The Unwound Third > Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos

tenor guitar for acoustic blues

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arlotone:

--- Quote from: Johnm on February 06, 2006, 10:36:08 AM ---Didn't Charlie Burse, the jug band musician from Memphis, play a tenor guitar?  I am not familiar enough with his recordings to know whether there are any songs that really feature his playing, or if he was most often employed in a more chordal accompanying capacity.

--- End quote ---

Sorry to bump a 12 (!) year old thread, but I ran across this and can confirm that Burse's tenor guitar stands out in several Memphis Jug Band recordings. Check out "Tired Of You Driving Me" or "Insane Crazy Blues." I'll have an article in the next Frog Annual that explores his contributions further.

This 1958 video gives a great look at his National tenor guitar:



I believe he's using the standard CGDA tuning there and in the Memphis Jug Band recordings, rather than a guitar tuning. Burse also played mandolin, so the fifths wouldn't have been too foreign to him (but he also played guitar in standard tuning).

What I'd like to figure out is when he got his National and what he was playing before that. He played a CGDA instrument on his first MJB recording in 1928 (Lindberg Hop), but National didn't release the single-cone tenor like in his photographs until late 1930.

The quotes above refer to a tenor banjo being called a "ukulele banjo," which reminds me that one of his nicknames was "Uke Kid Burse." I've wondered where that came from, since we don't have any recordings or photos of him playing what we call a ukulele. If he was actually playing a tenor banjo in the early years, that would explain the nickname, and answer the question of what he was playing before he got the National.

Lastfirstface:

--- Quote from: arlotone on April 26, 2018, 11:26:52 AM ---
What I'd like to figure out is when he got his National and what he was playing before that. He played a CGDA instrument on his first MJB recording in 1928 (Lindberg Hop), but National didn't release the single-cone tenor like in his photographs until late 1930.



--- End quote ---

A friend of a friend bought the wood-body polychrome Triolian tenor that Retrofret had a few years back and I'm pretty sure it was a '28 or '29. There certainly were other non-reso tenor guitars available prior to that. Is Burse the one holding the tiple in the "Schlitz Jug Band" photo? Maybe he was playing tiple at first session.

arlotone:
Yes, Charlie is 2nd from right in that photo. A tiple! I'd never heard of that and had to look it up. I assumed it was just an unusual looking mandolin. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like it might actually have 10 tuners.

It's also hard to tell if he has a finger on the first string, but if that instrument is tuned like a mandolin (G D A E), he'd be playing Bb Eb B on the bottom strings. Blech. If it's tuned like the Martin tiple (A D F# B), he'd be playing C Eb Ab, which is a Ab major chord. But the guitarist is playing a C major chord. Does anybody recognize that chord shape in any tuning?

Anyway, I'm assuming if Burse had a tricone resonator in '28, he would have kept it rather than "downgrading" to a single-cone model later. But I guess it's possible. I figured he was playing a wood-body tenor before that, but the reference to the "uke banjo" makes me think he was playing a tenor banjo.

I wish I knew the exact year of the Schlitz photo. He moved to Memphis at the age of 26, and in that photo he seems closer to that age than to the age of 40 shown in the LIFE Magazine photos from 1941.

Lastfirstface:
The Triolian was never a tricone model. The Dopyeras originally intended it to be, but the name stuck after the switch to a single-cone design. It was basically a Duolian with slightly different features and a different paint job. I'm attaching a pic of the one I've played in person.

arlotone:
What I meant regarding the tricone is that in all the photos showing Burse with a tenor guitar, it's a single-cone model, which wasn't produced until late 1930. But he recorded with a similar instrument before that ... so it was either an earlier tricone tenor guitar, a wood-bodied tenor guitar or a tenor banjo.

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