Ralph Shaw Portrait - biography

As a teenager in Yorkshire, England Ralph became self-taught on the chromatic harmonica. Later, while taking Applied Physics in Liverpool, he studied 5-string banjo with North Carolina folk musician Sara Grey. He came to Canada’s west coast in 1988 and, after a short solo period playing Appalachian mountain songs, he became a founding member of children’s folk music group Birds of a Feather. By 1991 he had created the characterRalph the Clown: an entertainer who carried—amongst other tricks of the trade—a ukulele inside a guitar case.

Fascinated by the untapped potential of the ukulele as an instrument for the general public Ralph discovered its suitability for conveying the music of the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s era. For the past decade he has been Canada’s King of the Ukulele (also the name of his first solo CD in which he vowed to bring respect to the ukulele!) Ralph’s appreciation of tin-pan-alley era songwriting influenced his own original compositions creating an ever-growing following of fans who appreciate the heart and wit he brings to his music.
As well as traveling to entertain audiences at international festivals and ukulele clubs he also leads a monthly get-together of 100+ ukulele strummers in his home town of Vancouver, BC Canada.

Ralph Shaw Portrait

“Funny, smart, and captivating…Ralph Shaw is the consummate performer.”

Eileen Power, Producer, CBC Radio

“Very enjoyable…his performance reminded me of the music my family and I listened to when I was young.”

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Third Son of Queen Elizabeth II

“It is my firm conviction that Ralph Shaw, The King of the Ukulele, should be magically transported from Vancouver to Carnegie Hall. He’s a sensation!”

Steve Burgess, CBC Radio and TV Presenter writing in the Vancouver Sun

“I had heard about Ralph Shaw but never had the experience til last night. You are more than a performer and entertainer – you are a powerful force onstage, celebrating all that is good and delightful and human – we are caught up and swept along in your enthusiastic celebration. Thank you for sharing your fun and your wonderful musicianship – you are a gift on the planet!”

Joey Minshall, West Coast Sings

“His talent as an entertainer and the “Ukulele King” shined whether he was emceeing, performing in main stage area, hosting a workshop or coming up with animal songs on the fly for a set on the kids stage. I would highly recommend this lovely human and jack of all trades for any festival or event!”

Shara Gustafson, Artistic Director, Robson Valley Music Society

“Ukulele King Ralph Shaw offered the most radical makeover of the night, showing us what George Formby might have done with “London Calling” and “Hateful”. I’ll state here and now that I’d pay to hear him do the entire album this way—it was magnificent.”

Adrian Mack, Georgia Straight Newspaper

“…positively lilting…the man is a ukulele god.”

John P. McLaughlin, The Province Newspaper

“Ralph’s performances are electrifying. His warmth, wit, and charm shine through in every performance. A truly world class act…”

Tim Lewis, Concert Organizer Taunton, England:

Ralph Shaw is a performer’s performer, taking the audience on a vocal and ukulele journey that spells VIRTUOSO.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, two-time Grammy Award Winners

“Ralph Shaw delighted our audiences with songs suitable for the little ones as well as a set geared towards our adult attendees. He’s an entertainer capable of capturing the attention of any audience, and also excelled as an instructor, teaches festival-goers the basics of the ukulele.”

Emily Farrell, Executive Director, Dawson City Music Festival

“Ralph is a top-notch entertainer… Those who have never seen him are simply amazed by his humor and talent. He has a terrific voice able to leap octaves effortlessly and is able to fill a large hall without amplification. Dressed to the nines he captivates the audience with very human stories and songs he has written. He charms and enchants us and makes us laugh—very hard. It is as if the song was meant only for us, a private joke only we in that audience would understand. Each year he astonishes us and there appears to be no limits to his imagination and talent.”

Marianne Brogan, Festival Director, Portland Ukulele Festival, USA

“You’re going to enjoy Ralph Shaw I tell ya….he’s not just a ukulele player!”

Lorne Elliott, CBC, Comedian and Host of 'Madly Off in All Directions'

“Ralph Shaw and his CD “The King of the Ukulele” stand as wonderful testimonies to the beauty of early twentieth century popular music…they restore the songs of the Tin Pan Alley era to their rightful place in modern times.”

Chris Corrigan, Pacific Wave Magazine

“I should start off by saying I am not even a fan of the Ukulele, Ralph Shaw’s instrument of choice! That being said, Ralph has made me a fan. Ralph‘s contribution to our Festival and our daytime sessions was fantastic. I was happy to see the smiles Ralph inspired not only on our audience members faces, but on his fellow musician’s faces as well. His fun way of presenting the history of his music and his instrument is contagious.”

Doug Cox, Executive Producer, Vancouver Island MusicFest