The hall was full for our monthly “60s Up” meeting today. After the usual announcements and the raffle draw (the story of our lives - unlucky again) the names of members celebrating a birthday this month were called out, Robin included. All the birthday people received a scratchy ticket as a token gift, but try as he might, he couldn’t uncover the winning formula. Members celebrating their 80th birthday are especially honoured, and one lady was presented with some lovely flowers at the meeting.
Our entertainment was provided by the Ukulele Ladies of Levin, known as the Ukuladies. This fun loving group was formed in 2011 by Rona and are often found entertaining local clubs and rest homes. Ukuleles are not necessarily the simple instruments from childhood days. Amongst the standard type were musicians playing on a banjo ukulele, together with bass, baritone, tenor and 8 string ukuleles. Attired in their colourful printed tee-shirts of pink, blue, yellow, purple or green, they kept us entertained as they sang songs from the past.
The group numbered about a dozen, but we were informed that they have about 30 in the group. Some were working, but the large number of members means that they can always muster up a group to perform as required. And perform they did, I particularly enjoyed listening to the lovely, haunting song “Blue Smoke”. This song has quite a Kiwi connection. Ruru Karaitiana wrote Blue Smoke on the troop ship Aquitania, in 1940 off the coast of Africa, when a friend drew his attention to some passing smoke. During the war he served in the Middle East with the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion. He led the battalion concert party, and he was one of the few survivors of its original 17-member choir. Although it was performed at troop concerts during the war, the song was rejected by London publishers. Back in New Zealand, he assembled a quintet in 1947. In October 1948, in Wellington, the quintet recorded a version of Blue Smoke with singer Pixie Williams. The backing music was Hawaiian-style, and the instruments included guitars, ukulele and a lap-steel guitar It became the first record wholly produced in New Zealand from composition to pressing. The song topped New Zealand radio hit parades for six weeks, and it sold more than 20,000 copies within a year. Quite a feat back then.
Our feet were tapping as the songs from the 50s and 60s came thick fast. Blue Suede Shoes – the Elvis lover in our household enjoyed that, then a Beatles song, she enjoyed that too. It’s strange how you can remember all the words of the songs which were around when you were growing up. Those were the days, simple tunes, a strong driving beat, and lyrics all about teenage angst. They don’t write songs like that anymore.
Our friend Robyn was one of the Ukuladies on stage and we caught up with her later. As well as a member of this group, Robyn is an accomplished country and western singer. We go way back, and Robyn and her hubby moved to sunny Levin a couple of years before we took the plunge. Like her, we have never regretted it.