About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

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.


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