Sun Brimmer's Blues

Memphis Jug Band, 1927

The original version was recorded by the Memphis Jug Band on Feb. 24, 1927 in Memphis, with Will Weldon on vocal and guitar, Will Shade on harmonica, Ben Ramey on kazoo and Charlie Polk on jug.

This is the first recording made by the Memphis Jug Band and the first commercial recording made in Memphis. Will Shade, the band leader, seems to be bursting with energy … notice how he plays most harmonica verses all the way through the progression, often throwing in an extra lick or two beyond the point where he could have taken a breath before the start of the next verse.

The kazoo and harmonica drop significantly in volume during the verses, but still play some of the same vigorous licks, so I assume Shade and Ramey were standing, and moved away from the microphone to change their volume. I haven’t noticed this technique on other jug band recordings; it usually sounds like the positions are fixed and the players modify their volume or their parts to avoid competing with the singer or soloist.

Just before Will Weldon sings, we can hear a sound that might be him sniffing, or someone scraping a chair as the players move around.

Charlie Polk, on jug, doesn’t focus much on a typical 1-3 rhythm or roots-fifths pitches. Instead, he plays more like a melody instrument, sometimes following the rhythm of the melody and sometimes doing his own thing, like during the first and second vocal verses. He often plays a B note during the G chord and a C note during the D chord, which are unusual choices.

The version that was released in 1927, and which I used here, was the band’s first take. The second take has since been reissued and it features a more distinct structure, with the players more effectively modifying their parts during the solos. However, Weldon mixes up his lyrics, which is probably why the first take was chosen for release.

Documents: Kazoo Notation, Guitar Tab, Jug Notation




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