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Thread: Blues, Stomps, & Rags #39

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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Mar 2017
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default Blues, Stomps, & Rags #39

    "The doctor said, Give him jug-band music, it seems to make him feel just fine" (John Sebastien, Lovin' Spoonful).

    Benny Calvin was the mandolin player in Earl McDonald's Original Louisville Jug Band. However, I can't find much information about Calvin, other than his being associated with Earl MacDonald for many years.

    Here's the entire Wikipedia entry about Earl MacDonald:

    "Earl McDonald (October 2, 1885 – April 28, 1949) was an African-American singer and jug blower, noted as a pioneer in creating and recording jug band music.

    "He was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He formed his first jug band in 1902 and toured widely, performing in New York City and Chicago by 1914. Later he established the Original Louisville Jug Band and the Old Southern Jug Band, which recorded in 1924 with the singer Sara Martin and the fiddle player Clifford Hayes, joining with Hayes to form the Dixieland Jug Blowers for recordings. In the 1920s and early 1930s, he performed regularly with his band, the Ballard Chefs, on radio station WHAS, helping to popularize jug band music, and made over 40 recordings.

    "McDonald died in Louisville in 1949 and was buried in an unmarked grave. A gravestone was provided in 2009 at the instigation of supporters of the annual Jug Band Jubilee."

    The following web page has newspaper articles, photos, and ads about Earl MacDonald's jug band. Presumably, Calvin is the mandolin player in the first photo. In 1914, Benny Calvin (or "Ben Colvin") was arrested with the band, after a noise complaint (musicians, take warning: not everyone appreciates jug-band music after midnight). The writer refers to "Ben Colvin" as a guitar player, and "John Smith" as mandolinist -- the police arrest many "John Smith's."

    Here are a couple of enjoyable 1927 recordings, featuring Calvin's mandolin playing with Earl MacDonald's Original Louisville Jug Band. If these tunes don't make you happy, you'd best avoid jug-band music. First, we have the "Louisville Special." If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Louisville Special --Earl McDonald".

    Apparently, in the early twentieth century, there was nothing funnier than a chicken song. As with "elephant jokes" in the 1960's, I guess you had to be there. A CD entitled Cluck Ol' Hen (Old Hat Records) has 24 chicken songs, recorded from 1926 to 1940 (one with mandolin, one with banjo-mandolin). In truth, one song is about a turkey buzzard, while another takes in the whole barnyard. This lively song by Earl MacDonald's band ends with a comedy routine, illustrating once again that many jug bands not only played music but provided all-round entertainment. If the links don't work, search YouTube for "Earl McDonald -- Under The Chicken Tree".

    Last edited by Ranald; Feb-02-2019 at 9:25pm. Reason: the usual
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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