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26 July 2013

At the Altar of the Skylark

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've been having a bit of fun spearheading a campaign to raise the profile of Skylark Ukuleles. I'm now the proud owner of three of these ancient budget ukes. Earlier this week I received a comment on one of my numerous Skylark posts that has allowed me to track down the company that produces the Skylark brand ukuleles. I'm happy to announce that it's still going strong! I'm over the moon! Come with me on a Skylark journey...

I've been searching for the maker of Skylark ukuleles for some time and although I've stumbled across a couple of potential leads, I've never really uncovered anything that convinced me that I'd found the right one.  How about this then! See the image on the plucktrum in the picture. Yes! It's the very same one you will see on the labels inside Skylark ukes! Only, this picture is from a plucktrum being made and sold today! Kerching!

Let's be clear: the Skylark Ukuleles I'm talking about in this post are NOT the ones produced by Skylark Guitars in the UK. This is a different company altogether. Check out the fantastic skeleton ukuleles that the UK outfit produce. I have been very tempted to get myself one of these (they're pretty reasonably priced at £85 for a soprano), but so far... I have been strong!

Here's a reminder of the little uke that I've fallen in love with... all three of them! Ha ha. They're like three brothers. The one on the left is the first one I got. The one on the right is the new kid on the block. The middle one is my famous Tokyo Ukulele... the one I pimped recently. It sounds great after being refurbished. Check out some of my newer songs if you'd like a soundcheck. I'll admit that in their unrestored state, the Skylark can be a little hard to play and keep in tune... but look at the size and shape of them.... Who could say no to these little beauties?

Here's a modern box for what I'm assuming is one of the new Skylark guitars. Note the Skylark logo I've been telling you about.

Most of the images on this post are from the website. I was interested to see this picture here. I can't read the chinese symbols, but it is obviously an advert for an instrument maintenance kit. I'm going to call out the Jim Dunlop 65 sprays and lotions. They're bloody expensive, but from what little experience I have of them, they do seem to do what they promise. I've been using the Jim Dunlop guitar polish/cleaner spray and I've been impressed with the results. Also pictured here to the right is the Jim Dunlop Lemon Oil which I haven't used. Lemon Oil is typically used on fretboards.

See below: Thomas from my favourite Progressive Metal band Hologram Earth uses Jim Dunlop 65 to clean his MASSIVE ukes. Thomas is so hardcore that he only needs three strings! BTW - the boys are back in the studio recording a follow-up to their brilliant debut EP. Knowing how long it took them to do the first, I'm not going to hold my breath! I bet it's going to be a cracker! ;-)

This is an interesting advert. See the newer style of logo. Skylark have branched out into other stringed instruments. The guitar side of the business seems to be the largest. They offer some great-looking traditionally-styled models. They also seem to be trying to attract a younger audience with quirky designs. I'm not sure that the one below really works for me ;-)

I'm including this picture for no other reason than I think that it's a great picture! I'm guessing that all these instruments are produced by Skylark. See the magnificent lute: Do you remember my recent mission to find Bagman some strings for his "lute"?

You can see above that Skylark have been around since 1961 and quite recently were celebrating their 50th anniversary. How come nobody told me? Here's a picture of one of only two uke models featured on the site. This one is the budget MY-100 model which is available in about twenty different colours. It looks to be a fairly standard budget uke retailing for about £15.

Below is a MY-109 I found on another site of a pretty similar ilk. I suspect that GZLI (Guangzhou Light Holdings Stationery & Sports Goods I & E Limited) is the parent company that owns the Skylark Brand... but I could be completely wrong about this.

Here's the other uke listed on the site: a mid-range Skylark. The UBI-24TSM retails for about £65 and has a lovely finish to it. I'm not so sure about the soundhole laser-engraving (or has this been routed?). You never know though... as the holes fill up with muck, maybe they'll start to stand out better? ;-)

I love build pictures. Look at this collection. Fantastic!

See the images below. These are all the incarnations of the Skylark Logo. I'm not sure what the second one is being used for.

And there you have it. A big thank you to the anonymous soul who left me links to the sites I took all these wonderful pictures from. I wonder what more there is to learn about the Skylark Brand? Drop me a line if you have a Skylark story to tell. And if you have a Skylark, why not send me some photos and I'll add them to the shrine that is my original Skylark post.

Update 1-Aug-2013: In the comments below you will see that I have once again been helped out by an anonymous friend! Is it the same anonymous friend that helped me out the first time? I don't know! Thank you whoever you are! Here are a few things that might be of interest...

Here is a link to the official Skylark site! I only found one reference to ukuleles on it... this picture of what looks like a brochure for the MY-100 mentioned above.

Look at this! It is a Canadian trademark registered by Guangzhou Light Holdings Limited in 1975. So they must be the parent company!

"The transliteration of the Chinese characters is the words Kam Cheuk Pai and the translation of the words is Golden Bird Brand."

"Wares: Western musical instruments, namely, pianos, organs, accordians, violins, violas, cellos, D. bass, guitars, mandolins, ukeleles, banjos, saxaphones, slide trombones, trumpets, clarinet flutes, tambourines, drums; Chinese musical instruments, namely, stringed instruments wind instruments and percussion instruments; strings for stringed instruments."

"Claims: Used in CANADA since at least as early as 1959."

This seems to suggest that Skylarks were being imported into Canada as far back as 1959. This goes against the GZLI 50th anniversary statement earlier in this post. You might remember Keith Hunniford sending in a few snaps of his Skylark and pointing out that his sound-hole sticker says "Made in China" rather than the more common "Made in the Peoples Republic of China" like on my Skylarks. This monumental change in Chinese history happened on the 1st of October 1949.

Does this hint at a much older Skylark heritage? I think there is more to learn... ;-)


  1. The feather motif on the box you found reminded me, I'd seen it somewhere before: !
    (Don't seem to have any ukuleles on their website, but it does seem to confirm that they're owned by GZLI.

  2. Also: for the skylark trademark filled in the 1970s in Canada. :)

  3. Aha! More fantastic info. I'm going to add a little bit of this into the body of the post, but there is a very small mention of ukes on that first link. The second link is the clincher though! Well found!

  4. Hello
    Have recently acquired from a boot sale a lovely Skylark ukulele for £4. It was in an unmarked very tatty ukulele cardboard box and I assume it was purchased in the UK. On the side of the box was stamped SD8026
    In the box there was a M M Cole play hawaiian ukulele 15 minutes 1965 edition. Not sure whether this book was bought after or before or at the time of the ukulele.
    I must say it plays like a dream since changing the strings to aquilas.
    I am happy to show you pictures of it but not sure how I go about posting tem to your site.
    kind regards

    1. Check your email Melvyn. Have messaged you on Google+...