Memphis Jug Band
Complete Recorded Works 24 February 1927 – 28 November 1930
Vol 2: (13th February 1928 to October 1929)
Featuring the recordings of:
Will Shade, vocal / guitar; Will Weldon, guitar; Vol Stevens, banjo-mandolin; Ben Ramey, kazoo; Charlie Polk, jug; several of the band, speech Will Shade, harmonica on 3 / guitar on 2, 4, 5 / vocal on 4, 5; Ben Ramey, kazoo; Charlie Burse, vocal / guitar on 4, 5; Vol Stevens, banjo-mandolin on 2, 3; Jab Jones, jug on 2, 3, 5 / vocal on 2; unknown, harmonica on 4,5; unknown, vocal trio on 3 Will Shade, harmonica; Ben Ramey, kazoo; Charlie Burse, guitar; Vol Stevens, banjo-mandolin on 6 / guitar on 7,8,9; Jab Jones, jug / lead vocal on 6,7; group vocal on 6,7. Will Shade, guitar / lead vocal on 11; Ben Ramey, kazoo / vocal on 11 / probably vocal on 10; Charlie Burse, vocal / guitar on 11/prob. vocal on 10; Milton Robie, violin; Jab Jones, jug. Minnie Wallace, vocal; accompanied by Will Shade, guitar on 12 / harmonica on 13; Milton Robie, violin; possibly Johnnie Hodges or probably Jab Jones, piano on 12; Charlie Burse, guitar on 13; Jab Jones, jug on 13; unknown member of the group, vocal refrain on 12. Will Shade, harmonica on 15 / guitar on 14 / vocal on 14; Ben Ramey, kazoo; Charlie Burse, guitar; Milton Robie, violin; Jab Jones, jug; group vocal on 15. Will Shade, harmonica / vocal on 16; Ben Ramey, kazoo / vocal on 17; Charlie Burse, guitar; Jab Jones, jug. Will Shade, harmonica on 18, 19; Ben Ramey, kazoo on 19, 20; Charlie Burse, guitar; Tewee Blackman, guitar on 18,19; Charlie Nickerson, piano on 20; Jab Jones, jug; Hattie Hart, vocal on 18; vocal trio (possibly led by Blackman, with Ramey and Burse supporting) on 19; different vocal trio (Shade, lead vocal) on 20
Genres: Blues, Memphis Blues, Tennessee Blues, Country Blues, Jug Band, Blues Guitar, Blues, Mandolin, Blues Violin, Blues Harmonica, Blues Piano, Female Blues
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. When the Memphis Jug Band reassembled in September 1928 to cut eight titles for Victor, they began in larky mood. New member (on disc at least) Jab Jones sang what was nominally a tribute to Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic the previous year, but his version of the Lindyhop is a crazy, almost surrealist one. Sugar Pudding, a version of “Take Your Fingers Off It”, marked the debut of Jones’s thunderous jug, replacing the less forthright Charlie Polk. The other new member was the extrovert Alabaman guitarist and singer Charlie Burse. He was one of the singers on both On The Road Again, whose chorus refers to Monk Eastman’s eponymous gang, active in New York in the late 1890s, and the hybrid A Black Woman Is Like A Black Snake, with its 12 bar verse and 8 bar chorus. The cryptic Whitewash Station opened proceedings on 15th September, followed by the Memphis Jug Bands most famous number, the beautiful Stealin’ Stealin’, relaxed, nostalgic, and superbly played. The two waltzes that closed the session, though unusual on race records, were probably no novelty to the band, which would have been expected to play such pieces for dancing by both blacks and whites. It was a year before the band returned to the microphones, and violinist Milton Roby (correct spelling) was added in place of Vol Stevens, bringing his broad, bluesy tones, learned on the medicine shows, to four songs that sound very much of that milieu some of them obviously cleaned up for recording and also to two provocative, sexy vocals by Minnie Wallace: Dirty Butter has fine piano and The Old Folks Started It has complex harmonica from Will Shade. A two day session in October 1929 began with the band in slightly lackluster mood, though they perked up for Tired Of You Driving Me. This date saw the debut on record of Tewee Blackman, Will Shade‘s guitar teacher, older than Shade, and a very accomplished player. His arpeggio style is heard on more records than the standard discography allows, but he was seldom heard to better effect than on Memphis Yo Yo Blues and K. C. Moan. The first title featured the forthright, sensual singing of Hattie Hart, interwoven, like Minnie Wallace’s, with imaginative harmonica work. K. C. Moan is perhaps the Memphis Jug Band‘s finest recording, excellent two guitar work supporting long, drawn-out notes on the harmonica and an intricate kazoo solo from Ben Ramey, apart from Shade the only member of the band who’d played on their first records. The vocal completes a spellbinding performance. The session ended with a light-hearted song about marital violence (a singletree, or swingletree, is the crosspiece of a plough). With a nonchalant “bam-bam-be-deedle-am”, the Memphis Jug Band left the recording studio. By May, 1930, when the Memphis Jug Band next recorded, unemployment in the US stood at over four million. The band, doubtless recognising that folks wanted to be lifted out of their troubles, didn’t let the Depression affect their music, as can be heard on Document DOCD-5023.
Chris Smith Copyright 1991 Document Records