Today is the birthday of Charles Robert “Uke” Henshaw (1896-1969).
Originally from Wheeling, West Virginia, where his family had lived for many generations, Henshaw also spent some of his childhood in Columbus and St. Louis. By his early twenties he had already established himself on the vaudeville circuits as one of the top ukulele performers and his likeness was already being printed on sheet music. By 1920 he was already playing Paris — international stardom was to follow. For a time, his first wife Vera Van Atta was partner in his act. Most descriptions of his playing mention his uncanny ability to make his uke mimic other musical instruments. When vaudeville passed from the scene, he continued to play on radio, toured with the USO, and appeared in films and on television. His name was also used to market a brand of ukuleles. Much more detail about the performer can be found here, including appearances he made in films as an extra which aren’t mentioned on IMDB.
Henshaw was the second cousin of the famous singer Annette Hanshaw and Frank Hanshaw, a successful show biz agent. Uke’s third wife was the popular singer and actress Deane Janis.
For more on vaudeville history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold