Billionaire Buffett's Hidden Talent: The Ukulele

Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett joins his son, musician Peter Buffett, on the road this fall to play ukulele. Peter Buffett describes the father-son roadshow and growing up in a musical family.

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Unidentified Woman: So, Mr. Buffett, would you please come to the stage.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

A Berkshire Hathaway meeting perhaps? Warren Buffett did take the stage last night, but not to address investors, certainly not with an opening line like this.

Mr. WARREN BUFFETT (Investor; Philanthropist; CEO, Berkshire Hathaway): I'm 78, and my wife said, let's go upstairs and make love. And I said, I can do one or the other, but not both.

SIMON: The billionaire investor and philanthropist was onstage at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles, not to share financial secrets, but his love of music.

Mr. WARREN BUFFETT: So here we go. OK. We're going to do a couple of bars - and then let's ask the...

Mr. PETER BUFFETT (Composer): Let's ask everybody else to sing along. Maybe we can do something about...

Mr. WARREN BUFFETT: You may recognize the song, and you may not.

(Soundbite of ukulele)

SIMON: Specifically the ukulele. The ukulele? He was invited by his son, Peter, who spoke to us before the show yesterday from the studios of NPR West. Peter Buffett is an Emmy award winning composer who says it wasn't just his father's ukulele skills that inspired him.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: He also sang around the house classics from the '30s and '40s, the "The Hut Sut Song" and "Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats," and all these things. And he loved Glenn Miller, and sadly I could sing you that song today.

SIMON: "Mares Eat Oats and Does Eat Oats"?

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Yes, I could. And little lambs eat ivy. But...

SIMON: A kid'll eat ivy too?

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Wouldn't you? Right, exactly. So, you know, but it was - he was - first of all, he was very happy because he loved what he was doing. And so he'd sing around the house. And he played ukulele for years. I mean that's how he famously sort of courted my mother, is he played ukulele with her father playing mandolin. So he actually courted my grandfather, and he fell in love with him and said my mother should too.

SIMON: But, now, I have been told that your father might make a couple of guest appearances with you on this tour.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: That is true. And Friday night is going to be the strangest one of all, I think, here in Los Angeles. He will be there. I was actually in Omaha with him a couple of days ago, and he brought out a couple different ukuleles and said, which one do you think I should bring? And it was great. He's very excited about this. So we chose, of course, the smallest kind of funniest one because that's his approach generally.

But, yes, he's going to play with me on Friday night. And also I collaborated with a really world-famous guy that - and I didn't know who he was when I met him, a guy named Akon who's big in the hip-hop world. And he's going to be coming as well. So you will see, if you are in the audience, Akon, my father, and myself all singing "Ain't She Sweet" together.

SIMON: You mean...

SIMON: (Singing) Ain't she...

SIMON: Right?

SIMON: (Singing) Look her over...

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: That's right.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: (Singing) Da da da da da.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Yep, yep, that's it.

SIMON: Well, that's a ukulele song, that's for sure.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Yeah, exactly. I have figured out, you know, my dad's big on his circle of competence. And I figured we'd just stay right there for him.

SIMON: Oh. There must be something nice about making your father part of your life.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: There really is. And this will be the very first time we've done this together, actually privately or publicly. But it really is wonderful that, first of all, he's so enthusiastic and up for doing it, and that we can do something like this together. Because I'll tell you, I'm not going to be sitting at Berkshire going through actuary tables with insurance. So if we're going to do something together, it's going to be musical.

SIMON: Mr. Buffett, so nice talking to you.

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Thank you so much. It's great to be here.

SIMON: Peter Buffett. His new release is called "Imaginary Kingdom." He's going to take his "Concert and Conversation" series on the road this fall to be joined by his father, Warren Buffett. He spoke with us from NPR West.

(Soundbite of song "Ain't She Sweet")

Mr. PETER BUFFETT and Mr. WARREN BUFFETT: (Singing) I repeat. Ain't she kind of sweet?

Mr. PETER BUFFETT: Everybody!

Mr. PETER BUFFETT and Mr. WARREN BUFFETT: (Singing) Now I ask you very confidentially, ain't she sweet?

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