(utup history - part 2 of 7)
Let There Be Uke
It is a cold, rainy evening in Hoboken, NJ, when two lifelong friends from the streets of Los Angeles, CA, and Bayside, Queens, gather in a tiny walkup flat for a singular purpose: to play really loud music with tiny instruments. Ruling out the kazoo as "tired" and the mandolin as too "bourgeois," John Derevlany and Robert Moritz finally settle on a little-known miniature acoustic guitar from Polynesia. Utilizing a unique tuning method and really big amplifiers, Derevlany and Moritz are able to produce a feedback intensive roar previously thought unattainable via instruments of this size.
Determined to bring their creation to the public, the duo sign-up for an open mike performance at the downtown Manhattan campus of Pace University. Despite a lukewarm response from a somewhat befuddled audience, Derevlany and Moritz agree that they have seen the future of music, and its name is The Ukulele. After weeks of debate -- and a brief test-run as "The Ukes of Hazard' -- the band is formerly christened Uke (Til You Puke). Citing commercial accessibility concerns, Derevlany and Moritz change the name two days later. From this point on, the group will forever be known as Uke (Til U Puke).
On June 1, 1991, Uke (Til U Puke) makes its formal debut at McGovern's Bar on Spring Street in the SOHO district of New York City. Over the next two years, McGovern's will become a hotbed of new musical activity with UTUP and the legendary shock-rock band, Life in a Blender, at its increasingly popular vortex.
For the show, Derevlany and Moritz don what will become a UTUP trademark and source of constant groupie attention: two matching long jet black wigs. The performance also features a gyrating, dyslexic go-go dancer named Debbie and a purportedly, five song set list. No record remains of which tunes were actually played, but historians agree that it most likely featured the UTUP anthem "The Cereal Song (You're My Recommended Daily Allowance Of Love)" and their hallmark speed-ukulele cover of Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips." The show also marks the first time that the band smashes their ukuleles on the floor during an encore -- an act of bravado that will be repeated consistently throughout their career.