Ukulele musician Bill Tapia dies at age 103 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Ukulele musician Bill Tapia dies at age 103

Courtesy: www.BillTapia.com Courtesy: www.BillTapia.com
Bill Tapia playing his ukulele on a hammock. Bill Tapia playing his ukulele on a hammock.
A young Bill Tapia testing out a white Kamaka ukulele. A young Bill Tapia testing out a white Kamaka ukulele.
Bill Tapia Bill Tapia
Bill Tapia showcasing his skills by playing the ukulele behind his head. Bill Tapia showcasing his skills by playing the ukulele behind his head.

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (HawaiiNewsNow) - Expert ukulele musician Bill Tapia passed away in his sleep Friday at his home in Westminster, Calif.

Born on Jan. 1, 1908, the Liliha native started his professional music career at the age of 10 when he performed "Stars and Stripes Forever" for World War I troops in Hawaii. Tapia's unique version of the song was later copied by numerous Hawaiian musicians.

According to Tapia's website, he received his first instrument at the age of seven from Manuel Nunes, one of the first and most respected ukulele makers in Hawaii.

A source close to the ukulele virtuoso says Tapia's health was failing since June when he canceled a trip to Hawaii to accept the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Tapia, also skilled in banjo and guitar, performed as a backup musician with Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong.

In 2004, Tapia was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame. Tapia continued to tour around the world until late 2010.

In a 2002 KHNL interview, Tapia said his secret to living a long life was eating a lot of vegetables, exercising daily and staying away from alcohol.

Tapia, who was born on Jan. 1, 1908, died month short of his 104th birthday.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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