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Of all the American ukists who were destined for stardom, Cliff Edwards probably tops the list. He was born in Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri, and was out on his own before he started to shave. A jaunty man with the huge dark eyes of a raccoon and a sweet pure voice that could span three octaves, he made his way to St. Louis, where he laboriously taught himself to play the uke. Like most of his uke-playing contemporaries, he found himself wanting an easy-to-carry, easy-to-play instrument to tote around to bars (which might or might not have had a piano and accompanist). For a struggling performer, the uke was an inexpensive, accessible choice. Edwards sang in saloons for nickels and dimes, and there he picked up the nickname “Ukulele Ike.” For the next couple of years, he toured with various carnivals and tent shows, just barely managing to get by.