Memphis Jug Band

Complete Recorded Works (1932-1934)

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One of the great cultural achievements of the late 20th century was the reissuing of the Memphis Jug Band's complete recorded output on Document in four volumes with an appendix on Wolf records reserved for alternate takes. The fourth installment picks up the trail of this gutsy little group two years after they were eliminated from Victor's roster of regularly recorded talent. Tracks 1-5 were recorded in Richmond, IN on August 3, 1932; these records were released (as by the Picaninny Jug Band) on Gennett's low-budget subsidiary Champion but didn't sell very well because most regular people at that time were scuffling just to be able to buy essentials like food and shoes. Tracks 6-21, recorded in Chicago on November 6, 7, and 8, 1934 and released on Okeh and Vocalion, represent the last go-round for the Memphis Jug Band. Most everything on this wonderful disc sounds jazzier and more slaphappy than much of their earlier work. Will Shade's harmonica is very prominent, as is the jug of Jab Jones, who plays piano on his own "Mary Anna Cutoff," named for Marianna, AK, a town that exists on the banks of the L'Anguille river southwest of Memphis. Other members of the band during these final sessions were Charlie Burse, a guitarist who doubled on mandolin; Vol Stevens, a mandolin player who also played the jug; violinist Charlie Pierce, who originally worked with W.C. Handy's Memphis Blues Band; and several percussionists including an unidentified washboard player, Robert Burse and Otto Gilmore. These are some of the most entertaining and hokum-stoked records in the entire Memphis Jug Band discography, especially "The Gator Wobble," "The Jazzbo Stomp," "Bottle It Up and Go," and "The Memphis Shakedown." In 1940 the joyous ebullience of "The Insane Crazy Blues" and "Little Green Slippers" would be rekindled by "Big" Joe McCoy and his washboard band. And the marvelous "Jug Band Quartette," a sanguine salute to this type of entertainment, was revisited during the '60s on a long-playing phonograph record by the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.

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