Ukulele master Bill Tapia dead at 103

Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:07 AM
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WESTMINSTER, Calif., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Bill Tapia, the 103-year-old master of the Hawaiian ukulele, died this week at his home in Southern California, a close friend said.

Tapia had been in failing health and died just a month short of his 104th birthday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser said.

Pat Enos, a friend and caregiver for Tapia, told the newspaper funeral plans were still pending.

Tapia was born in Hawaii on New Year's Day 1908 and took up the ukulele when he was 15. The Star-Advertiser said he used to delight audiences by introducing a number as "a song I learned during World War I."

Tapia indeed played for U.S. doughboys during the war, and later was busted while playing in speakeasies during Prohibition.

Tapia grew up playing new releases that went on to become Hawaiian and pop standards. He recorded his first album when he was 96 years old and enjoyed a comeback career that included two more albums and had him touring the islands and the West Coast as well as Japan until late last year.

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