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We used to go to different people's houses, you know. In those days I mean they could hear music and - if somebody could play an instrument, man, they would get up at night, from one o'clock; and they'd fix food and they'd have drinks and they'd stay up till five, six o'clock in the morning and give you money. It wasn't a dance but a serenade; we'd go from house to house. In those days there wasn't too much things like juke boxes, high fidelity sound, wasn't nothing like that then; and whenever somebody could play and could play well, he was considered as somebody; he could go anywhere and he had it made, you know? - Baby Doo Caston, on playing music in Natchez in the 1920s, interview with Jeff Todd Titon

Author Topic: Will Shade harp keys  (Read 520 times)

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Offline arlotone

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Will Shade harp keys
« on: June 13, 2020, 12:34:58 PM »
I recently went through all the reissued Memphis Jug Band and Minnie Wallace recordings to figure out which keys and positions Will Shade used. There was more variety than I expected. Here's what I came up with:

Sun Brimmer's Blueskey of GC harp (second position)
Stingy Woman Blueskey of CC harp (first position)
Sometimes I Think I Love Youkey of CF harp (second position) or possibly C harp
Sunshine Blueskey of GC harp (second position)
Kansas City Blueskey of GC harp (second position)
Beale Street Mess Aroundkey of CF harp (second position)
Coal Oil Blueskey of GC harp (second position)
Papa Long Blueskey of GC harp (second position)
Sugar Puddingkey of CC harp (first position)
A Black Woman is Like a Black Snakekey of CC harp (first position)
On the Road Againkey of CF harp (second position)
Whitewash Station Blueskey of CC harp (first position)
Stealin' Stealin'key of GC harp (second position)
Jug Band Waltzkey of CC harp (first position)
Mississippi River Waltzkey of CC harp (first position)
The Old Folks Started Itkey of GC harp (second position)
I Can Beat You Plentykey of EA harp (second position)
Taking Your Placekey of CC harp (first position) or possibly F harp
Tired of You Driving Mekey of GC harp (second position)
Memphis Yo Yo Blueskey of BbBb harp (first position)
K.C. Moankey of EA harp (second position)
Cocaine Habit Blueskey of CC harp (first position)
Bumble Bee Blueskey of EA harp (second position)
Meningitis Blueskey of AA harp (first position)
Papa's Got Your Water Onkey of AA harp (first position)
He's In the Jailhouse Nowkey of CC harp (first position)
Got a Letter From My Darlin'key of GC harp (second position)
Round and Roundkey of GC harp (second position)
You May Leave But This Will Bring You Backkey of CC harp (first position)
Move That Thingkey of GC harp (second position)
You Got Me Rollin'key of FF harp (first position)
You Got to Have That Thingkey of CF harp (second position) or possibly C harp
Bottle It Up and Gokey of FF harp (first position)
Tappin' That Thingkey of FF harp (first position)
I Got Good Taterskey of CF harp (second position)
Come Along Little Childrenkey of CF harp (second position)
Mary Anna Cut Offkey of CF harp (second position)
Jazzbo Stompkey of CF harp (second position)
Gator Wobblekey of CF harp (second position)
The Cockeyed Worldkey of CF harp (second position)
Field Mouse Stompkey of CF harp (second position)
Let's All Do That Thingkey of CF harp (second position)
Pick 'Em Up and Put 'Em Downkey of GC harp (second position)

For the "possibly" songs, all the notes were available on both harps, but one or the other seemed more natural to play. A few of the later recordings play in the key of B on the reissues I have, but I think they should play in C

Corrections / suggestions are welcome.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2020, 01:42:15 PM by arlotone »

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2020, 10:58:22 AM »
Wow! Good work! A lot of industry went into that

Online Johnm

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2020, 12:02:24 PM »
I agree with Mike, arlotone--good work.  Would any of you harp players who frequent the site, Mike or Anthony, be willing to vet arlotone's harp and position identifications on the Will Shade tunes?  The reason I ask is that I would like to put this list up in Weeniepedia on its own page under Musicianship, but don't know enough about harp playing myself to ascertain the accuracy of the identifications, and I am loath to put up the list without it having been vetted by someone other than the person who posted it.  Feel free to post any findings here.  Thanks.  If it ends up being posted, arlotone will be credited for having done the work, and any edits that result in changes in the identifications will be credited, too.
All best,

Offline iantonionni

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2020, 02:57:26 PM »
Yes, great piece of work, arlotone! I'll be happy to have a look. First off, I do believe that Stealin' is played on G and a C harmonicas. The verse in 1st position on a G and the chorus in 2nd position on a C ( apart from one slight departure to a 1st position G lick at one point).

Offline arlotone

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2020, 01:49:36 PM »
Thanks, folks. The harmonica player in my band uses two harps for "Stealin'", but I didn't think it was necessary. I'll give that another listen.

Meanwhile, I realized I was wrong about "Memphis Yo Yo" being played on an F harp in 12th position. Since Shade used his F harp a lot, and seemed to be playing tentatively on that song, it made sense. But when playing through it again, I found a note that can't really be played in that position, while it lays out very nicely on a Bb harp in first position. I've updated my original post.

Offline arlotone

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2020, 04:32:33 PM »
I tried Stealin' again (in G) on a combination of G and C harps. While it's undoubtedly easier to play the first line of the verse on a G harp, the savings of effort is more than cancelled out on the second line, which in my opinion is harder on a G harp than the first line is on a C harp. In other words, the G harp is easier for one line, but the C harp is easier overall.

I don't think he switches from G to C after the first line, because he often plays the last note of the first line right up until the first note of the second line, or puts a leading note there, leaving no time to switch. They played it quite a bit faster than most bands play it today.

He does miss a couple notes in the second line of the last instrumental on the verse chords, which could be a sign that he's playing the whole verse part on the G harp, where the second line is harder.

But I'd say since all the notes are available on the C harp, and he doesn't play a G harp on any other song, the simplest conclusion is that he played the whole song on a C harp.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2020, 11:41:21 AM by arlotone »

Offline arlotone

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2020, 11:39:17 AM »
I just posted my best attempt at a replication of the Stealin' harp part on my Jug Tracks website:

I also posted notation of the harp part. There are some variations throughout the song, but I notated the most common version of each phrase.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Will Shade harp keys
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2020, 11:32:41 AM »
Hey Arlo,

I just wanted to say that the depth of your listening, the dedication and the perseverence that you put into these transcription/replications has truely created a treasure for all of us jug band freaks. And the joy evident in your playing and singing of all the various parts makes these true performances on their own, not mere "replications".

Thank you!

"People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."
George Bernard Shaw

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
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