Sunday, October 26, 2008

the Memphis Jug Band

The Memphis Jug Band was a loose knit outfit, with constantly changing members. They played local events and were one of the main attractions when they played at Handy's Park in Memphis.

The Memphis Jug Band has been described as having a remarkable sound due in part to their unusual instruments. Most songs included a rhythm guitar and either a jug, a kazoo or a harmonica as a lead instrument(or sometimes a mandolin or violin). The sound of the instruments was invariably a "raspy, buzzing sound" that was close to the musical aesthetic of Africa, the jug and kazoo representing the voices of animals or ancestral spirits.

Jug bands were found in nearly every city in the South during the 1920s and '30s, but they were most popular and prolific in Memphis, Tennessee. The Memphis Jug Band was the first (and some consider the best) of many to record.

"Stealin', Stealin' " (by Gus Cannon) :Recorded on September 15, 1928. Will Shade sings the lead with Vol Stevens on guitar, Ben Ramey on kazoo and Jab Jones on jug.

(this song was plagiarized by Jimmy Page on the Yardbirds' Little Games album)

"A Black Woman is Like A Black Snake":Recorded on September 11, 1928. This jug band's lineup includes leader Will Shade on harp and guitar, Charlie Burse on guitar, Ben Ramey on kazoo, and Jab Jone on the lead vocal and jug.

"Cocaine Habit Blues":Recorded on May 17, 1930. Hattie Hart sings the lead with Will Shade on harp, Tee Wee Blackman on guitar, Ben Ramey on kazoo, and Ham Lewis on the jug.

As an added Bonus, here's another "Old-Timey Drug Song", this one by Dick Justice;

"Cocaine":Recorded on May 20, 1929 in Chicago.

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