78: “Insane Crazy Blues” b/w “Bottle It Up and Go” by Charlie Burse with Memphis Jug Band. Okeh 8959. Recorded November 7, 1934 in Memphis, TN.

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Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The Memphis Jug Band was, indeed, from Memphis, Tennessee, where they were a popular choice for parties, dances or even political rallies. Their broad appeal was evidenced by where they could be found playing, everywhere from Church’s Park (now W.C. Handy Park) for tips to more hifalutin’ venues like Chickasaw Country Club or the famed Peabody Hotel. The Memphis Jug Band recorded for a number of different labels (though primarily Victor) from 1927 to 1934. This song was recorded in Memphis on their second to last day of their final recording session: November 7, 1934. It moves along at a frenetic pace and includes a rollicking scat section, showing how the band’s sound had changed from a fairly straightforward country blues that was more typical of jug bands to something pretty close to jazz. Lyrics and tabs can be found here. The song can be heard here.

Charlie Burse joined the Memphis Jug Band in 1928 and was still part of the group when this was recorded. He usually played guitar and mandolin, but we can hear him singing here as well, which might explain his top billing over the name of the band on the label. One wonders if this was the cause of some tension that might have lead to the group’s demise; please comment below if you know. The band’s leader, multi-instrumentalist Will Shade, was said to be the level-headed businessman in the band, while Charlie was more prone to drink and rambunction. They stayed friends after the group’s end, even appearing together in this 1958 television special called “Beale Street.”  Charlie Burse died in 1965, and Will Shade in 1966.

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