T’UkeS group song

So here’s our group’s best song, I think, we can play anywhere in the town of Tillsonburg, the county of Oxford, OR in Norfolk County: Tillsonburg by Stompin’ Tom Connors. This is a real easy song, only 3 chords. However, it was surprisingly long, with the “Tillsonburg” chorus after each verse, which have to be sung in order because they tell a story. This affords plenty of opportunity for the audience to sing along with the chorus, so it remains popular.

Here are a couple of misunderstandings I had about Stompin’ Tom Connors;

  • I believed he was born and raised in Ontario
  • I thought he made the town of Tillsonburg famous
  • I had no idea that he sang so many songs about Canadian towns, places and famous people
  • I never knew where Leamington was until I heard the Ketchup Song (I was born and raised in Long Point….)
  • I thought he was from Toronto

Boy! Was I wrong! You can Google the answers to all of those points. Jeff gave me a book out of his dad’s garage about 5 years ago, “Stompin’ Tom Before the Fame” and wow, what a dramatic writing. I followed it up with “Stompin’ Tom and the Connors Tone: the Legend Continues”. They were both page-turners! What I got out his autobiographies was, he was ahead of his time. And it took a long time for big music execs to accept him. But the number one thing that brought his songs into our hearts was that they were so Canadian. About our country, our towns, our railroad, myths, legends, roadways, cultures, etc and so on. Two or three years after I read his books my husband and I were touring PEI in the summer of 2017, taking in as many historical sites for free as we could for Canada’s 150th birthday. Any where we went in PEI there was a sign somewhere referencing the life of Stompin’ Tom Connors. What a cool claim to fame!

And all we got’s Tillsonburg!!

Summer Strum


My summer adventure this year was not camping with the kids, which for a couple of years has meant my 2 daughters as my son has been working, but off on a trip to the East coast of Canada with my hubby Jeff, to visit Prince Edward Island. It was completely amazing to me to be driving around in a place about the size of our two counties (Haldimand and Norfolk) and yet this place is an actual province.

True to Cat form, I brought my ukulele. Since I had literally just finished reading “Stompin’ Tom Before the Fame”, I imagined myself playing my uke in the Buick Century while Jeff drives and sings along. Nothing even close to that took place. When not driving my job was Navigator. Also, we left at 6:30 p.m. Friday night and hit Edmundston, New Brunswick at 7:30 a.m. our time the next day. (Yes, there IS a time zone change!)

DSCF0562Nevertheless, I threw some songs together in a blue duotang and shoved it in my bag with another duo labelled “iTIN”. (Ha ha. Itinerary, get it?)

By the time we made day-tripping and sight-seeing plans I had only strummed a few minutes here and there, so finally I told Jeff we had to set aside some time for the beach and also for me to play my ukulele in PEI. That’s the dream, right? LOL

Here is my play list: 1-2-3-4 by Feist, All My Loving by the Beatles,

My audience

Buttons and Bows (Yes, by Dinah Shore and Bob Hope), Can’t Buy Me Love by the Beatles, Harvest Moon – Neil, Hooked on a Feeling by BJ Thomas (for Jeff), I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt, Million Dollars by BNL, The Log Driver’s Waltz by Wade Hemsworth, Long May You Run by Neil, Moondance by Van Morrison, Only Sixteen by Sam Cooke (also for Jeff), Riptide by Vance Joy, Say That You Love Me by Fleetwood Mac, Stand By Me – Ben E King, Still the One by Orleans, The Summer Wind, Up on Cripple Creek by the Band, Wagon Wheel in C, We’re Here for a Good Time by Trooper, and Whiskey in the Jar, which oddly enough I never played.

Played my ukulele on Cavendish beach, part of PEI National Park. DSCF0498 I was a bit nervous to play around any sleeping beach-goers and there were quite a few families there so I set up our chairs back by the life-guards’ hut. For some reason I kept thinking that I don’t want to disturb other people. It turned out that after I played for a couple of hours and we were actually packing up to go get a late supper, several people approached us to tell us how much they enjoyed listening to us sing songs on my uke and that was a great feeling of appreciation. One guy told us he was homegrown PEI and he stayed on the beach longer just so he could listen to us. That was pretty cool because we were very much enjoying the water, the sand and rocks on the beach, the seagulls and the sun. It was a great day!


Good Ole Neil ;-)

Image result for Neil Young car

Well, I hope ole Neil won’t mind, but I transposed the key for one of his hit songs, “Long May You Run”, which he once revealed in an interview to be dedicated to a beloved car.

I was going through the Bytown Uke Groups songs and having a great ole time printing out songs about Canada, of Canada, and some that were written by Canadians ;-), when I realized that someone who does the posting of songs for the group must be a Neil Young fan. There are umpteen songs at their site by him.

For many years, while I was studying piano, and then later, guitar, I was always interested in performing Neil Young songs but just as equally disappointed, because the man has a high voice. Within the last decade of my music playing on Ukulele, “doors” have really opened for me with the discovery of transposing. Suddenly, no song is off limits. The reason you are surprised I’m sure is because of my musical background. To clear that up, I will tell you that I learned to play classical piano at a very high level. In those days my friend and I who both played piano like demons, were into the new music us kids would hear on the radio. This was 1977 to 1984/85. So what we did back then was buy artists music books, like “Hits by the Eagles” or “Fleetwood Mac”, and then trade them back and forth, pooling our resources. We also bought compilation books by multi artists. I can remember lovingly – and by that I mean at the top of my lungs – playing AND singing “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gale and “Georgia” by Ray Charles, over and over and over……. as well as numerous Eagles songs, Van Morrison, Dan Hill, Carol King, Janis Joplin, many folk songs like “the Unicorn Song”, “Puff the Magic Dragon”, as well as campire songs, songs by John Denver, lots of country songs by Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, and many, many, others. My father in particular was fond of “Trailer for Rent” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”, and “The Green, Green, Grass of Home”. He could sing!

At our high school they farmed us out for lunch period entertainment in the caf during the month of December, where we were to play Christmas carols – once again, classical music – but invariably, as the kids would come up and sit on the bench next to us they would start requesting “Christmas songs”, that would always lead to a good ole singing session of modern hit music. The song that usually did me in was a so-called Christmas song, “Another Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg, which would lead to other current hits. I got admonished by the Vice-principal numerous times but they never did fire me from this gig, as I was given this duty every year for 5 years straight. I couldn’t help myself: it always turned into an hour of fun.

Back then, we also studied to pass our music levels, and I remember now having to study transposing, but I literally never used it so it got pushed out of memory and, consequently, ability. Years later when I was learning to play guitar, that knowledge would have come in handy, for there were many songs that went by the wayside because I couldn’t sing them in that key. When I finally resurrected my interest in music using the ukulele, things were different. For one thing, I was no longer playing at parties or for friends, I was now learning and playing in a group. And you pick up all sorts of skills when you play regularly with others. About 3 years into my ukulele playing the benefits of transposing keys became clear to me and I have never turned back. Love a song? Can’t sing it in that key? No problemo:  presto bango, transposo, and voila!

I used to love many many Neil Young songs but when I heard them over the radio, I was never able to sing along. The man has a high voice! But many times I wished I could have performed on my piano or my guitar such hits by him but I never could sing it so I would have to turn the page. It has been decades since I even remembered what the problem was. So yesterday while I was printing out all these Canadian hit song sheets by Neil Young I was feeling that old disappointment again. Particularly with “Long May You Run”. And I started trying the chords on  my uke and literally saying to myself, “this would be much easier in the key of G”. The only problem was there was this daunting chord to transpose, the F#m, because you know, nothing’s easy with Neil Young! A couple of years ago I had gone down to the MUD Festival in Lansing, Michigan, and they had two or three group sing-alongs where they projected the song sheets, and one that they taught us was in the key of A with a Bm and a B#m, Cm and C#m, which I practiced for weeks afterwards. Yesterday I was realizing that I could incorporate some of those chords into the song to achieve the same thing. So it’s G, Bm, D7, Em and C, and then he has this little instrumental bit at the end of the chorus, which threw me. I listened to it and the closest I can get is C, then Eb, which looks scarey but is actually simple to form, G then Gaug (same thing) and back to G. Related image

I really find it interesting to attempt to play songs that were composed on a guitar by a guitar player. I mean, maybe they wrote the melody for a song on the napkin of a diner while eating lunch, I don’t know the process ha ha. But I’m finding that transposing songs into a more singable key for me is opening musical doors, and enhancing my enjoyment of music.

For a detailed description of transposing and how to do it, try these websites, but first download my transposed version of “Long May You Run” by Neil Young!






Celebrating Canada on Day 150

Hello! Congratulations Canada, you will be 150 years old this year ~ 2017!!!

On Tuesday, May 30th we will be playing Canadian songs on the 150th day of the 150th year. That’s pretty cool.

Here is our song list for May 30th:

Black rum And Blueberry Pie Page 1      Black Rum And Blueberry Pie page2

Farewell to Nova Scotia – unknown: folk song attributed to Nova Scotia heritage

Four Strong Winds – written by Ian Tyson; made famous by “Ian and Sylvia”, and also Neil Young

Good Old Hockey Game (PDF) by Stompin’ Tom Connors

Harvest_Moon by Neil Young

If I Had A Million Dollars (C) by the Bare Naked Ladies

I’m Glad I Live In Canada (C) by Bowser and Blue

Oh Canada – uke – NOT the traditional wording “we play our ukes for thee”

Song For The Mira (PDF) – written by Allister McGillivray

Sudbury Saturday Night  also by Stompin’ Tom Connors

Summer Vibe by Walk Off the Earth

The Log Driver’s Waltz written by Wade Hemsworth, by the McGarrigle sisters

This Land Is Your Land words re-written by the Travellers

Up On Cripple Creek (C) by THE BAND!!

Wagon Wheel Darius Rucker (G) by Canadian Musician Darius Rucker, formerly of the band Hootie and the Blowfish.

Some of these songs celebrate things distinctly Canadian and other songs are a nod to the East Coast, to Ontario, to country music roots, or just darn fun!

We’re allowed to have fun and to celebrate our nation’s age, culture and heritage. I hope you enjoy!


Oh Canada

Image result for Canada

Today, I start a new category: Canadian.

I hope to fill it with some songs from Stompin’ Tom Connors, Anne Murray, Glen Campbell, Wade Hemsworth and others. Even though a lot of the songs that I was exposed to growing up were kind of folks songsy, there are a lot of great Canadian artists out there who rendered some iconic, unforgettable music. While a ukulele in no way can mimic the full sound of a band and a mixing studio, I think a good acoustic representation can be achieved in one way or another. Besides, when we are all out camping and jamming around the campfire at night, no one notices because everyone is too busy singing along.

Related imageFirst up, I have the national anthem of our country, O Canada! The words and melody can be found quite easily by just Googling it, and we have both a bilingual and an English version. Since I was not raised with the bilingual version I am posting here today just the English version.

Back in the fall a Canadian band, known for their liberal use of different types of ukulele’s, was invited to sing our national anthem for game 2 of the World Cup of Hockey final between Canada and Team Europe. Walk Off the Earth was then criticized in the media for singing “one line wrong”. They sang “in all of us command” where lyrics are known to be “in all thy Sons command.” Their Twitter response was to tell the “haters” to educate themselves and become politically aware of the fact that in May 2016, Liberal MP Mauril Belanger successfully passed a private members bill in Canadian Parliament to officially change two words in the National Anthem: “Thy Sons” to “Of Us”. Yes, it happened.

So I thought this would be a great song to start off with, and I included the Youtube video of Walk Off the Earth’s performance which, as a fan of that band, I feel was a great rendition. Loved it.