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Ability to play the banjo soon places one in a social position to pick and choose from scores of social invitations. Everywhere, the banjoist is assured of a hearty welcome - Anon., from THE BANJO, a 1927 pamphlet published by Gibson Inc

Author Topic: Jake Leg  (Read 8648 times)

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Offline waxwing

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Jake Leg
« on: September 13, 2003, 11:45:40 AM »
Just read an interesting article about the jake leg epidemic of 1930 in The New Yorker, Sept. 15 edition. Mentions that Ishmon Bracey, the Shieks, Daddy Stovepipe and Mississippi Sarah, Tommy Johnson and others were the primary chroniclers of the effects among Blacks, as all medical research centered on whites. Lots of interesting material for an intro if anyone performs any of the Jake Leg Blues.

I had a discussion with Del the other night about how important it is to be a witness to the times that created this music we love. Does anyone else recieve Scott Ainsley's Blues Notes, a monthly or so letter discussing various aspects of the life and times of the blues. Last month's was about pellagra, concerning how the symptoms of the disease were taken to be natural behavioral traits of an entire race. Strong stuff. Scott is a bluesman who is very conscientious about the roots of the music, and one I would love to see at PT. He doesn't leave the Piedmont all that often, though. But, he is a disciple of John Jackson.
Here's another lnk for our artist page:

http://www.guitarpicker.com/Ainslie/Scott.htm

All for now.
John C.

« Last Edit: September 13, 2003, 11:50:40 AM by waxwing »
"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

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Offline FrontPage

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2003, 08:02:30 PM »
John:

There was a Sony Legacy CD issued a few yearws ago titled "News & the Blues: Telling It Like It Is" (out of print) that demonstrated the use of blues to convey information and misinformation about current events. Some others in the same series that are worth watching for include: the first parental guidance warning on a blues re-issue for "Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollipops" which contrasts nicely with "Preachin' the Gospel: Holy Blues" (also out of print).

Tracks on "Blues and the News" included:
   1.    Backwater Blues  performed by Bessie Smith - 3:18
   2.    Dope Head Blues  performed by Victoria Spivey - 3:13
   3.    If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down  performed by Johnson, Blind Willie - 3:09
   4.    Frankie  performed by Hurt, Mississippi John - 3:22
   5.    God Moves on the Water  performed by Johnson, Blind Willie - 2:58
   6.    Groceries on the Shelf  performed by Lucille Bogan - 2:55
   7.    34 Blues  performed by Charley Patton - 2:55
   8.    W.P.A. Blues  performed by Weldon, Casey Bill - 3:15
   9.    Unemployment Stomp  performed by Broonzy, Big Bill - 2:35
   10.    '29 Blues  performed by Alfred Fields - 2:47
   11.    Joe Louis Special  performed by Jack Kelly - 2:23
   12.    Three Ball Blues  performed by Fuller, Blind Boy - 2:54
   13.    Parchman Farm Blues  performed by Bukka White - 2:38
   14.    Life of Leroy Carr  performed by Gaither, Little Bill - 2:48
   15.    Ma Rainey  performed by Memphuis Minnie - 2:42
   16.    Moonshine Man Blues  performed by Peter Cleighton - 2:57
   17.    In the Army Now  performed by Broonzy, Big Bill - 2:41
   18.    The Gambling Man  performed by O.M. Terrell - 2:55
   19.    Atomic Bomb Blues  performed by Homer Harris - 2:30
   20.    Homeless Blues  performed by Willie Smith - 3:10

Lots of news content there!

I was interested in your mention of Jake Leg - I read a lengthy article on the syndrome two or three years ago, but can't remember where. If I remember correctly, 'jake' was a Jamaican ginger extract (read alcohol solvent base!) sold as a medicinal remedy, but widely used during Prohibition as a means of achieving intoxication. Paralysis of the legs was an unfortunate side-effect that is also commonly associated with moonshine.

Cheers,
FrontPage
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline markm

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2003, 11:46:12 AM »
Yes, it would be great to see Scott Ainslie at Centrum.  I have certainly learned alot from his video.  Seems an excellent teacher and it would appear an all around nice guy.

BTW  I certainly hope Honey Boy comes back next year.  I attended every session this year and loved every minute of it.

Offline Johnm

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2003, 10:05:11 PM »
Hi all,
I read the New Yorker article on the Jake Leg epidemic today.  What was really weird and ironic about it was that all the problems were caused by adulterating the Jake with an unsafe chemical, tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate, which was being added to mask the appearance of a perfectly safe substance, castor oil, which had already been used to adulterate the Jake.  It is kind of amazing that they caught the guys who were behind it, though they got off pretty easy.  Prohibition certainly caused a lot of problems.
John  

Offline FrontPage

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2003, 11:40:17 PM »
Unfortuantely (for us 'uncultured heathen' that don't have a subscription to the New Yorker), the Jake Leg article by Dan Baum is not available online. However, they have included an archive link to an article that appeared in the magazine in 1926. It provides the first person account of a bootlegger operating in NYC - a fascinating glimpse of a part of history that I find difficult to imagine. Yes, we had prohibition in Canada too.

My Dad was a teen during teh 1930s. He told me stories about bootleggers operating in the rural area where I grew up, and said that people I knew as a kid actually operated illegal stills. There was a special branch of the both the RCMP and Provincial Police that was tasked with finding and destroying moonshine operations. Some of these fellows got pretty creative in finding ways to hide their 'money machines '- I've seen photos of one such operation that consisted of a hand-excavated underground chamber with the chimney from the still running up the inside of a hollow tree. It's a shame I missed so much interesting history in school - but I don't remember any of this being taught.

Here's the link to the NY bootlegger article:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/content/?030915fr_archive01
« Last Edit: September 17, 2003, 11:42:59 PM by FrontPage »
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline uncle bud

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2003, 07:05:51 AM »
Unfortuantely (for us 'uncultured heathen' that don't have a subscription to the New Yorker), the Jake Leg article by Dan Baum is not available online.

What, you don't have newsstands in Alberta? Or the New Yorker is stopped at the border. ;D  You'll have to settle for Maxim, FP. I hear they have some kind of Leg article out too.

I've read the NY article and it's very interesting pop epidemiology. Also disorienting to see names like Ishmon Bracey and the Mississippi Sheiks in the New Yorker. I had no idea of the number of people Jake Leg affected or how quickly it happened. The two bootleggers responsible sure did get off easy. I'm surprised no one tracked them down to 'learn them a lesson.'

Quote
My Dad was a teen during teh 1930s. He told me stories about bootleggers operating in the rural area where I grew up, and said that people I knew as a kid actually operated illegal stills. There was a special branch of the both the RCMP and Provincial Police that was tasked with finding and destroying moonshine operations. Some of these fellows got pretty creative in finding ways to hide their 'money machines '- I've seen photos of one such operation that consisted of a hand-excavated underground chamber with the chimney from the still running up the inside of a hollow tree. It's a shame I missed so much interesting history in school - but I don't remember any of this being taught.

A friend of my dad's told me that in the place they grew up in PEI, the bank manager from the CIBC used to sell illegal hooch from the parking lot after hours.

uncle bud

Offline FrontPage

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Re:Jake Leg
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2003, 09:45:26 AM »
Quote
What, you don't have newsstands in Alberta? Or is the New Yorker is stopped at the border.  

Well, you see, there are so few of us here in Alberta who can read that a newstand just makes no economic sense. So I have to rely on the internet. It's likely that The New Yorker wouldn't make it across the Alberta border because it's not devoted to trucks, titties, cows or guns. Seriously, I have just been too lazy to drive to a decent news outlet. The stuff I read regualry arrives by subscription. I'm old-fasioned; I like to read  from print on paper.

Quote
A friend of my dad's told me that in the place they grew up in PEI, the bank manager from the CIBC used to sell illegal hooch from the parking lot after hours.

I'm guessing that the stuff he sold was bootlegged/non-bonded Johnny Walker, Canadian Club, Myers Rum and the like. It would have been unbecoming of a bank manager to sell clear liquid in mason jars.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2003, 09:47:16 AM by FrontPage »
Cheers,
FrontPage

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Jake Leg
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2007, 12:40:45 AM »
Given Waxwing's link elsewhere to this topic and being the sad nerd that I am I've extracted from Robert Ford's Blues Bibliography (2nd Ed) what he located on the subject:

Harder, Kelsie B. "The Jake Leg." Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 27, no. 3 (Sep 1961): 45-47.

Morgan, John P. Jake Walk Blues. USA: Stash ST-110, 1977.

Morgan, John P.; Tulloss, Thomas C. "The Jake Walk Blues: A Toxicologic Tragedy Mirrored in American Popular Music." Annals of Internal Medicine 85, no. 6 (Dec 1976): 804-808. Reprinted in JEMF Quarterly 13, no. 47 (Autumn 1977): 122-126. Reprinted in Old Time Music 28 (1978): 17-24.

Cohen, Norman. "Jake Walk Blues." JEMF Quarterly 15, no. 55 (Fall 1979): 191.

Baum, Dan. "Jake Leg: How the Blues Diagnosed a Medical Mystery." The New Yorker (15 Sep 2003): 50-.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Jake Leg
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2011, 08:29:28 AM »
Hi all,
After posting Willie Lofton's "Jake Leg Blues" last night, I thought it might be good to bump this old thread.  Note that the article on Jake was in the September 15, 2003 New Yorker Magazine, all of which are available on-line now, I think.  One of the most amazing things about the whole Jake situation was that they actually figured out who was responsible for the problem.  It's a terrifically interesting article.
All best,
Johnm

Offline LB

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Re: Jake Leg
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2011, 10:54:53 AM »
Thanks this is very interesting. Had trouble getting to links but found another good article on Jake Blues.

I thought it was interesting how they added a chemical plasticizer to thicken the stuff to meet more government standards. 

http://www.sfms.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&SECTION=Article_Archives&CONTENTID=2561&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm

« Last Edit: March 19, 2011, 10:57:13 AM by LittleBrother »

Offline Stumblin

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Re: Jake Leg
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2011, 04:41:32 PM »
Thanks this is very interesting. Had trouble getting to links but found another good article on Jake Blues.
I thought it was interesting how they added a chemical plasticizer to thicken the stuff to meet more government standards.
http://www.sfms.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&SECTION=Article_Archives&CONTENTID=2561&TEMPLATE=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm
Thanks. That, ironically, makes for sobering reading.

Offline Lyle Lofgren

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Re: Jake Leg
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2011, 06:04:15 PM »
I bought the Jake Walk LP when it first came out, and it's one of my favorites, not least for the informative notes.

Lyle

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