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Memphis Jug Band – Kansas City Blues

Memphis Jug Band – Kansas City Blues

The Memphis Jug Band was an American musical group in the late 1920s and early to mid 1930s.[1] The band featured harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos, and guitars, backed by washboards, kazoo, and jugs blown to supply the bass; they played in a variety of musical styles. The band recorded almost a hundred titles.[2]

Between 1927 and 1934 various African-American musicians in the Memphis, Tennessee area grouped around singer, songwriter, guitarist, and harmonica player Will Shade (also known as Son Brimmer or Sun Brimmer). The personnel of this jug band varied from day to day, with Shade booking gigs and arranging recording sessions. The band functioned as a training ground for musicians who would go on to success with careers of their own.

The Memphis Jug Band has been described as having a remarkable sound due in part to the unusual instruments. Although 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.

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