1959 Mattel Strum-Fun Getar Ukulele

Oh, toys! The plastic ukulele was pretty much perfected from the get-go in the Islander uke, but actually having to play an instrument is the problem, isn't it? This crazy Mattel plastic uke came late in the game and, as a uke (once setup), it actually plays alright and has "a sound" -- thought I can't see how a kid would've made any progress on it with a "factory setup."

The main attraction with this bizarre thing, however, is an integrated, tined music box that responds to discs the user inserts in the rear of the instrument. The user "plays" the notes from the disc one at a time and, thus, sets the tempo via the lever arm. The music box is mounted to the "soundboard" and so it has a tone bigger than it ought to have and sounds downright eerie.

Amazingly, box and contents survived more-or-less intact, though two tuning pegs, strings, and one melody disc were lost to time.

Instead of leaving the top as black plastic, Mattel "fancied-it-up" with a birch-looking sticker.

Two of the pegs are mismatched and hopelessly-fit to the holes with some duct-tape on their sides. I'll have to replace the whole set at some point, though I didn't have anything of the right caliber (cheap, cheap, cheap) in my parts-bin at the moment.

While the neck starts-out straight, it gains some relief as it's tuned-up to pitch -- and I'm only using Martin fluorocarbons, too, which are on the wimpier side of modern strings.

I do like the bizarre bridge/tailpiece combination.

I can only imagine that the frustration I felt when swapping discs is the reason that Mattel gave up on these gadgets. I can't imagine any kid being happy with having to load this thing.

Here's how the discs engage the music box inside.


Nick R said…
Back in the late 50s when I was a pint-sized hurricane I had a drum that I beat loudly around the neighbourhood very early on Sunday mornings. I also had a plastic uke which had a handle that you cranked. It played "The Esso sign means happy motoring... call at the Esso sign." Now, my uke playing is probably about as good as it was back then! I need a uke with a handle. Here's one of a whole range of Esso ads- tv commercials only started in the UK in 1955-and the first ad was for Gibbs SR. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqbEUQlhDFQ