Plucky tribute to a rock icon

A DAVID BOWIE ukelele tribute band may sound like a piss-take, but the Thin White Ukes take their music very seriously.

The band’s name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Bowie’s mid-70s persona The Thin White Duke, and like the glam rocker’s shadowy character their music is deep and layered.

“Our music is complex,” says frontman Michael Dwyer.

“A lot of people think it’s a joke, but we absolutely respect the man.

• Bowie as The Thin White Duke


“Bowie was a very intuitive musician; he had a unique sense of harmony so the chords are complicated.”

There are six instruments, three singers and three ukeleles of varying sizes on stage, making live performances tricky.

But Dwyer says it’s a challenge the band thrives on: “We love going ‘there’s a horn line or a piano motif, who’s going to play that?’.

“The songs aren’t straight covers, but are very identifiable.”

Since the late 1990s ukelele bands have been popping up around the world, including the Melbourne Ukelele Collective, where Dwyer, Betty France and Robert Stephens first met; going on to form the Thin White Ukes.

• Michael Dwyer, Betty France and Robert Stephens are The Thin White Ukes. Photo supplied

Just back from their first tour of China, the elegantly-attired trio is playing the Rosemount Hotel in North Perth.

On the same bill are celebrity DJs Poor Stanley and Bloke Collins, electro-musician Kopano, and Greg and Flick Dear.

Ironically, Dwyer lived next door to the Rosemount when he moved to Perth from Sydney in the 1980s.

Intent on becoming a full-time musician, he ended up as a music journalist, and was editor of X-Press magazine and wrote for Rolling Stone and the UK’s Melody Maker.

“This will be my first gig in Perth – 30 years later than expected,” he laughs.

You can catch the Thin White Ukes this Saturday (August 25) at the Rosemount Hotel.


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