Ukulele virtuoso Bill Tapia, known as the "Duke of Uke," died Dec. 2 in his sleep at his Westminster, Calif., home. Mr. Tapia was a month short of his 104th birthday.
Mr. Tapia is credited with putting the ukulele on the map. At 96, his career had an unprecedented resurgence, and he released his first CD with many of his trademark hits, such as "Little Grass Shack."
Until last year, he gave private ukulele lessons and continued performing live, including at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, where he celebrated his 100th birthday with a special concert. He maintained that work schedule despite having angina and macular degeneration.
In a career that spanned the 20th century, Mr. Tapia performed with many of the leading singers and musicians of the day, including Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Billie Holiday, and Hawaiian music legends such as Johnny Noble. He was also a teacher. Among his ukulele students were Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, the Little Rascals, Jimmy Durante, and Arthur Godfrey.
- N.Y. Times News Service