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Author Topic: Help with photo IDs: Robert Burse  (Read 373 times)

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Offline arlotone

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Help with photo IDs: Robert Burse
« on: February 26, 2022, 08:25:13 PM »
I've been researching Robert Burse, Charlie Burse's older brother. He played washboard with the Memphis Jug Band and washtub bass with Will Batts. I've found some photos that identify him, and others that might include him. Can anyone weigh in on this? I'm looking for any documentation I've missed, or just your opinion about who's who.

It looks like I'll need to upload these in two posts. Part one includes the photos that are documented to include Robert Burse:

1) The photo and caption are from a 1977 Living Blues interview with Laura Dukes. She said the photo was taken at Hook's Studio in 1946 or '47 and identified each band member. The same photo is in Olsson's Memphis Blues dated "1935-40."

2) Also from the Laura Dukes interview, but with no mention of a date. The same photo is in Memphis Blues with no caption. The band members that were in the previous photo seem older here.

3) From Olsson's Memphis Blues, dated "early 1950's." This seems right because the players seem older than in the last two photos.

4) From Olsson's Memphis Blues, dated 1969 and presumably taken by Olsson. Olsson says Burse gave his birth year as 1891, but the 1910 census gives his age as 10 (two years older than Charlie), so he was likely around 70 in this photo.
« Last Edit: February 26, 2022, 09:07:22 PM by arlotone »

Offline arlotone

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Re: Help with photo IDs: Robert Burse
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2022, 08:34:51 PM »
Part 2 includes photos that could include Burse but don't identify him.

5) This is the cover of Olsson's book, with no caption or credit. Olsson told me in 2007 that this was a Will Batts band, and the kazoo player looks like Wilfred Bell from the previous photos. Is that Robert Burse on the bass? If so, he seems younger than in any of the previous photos. That would make sense because the Will Batts group started in the mid-30's and Laura Dukes didn't join until the mid-40's, according to her interview, so this photo could have been from the earlier years of the band. Could this be the same bass player as in photo 1, but 10 years younger?

6) The Memphis Jug Band, from the Memphis World newspaper. I have a postcard of this photo with a caption on the back that says "late 1930s." It identifies the players as Charlie Burse, Will Shade, Wilfred Bell, Robert Carter and unknown washboard player. Olsson's book includes the photo with the same personnel and a date of "c. 1935," but I think it's later due to the similarity to the next photo. Is the washboard player Robert Burse? I see a similarity to the bass player in photo 4, but not so much to the earlier photos. (I love this photo and wish I had a better copy!)

7) The Memphis Jug Band, from LIFE magazine, 1940. Will Shade, Charlie Burse and Wilfred Bell are clearly identifiable from the previous photo, and the guitarist, Robert Carter, might be the same as well. The fifth player is holding a drumstick and we can see a bit of a cymbal stand in front of the jug, perhaps the same washboard rig as in the previous photo. Is that Robert Burse? I can see this as an older version of the bass player in photo 5.

8 ) Another from the same LIFE spread. The washboard player's face is partially hidden by his top hat, but the similar angle to Charlie's invites a comparison. Are they brothers?

If I had no other info, I'd guess 1, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are the same person and 2, 3 and 6 are someone else. But if 1-4 are known to be the same person, then are they all the same person? What do you think?
« Last Edit: February 26, 2022, 09:08:19 PM by arlotone »

Offline banjochris

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Re: Help with photo IDs: Robert Burse
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2022, 09:19:23 AM »
I would say that the person in #5 on the book cover is not the same man. 6, 7-8 look to me like they could be the same man. The odd man out to me in the first batch is #1, although it could just be the lighting.
Chris

Offline arlotone

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Re: Help with photo IDs: Robert Burse
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2022, 06:14:13 PM »
I agree #1 looks different from the others, but that one was directly identified by Laura Dukes, so seems one of the most reliable. It is hard to tell across a 20 year time span, especially when the exact dates of the photos aren't known.

Anyway, I just realized I should add this one to the collection. The Memphis Music Hall of Fame website identifies only Charlie Burse (on the tipple) but I wonder if that is his Robert on the washboard. They give a date of "late 1930s," but Charlie seems much younger compared to the LIFE photos and I would have said late 1920's. (I believe Charlie arrived in Memphis in 1928.)

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