The Compleat Beatles — on ukuleles!

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Everyone loves the Beatles, but imagine how much better they would have been if John, Paul, George and Ringo had all been playing ukuleles.

That’s pretty much the spirit behind next month’s all-day ukulele marathon of all 185 of the Fab Four’s original compositions

Coming on the heels of September’s international ukulele festival, musicians will fill the hangar-sized space of Brooklyn Bowl, in a 12-hour tribute to the biggest rock band and the smallest guitar.

Organizer Roger Greenawalt will start it all at 11 am, backed by indie musicians Ryan Miller of Guster, Adam Green and members of The Pierces. They’ll keep the chords coming until midnight, plucking roughly 15 songs per hour.

As far-fetched as the idea may seem, the Williamsburg producer, who’s worked with Ben Kweller, and Iggy Pop among others, points out that the Beatles have a long and loving history with the diminutive instrument.

Sepia-toned pictures show a young John Lennon with his first instrument, a ukulele given to him by his mother. Paul McCartney speaks about having to teach him guitar chords because he only knew ukulele chords. And before George Harrison’s death, the so-called “Mystical Beatle” became so obsessed with the uke that he would travel with two in case he met someone else who played.

“The Beatles are the greatest artists of all time. It was only a matter of time before they played the most sublime instrument,” said Greenawalt, who, like Harrison, will invite amateur ukulele fans to strum along.

“We’ll open the event with two easy Beatles songs that we’ll teach everyone,” said the producer, who fell for the ukulele years ago.

He envisions the ukulele mania event as a happening akin to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in. He’s even giving all the proceeds to Lennon’s widow, whom he hopes will pass it on to a musical charity of her choice.

For Greenawalt, the marathon is a convergence of two great passions, but for guitarist Miller, it’s about the music.

“On its surface, the event seems kitschy, but it comes from a deep respect for the songs,” he said. “Less than a tribute to the instrument, it shows how these songs can live on something as diminutive as the ukulele.”

“Beatles Complete on Ukulele” concert at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963-3369], Sunday, Dec. 6, 11 am-midnight, $10. For info, visit

Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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