John King, an expert on early Hawaiian music and proponent of playing classical music on the diminutive instrument, passed away unexpectedly last Friday.
From the St. Petersburg Times obituary:
KING, John 55, died April 3, 2009. A well-known teacher, musician & long-time resident of St. Petersburg, he is survived by his wife Debi, daughters Amy, Katie & Emma, mother Dolores, and brother Paul. John was attracted to classical guitar, was taught by Pepe Romero, and became an accomplished performer. He taught guitar at Eckerd College, was a published composer, & Assoc. Editor of Soundboard. John's early years in Hawaii initiated a lifelong love of the ukulele, to which he applied his knowlege of classical guitar technique, becoming one of the world's foremost virtuosos, featured on NPR. John was an authority on early makers of the ukulele, which led him to study the machete, its' ancestor. He performed music from rare manuscripts from San Francisco to Lisbon.
John was active in the ukulele music scene and frequently appeared at workshops. He has several CDs available for sale and recently released a book of classical music arranged for uke. He will be missed.
At this Saturday's Suncoast Ukulelefest, I'll be leading the crowd in a play-along of "Aloha 'Oe" as a tribute. You can read about the history of the song and download his transcription and arrangement of it, based on Lili'uokalani's handwritten version, at his website.