Monday, July 18, 2005

At 97, The ‘Duke Of Uke’ Is Alive And Pickin’

WESTMINSTER, Calif (Wireless Flash - FlashNews) – Most 97-year-olds are headed for retirement homes – or a cemetery – but Bill “Tappy” Tapia is headed to his next ukulele gig.

Tapia has been putting up his ukes for nearly 90 years and is gearing for his next “Duke of Uke” gig on Saturday (Jul. 23) in Covina, California.

When Tapia is not on the road performing, he teaches 24 private ukulele lessons a week.

The ukulele wizard says he taught himself to play at the age of 9 in his native Hawaii, but admits, “A fella in the neighborhood got me started. He gave me two short lessons. Very short.”

Tapia kept the teaching tradition alive by showing celebrities like Shirley Temple and Clark Gable how to strum for films. He says, “They just wanted to clown around,” and that his best student was Jimmy Durante.

Asked the secret to longevity, Tapia says, “To tell you the truth, I don’t know. I never sleep more than four hours a night and I smoked until I was 85.”

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