Have you ever taken your ukulele on a trip? Have you ever had it signed by anyone? Can you imagine having over 155 signatures on your (soprano) ukulele? I’m going to explain the fascinating story of Richard Konter (aka “Ukulele Dick”) and this beautiful Martin Konter Soprano Ukulele replica that you can find in the Terry Carter Music Store.
What makes this ukulele so special? The original ukulele that this replica is made from went on an expedition to the North Pole and has the signatures of crew members and many more people. Join me for a great history lesson on this ukulele and its owner!
Who Was Richard Konter?
Richard Konter was born in 1882 and joined the United States Navy when he was only 15. He was a Chief Radioman and went on all sorts of expeditions. He was also a musician! He was in the Spanish American War and World War I. Konter sailed in the South Seas and China Sea. Nothing could knock him down. He survived typhoons and even the Boxer Rebellion which was a violent anti-foreigner movement in China between 1899-1901.
Read more: 10 Easy Songs To Play On Your Ukulele
The Ukulele Goes on an Arctic Expedition
Konter joined the S.S. Chantier for an Arctic Expedition in 1926 with Richard E. Byrd as the Admiral. Konter was very musical and a player of all the stringed instruments you can imagine. He actually brought ukuleles, harmonicas, and even a banjo with him. The ukulele made him very popular among his peers. Konter managed to sneak a Martin ukulele on the airplane that would be the first flight over the North Pole on May 9th, 1926. He put it under the seat of the airplane and stashed it in furs so no one could see it.
Part of what makes this ukulele so special is all the signatures on the ukulele that Richard Konter acquired. He got signatures from every single crew member of the Arctic Expedition including Admiral Byrd. But he didn’t stop there! This ukulele even went to the White House and was signed by the President who was Calvin Coolidge at the time. He also got signatures from the vice president, president of the Navy, Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and more! It was a “Who’s Who Ukulele” with a wide variety of people who added their signatures. More than 155 signatures are on this Martin soprano ukulele.
The Smithsonian Institute analyzed every signature and tried to identify each one. They used high-tech imaging techniques so they could identify the signatures that had begun to fade away. Amazing, right?! This wasn’t the only technique they used to identify signatures. The Smithsonian also used historical documents, personal accounts, letters, photographs, and more to help analyze every signature.
Read more: Why The Ukulele Is The Best Instrument?
Konter’s Life After the Navy
In 1930, Konter started leading a band and groups of entertainers. They would visit children’s shelters and hospitals, bringing a little joy with them each time. He composed popular ukulele songs as well. He ended up trading this ukulele for a dreadnought guitar with C.F. Martin III. What a trade, right?! The C.F. Martin Company still has the original ukulele but made a replica made of the same koa wood as the original. Richard Konter died in 1979 at the old age of 97.
The Replica Can Be Yours!
The Terry Carter Music Store has this replica! The Martin Konger Soprano Ukulele is made of koa and has a flamed satin finish. The fingerboard is made of East Indian Rosewood. The headstock is made of mahogany. Not only can this ukulele be yours, but you will also get some “extras” when you purchase this.
You will receive a valuable Martin ukulele gig bag to protect this precious ukulele, along with a monthly membership to ukelikethepros.com and other extras like a polishing cloth and chord chart. You can get an up-close look and hear what this ukulele sounds like in this video by Martin Guitar.
The historical significance of this Martin ukulele is great. One, little stringed instrument took on the signatures of everyone from royalty and scientists to crew members of the Arctic Expedition. The signatures have been analyzed by the Smithsonian Institute and identified.
Richard Konter loved making music and now you can also make music on this Martin ukulele replica, complete with laser-etched signatures. If you’re interested in joining the Uke Like the Pros Nation, visit ukelikethepros.com and select one of the membership levels. You’ll have access to the forum where you can meet other ukulele enthusiasts and talk about this historical ukulele!