||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...
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!
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
we arrived and met Roy and his wife Fay, Roy
insisted on hearing me play first. I played three
solos for him: Mame,
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 www.ukulele.org -
it's a great site and organization, and one
of their board members (Geoff Rezek) is a
former uke student of mine!
Bob. for sharing your memories of Roy Smeck. Can
anyone else send us memories of their ukulele