Jug Band Waltz

Memphis Jug Band, 1928

The original version was recorded by the Memphis Jug Band on Sept. 15, 1928 in Memphis, with Will Shade on harmonica, Ben Ramey on kazoo, Charlie Burse on guitar and Jab Jones on jug.

Will Shade’s favorite guitar player was Lonnie Johnson, and he might have gotten this chord progression from Johnson’s “Nile of Genago,” recorded two years earlier. Later songs that used the “Jug Band Waltz” chords and melody include “Guian Valley Waltz” (Dick Justice, 1929), “Kentucky Waltz” (Bill Monroe, 1946) and “Winterlude” (Bob Dylan, 1970).

The chord progression of a song like this would typically use a D7-G7-C as the final cadence, but Charlie Burse played a C-G7-C, probably because it would have been difficult for Will Shade to play the D chord on his C harmonica. The kazoo and jug player apparently didn’t notice the change, and repeatedly played A notes there, which would have fit with a D7 but don’t fit with the C.

Modern jug bands that cover this song usually let the jug player take a shot at the melody. Jab Jones didn’t do that here, but he was the Memphis Jug Band’s strongest jug player, and most likely could have handled it.

Documents: Harmonica Notation, Kazoo Notation, Guitar Tab, Jug Notation




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