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EXCLUSIVE Artist Interview Series – Ian Clarkson of the JIVE ACES

September 12, 2011

If you’re not already aware of Ian Clarkson, he is the lead
singer and founding member of the UK based Swing/Jive group The Jive Aces. Vocalist,
trumpet and ukulele player, Ian Clarkson, formed  the group in 1989.  They are a six-piece UK based high energy jive and swing band who have many albums and singles to their name, and have performed at many music festivals throughout the UK, Europe and the US. The Jive Aces headlined at the first ever swing dance at Royal Albert Hall. They played to approximately 1,300 dancers on the 5,000 square foot dance floor, along side the BACK TO BASIE ORCHESTRA and TOP SHELF JAZZ.  In March 2011 the Jive Aces produced a music video for their cover of the well known Morecambe and Wise theme song “BRING ME SUNSHINE” in a Louis Prima jive style with Ian Clarkson on Ukulele.  In just a few weeks on You Tube it catapulted to over a million views.  In their own words, a contribution to “Spreading the Sunshine throughout the world.
Below is the music video. . . One can instantly see how apparent the
ukulele truly DOES spread sunshine wherever it is played.

I recently had the privilege of catching up with Ian during his busy schedule while he was on tour in France. Ian spoke on numerous aspects of his career and the ukulele specifically.  Below is that interview.


UKULELE MIKE: Ian, how would you describe your musical background?

IAN: When I was a little kid I loved Elvis.  Then I used to read the liner notes on his albums etc. and saw the influences he had such as blues etc, then I would go out and buy a recording of whoever that artist was. So, I started working sort of backwards time-wise musically as my friends got into whatever the radio or disco was playing.  I only actually started playing the uke two years ago after a gig with Kaplan Kaye (Uke-Ukes) and Veronica and the Red Wine Serenaders from Italy.  I tried Kaplan’s Kala and was hooked. My wife got me one for Christmas and within a month I had THREE!!! Two months later I had “serenaded” HRH Prince Charles with my yellow Makala at the VE Day celebrations and used it to sing my way quickly through customs at Dover – – – understood “Uke-Power”!!

UKULELE MIKE: Sounds like you’re hooked, Ian. So tell me, what is your overall approach to music in general?

IAN: Musically I am generally self taught with a mix of the influences of jazz, swing, rock ‘n’ roll and blues.  My musical approach has always been to make people happy and to entertain.  I think there is enough depressive stuff around.  The uke, of course, fitted straight in with this.

UKULELE MIKE: So once you got your uke, where did you go from there?

With the uke I merely bought a few easy song books and started learning songs.  I was going through a skiffle phase at that time and our trombonist got a washboard so I also started learning these sorts of songs on the uke. They are simple and rhythm based and people love them.

UKULELE MIKE: So, Ian, what’s with this renaissance of the ukulele?  How do you account for it?

IAN: I think the uke is getting a resurgence because it’s great! Partly because live music in general is coming back — as the record industry practically destroys itself, bands and singers are back and the uke is such a portable and fun and, importantly, easy to start instrument.  Also, the internet in its currently  pioneer atmostphere allows young and new musicians to search and find different music and it allows something that is genuinely fun spread virally – – rather than in the slightly more controlled media that pushes based on financial returns only. Thirdly, the uke has been part of a music and entertainment scene that helped take America out of a depression and in amongst the doom and gloom we read in some media, the uke has once more raised its head to shine across the music and entertainment world inspiring a lot of fun.

UKULELE MIKE: Ian, the Jive Aces have been around for a long time now . . . Tell us more about this exciting band.

IAN: That’s right, Mike.  The Jive Aces have been the same line-up for 15 years! and we have been touring almost non stop for all that time.  I went to school with the drummer, Peter, and after we left school we met the bass player and sax player at clubs that played jive, swing and jazz music.  We used to swing dance to the other bands and then one day we decided to start our own band, which we did.  We started off busking, or “street entertaining” and very quickly got gigs coming and soon travelled to Europe and beyond. The most important thing is that we are like minded and have similar tastes in music and all want to help make the world a happier place.

UKULELE MIKE: So, Ian, how did the ukulele begin to work into the band mix?

IAN: Oddly enough, when I started playing the uke I had no idea that it was at the beginning of a great resurgence and was surprised to get requests to play it more and more at gigs — which I was very happy to do, especially as it had taken over my trumpet practice . . . and most other things. I feature the uke on stage in our jive songs and in the skiffle that has entered the set and I use it as a rhythm instrument on our recordings instead of rhythm guitar.  This works very well and I think it has such a nicer happy tone and adds to the jive (I keep insisting it goes louder and louder in the mix too)  I listen to some of the old jive groups that used uke from the 30’s and 40’s such as “The Cats and a Fiddle” and “The Spirits of Rhythm” and we will be doing some material simlar to this in the future.

UKULELE MIKE:  Ian, what advice could you give to new and developing uke players?

IAN: My advice would be to grab that uke and just learn songs you like as soon as you have learned the very basics . . . like holding it.  Find the way that works for you to learn – – Some may prefer a teacher, some books, or some tutorials on YouTube, but go for your own thing. My opinion is that the beauty of the uke is that it is not so serious as other instruments and with its come-back at such a time with so much diverse music about there are sooooooo many styles to approach the uke with.  I’m mainly “old school” swing but nowadays you have everything from pop to punk on the ukulele.  The nice thing about uke players is that they usually want to share their knowledge and teach others.  As soon as I could play a couple of songs I was encouraging everyone to start and teaching what little I had at that time learned.  So other players will usually give you tips.

UKULELE MIKE: Ian, the Jive Aces song “Bring Me Sunshine” has become a mega hit.  We’d love to know more about this song.

IAN: When we started doing “Bring Me Sunshine” on stage it was immediately popular.  The message of the song so suited the uke. We had the Hollywood dancers the Satin Dollz on our tour with us in the UK for their first time.  It was in the freezing snow last November (they’d never seen snow).  They loved “Bring Me Sunshine” and wanted to learn it.  I took them to Denmark St. near Soho before a gig at the 100 Club and they all bought ukes.  That night they surprised me when they all came on stage surrounding me with their uke props and in their Betty Grable bathing suits.  So . . . then I had to teach them.

After the last gig of the tour on a cold stage in Manchester we sat down and filmed my very first tutorial:

Then we put our music vid on line and watched in amazement as it got 100,000 views in just a couple of weeks, then it hit one million in less than two months!! I’m sure that both the happy message of the song and the Uke love and the uke effect helped it go viral.

UKULELE MIKE: So Ian, in your Bring Me Sunshine video I was quite taken by that bright yellow little uke you played with the dolphin saddle.  Tell us more about that, will you?

IAN: Yes, that was a MAKALA yellow uke with a dolphin saddle.  I thought it was appropriate for our “SUNSHINE” motif  . . . shortly after the release of the video the KALA UKULELE people contacted me (they are the ones who make the MAKALA) and thanked me for using it in the video and asked if I needed anything from them. . . At a concert following I was surprised as they presented me on-stage with a bright yellow semi-acoustic / electric concert “BRING ME SUNSHINE” signature model with the Jive Aces logo on it and the words “BRING ME SUNSHINE”.  It’s great. . . just plug it in and go . . . a perfect mix for the band onstage.  I’ve been playing it constantly ever since!!!  A personal huge shout out to the KALA folks!!!

UKULELE MIKE: This has been an amazing interview, Ian.  Any parting words you would like to share with the global ukulele community?

IAN: Yes! . . . Let’s get EVERYONE playing and/or loving the UKE!!! Spread the sunshine!! Learn songs, write songs, teach songs and most of all play, play, play!

Spread that UKULELE sunshine!!!


Thanks, Ian . . . great interview!!!

For more info on the Jive Aces and their concert tour schedule go to

And now, UKULELE MIKE does his own tutorial on BRING ME SUNSHINE

Check out THIS blog for more on my Jive Aces tutorials:

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PLEASE NOTE: My UKULELE BASICS DVD is now available for purchase.  For more info contact me at

Follow me on Facebook . . . Stay in touch . . . “HAPPY STRUMMING” – UKULELE MIKE

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 18, 2016 2:54 p04

    Reblogged this on UKULELE MIKE LYNCH – All things UKULELE.

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