of banjo music (not Dixieland), and a little banjo-uke is similar.