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Cliff Edwards

Cliff Edwards got his start in show business as a teenager in St. Louis where he sang in movie theatres and saloons. While singing in the saloons he began to accompany himself on the ukulele and developed a style of improvised singing, which he called “effin”. “Effin” sounds a lot like the human voice imitating a hot trumpet or kazoo solo. Edwards had a wonderful voice with at least a three octave range and he would inject his “effin” solos into his songs in the same way that a Jazz musician would take a solo.

A good argument can be made that Edwards 1922 recordings with Ladds Black Aces and Bailey's Lucky Seven are the first recorded examples of scat singing, but some Jazz critics would disagee and point back to Gene Greene's 1911 Victor recording “King of the Bungaloos”. Between 1913 and 1918 Edwards struggled to make a living traveling with carnivals and doing menial labor to get by.

In 1917 he moved to Chicago where he took a job as a singer in the Arsonia Café going to tables and singing and playing the ukulele for tips. It was here that he started using the stage name of “Ukulele Ike”. The pianist at the club was Bob Carlton who had written a novelty song that he called “Ja Da”. Cliff became a sensation singing the song and he and Joe Frisco, a stuttering comedian and dancer, formed a vaudeville act that was successful enough to end up playing at the Palace in New York City.

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