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17 July 2011

Skylark Ukulele

I picked up a new ukulele today... well new to me. I don't know too much about it other than it's Chinese and that it's had a hard life! You can see from the photos that it's got dinks and scratches all over it. It plays quite loud and has a good sound. I love it!

Skylark Brand Ukulele - Front
Skylark Brand Ukulele - Back

Below is the logo that appears on a sticker inside the ukulele.

I discovered just now that the Skylark brand is owned by China National Light Industrial Products and was registered in 1980. I don't know if this helps to date the ukulele?


There is no model number on the ukulele. The only Skylark model I can find on the internet is the MY-109 which looks the same as this one, only the 109 has a picture on the front of a long-haired man playing a ukulele beneath palm trees next to the word 'Hawaii'. Sweet! But not as sweet as my one! Ha ha!

Skylark Brand Ukulele - MY-109

Update: I've spotted a MY-103 for sale in Australia. This has palm trees and a rainbow with 'Hawaii' on the front. It looks like a newer ukulele altogether with modern tuning pegs and 'real' frets.

Skylark Brand Ukulele - MY-103

Update #2: I've spotted another one: a MY-122 for sale in Thailand. It looks like it's the same as the 103 but with different tuning pegs. And, I'm not sure if it's the picture that is distorted, but to my eyes, this looks too big to be a Soprano. Dunno?

Skylark Brand Ukulele - MY-122

Update #3: One more: a MY-168, again from Thailand. Spot the family resemblance?

Skylark Brand Ukulele - MY-168

Update #4: I hope nobody minds me reposting random photos from the internet! You might recognise your carpet in the photo below. I thought it was interesting to post because it contains the original Skylark box.

Skylark Ukulele Box

Update #5: Just spotted this post on the Ukulele Underground forums. Made me laugh. Nice one fergs1!

Skylark Uke Owners Club - Just Kidding!

Update 27-Aug-2012: All the Skylarks are coming home to roost! I'm not sure what has prompted this, but a number of you are coming clean and confessing that you own a mighty Skylark. Strum your Skylarks with pride brothers and sisters! It does seem like most of the Skylarks we're discovering have something wrong with them. Oh dear! Never mind... we can fix all of this! I've asked for photos from a number of you and the offer is still there: If you own a Skylark and are willing to share some photos then please send them to me and I'll add to this post (email address in the comments). Together we can build a shrine to Skylark!

Here are some photos of CB's Skylark MY-103. Thank you CB. Didn't she do well!

Skylark MY-103: Front and Back


The front is painted with a rainbow and the word 'HAWAII', birds,
and palm trees. The tag on the inside of the sound hole says
'Skylark Brand,' half-covered by something. The strings are clear.
Probably replaced sometime before I got the ukulele.
Old fashioned tuning pegs. Though it is not visible in the photo,
they do not work well anymore.

Update 27-Aug-2012: Gin Cameron has been kind enough to provide us with a picture of her Skylark MY-107 and box. Save the colour of the pegs, this looks a lot like mine! She's a beauty!


There you go ......the other side of the box has chinese writing and
'Canton, China' in English. Mine has black plastic tuning pegs
that spring back alot and generally the paint and varnish is pretty bad.
The nut and saddle seem really high. No dings or scrapes on the
body etc so barely used. Also seems to have been strung left-handed -
with fishing line ;)

Ha ha Gin... I think that the "fishing line" is the original nylon string that the uke comes with! On using fishing line: I found this fantastic snippet about stringing banjos with nylon fishing line. People actually do it! Check it out on this banjo post. Give the tuners a gentle tap with a hammer and it should put them right (for a while). Thank you for sharing this picture with us!

Update 22-Nov-2012: Keith Hunniford, the Grand Poobah of Skylark ukulele has been kind enough to share with some brilliant photos and an equally brilliant story.


Hi there. So I grew up in Northern Ireland, and this was purchased around
the Christmas of 1970 and it's been with me all over the world ever since.
I'm now in the US in Colorado where the air is very dry and it was in a very
bad state, but for my Birthday yesterday (45!) my girlfriend had sneaked it
away to a restorer and it is now playing like new but with a beautiful
soft old tone.Some interesting things about it.. Firstly, the label.  Looks like
at some point in history the label has changed from "Made in China"
like mine to "Made in the Peoples Republic of China" like yours.  That
would be an interesting date to know for dating purposes for sure. 


My tuning pegs are of a darker wood than I'm seeing in your pics,
 so that must have changed over the years too. Also, I kinda love the 
old Matchettes of Belfast sticker on the back. Matchettes is still going 
strong. http://www.matchettsmusic.com/ Apart from that, I've always 
thought later in life compared to other Ukes this is of pretty good 
quality.  At 42 with many hours of play on it the frets are still 
sharp and true and after a bit of wire wool the restorer has brought 
them back to perfection. 

Update 6-Apr-2013: I am very pleased to be adding the next Skylark to the list. This one is courtesy of Michael Sullivan. Thank you Michael!


Michael says that he has had this MY-109 Skylark since the late 70s. It looks
like it has been well loved and perhaps used as a weapon at some point.
This is an unusual specimen on a couple of fronts. See the palm trees...
they're sideways compared to other Skylarks I've seen before. And
look at the fretboard where it meets the body... it's a curved ying and
yang-type affair. Very interesting! :-) Michael says he remembers a
box very similar to those pictured on this page and the wood being a
lot yellower when he first got it. Beautiful!

Here's a first! Michael has put together a sound check for us. I think I recognise the tune ;-P


Update 01-Aug-2016: Brother Mel Randall has been in touch with news of another Skylark. He rescued his one from a local carboot for £4 and has been kind enough to send through some photos...


First up is a photo of Mel's Skylark. It has quite a dark colour to it with a dark saddle which reminds me a lot of Keith Hunniford's uke above. Is it me or are these photos a little blurry? I reckon I'll need to start a collection to buy Mel a new camera. All donations greatly received ;-)


Next, a shot of the box. I have no idea what the number means. If you do, then please drop me a comment. There are no graphics on the top, but the colour looks familiar.


Finally, here's a little gem that most likely helps us to age this ukulele. Inside the box Mel found a 5 Minute ukulele course booklet. Although I think that this was originally published in 1952, it says clearly on this one that it is the 1964 edition. I would be amazed if this wasn't bought at the same time as the uke, so we're surely looking at a mid-60s model. I could be wrong, but this may well be the oldest Skylark we've ever added to this page to date!

Woohoo!

Thankyou Mel for sharing these photos with us! Enjoy your new Skylark!

Update 11-Feb-2017: Brother 29moons has sent us some photos of his recent rescue of a MY-109 Skylark. It was destined to become part of a sculpture, but now it is wall art...


We have a new style of Skylark to add to the shrine. The transfer of the palm trees and girl playing ukulele is familiar, but I haven't seen one with "Hawaii" like this one.

29moons doesn't think that he can get this playable again. I reckon it's entirely doable! ;-) Do it!

Thanks for sharing these photos 29moons.

And BTW - I love the wall hanger rustic look! 

Update 29-May-2017: Sister Marie Blocker has rescued one more Skylark. It too is destined to be a wall hanger. Bit of a worrying trend starting here... :-O


Thanks for sharing the photos Marie!


37 comments:

  1. Bet none of them play in tune! I have an MY109 - the bridge is around 5mm out of place and the intonation is not good. I was asked to look at an MY 104 tonight.....also intonates poorly and yes, the bridge is not in the right place. No wonder the paint has not been worn off the frets of either of them.

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  2. Mine's actually not too bad brother Richard (can I call you brother?), but to be honest it's so small that I can't really play it that far up the neck to notice. The biggest problem with mine is more that it doesn't have 'real' frets. I had to push a couple in a bit deeper to improve the playability. Oh, and the tuning pegs are forever slipping out of tune these days. Probably need to tap them in a little tighter. Looks great though doesn't it! :-P

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  3. I have the exact one with the rainbow and palm trees! It is really old and the tuning pegs are almost broken and it sounds like crap, but now I know what it is! I can see the label through the sound hole, but over the year it got something over half of it, so all I had to go by were some Chinese symbols and the letters S--LARK B and that was it. I got it at a thrift store on the East coast of FL for $8. Are Skylark Brand ukuleles special? And yes, mine is a soprano, just thicker. I think the MY-122 is probably the same size. Thanks for the info! I finally know what it is! Do you know about how old the Skylark's are?

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  4. You are very lucky CB! I keep my eyes open but I haven't seen another Skylark since the one I bought in this post. It's my go-to uke for a 30 second strum. I think it is the tiny body that does it for me. I haven't found out any more than I wrote above. I would hazard a guess that the company most likely started manufacturing in the 70s, but they're obviously going in some form today because there are some very modern-looking photos knocking about with modern parts. Do you have any photos of yours that I could stick up here? It might not take you much to get it up and playing again. It sounds like you might have a project on your hands! Thanks for commenting.

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  5. I can definitely take some pictures of it! Dumb question: How can you put them up? Haha! But sure, you can post pictures of mine! So my uke COULD be 40 years old? Wow, I would believe it! The pegs are the old fashioned kind where they only stay where you turn them because of friction, but they are so old they slip back again, and the strings are going too, anyway. And just to make sure, I DO have another, really good uke that I actually play. :) Thanks a lot!

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  7. Ive got the identical chinese uke with the box too,in great condition,i was searching on google to see how much it might be worth when i spotted your post

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  8. Hey! All the Skylarks are coming home to roost! Fantastic stuff! Loving the tunes OMAHB! It won't be long until you'll be One Man and his Ukulele! Send me some pics mate and let's get this fan club rolling! Thanks for commenting.

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  9. I have a Skylark MY-107 complete with box. Take a deep breath now - I had ebayed it only to get a cheap uke for parts so my intention was to dismantle it for a project. Sorry ! However, have got to say I love the peg headstock, the cute paper label and spruce (?) top so this cannabalising idea is fading away. In truth tho it is an absolute shocker to play and I'll put on some aquila's soon to see if this'll help. Strings bouncing out of the nut is something else I have to sort out too ! Will post you a pic if you want one ;)

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  10. Spare Parts! Oh Gin! Ha ha... Poor old Skylark! Yes - I would love to put some pictures up! I don't have any pictures of a MY-107 at all! Please send to catch.the.kiwi at gmail.com.

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  11. My very first ukulele, Skylark Brand with violin type pegs, is still a favorite!

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  12. Brilliant Lillebjorn! You know the score... WE WANT PICTURES! My email's in the comments. Would love to post a snap or two on the Skylark shrine if you've got any.

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  13. What's your email address? I have had one since 1970 ;) k@wump.com

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  14. A friend of mine gave me an old Skylark MY-103. It sounds great. I replaced the tuning pegs as one of them no longer functioned. In their place are new, single, geared machine heads. These are much better and only cost £4.99. I have put decent string on as well and it sounds sweet.

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  15. Let's see some photos Rolex! I've just bought another Skylark with the intention of pimping it. :-O
    It would be good to see what you've done to yours. Thanks for commenting.

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  16. Ahoy!

    I've just joined the Skylark Gang!

    It plays... (ish).

    Aquilas will be fitted ASAP.

    I didn't actually intend buying it.
    I saw it on eBay and it reminded my of the uke I had as a child some 50 years ago.
    Just for fun I put a bid in, expecting any 'vintage' uke would command loony prices.
    I won the auction at £25.

    Maybe we could start some kind of self-help group.

    OSM

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  17. Welcome brother Outa-Spaceman! I think we might actually be beyond help now... ha ha! I want pictures! You know what to do!

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  18. By the way, I don't think your email is in the comments anymore! I see you deleted the comment telling me how you would put up the pictures!

    I guess my post gave lots of keywords that people with Skylarks were searching with! Very cool that we are all writing about our Ukuleles!

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  19. I think you're right CB. You can get me on catch.the.kiwi at gmail.com

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  20. Just bought a Skylark MY 107 from Ebay for £9.99 plus £4.90 pp, not arrived yet but looks as new in pics..

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  21. Ha ha! Welcome to the club. I did see that one on ebay. Are you going to pimp it? http://theukuleleblog.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/%E3%83%84Tokyo%20Ukulele

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    1. no idea yet, wouldn't know where to start

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  22. https://farm1.staticflickr.com/44/166528322_fa923f448b_s.jpg


    Not a great photo; but it shows the wear on my Skylark ukulele :-)

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    1. That's a tiny picture of a tiny uke! Ha ha! Thanks for sharing Lillebjorn

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  23. Sooooo. I got one offered here. 40$. Excellent state (actually almost unused). Thinking about to get it.What's it worth? I like sentimental stuff - so i would pay a bit more for nothing. Or would I be better advised to go with a medium-cool but totally NOT-oldschool Pukanala PK-PHC I got offered on the other handside? For 80$?

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  24. Hi :) I have one that was in my parents' house from as far back as I can remember in the mid eighties. I'm in Australia but it is possible they brought it with them from Scotland. It is similar to the pictures of Keith Hunniford's and Mel Randell's Skylark, with wooden tuning pegs, metal frets, and a black wooden nut and bridge. The skylark image inside mine is different to the one posted above: The bird looks up - not down, the musical notes around the edge of the circle are a bit more delicate and neater, there is no Chinese writing beneath the word "Ukulele" at the bottom, and it says "Made In China" at the very bottom with a capital "M" printed in the bottom right corner. So far it s a little difficult to keep in tune but it has a beautiful clear tone and I will see how it goes. I love and adore it, and wouldn't part with it for anything in the world. :)

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    1. Can you send through some photos? Especially of the label. Welcome to the Skylark Club! :-)

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  25. Time to add to the list. I was given a 109 today at a festival in Oregon City, Oregon. I saw the uke in a platic bin of an artists that covers objects in aluminum foil tape and then makes sculptures out of them. It is way thrashed and destined as a wall art piece. When I first started playing uke I might have thought that this uke was salvageable, but now I know it has no chance of being playable.

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    1. Wow! A lucky rescue for the skylark. Got any photos to share? Welcome to the club!

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    3. Here on some pics I posted to pinterest.

      Thanks,
      29moons

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331788697534286888/

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331788697534286905/

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/331788697534286919/

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  27. I have MY107 here. Never been played, still boxed, looks brand new. Im an accomplished guitarist and this is a horrendous, poroly made instrument, the fret ends are sharp and the actions is very poor. Perhaps better in its box than out?

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    1. Oh dear Bluesman! But is she pretty?

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  28. here is one that ends in two days..
    found this site searching about it.. not interested in buying since it is more for show and collector
    https://www.shopgoodwill.com/auctions/Yuan-Sheng-PRC-Sopranino-Hawaiian-Ukulele-38516772.html

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  29. I found a Skylark MY-109 at a thrift shop in Gruene, TX. Has the girl playing uke under palms and "Hawaii" next to it. 2 tuners were missing. I had new tuners and strings installed. It is super cool but I'm not happy with sound or staying in tune. I will just enjoy keeping it as a collector. I have pics. What email do I send to?

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