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Author Topic: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago  (Read 2417 times)

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Offline MTJ3

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Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« on: January 10, 2007, 08:47:01 PM »
I stumbled across the following notice (indirectly on account of Howard Rye), which may be of interest to MJB fans and those interested in the "place of blues"/"genre flexibility" during the pre-War period.  It is from Dave Peyton's column entitled "The Musical Bunch" in The Chicago Defender, Saturday, 18 June 1927, part 1, page 6, columns 2-3.

"Memphis Jug Band

Coming to the Grand theater week of the 20th as a part of the Butter Beans and Susie vaudeville revue is the famous Memphis Jug band. They are ever popular as Victor recording artists and play music that you will fall in love with at first hearing.

What a bill this will be week of the 20th, with all star acts, burning hot off of the Orpheum circuit griddle.

People are already talking about the Butter and Sue revue. These favorite entertainers have just finished a successful season over the Columbia wheel as stars in the well-known Jimmy Cooper revue."

"Famous" and "ever popular"?  By way of background, MJB's previous recording history was limited to a session on 24 February 1927, in Memphis, from which four sides were issued, and a 6 June 1927, session in Chicago, from which sides wouldn't have been issued at the date of the notice.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2007, 11:25:46 PM »
I wonder if this is before or after the infamous rattlesnake fiasco? Didn't that pretty much end their inclusion in any "revues"? I have no idea where I read about that, but I'll check the JSP boxed set tomorrow. Thanks for posting this.

All for now.
John C.

"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.”
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2007, 06:25:30 AM »
Wax, what's the rattlesnake incident you refer to?

all star acts, burning hot off of the Orpheum circuit griddle.

Those are some hot acts! Straight off the griddle (!)

Offline waxwing

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2007, 08:42:52 AM »
IIRC Will Shade got the band a gig playing with someone of Mamie Smith's stature and to liven up the act they had a defanged rattlesnake that they would brandish during a number. I think they dressed in some sort of "native" African attire, too. To keep the snake really docile they would pretty much keep it starving, but a chorus girl took pity on it and fed it a rat. The next performance the snake got away from wnoever was holding it and headed toward the audience, who started climbing backwards over their seats. Some one managed to grab the snake before it made it off the stage and they pretended like it was all part of the act. Mamie (or whoever), who had climbed up on the piano, banished the snake from the show, and without it the audience soon lost interest in the jug band, which, as MTJ3 points out, was at the beginnings of its career, and they lost the gig. This is from memory and if someone doesn't correct the details by the time I get home this evening, I'll see if I can find where I read it.

All for now.
John C.
"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

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
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Offline dj

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2007, 09:18:47 AM »
The incident is described by Sam Charters in "Sweet As The Showers Of Rain" (p. 18 in my edition).

"Their Chicago trip [June 9, 1927] was one of their few stays outside of Memphis, and it was also one of their most exotic brushes with success.  They had decided to bring another harmonica player up with them so Son could play guitar, and they used a friend - a tall, thin musician called Shakey Walter.  It was after this session that they had an offer to play at the Grand Central Theatre in Chicago with the Butterbeans and Susie review.  Butterbeans and Susie were a blues duet team whose real names were Joe and Susie Edwards.  They did some singing and some comedy and added acts like the Memphis Jug Band for variety.  As Son remembered it ... their life in the theater was short but exciting.

"They decided to do a jungle act with everybody in jungle costumes and Shakey Walter holding a large rattlesnake.  They got the snake and pulled its fangs, but when they were having a dress rehearsal the snake got loose and started for a rat hole in the wall of the auditorium where they were rehearsing.  Shakey caught it behind the neck and they finally got it back into its box, but they decided they'd better not feed it so much so it wouldn't have the strength to wiggle.  They opened at the Grand on Monday, June 20, 1927, wearing grass skirts and playing their guitars.  Shakey and a girl from the chorus took turns holding the snake and singing.  Son sang "Newport News" and they played some instrumental numbers and the audience seemed to like it very much.  Ma Rainey heard about the act and booked them into Gary, Indiana for her show the next week.

"At Gary the act came to a disastrous close.  One of Ma's chorus girls was from the country and she felt sorry for the snake because nobody was feeding it.  She gave it some food without bothering to tell anybody.  In the middle of the show the revived snake began inching out of the hand of the chorus girl who was dancing with it.  It finally got its head free enough to turn around and nip her.  It didn't have any fangs but it had small teeth, and she screamed and let go.  The snake immediately started for the footlights, since everybody was onstage, and the theater panicked.  The first ten rows of the audience climbed over the back of the seats, the orchestra scrambled under the stage, and Ma, fat as she was, jumped on top of the grand piano.  Shakey made a dive for the snake and got it just as it was going into the orchestra pit.  He scrambled to his feet, waving the snake, pretending to talk to it in a nonsense dialect.  He started to dance around the stage with it and Son finally came to enough to start playing.  After a moment of hesitation the audience gingerly started back to the seats and finally decided it was all part of the act.  They got a rousing ovation.  From Ma, herself, they got considerably less than an ovation.  "if you bring that ---- snake on this stage again I'll have every one of you put in jail."  Without the snake their act wasn't very exciting and they went back to Memphis"
 
« Last Edit: January 12, 2007, 03:29:01 AM by dj »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2007, 01:54:48 PM »
The incident is described by Sam Charters in "Sweet As The Showers Of Rain"
Originally cited in The Country Blues p.76-77. ;D

Offline Rivers

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2007, 04:56:28 PM »
Great story, with a great tagline quote on the end: ""if you bring that ---- snake on this stage again I'll have every one of you put in jail."  :D
« Last Edit: January 11, 2007, 04:58:11 PM by Rivers »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2007, 06:10:12 PM »
Yes, too funny. I'm having a hard time picturing Ma Rainey climbing up onto a piano....

Offline phhawk

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2007, 09:22:30 PM »
Well Uncle Bud, Obviously you don't live in rattlesanke country. I can see Ma getting up there alright. However, getting her down may have been a problem.

Offline waxwing

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2007, 09:37:34 PM »
Right, I read Country Blues about 2-3 months ago. Well, I remembered some of it right. It is pretty funny. I'll have to start tellin' that story at Hohoppas gigs.

All for now.
John C.
"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

http://www.youtube.com/user/WaxwingJohn
https://www.facebook.com/WaxwingJohn

mississippijohnhurt1928

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Re: Memphis Jug Band in Chicago
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2007, 03:15:29 PM »
About The Advertisement For The 1927 Show, It Was Probably Just A Promotional Description to Attract An Audience.

 


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