Monday, September 15, 2008
Humo Cigar Box Ukelele
Story Submitted by Karl Catteeuw
The trouble with ukuleles is that they are so small you lose track. In fifteen years of guitar playing I only bought four and sold two. In four years of ukulele playing I truly lost count. I even lost two by misplacing them somewhere. Try that with a double bass.
This one is one I’d like back though. It’s made by a luthier called Terry Horvath, presumably from Indiana, but was at one time owned by Dave Talsma, a luthier I admire very much. In fact, I bought it from Godfrey Daniels because we both presumed Talsma made it. If you think it looks crudely made, well… we thought that was done on purpose. A rough and tumble, distressed metal cigar box ukulele with a pickup literally glued on top. How much down-home sophistication do you wish for?
The other reason was that, although Humo cigars did truly exist, Humo is also a very popular weekly magazine here in Flanders, kind of a cross between Mad and Rolling Stone. So I dreamt about showing off this cool and odd looking cigar box with a pickup, and everyone would ask where I got it. Sure.
Rule number one: it’s the sound that counts. Not coolness.
Not eponymity. Not the maker. And this one sounded, well, like a tin box strung with metal (!) ukulele strings (which is not really good). The plugged sound was slightly better, but still… I tried turning it into a four-string mandolin, tried the best ukulele strings in town (worth browns and Aquila nylguts, in the odd case you were asking), but the sound never caught on. I happened to have another Terry Horvath cigar box ukulele (ukuleles breed, remember?), so, the minute I received it, I recognized the style and found the signature. Out went one reason to hang on.
So I put it on eBay and along came another reason to hang onto the Humo ukulele. Among the bidders was one ‘musicomic’ guy probably born in ’53, whom I immediately recognised as my musical hero, Jan De Smet of De Nieuwe Snaar, an exceptionally fine musician, clown, singer and collector of records and instruments. And he was outbid.
The Humo ukulele is now somewhere in France, but if I’d love to have it back, and then I’d give it straight away…”