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Banjo versus TV week 74: Brass note for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band

Posted by jrjenks on Monday, August 3, 2009

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 7/26/2009 through 8/1/2009.
Banjo 467 hrs, TV 414 hours

I took a trip to Memphis for the dedication of a brass note to Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band, organized by Arlo Leach. Arlo taught the jug band class I took earlier this year at the Old Town School of Folk Music. As part of Arlo's tribute to Will Shade, he invited any available jug banders to come down to Memphis and play at the ceremony. So we did.

2009-08-01 Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band brass note ceremony 009

2009-08-01 Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band brass note ceremony 020

Yes, that's me in the brown tux that my dad wore as the choral director of John Hersey High School. (School song, which Dad wrote: "Hail to you / Our alma mater bright / Hersey High, Hersey High. / Hail to brown / And hail to orange and white / Hersey High, Hersey High.")

Will and the band's brass note is on Beale Street, right across the street from the notes for Memphis Millie and Elvis.

Brass note on Beale Street for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band Brass note on Beale Street for Memphis Minnie Brass note on Beale Street for Elvis Presley

Arlo dubbed us the Brass Note Jug Band and we played for a couple of hours. Our set list [with timing for the two WAV files we recorded]:

  • Stealin' Stealin' [4:43 on STE-008.wav]
  • Little Green Slippers [11:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • Cindy (Beedle Um Bum) [14:40 on STE-008.wav]
  • Overseas Stomp [17:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Fourth Street Mess Around [21:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • Rock Island Blues (1927: Leroy Ervin) [24:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Coney Island Washboard [31:20 on STE-008.wav]
  • Tear It Down [34:35 on STE-008.wav]
  • Going to German [38:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Back to Memphis [43:30 on STE-008.wav]
  • Kansas City [48:15 on STE-008.wav]
  • Keep It Clean [52:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • C.C. Rider [0:15 on STE-008.wav]
  • Rider (It Won't Be Long Now) [5:15 on STE-009.wav]
  • Memphis Jug Blues [9:27 on STE-009.wav]
  • Jug Band Quartet [? on STE-009.wav]
  • (?)(Crow Jane?) [? on STE-009.wav]
  • Jug Band Waltz [? on STE-009.wav]
  • Who Pumped the Air in my Doughnut [31:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • (?) Blues [35:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • You May Leave But This Will Bring You Back [40:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • Alabama Jubiliee [45:10 on STE-009.wav]
  • What's the Matter with the Well [47:45 on STE-009.wav]
  • KC Moan [51:40 on STE-009.wav]

(At least I think that's pretty much it. Corrections are welcome.)

I played along on my sawed-off banjo as best I could, which was better than I thought. That 12 bar blues stuff makes backup playing pretty easy. I didn't do any banjo solos, but I'm getting there.

I did make up and sing a verse to Back to Memphis that worked out pretty well:

Oh we went down to Beale Street to give Will Shade a note.
Oh we went down to Beale Street to give Will Shade a note.
'Cause the Memphis Jug Band played the finest music ever wrote.

Big praise to Arlo for organizing such a great event.


Update: See an article by the Beale Street folks, some pictures on Flickr and some more pictures on Facebook.

Cross-posted at J.R. Jenks' blog


2 comments on “Banjo versus TV week 74: Brass note for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band”

Gary Blanchard Says:
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 @7:54:47 AM

Thanks so much for posting this. I am a big fan of jug band music, and especially of Memphis Jug Band. Glad to see them get their due.

FiddlerFaddler Says:
Tuesday, August 4, 2009 @8:36:48 PM

Say, that was a fine tuxedo you wore, JR.  Did you wear an ice vest under it to keep cool?  I see that the rest of the jug banders weren't dressed as formally as you were.  By contrast, I wore a Hawaiian shirt with ukeleles on it last Sunday at the Costellos jam.

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