Ukulele royalty, the ‘duke of uke’ says his love for the instrument had humble start
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Just about anyone who plays the ukulele has heard the catchy name Jumpin’ Jim.
Jim Beloff is the man behind the world’s most popular series of ukulele songbooks.
“I think that we’ve published over 30 different titles, and we have a million of our Jumpin’ Jim songbooks in print,” he said.
Beloff’s fascination with ukulele began when he bought his first one at a flea market 30 years ago. It changed his life and led to the start of his company Flea Market Music.
“I used to say it’s a little bit like Fred Astaire meeting Ginger Rogers,” he said. “I finally found my dancing partner when it came to songwriting.”
Beloff’s publishing and performing are just parts of his ukulele puzzle. He’s recorded albums and worked with some of the world’s best players. He even composed a symphony for the uke.
“We have a book of Baroque music, Bach and Vivaldi, all arranged for My Dog Has Fleas,” he said.
He’s also written more than fifty songs with Hawaii’s ukulele master Ohta-San.
“We’re still writing. I think we’ve written three or four songs this year alone.” Beloff said.
During the pandemic, he and his wife, Liz, compiled the first comprehensive visual history of the ukulele, a book called “UKEtopia! Adventures in the Ukulele World.”
“I knew that we could made this interesting both in terms of a history not just of us but really a history of this third wave of the instrument,” he said.
Uke enthusiast George Harrison once visited Beloff’s home, and jammed with Jim. Harrison wrote a note that’s in the “UKEtopia!” book.
“We had our Beatlemania moment,” he jokes.
Beloff lives in Connecticut where he’s working on another compilation of ukulele arrangements.
“They’re great songs that everybody knows that I have not put in the other two. With any luck that will be out in nine months to a year,” he said.
Beloff says never in a million years could he have imagined where the ukulele would take him, and Jumpin’ Jim is still making music.
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