Looking back...

From Ted Nunes:

Hi, Clinton. My sister, who has hung onto every possible piece of family blackmail material, recently discovered a photo of me and my first dummy, Cuthbert. (he was probably a re-modeled Danny O' Day, am I right?) This is probably 1976-ish. I'd forgotten that we coincidentally had the same hair color. I'd also forgotten that I operated him with my right hand. (Odd, since I'm left handed--and I do still have some hand puppets which I operate with my left hand.) I was probably trying to copy Edgar Bergen in every way I could. I never really had an act--except for doing something at a church talent show or two--and I traded my figures for some camera equipment in my mid-teens, when I switched hobbies. But I still have a soft spot for ventriloquism. I'm in a ukulele band these days and I've considered adding a short bit of ventriloquism into our show (for certain venues like retirement homes or children's performances). One (vague) idea would be a talking ukulele. I wonder if it would be possible to create a ukulele puppet character that was still playable? Thanks for the blog. I'm enjoying it quite a lot!
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From Clinton: I love seeing those vintage pictures and often regret that I have so very few of my own. I think they actually become more special as the years pass. Thanks for sharing yours. Yes, that is one of the early Danny O'Day conversions which was completed using one of the larger 32" Dannys produced by Juro Novelty, Co. How I wish that doll was still available!

I've made a "talking" banjo and could probably do something with a ukulele and keep it in playable condition. I'm always concerned that the mouth is positioned where it does not interfere with strumming and because of a ukulele's smaller size I wonder if this is possible. Maybe I can find a local music store where I could see a ukulele first hand before I ask you to send one to me. Hmmm? Let me give your project idea some thought.



  1. The great thing about the uke is the ready made mouth or sound hole in center which the banjo doesn't have. Even lips just painted on at top and bottom would suffice if nothing else added so as not to interfere with strumming.

  2. Another idea, like the fall-apart dummy, or the make one from the get-go, and to keep it simple, would be take out felttip pen with removable ink, and as part of the act simply draw on makeshift lips, eyes, brows, ears, then do the number.

  3. Aha! Now I see what you did with the banjo. I've started to take a stab at this myself. I actually want his head to be the headstock of the uke, where the tuning pegs are. I don't think the ukulele's "figure 8" body lends itself to being a face as well as the banjo's round one. (I've got a banjo uke but it's an antique and I'm afraid to tinker with it.)

    I've almost got it figured out: a fake head will secure over the real head stock. I'll have to drill a hole through the head stock to feed the string down the back of the neck to operate the mouth (eventually eyes too, but I'm punting on that idea for now.) My ambitious goal is to be able to strum AND finger some chords while working his mouth with my thumb--actually having him sing while I play. I'll knot the string in several places to be able to grip it with my hand at any position up and down the neck. (hopefully.)

    Heh, we'll see. I'm probably getting in over my head, but I'll send photos of the project for the Self-built pals section if I pull it off.

  4. Very creative, Ted, and all sounds workable. Please do send me a photo when your project is complete.