One-Page Comic Strip: History of the Ukulele

I occasionally do one-page music-related comic strips for a music magazine called Signal to Noise. I enjoy doing work for them because I’m really interested in music and they give me a pretty free rein to choose a subject I like.  For example, one of my past strips for them was about the obscure but very influential local Winston-Salem soul band, The “5” Royales, after whom James Brown patterned his first band.

For the most recent issue (Fall 2010) I did a strip about the history of the ukulele. I’ve previously posted an in-progress (inked, I think?) version of this strip, but since the Fall issue’s been on the shelf for a good while, I guess I’m safe to post the final, colored version of the strip here.  I enjoyed doing this strip a lot since I actually play (albeit, not very well) the ukulele. The song that the kind-of-but-not-exactly-me narrator is singing is the great ’20s tune “I’ll See You in my Dreams.”  I’m embarrassed by how terrible the caricatures are in this strip, but other than that I think it turned out reasonably well. Enjoy!


2 pings

  1. Isaac says:

    Is there a way to enlarge it to legible size?

  2. Ben says:

    Yikes… Thanks for letting me know about that. Yeah, it’s fixed now. Should be linking to a big pic.

  3. Slim Symes says:

    One Error in the text it’s Ukulele Ike not Ukulele Uke.
    other wise it cool.

  4. Ben says:

    Can’t believe that made it through so many “eyes” w/out anyone catching that!

  5. Rich says:

    One of the best players today is Jake Shimabukuro He does an incredible version of While My Guitar Geltly Weeps. If you haven’t seen it before, prepared to be amazed.


    George loved to always play the uke when he was on Maui.

  6. Ben says:

    Yeah, know of him for sure. He’s pretty amazing!

  7. alistair robb says:

    I play the Brazilian version the “cavaquinho”, though not as skilfully as I’d like.

  8. frochka says:

    Hey, I really liked your comics, it was very interesting!
    I have a Ukulele and it’s not that easy for me to play on.

  9. Ben says:

    Thanks for the kind words, all! Glad folks liked the strip.

  10. vv says:

    very funny! jajajaja . i’m from buenos aires, argentina, i listened to a girl playing the uke, and ,in spite of not knowing how to play a fucking instrument, i ran to buy one.. it was a bit difficult but i found my lanikai lu-11..
    I’m in love with it. everybody should have one just to give peace a chance ;O) ( anytime i get angry, nervous, anxious, just go and “play it”, and it soothes me..)

  11. Greenlaw says:


    This is awesome! My wife Alisa has developed an obsession with the ukulele and has gotten quite good with it. In fact, she’s performing the soundtrack for our upcoming ‘Brudders’ animated short. (Shameless plug.)

    Anyway, enjoyed the strip. I’ll be sure to forward this page to her.


    Brudders – Episode 50 ‘Peanuts’ now at littlegreendog.com

    Partner | Little Green Dog | http://www.littlegreendog.com
    Senior Digital Artist | Rhythm & Hues Studios | http://www.rhythm.com

  12. Ben says:

    Thanks, all! Glad folks are enjoying the strip.

    I’m really surprised by the volume of traffic this strip has gotten. I’ve already sold the original art for this piece, but I’m giving some serious consideration to maybe printing up some posters of this to sell. (And that’d give me an excuse to fix those terrible caricatures as well!)

  13. Robert Boyd says:

    The cavaquinho is a much harder instrument to play than the ukelele–it’s the steel strings.

  1. Back on 3rd December | Ukulele Hunt says:

    […] Before I go, check out this hilarious history of the ukulele. […]

  2. Ben Towle’s history of the ukulele | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment says:

    […] obscure topic: Ukuleles have been around forever, but where did they come from, and who plays them? Ben Towle drew a one-page comic about the history of the uke for the music magazine Signal to Noise, and he […]

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