September 14, 2010 by gadaya
Newport Blues-The Cincinnati Jug Band
After Cajun music, the Anthology goes on to another joyful and lively genre born in the South, Jug band music. It combines diverse elements of african-american music like Country Blues, Minstrel show songs, Ragtime and Early Jazz, can be played on various stringed instruments, harmonica, kazoo, home-made percussive instruments like the spoons and the washboard, and of course the jug.
To give you a taste of this great music and see jug blowers in action, here’s an absolutely wonderful footage of Whistler’s Jug Band shot in 1930.
Bands like the Memphis Jug Band and Cannon’s Jug Stompers (both featured in the Anthology) were very popular in the South and recorded many sides in the 1920’s and 1930’s and many other Southern Jug Bands were recorded during that time. The genre, now played mostly by white musicians, had its revival at the end of the 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s mixed with the Folk Revival, first as skiffle music in England, and in the U.S with bands like Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band and The Even Dozen Jug Band. Nowadays, bands like The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Jake Leg Stompers or The East River String Band includes Jug band music along with their Old-Time and Country Blues repertoire.
Henry Vestine of Canned Heat wrote that The Cincinnati Jug Band was “the only country-oriented jug band recording known by a non-southern based group”. The band recorded only a few sides in the beginning of 1929 and was composed of two brothers, Walter and Bob Coleman, helped by their multi-instrumentist (guitar, harmonica and the stovepipe) street musician friend Stovepipe No.1. Their “Newport Blues” was named after the town of Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River. Cincinnati Blues musicians would often go to Newport, “known for being wide open in terms of gambling, vice and bootlegging”, to play for the local mob.
Earlier in 1928, before the Cincinnati Jug Band recorded for Paramount, a Cincinnati Blues guitar player and singer, nicknamed Kid Cole for the session, recorded 4 sides for Vocalion. In his book about the early Cincinnati Blues scene (“Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City”, the main source for my informations here), Steven C. Tracy discuss the fact that Kid Cole was probably Bob Coleman, of The Cincinnati Jug Band. On “Sixth Street Moan”, Cole/Coleman is accompanied on harmonica by Stovepipe No 1, the Cincinnati street musician who played also on “Newport Blues”.
Listen to “Sixth Street Moan” by Kid Cole and Stovepipe No.1
Kid Cole was a good singer with a very particular phrasing and a solid guitar player. The lyrics of his Blues mixed typical phrases with his own original images.
Listen to “Niagara Fall Blues”
Back to January 1929 and The Cincinnati Jug Band…The other track issued with “Newport Blues” was another instrumental piece called “George Street Stomp”. George Street was the “hot” street of Cincinnati at the beginning of the 20th century and many black musicians entertained in the many “sporting houses” of this “red light district” (named after the red lights in front of the brothels). After the first World War, the street started to be “cleaned up” and slowly new constructions changed the face as well as the spirit of the place.
Listen to “George Street Stomp” by The Cincinnati Jug Band
The Cincinnati Jug Band recorded also two vocal numbers, with Bob Coleman doing the singing. “Tear it down” is a jug band classic, recorded by King David’s Jug Band and The Memphis Jug Band (and this is the song that Whistler’s Jug Band played on the footage seen above).
Listen to “Tear it down” by Bob Coleman & The Cincinnati Jug Band
A few years after these recordings,in 1936, Walter Coleman (Bob Coleman’s brother) entered the studio again, and recorded a few sides for RCA. Among them, the first recording of “Mama let me lay it on you”, a song that Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Eric Von Schmidt and Bob Dylan (under the title “Baby let me follow you down”) would perform as well. There’s two available takes of Walter Coleman’s version,one with two guitars and the other with piano and jug.
Listen to “Mama Let me lay it on you” by Walter Coleman (Piano and Jug version)
Let’s end our tour of the Queen City with Walter Coleman’s “I’m going to Cincinnati”
Here are all the tracks by Kid Cole, The Cincinnati Jug Band, Bob and Walter Coleman:
Hey Hey Mama Blues – Kid Cole Kid Cole
Hard Hearted Mama Blues – Kid Cole Kid Cole
Niagara Fall Blues – Kid Cole Kid Cole
Newport Blues – Cincinnati Jug Band Cincinnati Jug Band
George St Stomp – Cincinnati Jug Band Cincinnati Jug Band
Tear It Down – Bob Coleman & Cincinnati Jug Band Bob Coleman & Cincinnati Jug Band
Cincinnati Underworld Woman – Bob Coleman & Cincinnati Jug B Bob Coleman & Cincinnati Jug Band
Sing Song Blues – Bob Coleman Bob Coleman
Greyhound Blues (Tell Me Driver How Long’s That Greyhound Be Walter Coleman
Mama Let Me Lay It On You (Take A) – Walter Coleman Walter Coleman
Smack That Thing – Walter Coleman Walter Coleman
Mama Let Me Lay It On You (Take C) – Walter Coleman Walter Coleman
Carry Your Good Stuff Home – Walter Coleman Walter Coleman
Maybe you noticed i mentioned a few times the curious name of one man known as “Stovepipe no.1”. His real name was Sam Jones and he was a Cincinnati street musician, locally loved and well-remembered by older Cincinnatians who knew him. He got his nickname for playing a real stovepipe like one blow on a jug to produce diverse sounds. But in the 1920’s there were other one-man-band musicians nicknamed “Stovepipe”. There was “Daddy Stovepipe” (Johnny Watson), playing on Maxwell Street in Chicago and “Sweet Papa Stovepipe” (Mc Kinley Peebles). Jones added the “No.1” in his stage name to distingish himself from his collegues who actually got their nicknames for the stovepipe hat they were wearing. Stovepipe no.1 recorded in 1924 his diverse repertoire of minstrel songs, Blues, Rags,Gospel songs and Hillbilly tunes. He also recorded duets with David Crockett in 1927 and with King David’s Jug Band in 1930. There’s a compilation of his recordings on Document Records and you can find some tracks on some Yazoo compilations and also on the great two-Cd set “Good for what ails you” (with a Daddy Stovepipe track as well) issued by Old Hat Records. (On the right, a photo of Daddy Stovepipe in the 1930’s)
Listen to “A chicken can waltz the gravy around” by Stovepipe no.1 and David Crockett
Found on Youtube, this great instructive clip featuring a recording of Stovepipe no.1 playing “Fisher’s Hornpipe” on kazoo and harmonica:
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