- the official website of Andy Eastwood, international entertainer, recording artist and ukulele nut



More Memories of Roy Smeck by Bob Barta


Bob Barta - ukulele and banjo student with Roy Smeck

Take a look at Bob's own website:

Jazz musician Bob Barta studied tenor banjo and ukulele with Roy Smeck between 1979 and 83, and has kindly sent his own memories of the great man...

I took lessons from Roy - mostly on tenor banjo, but also on ukulele.  In fact, I have a Martin uke with an internal pickup that I purchased from Roy when I first began the uke with him - he was slightly appalled at the plastic fingerboard banjo-uke I started with!

My connection to music of the 20's and 30's relates to fond childhood memories of family events... My grandfather was a pub owner in New York who sang & dabbled with mandolin; my father played piano & uke, and together they led us through sing alongs at family parties & holidays.  I knew most of the "standards" by the time I was 6 years old.  I started picking up banjo at 14, taking lessons from a couple of fine local musicians.  In '79, I had gone to the city with my father to pick up my banjo from repair when he made a brief phone call during lunch and said "I just called Roy Smeck and he'd like to meet you and hear you play." I was stunned!!  

When we arrived and met Roy and his wife Fay, Roy insisted on hearing me play first.  I played three solos for him: Mame, China Boy, and The World is Waiting for the Sunrise - during which he maintained a very straight and serious look.   When I had finished, he asked who had taught me those solos and I told him my previous teacher's name.  He immediately exclaimed "AHA!! That explains it!!!  He was a student of mine!!  I couldn't figure out how you could possibly have duplicated MY SOLOS so exactly!!!"  This began a four-year association with Roy, who gave me more musical and show business education than I could ever have expected.   I would also say that right up to the last time I saw Roy in 1991, he was the most musical ukulele player that I ever heard or saw... it was amazing to hear so much beautiful music out of an instrument that practically looked like a toy.   Thanks for giving me this opportunity to reminisce about "The Wizard of the Strings".  If you haven't done so already, you should pick up the videotapes of Roy available through the Ukulele Hall of Fame & Museum - it's a great site and organization, and one of their board members (Geoff Rezek) is a former uke student of mine!

Thanks, Bob. for sharing your memories of Roy Smeck. Can anyone else send us memories of their ukulele heroes?