The humble ukulele may well be the cheeriest instrument of all time. George Harrison certainly thought so.
Though George acted as the fulcrum of The Beatles with his electric guitar playing, he was known to love all kinds of music to some degree, but perhaps his most cherished instrument was his ukulele. He loved that wacky instrument and confirmed his adoration for the small guitar when he bought a complex in Hawaii and began buying them in batches.
In a note from 1999, which you can see below, George affectionately describes the playing and music of the humble ukulele, “Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is ‘crackers,’” writes George, “you can’t play it and not laugh!”
Paul McCartney fondly remembers: “Whenever you went round George’s house, after dinner the ukuleles would come out and you’d inevitably find yourself singing all these old numbers.”
You can see George in his element in this clip – Here– from 1988 which sees George pick up the ukelele and sing alongside Jools Holland on piano, as they take on ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’.
But perhaps the sweetest story of Harrison’s affection for instrument comes from the clip Here – As the late Tom Petty, George’s friend and bandmate in the Travelling Wilburys, recalls the Quiet Beatle giving him his own ukulele. Petty was initially hesitant but relented after George promised to teach him how to play.
Hours and hours the pair spent strumming away, so much so Petty woke up the next day with a sore wrist. “When he was going I walked out to the car and he said ‘Wait, I wanna leave some ukuleles here. And he’d already given me one. So ‘I’ve got one’. He said ‘Nah, we may need more.’”
Petty remembers George opened his truck to reveal even more of the instruments. “I think he left four at my house and he said ‘Well, y’know, you never know when you might need them. Cos everybody doesn’t carry one around.’”