Dan Scanlan of the World Famous Strum Bums!
Dan ‘Cool Hand Uke” Scanlan Bio
Dan Scanlan was given the nickname "Cool Hand Uke" by a college roommate. "I guess
it's because I can eat 50 eggs," Scanlan jokes, referring to the scene in Paul Newman's
Cool Hand Luke
where he struggles through a meal of 50 hard boiled eggs. "I can do
that, too — caviar on a cracker."
Scanlan began playing the ukulele and writing songs for it in 1961, the year he entered
Loyola University in Los Angeles. He performed on college radio with a makeshift group,
The What the Hell Four. In the seventies he and fellow Loyolan Pat Sauer performed in
California, the Southwest and the South as Flathead. "People said they couldn't tell the
difference between our love songs and our political ones," Scanlan recalls.
Later Scanlan was lead vocalist and ukulele front man in Top Quark and the Self-
Righteous Brothers. He performed at the 19th International Ukulele Festival in Honolulu,
HI, as a solo act and again with his Strum
Bums at the 38th in 2008. (The Strum
Bums will again appear at the festival in
2013 under Scanlan’s direction.) He has
been featured in numerous folk festivals,
the Sacramento Blues Festival, the Ukulele
Hall of Fame Museum Expo, the Southern
California Ukulele Festival, the Santa Cruz
CA Ukulele Festival, the New York Ukulele
Festival and the Nova Scotia Ukulele Ceildh.
His workshop in Ireland was instrumental in
the creation of Ukuhooley, a ukulele club
now flourishing in Dublin. (Scanlan coined
the name, from Hawaiian
hooley (jam session) and ukulele.)
Scanlan considers a private concert he gave to redwood forest activist Julia Butterfly Hill
after climbing 100 feet up her ancient redwood tree, Luna one of his most fulfilling
achievements. The song he sang to her, “Giant Silent Redwood” was later selected for
inclusion in an English-as-a-second-language textbook. On the other end of the
spectrum, he played and sang one mile deep in the Original 16-to-1, a working gold
mine in the California Sierras at Alleghany. He has self-released numerous CDs and
tapes, including the recent “iUke in the Fall”, “Notion” and “Ah, Rajão!” featuring the
forerunner of the ukulele.
Scanlan has earned a fine reputation as a ukulele teacher
and workshop presenter and often has newbies playing the
uke in ten minutes.
He hosted The End of the Trail Saloon, a live music and
satire radio program for five years. The program was a
finalist in the National Federation of Community
Broadcasters' Golden Reel Awards competition for best live
The founding of Ukuhooley, 2009
local entertainment three times. He produced and hosted Tunesday Live, an open mic of
the air in the 80s on KVMR-FM in Nevada City CA.
He returned the ukulele to its ancestral
home of Madeira Island, Portugal in 1998
as the American producer of the Father
and Son Reunion: The Braguinha Meets
the Ukulele. The project culminated in a
performance by the Reunion Band of
Madeiran and American musicians playing
ukuleles, rajão and braginha together at
the last world's fair of the 20th century in
Lisbon, Portugal. Today he lectures on the
history of the ukulele and performs on the
uke's ancestral instruments.
Scanlan fronted Jukolin and later, The Enablers, eclectic ensembles that included jew's
harp, fiddle, slide guitar and ukuleles. After leading the Vokuleles group for the last
seven of its 37 years in Chico, CA, Scanlan founded and continues to direct the Strum
Bums Ukulele Extravaganza Rescue and Relief Band, a 25 to 40-member ukulele group
in Grass Valley, CA. The group enjoyed a standing ovation in New York City and has
played festivals in Santa Cruz, CA, and Honolulu HI.
Scanlan co-directs the Gold Pan Alley Ukulele Festival in Auburn CA. His interactive
ebook for the iPad,
Cool Hand Uke’s Way to Love Uke is available at Apple’s iBookstore,
and his 75 lecture on-line ukulele course,
Play Uke Now! Is offered at Udemy.com.
Every two years Scanlan emcees the Liverpool, Nova Scotia, International Ukulele
Ceilidh, performs and offers workshops. He has made three 10,000 mile tours in a
Toyota motorhome to get to the Nova Scotia gig, stopping in various cities along the way
to give workshops and performances. His workshops in Nova Scotia and California
The Mighty Uke movie. He was also selected to present ukulele history in
the movie while standing where the Hawaiian pavilion was located during the Pan Pacific
Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco.
"I believe the highest calling a musician can have is that of
the minstrel who comes to town to entertain and spread
the thoughts folks are having. The ukulele is disarming. A
guy can say what needs to be said and not get hammered
for it. How can you be mad at someone strumming a uke?
It's subversive as hell. Woody Guthrie had a sign on his
guitar, 'This machine kills fascists.' The uke doesn't need a
slogan. It just tickles 'em into a better place."
Dan “Cool Hand Uke” Scanlan •
At Expo 98, Lisbon, Portugal with
Fred Fallin and Alfredo Canopin
Ukuleles for Sanity, Peace March, NYC