Meet the World’s Largest Playable Ukulele!

I'm not exactly sure how I found this. Oh wait, yeah I am. So, I setup an automatic eBay search to tell me whenever a Tangi ukulele gets posted. Why would I do that? Hmm.. maybe you haven't heard of the miniature Tangi ukulele? This thing makes the Kala Pocket Ukulele look like an upright bass.

So, I MUST have one, thus the automatic search.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when my eBay search net caught a whale instead of a minnow. Yup, besides making the world's smallest ukulele, Tangi also makes the world's largest playable ukulele. Look at this freaking thing!

Tangi Giant Ukulele
Tangi Giant Ukulele

It makes an upright bass look like... well, I guess it would still look like an upright bass.  But, this thing is HUGE!  What's more, it's for sale on eBay (click the picture).  But, get ready for disappointment, unless you are some sort of debutante or one of the Koch brothers.   A cool five grand is what it's going to take to get your hands on that baby.  Plus, you still need to drive to Hawaii and get it.  Yes, drive.... floating car.  Duh.  Anyway, here's some more details on this monster.

It weighs 40 lbs and is 6 1/2 feet tall.  Tangi made the ukulele in 1996 for Tangi Tully's birthday.  It took 27 Tangi employees a full month to build it.  This giant ukulele is completely tunable and playable.  The tuners were custom machined.  The body of this massive ukulele is mahogany and the fretboard and bridge are ebony.  The white inlay is made of ox bone and the inlay is mother of pearl.  In short, this isn't a cheap decoration.  This is a freaking work of art.  Now, give me money so I can buy it.

Swagerty Treholipee Paddle Repair

As I mentioned in an earlier swagerty post, I have a Treholipee that has a broken tuning paddle.  As I also mentioned in that post, I got an e-mail (from a fella named Larry) describing how he fixed a similar problem.  I wanted to post it here (with Larry's blessing) so other enterprising folks can make use of this info.

If you recall, Larry managed to pick up a Treholipee for a $1 at a garage sale (for this, I will always be jealous of him).  His Treholipee, like mine, is missing a string as well as a tuning paddle.  Now, Larry is using fishing line to replace his strings.

Here's a handy tip for you and all those fellow Uke fans out there who
need replacement strings. Nylon fishing line of various weights works very
well once you let it stretch in a few days (and it costs a WHOLE lot less!).
It just takes a little patience needing to retune a few times. Pete Seeger
talked about replacing banjo strings with nylon monofilament fishing line
starting with 10 lb. test through 50 lb. test depending on the diameter

If you don't fancy fishing line, though, you can get Worth tenor ukulele strings in lengths of 46" and that should work for you.

Anyway, back to the task of fixing the broken tuning paddle.  Larry has found himself with a surplus of chopsticks.  And, he was able to find a chopstick of the appropriate diameter to fit right in the hole for the Treholipee tuning paddle.  Check out this rad picture:

Treholipee Improvided Paddle Repair
Treholipee Improvided Paddle Repair

Now all he has to do is cut it to length and stain it black.  I should mention that another suggestion I got on paddle repair was to use a clay mold of one of the other paddles and possibly cast it out of plastic.  If I can get motivated, I might try that out and I'll let everyone know how it goes.

When I got my first Treholipee I was a little unsure about how to tune it.  I've since found out that the Treholipee was meant to be tuned as a "tenor ukulele, tenor banjo, plectrum banjo, tenor guitar or baritone uke."  Larry, being a banjo player, went this route:

I decided that I did'nt need to learn new chords if I would simply string it like the top 4 strings of my banjo, open G (DGBD). Good idea, but much too low. Some strings buzzed. A little research showed that some uke's are tuned to an open C but not the same as a banjo open C. I put a capo on my banjo at the 5th fret and found that GBEG was the open C tuning that would let me take advantage of my knowledge and still play this sweet little instrument like a pro. All of my wife's doubts were swept away when I serenaded her with "Tonight you belong to me".


vintage Polk a lay lee
vintage Polk a lay lee
Time Remaining: 27d 1h 37m
Buy It Now for only: $159.00

My addiction now has it’s own addiction (Swagerty!)

So, apparently it's not enough that I'm addicted to ukuleles and the collection of said ukuleles.  As you might recall, I recently got my hands on a Swagerty Singing Treholipee.  Now, unfortunately, mine is a little janky.  It's missing a tuning paddle (yup, paddle) and a string.  But, that was enough to give me a taste.  Especially after I started to hear back from other Swagerty fans.

One helpful fella (named Rick) informed me that he was the proud owner of 12 Swagerty ukuleles!!  It was at this point that I realized that Swagerty didn't just make the Treholipee.  They had a whole line of, what they called, their Kooky Ukes.  This line included the Treholipee, the Kook-a-la-lee, the surf-a-lele and the double neck kook-a-la-lee.  There is also something called the "Little Guitar"  but I'm not sure if that was considered a Kooky Uke or not.

Before I talk more about that, I wanted to mention that my string dilemma is solved!  Rick tells me that you can buy Worth tenor ukulele strings in 46" and 63" lengths.  And, since the Treholipee is 47" long (in total) the 47" lengths are more than adequate to re-string this baby.  It looks like Elderly Instruments might carry these, so let me know if you have luck getting some there and let them know I sent you.  Maybe they'll hook me up.  Because, something tells me I'm going to be doing a lot of string-buying for Kooky Ukes in the near future.

Now, about my broken tuning paddle, that's a whole 'nother problem.  I've been waiting for one to pop up on eBay, but I imagine that's going to increasingly rare.  Rick suggested taking a clay mold and casting a new one (maybe out of plastic).  I might also bug some of my wood-working friends and see if they can't put something together for me.  Another fella contacted me and let me know he bought a Treholipee at a garage sale for $1.  Grrrr... but he had the same problem of a broken tuning paddle.  But, he fixed that by using (get this) a chopstick!  Awesome!

So, back to my addiction.  Today, I found myself buying another Treholipee.  Yup, that's right.  I bought another one and this one has all of its paddles and strings!  So, while I anxiously await my Treholipee's arrival I can tell you what I've learned so far.

Swagerty was a copy started, and owned, by Ancil Swagerty.  It sounds like he started out making guitars and ukuleles more as art or wall decorations and then was convinced to turn them into playable instruments.  His company (whose full name was "Swagerty Specialties Company, Artistry in Woods") made instruments, oddities and other things from the 50s through the 70s.  Here's what I've found out about some of those instruments so far:

Treholipee - Ancil was granted a patent for the Treholipee in 1966.  I think I read that roughly 60,000 of these little babies were manufactured.  The Treholipee seems to have been the flagship for Swagerty's Kooky Ukes line of instruments.  Both the Treholipee and the Kook-a-Lele had long headstocks and the idea was the surfers could stick the instruments upside-down in the sand when it was time for surfin'.  The Treholipee is 47" long and, as far as I can tell, they can in yellow, orange or green.  You might wonder where the name came for this little beauty?  Well, it seems like the "Tre" is for three.  The "Holi" is for holes (or holy, get it).  And I have no idea what the "pee" is all about.  Here's a picture from the Ukulele museum.  You see, the sound holes are those three little music notes.

Swagerty Singing Treholipee
Swagerty Singing Treholipee



Kook-a-La-Lee - The Kook-a-La-Lee seems to have been a close relation to the Treholipee.  The main differences are that it was two inches shorter (at 45") and the headstock was straight and not curved.  Another difference is that the Kook-a-La-Lee has a heart-shaped sound hole and not the three music note holes sported by the Treholipee.  Here's a picture from Eldery Instruments.Swagerty Kook-a-La-Lee

Double-neck Kook-a-La-Lee - There was, apparently a variation of the Kook-a-La-Lee that had two necks!!  From what I've read, these were made specially for friends and were never marketed to the general public.  Besides having two necks, they are also different from the standard Kook-a-La-Lee in that the sound holes are round and not heart-shaped.  The decal on the body also just says Kook-a-La-Lee.  I'm almost certainly going to have to kill someone to get one of these.  Here's a picture from the ukulele museum.

Double-neck Kook-a-La-Lee

Surf-a-Lele - The Surf-a-Lele was like a compact version of the Kook-a-La-Lee.  I think the idea was that it needed to be smaller so that you could play it while you were surfing.  Now, how anyone was going to hear you over the raging surf, or what was going to happen to your Surf-a-Lele when you fell into the water?  Well, I can't answer that.  He's a picture from Elderly Instruments.

Swagerty Surf-a-Lele
Swagerty Surf-a-Lele

Little Guitar - From what I've read so far, this little number is the white Sasquatch of the Kooky-Ukes line.  Meaning, it's crazy rare.  That's weird to me, because it probably has the most "normal" appearance of the whole line.  These made their appearance somewhere between 1964 and 1968.

Swagerty Little Guitar
Swagerty Little Guitar

Ok.  That's enough lesson time for today.  Next time we can talk about the knock-offs that were spawned by the Kooky Uke series.  That would include the Polk-a-Lay-Lee and the Wander-Le-Le.  Time enough for that later, though.

vintage Polk a lay lee
vintage Polk a lay lee
Time Remaining: 27d 1h 37m
Buy It Now for only: $159.00

Kala S-U-B (Subductive U-bass)

Freaking Kala does it again.  What did they do?  They made me NEED yet another ukulele-related instrument.  I know, I have a problem.  Or, rather, I have a disease and the only cure is more UKULELE!  (and beer)

Anyway, check out a picture of the new Kala Subductive Solid Body U-bass.

Kala S-U-B Solid U-Bass Sunburst
Kala S-U-B Solid U-Bass Sunburst

Now if that doesn't get yer juices flowin' then you might already be dead.

So, I guess they call this baby the Subductive because of that word's relation to the Mariana Trench.  Get it?  The deepest place on Earth.  Well, if you've ever heard the apparent black magic of the low end that comes out of these U-basses then you would definitely get the reference.

I'm hoping to get my hands on one, and if I do, I'll upload some videos of it.  Now, where did I leave my bank-robbing mask and gloves?

Destroyed Guitarron and the Kala U-Bass

So, one of my biggest shortcomings is my memory.... or, rather, complete lack of long-term memory.  So, lately I've been heavily relying on my Google calendar.  That way, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, if I happen to be lucky enough to remember something, I pretty much enter it in my calendar right away.  Sometimes, I need a little help making sense of what entered, but it's better than nothing.

So, where I'm going with this is that I was at the grocery store and I remembered that my brother, Bryan, had always really wanted a giant acoustic bass guitar.  What he really wanted was a bass like Brian Ritchie of the Violent Femmes plays.

But, I'm pretty sure that's a custom job.  Or, at least, I couldn't figure out where to get one.  So, I started thinking.  Ya know, I bet he'd like one of those giant mariachi bass guitars.  So, I put it in my calendar for August 1st (his birthday is August 17th) and I promptly forgot all about it.

Fast forward to August 1st, 2011.  My Google calendar tells me that I need to "buy giant bass guitar for Bryan".  So, I do some research and discover that those mariachi bass guitars are called guitarrons.  What is cooler than that is the fact that they have 6 strings and weird tuning.  I was roughly Bryan's age when I first got my ukulele and it was right before the birth of my first son.  Well, Bryan and his wife are expecting their first baby sometime in October.  So, I thought maybe this guitarron could launch him down a new path in life and figuring out how to play it would open his mind to new ideas.  Long story short, the ukulele changed my life and I was hoping to give him a similar experience.

So, I order a guitarron on eBay and when I get it... there are problems.

What's worse is that the replacement guitarron that they sent me also had problems.  I think the brand is just trash, which isn't what you would expect for nearly $400.  Well, now I'm in a pickle.  I got the replacement guitarron on August 18th... the freaking day after Bryan's birthday.  So, even though I started off ahead of the curve thanks to my new calendar-brain, I still ended up blowing it.


Guess what saved the day?   The Kala U-bass!  Although, that almost didn't happen.  I called my local music store because I know they sell U-basses, but they informed me they were all sold out.  They checked with Kala and I guess they are back-ordered for like 4 months?!  Crap!  So, I headed to eBay and I found plenty of left-handed U-basses, but only one Spruce right-handed U-bass.  I snapped that mother right up.  Now, I should mention that there were some mahogany right-handed U-basses available but those are nearly $550, I think?  I love my brother, but I apparently don't $550-love him.  Heh.

What's neat is that the U-bass I bought for him is fretless, so it sounds like a freaking upright bass.  It rules!  Now I can finally play Lovecats by the Cure without having to bend strings.  Wait.. what do you mean it's his bass?  Crap!  Heh.  I'm sure he'll let me play it.

Our next step is to get him a battery-powered amp.  You see, although the U-Bass sounds amazing, it's not terribly loud.  So, if you were rocking it at a campfire, you should probably have a little amp.  Right now we are looking at the Roland MicroCube Bass Amp or a Pignose HOG-30 amp.  I'll letcha know what we decide on.  I'm sure we'll make some videos after we get the amp.  So then you'll know what a U-bass sounds like through a little battery powered amp.