Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ukulele Legend Bill Tapia (1908-2011)

A career of more then ninety years on stage .....
The last living link to the earliest days of both jazz and the ukulele as a popular instrument

Jørgen Larsen

Ukulele Legend Bill Tapia (1908 - 2011) (English)
Ukelele legende Bill Tapia (1908-2011)(Nederlands)


On December the 2nd, ukulele legend Bill 'Tappy' Tapia passed away 103 years old - just one month short of his 104th anniversary. With a career that spanned more than 90 years, Tapia is believed to be the oldest performing musician ever to take the stage - a truly remarkable figure in the world of entertainment has left us.
Bill Tapia was born New Years Day 1908 in Honolulu, Hawaii and got his first instrument at the age of 7. He started his career entertaining World War I troops stationed in Hawaii in 1918 and became famous for his solo ukulele version of J.P. Sousa's "The STars And Stripes Forever". After switching from ukulele to banjo and guitar in order to get more work, Tapia spent his early career playing in vaudevile and on steamships between Hawaii and the West Coast. In the 1930s he performed occasionally as a backup musician with artists like Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, and at one point he was employed teaching ukulele to Hollywood stars including Clark Gable and Shirley Temple. Tapia spent World War II in Honolulu leading a 14 piece band. After the war, he relocated to the San Francisco area, continuing to tour for several years with swing bands. Later he settled down and started playing in TV orchestras, as a sideman with local bands, and teaching guitar. Around the turn of the last century, he lost both his wife and daughter. Soon after, he was rediscovered and returned to his ukulele roots embarking a second career.

In 2004, at the age of 96 Bill Tapia released his first CD “Tropical Swing” featuring jazz and Hawaiian standards. The title track was a 1936 recording on Okeh Records, his only previous release. He followed up "Tropical Swing" with "Duke of Uke" (2005) and "Livin’ It LIve" (2009), and earlier this year "Live at the Warner Grand" (2011) was released, documenting his 100th birthday concert. Slowed but not stopped by a broken hip, Tapia continued to tour until late in 2010.

Bill Tapia was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2004, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hawaiian Academy of Recording Arts in 2011. - A documentary was made by S. Leo Chioang and Mercedes Coats about Bill Tapia's life, titled "To You Sweetheart,Aloha - Can Life Begin At 94?", more info about this and the career of Bill Tapia at his official website from witch the above is extracted.
- Here at the keepswinging blog we have earlier posted a couple of entries on Bill Tapia, Hans Koert wrote
Bill Tapia - Duke of Uke and Bill Tapia Centenary .
- On YouTube several videos documenting live-performance of Bill Tapia during his later years are uploaded, here's an example from one of his last public appearances in Hawaii earlier this year - enjoy this live-performance of "I Wanna Learn to Speak Hawaiian"



To end this small remembrance of ukulele legend Bill Tapia (1908-2011), here's a video tribute uploaded at YouTube with still photos from his career and accompanying audio


Jo

With a career spanning more than 90 years in showbusiness, ukulele legend Bill 'Tappy' Tapia passed away on December 2nd, 103 years old. Tapia started his career playing ukulele for US troops stationed in Hawaii during WW 1, then he switched to guitar and banjo playing in vaudevile and also performing on steamboats between Hawaii and the West Cost. In the 1930s Tapia occasionally was a backing musician for stars like Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, and at one point he was employed teaching ukulele to Hollywood actors including Clark Gable and Shirley Temple. Tapia spent World War II in Honolulu leading a 14 piece band. After the war, he relocated to the San Francisco area, continuing to tour for several years with swing bands. Later he settled down and started playing in TV orchestras, as a sideman with local bands, and teaching guitar. Around the turn of the last century, he lost both his wife and daughter. Soon after, he was rediscovered and returned to his ukulele roots embarking a second career. - The Keepswinging blog loves to inform you about subjects like this one, follow the blog at Twitter ( #keepswinging) or ask for the free newsletter, contact keepswinging@live.nl

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