Bill Wynne refers to himself as “the reluctant `ukulele player.” He has been playing the `ukulele almost as long as he has been alive, first picking up the instrument at the tender age of two years old – an inexpensive `ukulele purchased for him at Sears as a birthday present by a calabash Hawaiian auntie and uncle. The instrument struck a chord with the youngster – and he struck a chord with it – and thus began the acquisition syndrome experienced by so many `ukulele players. Next it was a Harmony soprano like the one played by Roy Smeck whom Bill had admired. (Wynne could play every note of Smeck’s Wizard of the Strings LP before he had turned five years old!) But then in the spirit of “go big or go home,” the then five-year-old asked his parents for a Kamaka tenor for Christmas in 1975, and he insisted on it having a Barcus-Berry pick-up like the one played by his hero, Jesse Kalima. The instruments just get more and more refined – just like Bill’s playing – but he currently favors a Kanile’a super tenor. He considers it his “voice.”

For a while, as his hands grew, Wynne turned to the guitar, the steel guitar, and other instruments – more comfortable with their scale and range. But the reluctant `ukulele player cannot help but return time and again to the instrument he fell in love with and that was his gateway drug not only to music, but to all things Hawaiian. Nearly five decades since that first purchase at Sears, Wynne is now considered the consummate expert in chord melody-style `ukulele – performing not only Hawaiian music on the diminutive four-stringer, but also jazz, classical, pop, the Great American Songbook, and even Broadway. Wynne is more interested in ever in exploring the infinite possibilities of this once overlooked instrument and, although it was a longtime coming, only now is he wildly in demand as a performer and instructor at some of the nation’s most prestigious `ukulele festivals.

Check out the videos below of Bill and his Kanile`a `ukulele.