Komona Wauna Leiya ukuleles came about back in 2006 when we became aware of the unusual story of a ukulele found in an old house In Fort Worth, Texas. The story involves houses of ill repute, cowboys, grandmothers who turned out to be “madams”, Hawaii’s Parker Ranch, and the Fort Worth police, as well as a ukulele. The entire story can be read below. These are high quality ukes created by us from imported parts we acquire from a distributor in California. These are not, like all of our other instruments, hand built in our shops in Texas. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking these are anything other than quality ukuleles. They are made of the best materials - solid mahogany, Indian rosewood, western red cedar, and koa. They sport wooden bindings, bone nuts and saddles, shell purflings, Grover tuners, and beautiful hardshell cases. Most are equipped with ukulele pickup systems. All have an attractive cowgirl, or hula girl graphic on the back. We use the imported parts to keep the price reasonable. They sound great, and are more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Jeremy keeps one in his car at all times, so that when he is snarled in Austin’s infamous traffic, he can sit back and strum his uke to relieve the stress. They are available in soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone sizes, made of koa, mahogany, or rosewood with a cedar top.
This is the story of the original Komona Wauna Leiya ukulele. The story came to us from a friend, who shall be known only as Joe. Joe is a notorious teller of tall tales. I do not believe a word of the story. I would encourage any reader of the story to consider it a total fabrication. That said, here is the story as told to me – The Legend of Bever Castor and Dusty Johnson.
In November of 2005 Joe received a visit from a long time acquaintance, Goodman Brown. Goodman’s grandmother, Bever (pronounced be-vear, rhymes with year) Castor had recently passed away at the age of 93. She had outlived all of her relatives with the exception of Goodman. Goodman was an only child. His mother, Bever’s daughter, died at a very young age of ovarian cancer. It fell to Goodman to clean out his Grandmother’s large house in south Forth Worth, just off Magnolia Avenue. It had once been a very fine place indeed, but the house had fallen into disrepair. The neighborhood for many years had been on a slippery downhill slope. At the time of Granny Castor’s death, the upstairs had been unused, except as storage, since the great depression.
In an upstairs closet, Goodman came upon an old steamer trunk. Inside the trunk he found a diary from his grandmother’s younger days, and a weathered leather kit bag. The bag contained a sweated down silver belly cowboy hat, a well worn pair of Leddy Brothers stovepipe cowboy boots, and a ukulele, the back of which contained a painting of a scantily clad cowgirl. Goodman spent some time pouring over the diary. He was shocked by what he read.
Granny Castor’s house had been a brothel from the time Granny came to Fort Worth, Texas from France in the 1920’s, until the depression year of 1933. Granny had owned and run the place. It seems she had some professional experience in France before coming to Texas. The brothel closed down in 1933 when a cowboy named Dusty Johnson turned up dead in an upstairs room. The police found him dead as a hammer wearing only his hat, boots, and a smile. He was clutching his ukulele. While Granny had a very good working relationship with the Fort Worth police, after all the publicity associated with Dusty’s death, they could no longer overlook Granny’s business. She was forced to close. Dusty’s death was ruled to be of natural causes. No criminal charges were ever brought against Bever Castor.
Granny retired from her business with a nice nest egg, in addition to Dusty’s belongings – hat, boots, and ukulele. Granny’s diary related that Dusty had cowboyed during the 1920’s on the Big Island of Hawaii for the Parker Ranch. That is probably where he acquired the ukulele. The diary also related stories of Dusty singing cowboy songs and playing the ukulele in many attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) to acquire free services at Bever Castor’s house in Fort Worth. There are few things in this world more “cowboy” than the Parker Ranch and Fort Worth, Texas. Thus, we have dubbed Dusty’s ukulele the “Original Cowboy Uke.”
Joe claims that Goodman Brown gave the ukulele to him because, while he did not want it around to remind him of Granny’s past, he could not bear to destroy it. The label says it was made by the Komona Wauna Leiya company of Kona, Hawaii. Bever’s diary also related that she felt Dusty was more attracted to the cowgirl pinup on the back of the uke, than he was to its sound. However, it sounds sweet to us, and the new Komona Wauna Leiya ukuleles sound even better.