Tiple actuality...Ed and Ledward.

Ed Askew is on the air again with this nice duo : "Dark Horse" sung by Ed with a great Tiple part played by Tyler Evans :

Ledward Kaapana, touring in california, recorded with slack key player Fran Guidry two splendid instrumental duos "Nanea Ko Maka I Ka Le`ale`a" and "Lili`u E". Playing with his great fingerpick style the 1949 T-18 Fran recently acquired.

And more tunes and sounds in the video section....


5 Minute Course for Playing the Tiple

Ian Kearey, active Tiple player & owner, grabed this rare "exclusive" Tiple course (Cole edition from Chicago made a lot of "5min courses"in the 30's)....  Maybe more inside pages later!

Thanks Ian!



Michael Simmons gave us an enigmatic historical fact in his brilliant 2002 tiple article from "The Ukulele Occasional" :
Interesting complement, Renée Adorée later strummed the uke with Ramon Navaro in the successful 1929 silent hit : "Pagan".

If Jimmy Chu the Renée "protégé", chauffeur and tiple maestro, died in a silly motor crash the luxuous T45 tiple wasn't in the car.
In fact the Martin productions reports a unique T45 fabrication in 1922 but the incredible fancy instrument is alive, for sale here for 17500,00 $ !

If Renée ordered this instrument for the hawaiian master, it's strange that the fancy mother of pearl and turtle decorated tiple made a huge travel via New York to join the west coat and Hollywood....the  T45 was built for the William J. Smith Co. of New York.


The Hokum Hotshots

"What is Hokum?… Blues with a smile on it's face "
 The legendary british duet use this sentence as a guide and sings "a wide variety of 30’s, 40’s and 50’s country blues, west coast swing, jazz and vaudeville".
Starting their blues career at the South Tyne Folk and Blues club back in the late 60's Jim Murray and Pete Mason plays with great feeling and instrumental skills a wide variety of vintage instruments or accurate luthier copies, acoustic guitars, steel guitars, mandolins, ukulele and of course a tiple , played by Pete.

"Don't You Lie To Me " :

"Tear It Down" :

"Travelling Song" :

Pete Mason kindly played the game of a mail interview for "The Martin Tiple Blog"

Pete Mason, In the article I talk of the Hokum Hotshots history that starts in the 60's but you're the tiple player, so let's get specific,when did you played for the first time the instrument ?
I first came across the tiple in the early 1980s, thanks to an old friend, Brian Cookman, who also played tiple. Brian was a great blues and jug band singer and player, and a huge influence on the Hokum Hotshots. He sadly died in 2005.

Have you met Alexis Korner in the 60's 70's? heard his tiple tunes ?
We met Alexis Korner when we played support to him on his last UK tour at a gig in Darlington. I did not realise he played tiple, but I am now looking into his discs to learn more.

Old country music, and prewar blues sometimes met the tiple, also 30's/40's black swing/vocal/strings bands, was some of those artists an inspiration ?
I was not influenced by any tiple players but since have looked at groups such as The Cats and The Fiddle, The Five Cousins and The Spirits of Rhythm. Whilst these groups are interesting, I have not really been inspired by them. I enjoy the songs of Big Boy Teddy Edwards, who showed that blues was well suited to the tiple.

Is your  Tiple a Martin ? did you own other tiples?
My tiple is a Ralph Bown, and is the only one I own.

Your Ralph Bown have been electrified, what kind of inside pick-up instalation is used?
what's your approach to get all those accoustics vintage treasures amplified on stage ?
My tiple is amplified by a Barcus-Berry (or similar) lozenge type pick up. We use Bose amplification on stage with Orchid Electronics di boxes. This combination gives a true amplification of acoustic instruments.

Can you describe your feelings about the particularities of the tiple ?
I love the sound of the tiple. It is unlike any other stringed instrument I have ever played. The balance of its size, the arrangement of the strings, and the sound that comes out of it make it inspiring to play.

Are you an exclusive "pick" player? did you sometimes use a more "uke" technique, with nude right hand, strumms and picking ?
I play tiple exclusively with a flat pick. I’m not sure how else to play it!

What's your tiple tuning and why this choice?
My tiple is tuned B,F#,D,A. This is because I do not usually play in any tunings, and it takes me all my time to master this tuning!

Did the audience sometimes react to the particular instrument and what about musicians met in festivals and blues manifestations?
Wherever I play, the tiple attracts great interest both from musicians and audience as I have yet to meet any other tiple players.

In an duet arrangement did you consider the tiple as  a guitar family instrument or a high strunged , mandolin or uke cousin? could you imagine, as did the "Golden Melody Boys", a tiple/mandolin duet for a tune?
Sometimes I think of the tiple extending the guitar’s range, sometimes as a mandolin-type sound but mostly it has its own sound. The mandolin/tiple duet could well break the sound barrier!

Do you choose the tiple to give a more urban "vaudeville"  piano-roll colour to a song or could it be used also in a pure roots south country blues interpretation?
I like the reference to “piano-roll” colour as this is very much in my mind when we play the music of Georgia Tom Dorsey and Leroy Carr. On the country blues side Tommy Johnson songs seem to suit the tiple, but playing with National steel guitars makes for interesting contrasts.

A last word to our tiple players and fans arround the world?
My view is that there are no limits. If you want to play jazz, blues, country, old-timey, rock and roll or punk- just do it!

Ralph Bown is a country blues oriented renown british luthier and a long time partner for the HH . according to this interesting interview in 1991 he had built 8 tiples, Martin tiples copys.
Maybe I'll post more information in the future. Unfortunatly his site is currently on construction.


Ray Edenton

Following the Michael Simmons track about the Osborne Brothers Bluegrass/Tiple connection I felt on a great Nashville artist and one of the rare great recorded tiple players.

Ray Edenton started his career in radio in 1946 and playing bass fiddle with the Crazy Joe Maphis early 50's  group the "Corn Crackers" .
Later he became a major country music and bluegrass sideman guitarist  in the Nashville studios from 1953 to 1991, with 15,000 sessions on the clock he had time to experiment different instruments and tiple was one of those.
At the end of the 50's bluegrass producers search for new sounds and instruments melted flavors: mouth harps, pianos, accordions and sometimes tiple follows the slide guitars and the sacred  "banjo mandolin fiddle guitar" combinations.
Between 1959 & 1962 he's credited on tiple for 3 sessions :
 in 1959 with the Osborne Brothers , then for the 1959 Mac Wiseman "Great Folk Ballads" album and in 1962 again with Wiseman for "Bluegrass Favorites"

On two of the Osborne Brothers tunes the tiple is well recorded, nice open playing reveal the typical sound on songs intro and counterpoint , Ray is obviously an accurate tiple pick player playing arpeggios and clean chords rolls.

"I Love You Only" :

"It's just the idea" :

 Thomas Goldsmith talk about the Osborne sessions in "The bluegrass reader":

On Mac Wiseman "Great Folk Ballads" in a more "high" mandolin sound and playing he echoed and counterpoint the two guitars, one  played with nice middle tones embellishments probably by Chet Atkins  .

"When It's Lamplightin' Time In the Valley" :

"Little Moses" :

On "Bluegrass Favorites" it's quite hard to sift out of the mix the tiple parts, Benny Williams the mandolin virtuoso is clearly in front of the band for most of the tracks.



Johnny Duschel

Hard to find something about the artist.... and the tunes!
Thanks for help in advance!

The Billboard 27/05/1950 :

Johnny Duschel is also credited as tiple player on a 1955 Merill Moore single :


Big Boy Teddy Edwards

Chicagoan Big Boy Teddy Edwards was one of the rare early blues tiple player and certainly the only recorded blues singer with a tiple for this period (20's 30's) .
Credited on the Bluebird label:
" Singing with tiple, guitar , banjo and piano "
We can learn more on the early blues dedicated radio and site "Big road blues" :
Little is known about "Big Boy" Teddy Edwards, a Chicago singer played both guitar and tiple and cut around two-dozen sides between 1930 and 1936 as well as contributing vocals to sessions by the Hokum Boys and Papa Charlie Jackson. Big Bill Broonzy recalled working with him and Papa Charlie Jackson. Today we spin the solo "Alcohol Mama" and the band backed "W – P – A Blues", a terrific cover of the Big Bill number. 

A complete recordings compilation with a lot of tiple on Document Records .

A half dozen of recordings were made of Teddy alone with is tiple:
"Them Things" "Family Troubles" "I Ain't Gonna Give You None" "Lovin' Blues" "Wild Woman Blues" and "Alcohol Mama", all are epurated blues  with a straight tiple strumm that simply push in front the wonderfull singing part, no solo, breaks or effects.

 "Family Troubles" :

"Alcohol Mama" :

The others recordings with the combo, more in a "pop blues"style,  offers another kind of tiple playing, with sometimes intros, solos and elaborate strumms as maybe Big Bill Broonzy plays beautiful conterpoint guitar bass lines .

Details of the tiple sessions with possibly Big Bill Broonzy on guitar acc.
Notice the possibly tiple intro for "Who Did You Give My Barbecue To?" with an aware tremolo mandolin like technique :

"Who Did You Give My Barbecue To?" :

"I'm Gonna Tell My Mama On You" :

"Louise" :


The Golden Melody Boys

Also known as "Demps and Phil",  Dempsy Jones (vocal and tiple )  and Phil Featherstonhaugh or Featherstonehaugh or Featherstone (mandolin) was an Iowa country duet of the 20's.
As told by Tony Russell in "Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost" Dempsy Jones was a baseball player and lately manager and the Linn County Recorder, Featherstonehaugh "didn't have much a profession" and was run in for transporting liquor in an automobile and fined 300$ in 1925 but he was a fine mandolin player.
The duet was locally successful around 1925 and recorded for paramount in Chicago during1927.
Fans could follow them on stage and on local radio shows to hear an old time repertoire with comedy tunes and a few instrumentals with "modern" chords & strums ornamentation and nice melodies .

A description of their string complementarity by Tony Russell :

5 tunes could be find on the blog with this vinyl compilation , but the blog description is wrong when speaking about a guitar mandolin duet ( except for guitar rag for my opinion)

The complete Paramount recordings can be found in this tremendous 600 mp3 20's/30's old time music compilation for 10$ (J15108 Parker and Woolbright - Golden Melody Boys)

"Down in Arkansas" :

"Freak Melody" :

"Sabula Blues" :


Dr. Humphrey Bates & His Possum Hunters

Credited in the Michael Simmons article Dr. Humphrey Bate & His Possum Hunters , a legendary pioneering country string ensemble conducted by harmonica player Dr Bate seems to used a tiple .

According to record credits ( here compiled in : "the first génération of country music stars" by David Dicaire ) Buster Bate, son of Humphrey, played the instrument occasionaly as he played Jew's harp  harmonica & fiddle but no audio or photograph his here to testify, his sister Alcyone played "ukelele" (photographs) and piano.

Buster the tiple player is here, playing jew's harp behind Uncle Dave Macon ( banjo and hat ):

The Four Virginians

According to the  Kip Lornell  "Virginia's blues, country & gospel records, 1902-1943: an annotated discography",
this obscure country band of textile mill workers recorded six sides of ballroom music for Okeh in 1927.
Two guitars, a fiddle and a (T18?) tiple played by Leonard Jennings.

Hard to find audio but two tracks on the tube reveals that the tiple is strummed as the rythm guitar :

They came back as old timmers in the 70's but only one veteran of the Okeh sessions is here :
Richard Bigger the fiddler.
Leonard Jennings passed away in 1977.
Audio of the 8-tracks 70's recordings and details about the "new" group here.


The Ukulele Occasional #1

You can find in this 2002 first issue of the magnificant ukulele devoted magazine a very complete article about the tiple, Michael Simmons wrote  it, former staffer at Gryphon Stringed Instruments he contributed to Acoustic Guitar magazine, Fretboard Journal and others specialised publications.
He goes deep in the instrument history back in the 1500's in South America and scrolls along the complicated familiy tree on the continent and west indies to the north american 20's Martin rebirth with the "my dog has fleas" similar tuning.
Complete information can be found about the company models and fabrication boards, and of course the Regal, Lyon & Healy and other brands models.

A wide chronologic panorama of tiple players is presented with of course the swing era groups but also a lot of players from the 20's to 90's decades, obscure or not.
Here are some of the name droped that could be focused on in future pages...

20's-40's :
Dr Humphrey Bate and the Possum Hunters
Nortfolk Jazz Quartet "novelty singing with Tiple" Decca rec label
Wendell Hall
Dempsey and Phil Jones (the Golden Melody Boys)
Jimmy Chu
The Lewis Bronzeville five

60's-90's :
Osborne Brothers (bluegrass tiple)
Andrew Hardin Tom Russell
Grady Nutt
Tonny Cuff
Ry Cooder
Phil Manzanera
Mark Orton Tin Hat Trio
Nick Didkovsky
Eugene Chadbourne

Ukulele Occasional #1  for sale at Elderly

present & future quotes of the article
Courtesy of "Michael Simmons"


Dianetic Tiple

Scientology and Tiple ....what a weird cocktail!
Ron Hubbard owned a post 1933 T28 Martin Tiple, it's obvious that he could played the instrument as could a longtime uke player (he bought a decal pineapple Kamaka ukulele in 1927 in Hawaii and boast about having inspired Arthur Godfrey with his Washigton DC Radio banjo,uke & talk broadcasting performances in the 40's)

On the dangerous "church" pages we can learn that Ron,the hero, was captivated by ethno music and during his numerous travels bought notably a columbian cuarto a timple canarias and the pineapple Kamaka....the Dianetic T28 was probably purchased at his local dealer...


Alexis Korner

The Alexis Korner T28 Martin Tiple

Born in Paris in 1928, austrian greek/turkish by his parents, Alexis Koerner lived in France, Switzerland, North africa and finaly reach London in 1940 were he felt in love with the blues during the blitz !
British blues pioneer in the 50's he brings the delta and chicago riffs to most of the mid 60's brit pop heroes young ears (Stones, Cream, Mayall, Page etc..) His focus on the 10 stringed instrument goes far more than a guitarist interest for a funny little instrument as told in a page by Tom Robinson about AK instruments :

"The one Martin guitar that did capture Alexis’s imagination was the Tiple, a small ten-stringed ukulele-like instrument with a stretched neck and overgrown headstock. He’d first been drawn to its sound on 1930s country records by artists such as the Carter Family, and asked the London guitar dealer Ivor Mairants to find him one. It took ages, but when Ivor finally delivered, Alexis worked hard on mastering the instrument. With the likes of Page, Clapton, Hendrix, Beck and Kossoff all jostling for attention in 1960s London there was no sense in competing as just another guitar player. But by evolving his own unique style on the Tiple, Alexis could hold his own on any stage and in any company – and indeed put it to good effect when recording the Snape album at Island studios. As the UK’s foremost Tiple player he was in a class of one."

Korner shows his tiple skills
on this cover of "Vicksburg Blues" :

A"heavy" Korner & Snape title, "Country Shoes" with
great tiple chorus around 2"30...

A 1971 Robert Johnson cover with wild tiple playing,
including cymbalum sound tremolos,"Hellhound On My Trail" :

from the same album "Bootleg him" :
"Evil hearted woman" with the same bluesy mid-oriental touch


Hobo and the Soundogs

Haight Ashbury looking old hobo, moon coyotes , white church,  psych folk vintage youth western group….and a pre-1932 T17 Martin tiple as leading instrument : Hobo and the Soundogs is on tour round Frisco !

here at the 2011 Fairfax Festival :

Supported by a conceptual and well designed mysterious site….


Not in tune....

.....an intersting fact, asserted by Paul Hostetter in this Mandolin Café topic : " Tiple trouble".
The brillant luthier consider that the makers builded all their tiples out of tune with full knowledge of the facts:

"One important point with tiple bridges, whether they're on Martins or Regal or L&H instruments, is that the parallel fret means they will never play in tune. Most people play them as a novelty item, not as a musical instrument, and it therefore won't matter. Whacking chords in first position, yes; above the third fret: ouch. "

He  solve the problem with this particular bridge compensation , encouraging every tiple owner to do so for a perfect tuning ..... You thought your instrument was hard to tune because of unison and octave pairs and trios, maybe Paul is opening our eyes and ears....


I just discovered some direct application of Paul suggestion ....
Terry Staker built this gorgeous bridge ( all details in this Tiple intonation topic on Frets.net) :


Ed Askew

The most particular and unique tiple artist is with no doubt Ed Askew, the underground folk singer; also known for his paintings he travelled the last 50 years droping few tunes now considered as masterpieces.
Rediscoverd and honored by the new folk scene he's a pure songwriter, singing his poetry with an intense white voice and a strong folk-played tiple for only orchestration.

Two mythic "Psych-folk" LP's cames out in 1968 and 1970 "Ask the Unicorn" and "Little eyes", then later in 1984 he recorded "Imperfiction" on cassette but multi tracked, and "little houses" in 1986; the albums, recently reissued could be find easily.

His "life story" with the ten strings instrument began as he was a child and is nicely related in this article named "how I got my martin tiple" he wrote for the "fretboard Journal" in 2009, but the incredible full of karma and beloved T15 story , lost in a train, continues here, in a youtube confession….

We can find in a Jacob Kaplan 2011 interview this exchange about the tiple:

JK Did your tiple playing change between Ask the Unicorn and Little Eyes?
EA A little. I became more precise. I could pick out melodic lines. If you listen to [Little Eyes], the tiple playing is much more specific. The thing that kind of broke my heart was . . . I got really good at the tiple, later on. I got much better later on. But none of that ever got recorded.
JK I read somewhere that for you the very act of playing the tiple—something you don’t do much anymore—affects the way you sing, the timbre of your voice.
EA When I played the tiple I used to tend to dance, so that would have an effect on the way I sang. The whole thing was very intense, and the tiple’s loud. It doesn’t look loud, but it’s very loud. And I suppose it had to do with those songs.

and in a David Shirley article, The Ageless Poetry of Ed Askew 
an interesting comment about the hardness of the instrument playability and it's implication in the artist personality :

The tiple's ten steel strings are tuned high like a ukulele, with which it shares a bombastic tone and lingering projection. Introduced by Martin in 1924, the instrument is notoriously difficult to play, and much of Ask the Unicorn's irresistible appeal involves Askew's heroic and not-always-entirely-successful attempts to keep the damned thing under control while simultaneously keeping up with the songs' relentless vocals.

Ed , playing a tiple tune in 2010.

1986 TV Show

The unique Ed askew'sT15 pickguard

In 2007 Ed hardly played the tiple and asks Joshua Burkett to play with him on this Set / interview appearence

The young Psych- folk artist plays an unknown new tiple showing a particular headstock profile.
Links :


The Talbot Brothers

Despite of it's northern location, Calypso was introduced in Bermuda during the 40's as modern post-war aviation brought tourism in the islands.  The Talbot Brothers was at this time and for twenty years the trinidadian music indisputed ambassadors, mostly for white tourists in search of exotica.

 Five real brothers plus a cousin, they came with a particular Calypso instrumentation,
using a remarquable self made upright bass (as jamaicans use the marimbula for mento/calypso), accordion , harmonica and a Martin T18 tiple as mento players mostly use a small banjo.
Brian "Dick" Talbot is not well heard in the records, melted with the three guitars his tiple strumm is not clearly discernable but we have an exception with this "atomic" track from 1957:

At my opinion the sound engineer located Dick near from the microphone such as the voice / maracas .
A typical bouncy calypso strumm is played with an alternative mute/stroke right hand technique.


MARTIN TIPLE T-17 & T-15 models

It's the simplest model, as he's uke cousin "style 0” it’s a full mahogany instrument with a sober double B&W circle around the hole for only decoration ( some were built with ebony bridge and fingerboard )
The model shyly appears in the Martin logbooks in 1924 with six instruments and no fabrication in 1925 as the company built 725 "T-18" models in the same period .
1926-27 was an all times peak in the Martin Tiple production with 650 T-18 in 1926 and 350 T-17 in 1927 (prices in 1923 was 30$ /T-17,  40$/T-18 and 75$/T-28 )
In the crisis years and mid 30's the company stopped the fancy models fabrication, selling only the T-17 until 1936, but moderately, the golden 20's was behind…
After six years of blank production the T-17 was here again in 1947 but only for three years as the T-15 appears in 1949 and replace the T17 model.

 The only model difference is a rosewood bridge.
T-15 fabrication stops in1966 as the T-18 and T-28’s continues…
As for ukes the Martin decal appears probably in front of the head around 1932 as the stamp disapeard behind the head.

Combining the two models we have a total of 2130 of these uncluttered masterpieces, sleeping in attics or singing in your fingers and offering as their fancy expansive sisters, this powerful magic crystal sound .

Informations and Martin Tiples production log book pages is shared here, in this other great MartinTiple fan blog :  Brian Myspace page.
Prices, courtesy of Michael Simmons ( his astounding Tiple article in the Ukulele Ocasional first issue is a bible and will be frequently credited   in this pages …)

The simple B&W circles around the hole made the T-15/17 a direct cousin of the Martin Style-0 ukulele.



The 15 of september 1925, according to her 1927 memories, Josephine Baker was humming a verse from "Ukulele Lady" ...
I saw the splendor of the moonlight
On Honolulu Bay
There's something tender in the moonlight
On Honolulu Bay

as she was leaving New York aboard the "Le Berengaria" sailing to Cherbourg and a crazy international success for the next ten years and so on....

This photograph shows her with a nice white bended uke at her arrival in Paris with the cast of "La Revue Negre" Sept. 22 1925. She was another "uke friendly" artist of the 20's probably knowing tne basic chords of the instrument ....

Nearly à decade after the "Banana nude"craze she was a beloved star in France, known for her foolish kindness and her 1931 tender hit "J'ai deux amours " writen by Vincent Scotto the french hitmaker ....
Marc Allegret and the "Zouzou" producers tried to recreate in 1933 the magic cocktail : sexotica/tenderness with this musical melodrama based in Marseille melting Cabaret family secrets & the 30's star Jean Gabin as a perfect sailor lover, and Scotto as composer ...but the film wasn't a success.

The magic tiple song sequence seems to be played by the star , a simple strumm with a touchy interpretation.... The decorated bidding could indicate maybe a Regal model ...but it's surely not a Martin.

A beautiful film still, A Sheet Music for the over song of the film "Haiti" and a nice colored promotional photograph  all courtesy of Cyril Lefebvre collection