Wandering around Hall E, I couldn’t help but notice a huge crowd gathering around the uke section. So, I surveyed the scene and—shwing!—there was Tia Carrere. The star of “Wayne’s World,” “True Lies” and the underappreciated syndicated classic “Relic Hunter” was signing autographs! Standing right next to her was six-time Grammy winner and ukulele legend Daniel Ho! (And, for the real Hawaiian music fans, Uncle Jerome Koko of the Makaha Sons.)
All of them were on hand to support Romero Creations, a line of ukuleles designed by Pepe Romero, Jr., master luthier and son of classical guitar virtuoso Pepe Romero. “I’ve been building classical guitars for 20 years, and ukuleles for five,” Romero said. “I have a three-year backlog on orders for my custom work. So, Romero Creations was my effort to supply the people who might be interested in my designs, but at a lower price point and without the waiting list.”
Romero explained the inspiration for his unique ukulele designs: the Tiny Tenor and Grand Tenor. “The Tiny Tenor came from Daniel Ho, who was playing my custom instruments and came to me with a design concept,” he began. “He said that he wanted a ukulele that was portable like a concert but a tenor in scale length, with the dynamic range, body and robustness of a tenor. He wanted to be able to sit on an airplane and play in his lap without poking the guy next to him.” Romero continued, “The next thing I did was take that concept and apply it to a soprano. So, we have a sopranino, or a baby-uke-length instrument, that has a soprano scale length, soprano neck and the feeling of a soprano.”
For the Grand Tenor design, he began, “I decided to expand on the body resonance and the fatness of tone that a tenor ukulele offers. So, I made a wider and deeper-bodied tenor with a wider nut width at the neck.” He continued, “If you have big hands and you’re having problems on a ukulele, you can play this one and your fingers won’t get in the way of the strings on either side of the chord you’re holding.”
The Pepe Romero Sr. Six-String, a model based on the elder Romero’s concept, rounds out the collection. It features a classical guitar neck on a baritone ukulele body. The company already offers midrange production models, and it just launched an under-$500 line at NAMM that features a solid top and mahogany laminate body. Romero also offers a line of uke and guitar strings that come standard on all Romero Creations instruments. They’ve been used by Jack Johnson, among others. And, just for fun, the company also offers a custom-designed mini cruiser skateboard.
To read more of NAMM New Class 2017, click here.