With the onset of big band music in the 1930s, interest in the ukulele began to wane. But after World War II and throughout the 1950s, a second wave of interest emerged. Many factors may have contributed to this resurgence. Webley Edwards (1902-1977) began broadcasting the legendary radio program Hawaii Calls from the Banyan Courtyard of the Moana Hotel at Waikiki Beach in 1935, featuring prominent performers like Harry Owens (1902-1986), Johnny Noble (1892-1944) and Al Kealoha Perry (1901-1979) & his Singing Surfriders. Additionally, servicemen who were stationed in the Pacific during the war returned with a new interest in Hawaii and Hawaiian music and culture. Equally important, guitar designer, inventor and molded plastics pioneer Mario Maccaferri (1900-1993) began making inexpensive polystyrene ukes that greatly contributed to the popularity of the instrument.
In the late 1940s, Arthur Godfrey (1903-1983) was instrumental in the popularization of the ukulele thanks to his radio and television shows that were enjoyed by over forty million fans per week. Godfrey was the first performer in television history to have top-rated shows (including Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and Arthur Godfrey and His Friends) that contributed an astonishing ten-million dollars a year in advertising to the Columbia Broadcasting System. Amazingly, Godfrey actually gave ukulele lessons to the television audienceósomething that led to sales of over nine-million plastic ukuleles manufactured and marketed by Maccaferri's company, French American Reeds Manufacturing Company (later Mastro Industries) during the 1950s and 1960s.
Maccaferri, a fine guitarist and apprentice of the Italian luthier Luigi Mozanni (1869-1943), was among the first to use plastic in mass-production of stringed instruments. Using his extensive knowledge and experience in guitar building, Maccaferri designed one of the most popular ukes ever madeóthe Islander. Patterned after a Martin Style 0 but made from Dow Styron (polystyrene), the Islander was introduced in 1949 and retailed for $5.95. After Maccaferri's Islander was endorsed by Arthur Godfrey and promoted on his TV shows, the sales of Mastro Plastics Corp. soared. Other Maccaferri model plastic ukes included the TV Pal, Islander Deluxe and Islander Baritone.
elvisukeIn the 50s, the ukulele became enormously popular through the new medium of television, reaching out to an unprecedented number of people. It also became associated with a new type of entertainerómovie stars and other pop culture icons whose images were familiar to broad international audiences. Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) playing the ukulele in "Some Like It Hot" (1959) and Elvis Presley (1935-1977) in "Blue Hawaii" (1961) immortalized the instrument, making it a potent symbol of fun and good times. Over the years, the ukulele began to be used by marketers to promote commercial products including Listerine, Matson Navigation Company, Eastman-Kodak and Coca-Cola.