Kala Ukulele endorsing artist Ian Clarkson
In today’s installment of Kala Ukulele artist interviews, we get to catch up a bit with Ian Clarkson of the musical group, the “Jive Aces”. Although Ian is from the UK, he and the Jive Aces will be in Tampa this coming week, on March 14th at the Zendah Grotto 4450 W. Ohio Ave, Tampa, FL (from 8-11:30). For me, this is a case of “so close and yet so far”, as we (the Parrot Island Band from Atlanta, GA) were just in Tampa last week for a gig. All I can say Ian, is that I hope it is warmer for you (Bring them Sunshine Ian!) than it was for us…brrrrrr (it was cold and windy for our event ;-)).
Bio: Ian Clarkson is the lead vocalist, trumpet and Ukulele player for the Jive Aces, the UK’s No.1 Jive and Swing band. (from http://www.jiveaces.com/who_are/ian.html):
“Ian was born in the Liverpool area and lived only a few doors away from Paul McCartney’s brother. He then moved to Essex and London, hence his current accent.
He began singing when he was a boy and would entertain his family with song and dance and whole theatrical shows which he would put on with his sister in the Clarkson family home for guests.
He soon went to London to sing and learn trumpet and it was in the smoke-filled jazzy nightclubs of the capital that he met most of the Jive Aces.
Ian’s cool singing style, hot trumpet and hip showmanship put him centre stage as the front man and he pulls it off with ease in a style reminiscent of Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima and Dean Martin all rolled into one.”
1) Where is home for you at the moment?
“Currently home is on the Kent/Sussex border in sunny England. It is easier for the band to live near each other and it's nice to live in the country but also be so close to London for gigs.”
2) What were your earliest/current musical influences?
“I started off as a kid listening to Elvis. As I grew older, 14/15, I was interested in whom his influences were and so sort of worked my way back into blues and other American roots music, all while my friends were getting into whatever the radio or disco was playing.
“So my influences were and are everything from early New Orleans Jazz, blues, swing and hillbilly up to 50's R&B, rock ‘n roll and very early soul. I also loved crooners like Bing, Sinatra and Dino and Nat King Cole.
“One of the bands biggest influences is Louis Prima, hence the latest album being a salute to him.
“On this album is our version of “Bring Me Sunshine” which although Prima didn't perform, we thought summed up the joy he put in his music, and that we hope we do too. Plus it was one of the first songs I played Uke with the band – I had the honor of playing it personally for HRH Prince Charles who loved it and was very interested in the Uke, stopping to chat about it for a while.”
3) When did you start playing the Uke?
“I only properly started playing about three years ago when my wife bought me one for Christmas after I had been playing on Uke nut Kaplan Kaye's lovely Kala. I was instantly in love and very soon I had acquired a few Ukes and a couple of Banjoleles. When I started, I didn't know it was going to catch on so much in the UK, but it seemed to spread like wild fire. All of a sudden when I played Uke with the band, the fans and friends loved it and many started playing Uke themselves. Uke builds a sort of friendly community around it. Unlike most other instruments, it isn't egotistical or financially driven, it's all good fun and about sharing, I like that.
“I used to play guitar when I was a young kid before I started trumpet. I played mainly rhythm on blues and rockabilly stuff at the time and then gave it up. I always wanted to start playing again but just didn't get around to it. When I found the Uke, I realized this is what I needed. It fell under my fingers, I could take one anywhere and it was such a happy sound, it made people smile when you played it – and I'm all about cheering people up.
“Oddly enough, a short while ago, an ex girlfriend posted a shot of me playing her Uke from about a hundred years ago and I didn't even remember it. I thought I'd never touched one until just a few years ago.”
4) What Kala Ukes are you currently playing?
“I mainly play my two Kala concerts, my custom painted yellow "Bring Me Sunshine" model, of course. And I still have my little soprano yellow Makala that I played in the Sunshine video. I actually recorded on that too. One of the things I love about Uke is that you can also grab the lower end soprano Uke and get a great little sound out of it. Most of our recordings now have Uke on it, even if it’s only me playing rhythm, instead of the usual rhythm guitar.
“I'd like to try a Tenor though and also get a high end soprano for fun.”
5) Any current musical projects you would like to tell us about (tours/CD's)?
“Ooh I think sometimes we have soooo many projects on the go… We are currently touring to promote our latest album “King of the Swingers: A Salute to Louis Prima” which is going very well. We have a lot of theatre dates as well as festivals and dances, etc.
“In April we are back in the US playing in LA and DC and also recording our next album, a Christmas CD, plus filming another video.
“In the summer, we have the Satin Dollz coming over to the UK to tour with us. We mainly work with them in LA. If you have ever seen one of my little tutorials, the Dollz are always featured. When they first toured with me, I got them into Uke (as it is infectious) and now they all play Uke, and look great while doing it. Check them out; they even do ukeograms too….
“We also have some shows coming up featuring our Skiffle Combo which features me on Uke and our saxman switches to fiddle and Al, our trombonist, plays washboard. Skiffle is great for Uke and is both fun and exciting. (We also recorded a skiffle CD called “Its Skiffle Time!” – which was great fun to record).”
6) Any question that you wished someone would ask but never has? with answer of course;-)
Q)"Would you like my collection of vintage Ukes?"
A) "Yes, please"
You can find Ian at:
I’m enjoying these interviews so far for a number of reasons. Not only do these Kala artists have a great variety of musical backgrounds, but they seem to have a shared love for music (and especially the Ukulele) that is contagious. Everyone has been so cooperative in answering these questions… I have several more to go and look forward to sharing more Kala Ukulele artists’ interviews in the weeks ahead.
Have a great visit to Florida, Ian…
Beaches and blessings,
Kala Uke Artist