Four strings attached to one goal

Street Stories

SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) — As COVID-19 clamped down on what people couldn’t do, Bill Whiteley decided he wanted to shake things up.

The 73-year-old took his ukulele on the road a few weeks ago to the Seekonk intersection at Central and Newman avenues, also known as Bakers corner.

“I tell people keep a song in their heart, and we can get by anything,” Whiteley said.

For anyone without a song in their heart, this retiree from the banking industry provides inspiration with his instrument and voice.

“I love to make people happy,” he said. “And if I can make people happy, I can also feel happy.”

Social media brought him an actual fan club and a nickname — Ukulele Bill.

“The comments people gave were very inspiring,” he said, as a train rushed by, drowning out his voice.

Not even an interrupted interview can get to Ukulele Bill though, who burst out in laughter.

“When I first started, people would go by and they’d say. ‘What? A guys out there playing a ukelele?” he recalled. “And the next thing I know, horns are blowing, people were waving.”

Whiteley just keeps on strumming his four strings and singing like he’s done inside for about 50 years of his life.

“Even at home, when I’m having a bad day, I just take out my ukulele and I start singing,” he said. “I think my wife has probably heard all of the songs about 2,000 times.”

It will get cold soon, but Ukulele Bill is not worried.

“I’ve got some long, heavy winter coats and I’m going to try to do it when possible,” he said. “I get smiles, laughs, people take pictures. Whatever your day is like, just remember this. There are people worse off than you.”

Email Walt at with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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