Let’s get to know some Familiar Faces while we wait for face-to-face jams to resume. BUMS Inc members are invited to submit their brief bios for this section of the newsletter.

Chan Hoo is a familiar face at a number of our regular jams, and posting in BUMS Online.

A short story of my life and how the ukulele is now part of me.


I was born in British Malaya just before the fall of Malaya and Singapore in 1941. We had quite a tough life and my father was forced to work for the Japanese as an Interpreter. He could speak a few languages. The only music we heard was the song “Long live the Emperor” in Japanese.

After the World War I went to a Catholic School, and that’s where I started to love music. Playing an instrument never came into my mind, and even if it, did my parents would not be able to afford one, as we were quite poor after the war.  Anyway, music was never a part of the school subjects. I have never been able to read or write music. I did love to sing, and won a prize when I was in Grade 1 singing ‘Back in the Saddle Again’ by Gene Autry.

After I left school, I enlisted into the British Army, and was stationed in Singapore and Borneo.

Chan in the army after World War II.

I sang quite a bit after a few beers, and my drinking mates always encouraged me to go on the stage.  I can go on and on writing this story, but have to cut it short.

Coming to Australia

Dream job at Daydream.

My wife, Barbara, and I and our 3 year old son came to Australia in 1975. The economy was in poor shape then, and jobs were hard to find. So we decided to travel up north, where I managed to get a job on Day Dream Island as a yardsman — but after winning a talent quest, I joined the entertainment crew, and did a bit of dancing and singing as well.


Working in Brisbane

I soon returned to Brisbane and got a job with a company manufacturing stainless mufflers. Then I worked as a representative for REPCO. I lasted six months with them, and went into my own mechanical repair and muffler business.

I retired in 2004 and after 3 months of doing nothing, life was becoming boring. So I got a job as a ‘Lollipop’ man at St James Catholic Primary School in Coorparoo.  I did that for five years, and one unlucky day I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Life wasn’t a bore anymore. I had chemotherapy for a year and have been fine since.

Discovering ukulele

Sitting around doing nothing was no fun.  One day Barbara was going through the courses in the U3A program and found that they had ukulele lessons. She suggested that I should go for it, and all she got was a funny look on my face.  After a few weeks of pondering, I went to U3A in Creek Street and enrolled.

I was so excited and bought my first ukulele, a Lanikai concert. My tutor, Garold, was good but half the time we had to listen to his stories of when he was in the navy. Garold was running the Bulimba group, and I joined them as well.

Bulimba Uke Group beside the Brisbane River.

Chan with the Bulimba Uke Group.

Later Linda Meade took over — I’m sure some BUMS members will remember her. Linda told me about BUMS, and I joined in 2011.

I always looked forward to our monthly Coorparoo jam on the first Wednesday of the month. I made lots of friends and enjoyed their company.  I have gone from a concert ukulele to a tenor and now baritone. I find baritone best suits the songs I like to play and sing. I’m looking forward to live jams starting again.

Community performances

In 2017, I started going to the PA Hospital every Tuesday to play and sing in the foyer — mainly classic rock of the 60s and 70s.  I find it cheers people up to hear live music, and I really enjoy playing there. Sadly, with the COVID restrictions, I’m not allowed to go the PA at the moment.

I like to sing songs in Spanish, French and sometimes Italian. I acquired these accents from listening to YouTube. When you are retired you have plenty of time to learn.

Members of the BUMS Big Band at Red Hill, 2014

Chan on cajon, BUMS Big Band, Red Hill Fair, 2014

I’ve also enjoyed being a performing BUM, playing uke and percussion with the BUMS Big Band and Flukey.

I was amazed in 2019 to win the Brisbane ukulele festival’s SPRUKESTAR QUEST.  I played ‘Autumn Leaves’ and sang in English and French.  It was an honour to win the competition, and play it again on stage at the Sunnybank Performing Arts & Cultural Centre (SunPAC).  Thanks, BUMS for the prize. You can see my Coorparoo performance of ‘Autumn Leaves’ on Facebook.

If not for ukulele I do not know where I’d be today. It gives me a lot of pleasure, like doing meditation. I often give people advice on playing the baritone uke. I’ve enjoyed reflecting on my life and having the opportunity to tell you about my life and love of the ukulele.

Regards, Chan Hoo