When we started Moselele, we never imagined that people would travel from other ukulele groups far and wide to join us regularly. I’ll be honest, we didn’t know there were other ukulele groups. Anyway. Meet Bill who comes all the way from another group in – get this – Walsall.

1) Tell us how you started playing the ukulele. (How long ago? Did you play other instruments before?)

I was traveling with a company called Adventure Bus which is a camping/sleep aboard bus trip. We had been traveling around Alaska and the owner and her assistant both played ukuleles which were brought out from time to time around the camp fire. After Alaska they had to be in Calgary and we had to be in Minnesota so we decided to ride along for the 2000 plus miles road trip which would take six or so days. After crossing into Canada and leaving the Rockies behind the view through the windows became less interesting and I asked Claire (the assistant and owner’s niece) if she would teach me to play. That was in August 2016.

The last time I played any musical instrument would have been several decades previously and that was a school recorder. Unfortunately I was put off the idea of playing music due to what I now know to be an evil, possibly mentally ill and psychotic teacher. It was a different time.

Well Claire was very kind and patient even though it was possible I could have inadvertently damaged her ukulele. I was utterly hopeless but somehow she managed to kindle something inside me that made me think to myself that I would like to try to learn.

So on coming back to the UK I spoke with some acquaintances who are semi-professional musicians. They said, if you want to learn, go and get yourself a second hand ukulele. Most second hand shops have one. They suggested I try to get one made of wood not plastic and I should aim to pay about £30. Then they said do not try to learn on your own as it is too disheartening. Find yourself a local group that you feel comfortable playing with. My online search found a group that had recently started meeting about a mile from my home and they could not have been more welcoming, helpful, kind and supportive. Friendly, funny and fun. That group is Sandwelele and I still play with them in Walsall every Tuesday. Still friendly, funny and fun. Having said that it is hard not to have fun playing a ukulele with other like minded individuals.

You may also know Bill as “the egg box man”, thanks to his inventive music stand (and spare music stand).
Photo by Fiona C

2) What uke(s) do you play? (Have you made any adjustments/personalised it? Do you use a plectrum?)

I play a Kauai KUT-55 Tenor Uke and it is the one I got from a second hand shop for £30. I found it on line and had to come to Kings Heath to buy it. I had no idea what I was buying. It had four strings and I knew that was good. In terms of buying one I now know a little more but not much more. Fortunately for me I think the shop selling it knew even less and I even persuaded them to throw in a bag for free. Anyway it appears it is a proper ukulele but I can’t find much about it. I fitted a strap and changed a string but apart from that it is how I purchased it. I recently obtained a second hand concert uke that looks almost new. I don’t use a plectrum. Maybe I should try one but I play au natural.

3) Do you remember your first Moselele? (What prompted you to come along? What were your first impressions?)

I had been attending Sandwelele regularly and making progress slowly when Steve B suggested I might like to come along to Moselele, specifically the summer concert in 2017. I was amazed at the atmosphere and decided there and then I would like to improve enough to participate and thought a way to do that would be to attend Moselele. It is a bit of a jaunt from Walsall but I enjoy it immensely and a couple of times a month is not too difficult to fit in.

4) What keeps you coming back to Moselele?

I find it great fun. There are some excellent players and singers of all ages, not just old geezers with beards, which make for an enjoyable evening. I find the way songs are played and the extensive repertoire quite a challenge and it seems to be helping me improve, all be it at a glacial pace. I do hope that is not self delusion.

5) What’s your favourite Moselele song?

There are so many to choose from and so many I like to play that I don’t think I could choose one. Quite a lot I have only heard at Moselele but as I said at the beginning my knowledge and appreciation of music was stifled at an early age and is only just emerging. It is about this time that someone at Moselele would say something like “Don’t worry we’ll scare it back in”. [Don’t worry; we’ll scare it back in. –Ed]

Photo by John R

I certainly listen to music differently now that I play. I like songs that I can’t play but try to have a serious stab at, progress not perfection. I think I heard ‘Dreaming of you by The Coral’ for the first time at Moselele and I like that. I now know that was released in 2002 so it took 15 years for me to notice it. How come? Please see above. Having said there are quite a number of songs that I only hear at Moselele or on Absolute Radio or similar.

6) What’s your usual Moselele tipple?

I usually go for the Oakham Bishop’s Farewell but there are usually plenty of good beers on offer.

7) Do you practise at home? (What do your family/housemates/pets think?)

Sometimes but truthfully not often. I do play at other groups though. Learning is continuous but it does not sound the same when playing solo. I do sometimes play along with the music recorded at the previous get-togethers and posted online.

Some songs are starting to sound like they should though. My wife Jan, says all too frequently “what was that you were playing?” However she recently said was that Waterloo Sunset. And it was, which I suppose is some sort of success. Having said that, now I think about it, she has also said that when it wasn’t. I’m beginning to think she might be tone deaf.

8) What’s your favourite Moselele story/memory (so far)?

It is a blend of the first occasion that I attended Moselele and saw the total enthusiasm from the audience at the summer concert in 2017 and how much those playing seemed to be enjoying themselves. That was then followed by the first time I came to play on whichever Thursday followed the concert and the combination of attendees singing volume and enthusiastic playing.

9) What would you say to anyone thinking of joining?

Can you already play or just want to learn? Grab a ukulele and get yourself down to the pub. Come early it you want a choice of seat. No one will mind or even notice if you don’t know what you are doing. They are probably trying to do their best themselves. But if you ask you will get all the help you could want. The sheer enthusiasm of the evening will carry you along. Sing up and out with gusto.

And here is a bit of philosophy I picked years ago but never really appreciated until I started to play and sing, attributed to a US philosopher and psychologist William James (1842 – 1910): ‘People don’t sing because they are happy they are happy because they sing’. It is hard to be unhappy whilst you are playing and singing with a ukulele group.

10) Tell us a secret.

There are many definitions of secret. I recently discovered one that states: a secret is a variable prayer, part of the Mass, said by the celebrant after the offertory and before the preface. However as I do not have a religious bone in my body I have not a clue what any of that sentence means.

The US Secret Service was originally founded in 1865 to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

SIGH. That is not a secret. It’s literally in the first paragraph on the US Secret Service Wikipedia page.

All right then. Who’s next? I notice Steve B gets a mention here, but hasn’t taken the plunge with his own Q&A yet…?

Ah, go onnn. If you’re a regular, or even a semi-regular, email or message Emma with your answers – and if you’re not sure how to do that, just leave a comment here or on the Moselele Facebook group.

Read previous Meet Moselele posts

Those we have loved and lost… and those who keep coming back for more. The crazy fools.

Meet Moselele: #24 – Chris D
Meet Moselele: #23 – Ania M
Meet Moselele: #22 – Garry B
Meet Moselele: #21 – Katie C
Meet Moselele: #20 – Ian J
Meet Moselele: #19 – Peter H
Meet Moselele: #18 – Fiona C
Meet Moselele: #17 – Stephen P
Meet Moselele Takeover: #16 – Emma W
Meet Moselele: #15 – Sarah A
Meet Moselele: #14 – Tom H
Meet Moselele: #13 – Bob J
Meet Moselele: #12 – Conor C
Meet Moselele: #11 – Scott C
Meet Moselele: #10 – Paul P-D
Meet Moselele: #9 – Dave T
Meet Moselele: #8 – Lorna P
Meet Moselele: #7 – Phil B
Meet Moselele: #6 – Daz W
Meet Moselele: #5 – Mark S
Meet Moselele: #4 – Rhiannon D
Meet Moselele: #3 – John R
Meet Moselele: #2 – Ian E
Meet Moselele: #1 – Rob P