By Greg Olwell
I couldn’t help but notice something odd while violin-maker Andrew Carruthers showed me the backyard where he lets varnish dry on his gorgeous handmade violins and cellos in the golden California sun. Peeking through the dusty window of the shed where he stores wood at his Santa Rosa, California shop and home, I saw what looked like a large open headstock like you’d see on an old Martin guitar or a high-end ukulele, but bigger.
Turning to Andy, I nodded toward the shed and asked, “So, what’s that?”
Giving me a laugh, the English-born violin maker said, “Oh, that? That’s the ‘ukarone’—the ‘world’s biggest ukulele.’”
Then, he gladly pulled it out to show me the unique ukulele built for him by his friend Serafim Reis as a birthday present.
The string length is about the same as an upright bass, but it’s even taller. Speaking of strings, you won’t find extruded nylon and silver-wound strings on this behemoth. These strings are made of rope—like the rope you might use to tie a mattress to the roof of your car on moving day. Or the rope strap that was tied around the neck and the endpin, which would allow the player to walk around.
How does it sound? Well, curse my normal, human-sized hands, but I couldn’t strum chords on it. However, I was able to play a little bass on it though, working through a few walking blues bass lines and even slapping it a little (as you can see from the short clip Andy took of me checking it out).
We don’t need to call the people at the Guinness Book of World Records to confirm if this is might be the “world’s biggest ukulele,” but I do know that not only is this a great birthday present, I would totally take Andy’s ukarone to a gig.
Thanks for digging it out, Andy.