Music history is full of great tragedies, and one of these is the sad fact that there is no Barbecue Joe. There was a Barbecue Bob, yes, and a Bongo Joe, and the many fans of barbecue and "joe" will just have to be content with them. Barbecue Joe is a music business pseudonym, the non-existent leader of an outfit called Barbecue Joe & His Hot Dogs which recorded a batch of tracks for the Gennett label in 1930. Behind every such fictional name in the music business there is sometimes a real human being. In this case it is a jazz trumpeter Wingy Manone, whose claims to fame include not only great classic jazz performances but status as one of the few one-armed trumpet players in the annals of the genre. Manone had his right arm lopped off in a streetcar accident when he was only ten years old and used his prosthetic arm so smoothly on-stage performing that many of his fans never noticed his disability.
The trumpeter, who also performed effectively as a vocalist, had been recording and leading his own groups for about six years by the time he headed to Richmond, VA, for the Barbecue Joe recording guise. There was no extraordinary reason for using this name rather than his own, and no one explanation has ever been offered or accepted by classic jazz archivists. Manone's bands as a norm didn't always feature his name. Other outfits he led through the years included the Cellar Boys and the Harmony Kings. Author Bruce Bastin, writing in Never Sell a Copyright: Joe Davis and His Role in the New York Music Scene, 1916-1978, suggests that the name change was exploited for racist purposes more than a decade later, when Decca entered into an agreement with Gennett to release sides from the latter label's archive. "Clearly, the original Gennett pseudonym of Barbecue Joe & His Hot Dogs was assumed by Decca to mask a black band!" And as usual with the black/white scenario in jazz, the trail leads to charges of riff pilfering. "Tar Paper Stomp," one of the tunes recorded at the Barbecue Joe session, was altered slightly a few years later and released under the title of "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller. It was only the biggest hit record of the swing era. That's the short version of that story. Actually the riff was used on a record entitled "Hot and Anxious" by bandleader Horace Henderson prior to Miller getting ahold of it. While many jazz detectives are eager to nail the bespectacled Miller for musical theft, they all can't agree on whether he stole the silverware or the treasury bonds. Some writers believe the "In the Mood" riff was ripped off from "Wingy's Stomp," not "Tar Paper Stomp," others think Miller copped it from rival bandleader Edgar Hayes, who had swiped it from Henderson, who had nicked it from Barbecue Joe. Wait, there is no Barbecue Joe! Anyway, the controversy in itself is a good reason for jazz fans to spend an hour with these sides.