Going to Elderly Instruments in Lansing, Michigan is never just about looking at ukuleles and accessories that I can't afford. It's also about the people you meet. Indeed, I've never gone there without talking music with at least one or two people, whether it was the couple from Chicago a few months ago who taught ukulele, the two ukulele players a while back who were visiting from Nova Scotia, or the guy a couple years back who was stopping there on his cross- ountry motorcycle trip.
Yesterday's trip to Elderly was no exception. I had just got done talking with the repair department about a Mi-Si undersaddle pickup (very cool) and returned to the wall of ukuleles when a guy about my age (Middle Aged guy, but without a ukulele) stopped me and asked me for help. I don't know if he thought I worked there or he could just sense my ukulele knowledge, but I was glad to answer his question, which was "What makes a good ukulele." Seems his son, who is about 11 or so, wants to get one.
Before I had the chance to get too philosophical, his son came over with a Lanikai koa wood concert ukulele, all nicely packaged with a gig bag, tuner and chord booklet. I told the two that Lanikai makes a great product (I own an S-TEQ myself) and that we should open this one up and take a look. True to form, the Lanikai played wonderfully, had good fit and finish, and, due to the koa, had a wonderfully traditional tone. I told them this would be a fine first start and they should not think twice about buying it (and, like real Elderly salepeople, I'm not on commission, so this was an honest opinion - heck, I don't even work there).
I don't think the father was ready to buy that day, but I think he will, and, more importantly, I think it means we have a new ukulele player in the making. I asked him why he wanted to play ukulele, and he said because of a person he saw in Alabama who uses it on some of their songs; I am assuming he meant the band, but is there a famous ukulele player in Alabama he could have been talking about? Does it really matter; someone inspired him to play and the father is doing the right thing encouraging that interest and making a small investment in what will most likely be a very happy pairing of young man and ukulele.
There's another thing I really like about this story. In a room full of guitars and a store that has even more acoustics and some of the coolest electrics around, here is a young man choosing to start with ukulele. A sign of the times, I guess, a part of our culture. Another ukulele and a turn I like to see taken.